[Editor’s Note: Welcome to Sunken Treasure, in which we turn our eyes towards classic adventure modules, campaign settings, core books, supplements, and more. Enjoy these commemorative strolls down memory lane together with us.]
A look back at a Dave Arneson classic module
By Joe Bingaman
The DA Series of BECMI-era of D&D introduced players everywhere, who did not have access to Supplement 2 in Original D&D, to Dave Arneson’s world of Blackmoor. The series kicked off with DA1: Adventures in Blackmoor, and was followed up by the legendary DA2: Temple of the Frog. DA3: City of the Gods, designed for 5 to 8 players of 10th to 14th level, continued the politically-heavy intrigue of Blackmoor. The book is divided into two sections, the adventure, and geographical and political information.
Set two months after the evens of Temple of the Frog, the political and military situation has gotten worse, with agents of the Egg of Coot spread across the lands, while raiders strike the northern coast, and an invasion from the Iron Duke in the southeast is imminent. The real threat, however, comes from what are known as “Froggies”, cultists from the Order of the Frog. Their leader is a man from a distant planet who was a crew member of a crashed spaceship, who seeks to recapture the ship from the true commander. This ship, the FSS Beagle, is what is known by the locals as the City of the Gods.
Players are recruited by the Fetch, a group working for the Crown, to investigate a “silver egg” that fell from the sky, that they feel has some relation to the City of the Gods. Once taking the mission, the players must travel across Blackmoor to the location of the silver egg, and investigate. If the player characters have played through DA2, some of the sci-fi tech will seem familiar to them; if not, an NPC will explain how a few of them, most notably a set of battle armor and hand blaster, function. After this occurs, several men in flying suits attack, their only purpose is to destroy the egg. After this encounter, the characters will continue on to the City of the Gods.
Just before arriving at the City of the Gods, the player characters will meet the local sand folk, with whom the City of the Gods has some loose treaty with. The encounter lasts an entire chapter, with the outcome ranging from adoption into the tribe, to the tribe turning against the party, to a combined assault of the City of the Gods. Which outcome occurs is almost entirely dependent on the choices that the player characters make while in the sand folk’s camp, as opposed to just random die rolls. Only the tribe committing treachery against the player characters depends on a die roll, a percentile roll based off of the characters actions while at the camp.
Once the characters reach the City of the Gods, they are faced with battling sci-fi armor and weapons, from auto blasters to robot sentries, along with the crew of the Beagle. The adventure greatly increases in difficulty with this, as the hand blasters do 6d6 damage on a hit. There is really a no-win situation, as this adventure is designed for the player characters to end it by leaving whether in a retreat or by force, as some Blackmoorian agents accompany them into the ship. There is also the possibility of capture, though this leads to time held in a stasis pod. An adventurous game master may choose this option if they feel they can write a follow-up adventure around the character’s attempted escape. Any form of escape will reward the characters with the Fetch purchasing all technology discovered by the player characters.
The second half of the book tells the game master all they need to know on the geography of each region of Blackmoor the characters will cross, as well as all the encounters for each region. Along with this, there is an extensive chapter on alien devices, should a game master decide that their campaign have a massive technological jump if the right intelligent minds decipher how to recreate this “magic”. These items have two names each, their actual device name, and a more primitive, Blackmoorian name. Examples include the Grenade Launcher (Wand of Death Eggs), Battle Armor (Godsuit), and Medikit (Cube of Healing).
The alien devices are followed up in the usual BECMI manner of monsters, though here there is also a section of robots, again, for the game master’s pleasure. The monsters have complete blocks and descriptions, and the section is evenly split between the robots and normal Blackmoorian creatures such as ropers and hook horrors. A section of NPC’s, followed by pre-generated characters, closes up the text. Other items included in the official pdf include the enviro pod encounter chart that was part of the cover, and the four color maps (spread across six pages) that came with the adventure, including a nice, full color hex map of the regions of Blackmoor the characters will travel through.
All in all, this adventure is a typical Expert Game adventure, with a sci-fi twist. It has some difficult points, and a lot of narration and improvisation on conversation will be required by the game master, as was the case with BECMI-era adventures. The overall plot intrigue of Blackmoor may be daunting to those game masters not used to deep plots, but this is the nature of Blackmoor, as well as early Greyhawk. Any game master attempting to run this should read the entire booklet ahead of time, as there are many plot points that will arise from the information buried further on in the book.
This adventure concluded all published story plots with the Order of the Frog, though it left the overall story open for game masters to continue the story. There was a fourth adventure in the DA Series, titled Duchy of Ten, however, it has no real connection to the previous three other than it is based in Blackmoor. This was also Dave Arneson’s last new work for TSR, published after Gary Gygax’s departure from the company in 1985. City of the Gods can be purchased in multiple electronic formats from Dungeon Master’s Guild for $4.99.