Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 28: Palace of the Vampire Queen

Cover art by Judy Kerestan

In 1976, TSR wasn't interested in creating adventure modules: Gary Gyax thought they wouldn't sell, apparently. Despite that, they were happy enough to acquire the distribution rights to the Wee Warriors catalogue, which included Palace of the Vampire Queen.  Though not the first D&D adventure ever published (it was beaten by "Temple of the Frog" from Supplement II: Blackmoor, and possibly by the adventure in Dungeoneer #1), it was the first stand-alone adventure module, and for that if nothing else it's earned some significance in the RPG hobby.

The set-up for this adventure is that the dwarven nation of Baylor has been terrorised by the Vampire Queen for three centuries. Recently she took the princess to her palace in the mountains, and the king has offered fabulous riches, land and titles to those who would brave the dangers and bring her back. It's a solid enough hook, and I do find it kind of funny that the first ever D&D "rescue-the-princess" plot has a dwarven princess as the damsel in distress.

The dungeon consists of five levels, designed very much like old-school dungeons rather than an actual palace. Here are a couple of the maps below:

Level 1

Level 5

The encounter keys are fairly bare bones, most of them simply listing whatever monsters or treasure are in the room, with the occasional special area.  Level 1 is mostly home to goblins, bandits, and rats, although there is a madman with a horde of cats. Level 2 is ruled over by an evil magician and his zombies, and features a laboratory. Level 3 brings in ghouls and werewolves, as well as some captive dwarven children that the vampires have been feeding upon. Level 4 seems to be mostly vermin and some vampire guards, as well as a stone lammasu that can be revived by replacing the gem in its eye socket. It also has a garlic garden, which will require some explaining; why would the Vampire Queen keep it growing? Level 5 has loads of vampires, a balrog, a Chaotic temple complete with evil priests, and the captive princess as well as the Vampire Queen.

Part of the encounter key to Level 5.

There are lots of other encounters, and none of it fits together with much rhyme or reason, but even reading through it I can think of ways to have it make sense. It's not inspired material, but there are just enough interesting encounters that I feel like I could make something workable.

The background has quite a lot of details crammed in that I'll need to add to my campaign, so I'll list them below:

  • The dwarvish island of Baylor. It's large enough to have mountain peaks, multiple villages, and a capital city (Ar Toe).
  • The princess, who was taken by the Vampire Queen a few weeks ago, and her father King Arman, Defeater of the Ten Orc Tribes. (I wonder if perhaps these orc tribes were the original inhabitants of the island, and Arman defeated them to carve out his kingdom?)
  • The Vampire Queen. It's said that long ago she was shipwrecked on the island, barely alive and all but drained of blood. She was wrecked along with her guards and ladies-in-waiting, as well as all her riches. Later on the same night she died, and her subjects took her into the mountains to build her a majestic tomb. Nobody knows what happened after that, but for the last 300 years the Vampire Queen has terrorised Baylor from her mountain palace.

As an island, this should be pretty easy to add to the campaign world. I just need to figure out which country she was the queen of and I'm good to go.

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