Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 6

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 6 (Against the Giants)
Hey Game fans, we’re back with another look at the brand new hardcover adventure compilation Tales from the Yawning Portal.  We’re going to break down each one of these adventures and take a look at the adventure as it’s presented and compare it to its original presentation from a previous version of dungeons and Dragons.  Our quest continues with  Against the Giants.

Against the Giants

In brief, Against the Giants was originally written by Gary Gygax and released in 1981. It is a compilation of three individual adventure modules that focus on a different type of evil giant.  Those three adventures G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King were published in 1978 as stand alone adventures.    The cover by Bill Willingham and interior work by David A. Trampier, Jeff Dee, David S. LaForce and Erol Otus are iconic to this era of Dungeons and Dragons.  The original versions of these adventures were the first adventures published for 1st edition D & D and have been played by countless players over the years.  In 1999, TSR released Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff to celebrate it’s 25th year in the industry.  It is also the starting point for one of the greatest mega-adventures ever, continuing into D1-3 and culminating in Q1.     
Those of you interested in picking this one up can pick it up at DM’s Guild for about $4.99 in its
Tales of Against the Giants
This iteration of Against the Giants is the sixth adventure in the Tales from the Yawning Portal.  It is intended for characters of 11th level.  Each linked adventure should afford the characters enough experience points to hit the next level, so characters completing all three should be 14th level at its conclusion.  The Adventure itself begins with characters arriving at an out of the way spot close to the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.  


Giants are causing an inordinate amount of trouble near the Characters homebase.  Someone is going to have to deal with the threats the giants pose once and for all, but is there something more sinister at work?  Are the giants being manipulated by a darker force?  


This adventure assumes that the characters for whatever reason have been hired, provisioned, and sent off into the wilderness to manage the giants.  There isn’t a lot of talk about who hired them or a promised reward for doing so.  You as a DM may have to wing this one, i would suggest that you give them a little bit of time to plan out what resources above and beyond what’s provided and let them execute their plans.  Remember that the Giants aren’t necessarily dumb and this adventure is built with the idea that the characters (and their players) will have to play smart in order to not be turned in Giant’s Bread.  The other thing to keep in mind is that if giants (or minions) are randomly encountered and defeated, they are removed from their listed encounter areas.  

Adventure Breakdown

Against the Giants  is a series of three linked adventures each of which has at least two separate levels.  The Adventure begins near but not immediately adjacent to the first of these, the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.  I’ll give you a brief idea of what’s going on in each encounter area and hopefully you can get ready for Giants.  

Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

Steading of the Hill Giant Chief kicks off with a basic explanation of the lair and then turns the characters loose in the giant’s fortress.  The upper level is a fully functional castle (albeit sized for giants).  Some of these encounters are surprisingly dangerous and there are a host of potentially lethal rooms on this level.  The characters can work their way around and even out the odds by taking out guards, stealing resources, and catching the giants off guard.  The giants aren’t stupid, and will eventually catch on to people inside their house.  Retreat and resting up is a viable option if necessary.

Dungeon Level

The Dungeon level continues the idea that this is a functional castle.  There are chambers for servants/slaves, extra storage, and a prison.  There are a lot of other interesting things to keep in mind when exploring this level.  There are a few dead ends and secrets scattered around the level, so i would encourage you to look at and interact with as many things as you can.  The dungeon is full of wonderful secrets and terrible monsters.  You’ve been warned.  If the characters find it, there is an item that will bring them to the next location, the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.  

The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

The characters have an opportunity to move immediately to the Frost Giants fortress and taking this option means they arrive instantaneously.  They hopefully packed warm clothes and have the gear they need to rest.  The Frost Giant fortress is a little harder to get to, but there are a variety of methods and means to accomplish this task.  Once inside, the characters will have to navigate the network of caves and tunnels to deal with the frost giants in the best possible manner.   This level of the dungeon is much more about getting around without getting noticed than killing every possible encounter.  Search and locate and you can find a variety of interesting and potentially useful things in this area.  
Note: Frost giants are a disciplined enemy and are more alert and aware than their Hill kin.  They also know their lair intimately and are more than capable of preparing traps and ambushes for short people.  

