With one of my gaming groups were are playing old D&D-modules. We began with B10 Night’s Dark Terror, which is an old favorite of mine, and have moved on to B1-9 In Search of Adventure. Later we will hopefully do the X-series.
Last night we finished the first part of the first adventure, The Clearing of Castle Caldwell in the compilation B1-9 In Search for Adventure. Next we will be exploring the dungeons beneath the castle.
“The Clearing of” was originally printed in B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond along with four other brief adventures, and I haven’t played it in more than 20 years (and then with my dad as the GM), and I do remember parts of the adventure from then – mainly that I lost my character to the giant shrew, which surprises you in one of the rooms and can kill your first level character in one blow. Those were different times.
(BTW, there is also a real Castle Caldwell. It would not surprise me, if the author were inspired by the ruins, when he wrote the adventure)
A morphing party enters
The party consists of five level 6 characters using the 4E-rules. Three are completely new, and as we didn’t have any experience with their abilities and how well they worked with the others, we were pretty curious, and I was pretty open for any changes made to the characters made between sessions. Had a player been playing the character from level 1, we would have known how his powers worked, and they would have been chosen and adopted to work with the rest of the group, but this is not possible, when starting from scratch with higher level characters. Quite a few changes were made between the two sessions, and the party is quite awesome, when working in tandem now.
One player even had two different versions of the same character, which he switched between encounters, so we could see the differences in their fighting styles. The first was chosen, as it is quite a fun character designed not to do a single attack roll herself, but instead commanding the others to perform extra attacks and inspiring them to do better.
It’s a Silly Place
The Clearing of Castle Caldwell may be from the mid 80’s, but it is not a good adventure. The back story is not impressive – a merchant bought an abandoned castle and he discovered a bunch of squatters – and the NPCs placed around the castle, that the PCs are to interact with, hardly have anything to play on (e.g. none have any names, they are just “trader”, “bandit”, “cleric”, “magic-user”), the traps and magical effects are either completely random (a statue of a shepherd in a random corner of the castle answering questions about the dungeon, the stairs down are off-limits until the whole first level has been cleared and the trap is placed on an empty chest).
Several rooms are empty, and they all share the same room description, and the non-empty rooms often begin with the same description. It was difficult not to start laughing or commenting, when you were reading the same identical room description for the fourth time in row, or when you read the same beginning for a room for the tenth time. If the text alone had been evocative like in I6 Ravenloft, but no such luck.
From the old Red Box to 4E
If I were to convert the scenario 1:1, then there would be many encounters with solos around the castle (in the kitchen a poison snake, in the pantry two fire beetles and in the library a giant shrew – and these three rooms are next to each other), but not wanting to do so many encounters, I chose to combine them, however unseeming this might be. As the adventure was already somewhat silly due to the layout of the castle and its room descriptions, it kind of made sense to combine the various monsters. At least we had great fun with the snake-fire beetle-giant shrew encounter. It also allows the combination of series of odd monsters and their powers.
Another Silly Place: Downstairs
Next time we will be exploring The Dungeons of Terror, that lies beneath the castle. It will be about as silly as the first level, but with a bit of luck, it will be mighty fun too. It should take us about one or two sessions, and then we can move on to some of the more classic and great adventures like Caves of Chaos, Rahasia, The Lost City, and The Silver Princess.
My whole OD&D set thus far has been about Castle Caldwell. I pretty much agree with you on all points – it’s disjointed, uninteresting and has a lot of “room with a 9″ ledge and 2 windows” descriptions. Pretty boring stuff. Using the OD&D rules as written is interesting, though.
I have been a bit tempted myself to play it with the basic rules, but when we started out, we decided for the 4th ed.-rules, and we are still enjoying the combats, that the rules generate.