I’m going to be honest here, I’ve never played any of the A series of modules, and for that I feel horrible. I've owned these modules for twenty-two years, and begged my DM Mark to run them on several occasion, but since he doesn't own them, it just never happened.
Truly, I feel sick over that, especially when digging through A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity this week for AotG. I mean, just start out with the title, ‘Slave Pits of the Undercity’! It is yet another example of a Robert E. Howard theft, or perhaps Fritz Leiber. I’m seriously freaking out here wanting to play this thing… and why haven’t I ever run it myself, well because I want to PLAY it!
Anyway, back on topic, this is a tournament module created for GenCon XIII but the real extraordinary feature of it is the list of play-testers.
Wait for it…
Brian Blume, Helen Cook [David Cook’s wife, the author], Jeff Dee, Gary Gygax, Frank Mentzer, Tom Moldvay, Erol Otus, Bob Waldbauer, and Jim Ward.
ARE YOU SERIOUS!? Can you image that gaming table? I’d be freaking out watching it, let alone playing in it. Do you wonder if Dee and Otus doodled as they played? I know I do, not to mention you had the two TSR founders in Blume and Gygax at the table, the Red Box writer Frank Mentzer, Gamma World designer Jim Ward, and Gangbusters and Isle of Dread designer/author Tom Moldvay. I mean for the love of Pete, how does this gaming session happen?
Whatever thoughts I have about being a fly on that wall, I should be talking about the artwork of A1, so let me get to it.
With a cover by artist Jeff Dee, this particular work is one of my favorites for the action involved as well as the upside-down Halfling thief. This was also my first experience with a female dwarf [fully bearded] and I have visions of Helen Cook playing her, now that I know the full story of how the module came about. Also, how awesome are the Formian Warriors!?
Dee brings his usual comic style to this work, and I’m extremely taken with it, as well as his color piece on the back cover which has one of my favorite versions of an orc on it [and he has an interior orc image which makes me want them as player characters it is so good]
We also find a single image from Jim Roslof in the interior b/w illustrations, as well as more contributions from Jeff Dee, several nice shots by David ‘Diesel’ LaForce, and also Bill Willingham. The monster section also shows yet another tentacle image from Willingham that showcases his Hentai styling before Hentai even existed. I have to wonder, upon viewing it, if the religious right yet blamed D&D for all evil because I just can’t imagine how this image makes it into the final publication if it had come out post 1983.
All told, this is an incredible module, with incredible artwork, and created by an incredible team.
Artistic Rating: 4.5 [out of 5]