Ok, so today is a ‘big one’. Perhaps not as big as they get, but certainly in the upper echelon of what makes a classic TSR module.
D3: Vault of the Drow was written by Gary Gygax sometime around 1978 and finally released in this particular version in 1980. It is a pretty cool piece of work, although really more of a stopgap [much like D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth] between Against the Giants and Queen of the Demonweb Pits.
Coming in at a rather standard 28 pages, Vault is a smooth running exploration adventure that leaves a good deal to the imaginings of the DM. If you put your time into it, make your own story and flesh out the Drow, this becomes a Top 10 campaign setting adventure, but it can just as easily be run streamlined as a simple path to the culmination of arguably the greatest adventure series of all time.
Artistically, it serves as a crowning jewel in what would be one of the last rides into the sunset of the 1970s TSR artist ‘pit’.
With an incredibly fine cover by Erol Otus, who can often be considered far too cartoony, we see a great use of color and motion that is an evolutionary step in his progress as an artist. Truly, I’m not sure Otus ever did a color piece better than this one.
Inside, Otus continues to shine with and even better version of a female Drow on the booklet cover, although he does lack the technical skill to pull off the black skin like Willingham showed us in D1-2.
This also marks one of the few module images done by artist David Trampier, although the landscape image itself doesn’t particularly show his incredible illustrative talent.
There are also contributions by newcomer David ‘Diesel’ LaForce as well as ‘old timer’ David C. Sutherland III [which oddly means three Davids did art for this book], and these hold their own while not adding a great deal to the overall content.
Perhaps the best piece in D3, however, was done by artist Jeff Dee on a full page spread entitled ‘Lolth in Amber’. Dee recently recreated this piece for one of his Kickstarter campaigns and I managed to land a copy. Truly an inspired work, and speaking of Dee’s Kickstarter series, he’s also currently working on another successful campaign to recreate some TSR color work, one of those being his piece from the back cover of this module which is also a fantastically gifted image. I can’t wait to see how that one turns out!
Anyway, it is hard to knock D3, and I’m sure most of you understand that. In the end, it is simply a perfect time capsule of all that was cool about the ‘teen years’ of TSR.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]