The Lower Level

The Lower Level of the Frost Giant’s fortress is a much more lethal encounter zone.  If you’re looking at this dungeon in terms of how a castle works, the entire upper level consists of the moat and the outer walls.  There are some difficulties getting in, but those should be manageable for a party of this level.  The Lower level hosts the Frost Giant Jarl himself, his personal minions, special guests, and a host of other nasty surprises.  The opponents are fierce and well armed, but the rewards are certainly worthwhile.  If the characters can finish this section, they can find a map leading to the home of a Fire Giant King or end up getting transported to his fortress immediately (that sounds like a nice guy, right?)  
Note: King Snurre Iron Belly is the giant on the cover of the Player’s Handbook

The Hall of the Fire Giant King

The adventure so far has been one of increasingly lethal responses.  Through cunning, strength of arms, and powerful magic, the characters have successfully dealt a blow to the hill giants and the frost giants, but the Fire giants await them in a fortress of their own making.  This adventure moreso than the previous two require a lot of preparation and planning because the monsters here will not wait for adventurers to come and find them.  These opponents are ready for a fight, and won’t back down lightly.  The ground floor of this dungeon has some seriously hostile encounters (Including King Snurre himself) so plans are probably better than not plans.  

The Second Level (1st subterranean level)

The next level down is full of a lot more of the same.  There are intelligent monsters on their home turf inside what can turn into a death trap at the drop of a hat.  There are potential allies on this level, but characters are advised to keep their eyes open and their guard up.  Not everything is what it looks like.  More importantly, the characters can learn a great deal about a potential danger that’s marshaling the giants against the rest of the world.  

The Third Level (2nd subterranean level)

The final portion of this adventure takes place in the underground caverns that the giant’s haven’t worked into a more appealing form.  This area is home to a lot of answers to questions, and some very dangerous adversaries.  If the characters can defeat the denizens of this level, the giants have been effectively dealt with.  Any further pursuit after the instigators will require some research and planning for the characters and the DM (I’d start with the modules D1-D3).  


This is an amazingly faithful reworking of G1-G3.  This adventure trilogy feels just like it did when i read it in middle school.  This adventure favors tactical thinking and players who can think on their feet and deduce answers on the fly can get a lot of work done.  For the first time since probably the Forge of Fury, there are enough monsters to hit for combat focused players to have a good time breaking giants and a host of other problems.  


This adventure has a couple of potential problems.  There’s a lot of treasure in this adventure group, and it might be overwhelming to a group that hasn’t had this kind of loot laying around.  There are also a truckload of illusions that characters have to interact with in order to make forward progress, and the clues about where those illusions are don’t really exist.  The last problem that may come up is that the giants are a problem you have to go through.  There isn’t a way to talk them out of their chosen path, and this may upset some of the player base.  These giants aren’t up for being lectured about their behavior by things they consider to be food in some cases, and they are smart opponents.  The areas are lethal and reward clever plans and decisions over rash charges and going full Jenkins.  

Thoughts and Conclusions

I very much enjoy this version of Against the Giants, but i think it may be too close to the original.  There aren’t a lot of innovations or changes that were made to change this adventure up.  If you played the first edition original, you have a pretty good idea where the tricks and traps are.  I like this, but i think it’s too much like the originals.  
For a dungeon master or a creator looking to update 1st edition modules to fifth edition, this adventure is exemplary in that respect.  It gives you an insight in how old traps/monsters/and magical items can be reinvented as 5th edition versions.  We’ve got one last adventure to look at next week, and it’s not one of our favorites in the slightest.  We’ll be back with Tomb of Horrors next week, and the week after we’ll take a look at the other chapters in the book.
Game On, Game Fans

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