As I mentioned yesterday, I recently took advantage of Wizards of the Coast making a lot of old TSR content available for purchase as PDFs. I bought all seven of the GDQ series modules, which I’ve been wanting to read for years now. The set have the distinction of being voted “the single greatest adventure of all time” by Dungeon magazine back in 2004, and the arguably more awesome distinction of being listed among Stephen Colbert’s favorite memories.
I’m generally a pretty slow reader, but I’ve been using every spare moment for the last day racing through these glorious tomes. I don’t have a ton of experience with oldschool modules, but I’ve certainly found them a lot more engaging than many modern modules I’ve read. And I’m really, immensely disappointed that I don’t have any players who are anywhere near ready to run through them. My D&D&LB players are just starting to reach level 2 (lowest recommended level for these is 8). My ToKiMo players–while closer to the appropriate level–have not been playing with the level of high-mortality that these modules demand.
Surprisingly though, my player’s level of experience is my only real concern with running these modules for a Pathfinder group. The work of modifying the adventures for a modern game is really no work at all. I had once thought, based on my experience with modules for rules heavy systems like D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, that converting a module to a new system would be difficult. But in these adventures there are so few rules or stat blocks that there’s hardly anything to change.
Take, for example, the first of the seven modules: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, which I purchased as part of the compilation “Against the Giants.” Along with two maps (one of the interior of the Hill Giant Stead, and one of the dungeon below it), there are 7 pages of adventure information and room descriptions, broken up by art. Based on my experience running oldschool style dungeon-crawls in Pathfinder, the content in these 7 measly pages could last for at least 2 game sessions, if not 3 or 4.
Only occasionally are game rules even mentioned, and in those instances it would be the work of mere moments to update them appropriately. For example, in room 17A of the dungeon level, part of the description includes this passage:
Behind this altar is a flight of low, uneven steps which lead to an alcove with a concave back wall of purplish-black, glassy appearing substance. If any creature stands before this wall and gazes upon it for one round, a writhing amorphous form of sickly mauves and violets will be seen stretching its formless members towards the viewer. The sight causes the creature seeing it to have a 50% chance of becoming insane.”
Now, if you want, you could just play that as written. The mechanics are explained in their entirety right there on the page: a 50% chance. If you’d rather make the module consistent with Pathfinder, though, it only takes a second. 50% chance is pretty damned high, so I’d say Will Save, DC: 18.
There are no NPC stat blocks in this module, so no real work to do there. Although there are two captive NPCs in the dungeon (an elf and a dwarf) who may join the party if rescued. But since no character sheets for those characters are included anyway, it seems that even the DMs of 1978 were expected to make their own character sheets for these characters. Surely we can take a moment to do the same, right?
All of the monsters in the module are standard. At the time players were meant to look them up in the AD&D Monster Manual, and as luck would have it, all of the monsters are still around in the Pathfinder Bestiary. Watch, I’ll even do all the work for you, in order of introduction:
- Orc, Page 222
- Hill Giant, Page 150
- Ogre, Page 220
- Cloud Giant, Page 147
- Stone Giant, Page 151
- Cave Bear, Page 31
- Dire Wolf, Page 278
- Bugbear, Page 38
- Trogdolyte, Page 267
- Giant Lizard, Page 194
- Carrion Crawler…okay this one isn’t in there. Most likely copyrighted by Wizards. But if you play Pathfinder, you’ve probably got a 3.5 Monster Manual handy. It’s on Page 30 of that book.
- Manticore, Page 199
Bam. I just updated the module for you.
Of course, there are a lot of AD&D anachronisms which you’ll need to deal with. Instead of “2d6 damage,” you’ll see things like “2-12 damage.” But that’s not difficult to figure out. There are also a few instances when one monster fights “as another monster,” but that’s not difficult either. When the module says that Hill Giants fight “as ogres,” it just means that you should use the Ogre stat block for these Hill Giants, because they’re not big badasses yet. Easy peasy.
I highly recommend these modules to Pathfinder players who enjoy dungeon crawling. They’re cheap, solidly designed, and will be a very different experience from the Pathfinder modules you may be used to.