Thursday, March 12, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 50: Judges Guild Installment L (Tegel Manor)

I didn't have anything big planned for hitting a nice round number 50 in this series, but by happenstance it features a famous module, Judges Guild's Tegel Manor. It came as part of Installment K, the fourth sent out to JG subscribers, cover dated April/May 1977. A full list of what was included is as follows:

  • JG22 Journal L
  • JG23 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (17" x 22")
  • JG24 Tegel Manor and Area Player's Map (11" x 17")
  • JG25 Booklet L
  • JG29 Character Checklist
  • JG30 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (11" x 17")

JG22 Journal L

I actually have access to a copy of this journal for a change. It kicks off with an apology, as the last Ready Ref Sheet (Wizard's Guide and Construction Costs) was accidentally left out of the last installment. It actually first shipped with this installment, even though it was supposed to be in Installment K. After that there's a bit about the new format of the newsletter, and then some short articles.

  • "Shrewd Slants from the Sagacious Sage" notes that the climate around the City State is much milder than that of northern Europe. It also has a note from Gary Gygax explaining that the "% in Lair" stat for monsters serves as a guideline to determine if a wilderness encounter has happened in the monster's lair.
  • "Setting Up a D&D Campaign" by Tom Holsinger gives some advice about that topic, with particular focus on having a unifying theme, and the necessity of having a prior civilisation that has fallen, in order to explain the various ruins and treasure scattered about.  He follows it up with a lot of talk about demographics, food growth, and how that can affect military matters. I've never gone into that sort of stuff in anything more than the barest detail, but it's a basic necessity if you want a campaign to make a lick of sense. I won't get into any of Holsinger's specifics, but I will keep this article in mind if I ever need to address the topic. The one thign I will note is that he creates two new cleric spells: green thumb to double crop production, and its evil reverse, crop blight. Holsinger does bring up one intriguing idea, though: using the psychic potential stat from Empire of the Petal Throne to determine who can cast spells and operate magic items. It's a decent way to explain the difference between adventurers and regular folks, if you want one, and also to place a limit on the prevalence of magic in a campaign.

The rest of the newsletter is just Judges Guild shilling their own stuff, with a focus on Tegel Manor and the new Judges Shield, which I just discovered you need to tape together yourself!

JG29 Character Checklist

This product is a single sheet of paper in the installment, but was sold separately as bundles of six. It appears to be both a character sheet for multiple characters and a method of determining and tracking alignment for PCs and NPCs. Alignment is diced for on the charts on the upper left using 1d20, once for the Law/Chaos axis and once for the Good/Evil axis.  The combination of the two results gives the character's alignment, and a numerical value that can be modified based on the character's actions.  I've never been a fan of alignment tracking systems, and am generally pretty lax on alignment concerns except for clerics and paladins, so I doubt I'll apply this at all.

JG23 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (17" x 22")
JG24 Tegel Manor and Area Player's Map (11" x 17")
JG30 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (11" x 17")

These three maps are all double-sided, with one side showing a map of Tegel Manor and the other side showing the wilderness surrounding the manor.  The Judge's Map has all of the details, whereas the Player's Map gives basic outlines with very little filled in.  I don't think there's a difference between the two Judge's Maps except for size; I assume the smaller one is provided because it would be a little bit easier to handle at the table.

Tegel Manor

Surroundings, with the manor in the bottom right and the village in
the upper left

JG25 Booklet L

This booklet is pretty much entirely given over to a description of Tegel Manor. Unlike the previous three booklets, which were more about the campaign setting, this is an adventure module. It's possible that it's the largest one made for D&D to this point, and it's certainly one of the very first to be sold as a commercial product; I think the only other one I've covered so far that was sold in shops on its own is Palace of the Vampire Queen from Wee Warriors.

I'm not actually working from the original booklet.  In addition to being included in Installment L, Tegel Manor was sold in shops as product JG 27.  I'm working from a pdf of the third printing, and I'm not sure if there are any difference s between that and the original.

Tegel Manor and Tegel Village are located along the seacoast in Campaign Map 1, in hex 4416. (I covered that map in this previous post if you'd like a look.)  The manor is said to be left over from ancient days, and protected by a charm that shields it from age (and fire, just in case the PCs have the bright idea to burn the place down).  It's hereditary owners are the Rump family, although they've been lax in their duties and it's said that their eccentricities have led to the manor's corruption.

The current owner of the manor is Sir Runic the Rump, a dim-witted coward who is also somehow a paladin. Distraught at the corruption of his ancestors and living relatives, he's desperate to get rid of the place, and will try to sell it cheap.

The only other living Rumps mentioned are Roughneck Rump the Rotund, a feared highwayman, and Ruang the Ripper, an assassin. Both can be encountered roaming the countryside, along with other dangerous monsters and NPCs.

The manor itself is... well, it's wild. In some places it reads like a haunted house, with ghosts, undead, creepy paintings, unexplained noises, and other such trappings.  In others, it's like a monster zoo, with owlbears and rust monsters and even a purple worm.  Other areas just have weird magical effects going on, or bizarre scenes that play out. I don't know if I've ever read a module as baffling as this one.

It also looks pretty difficult to run without a lot of prep.  The room descriptions are sparse, mostly focused on the inhabitants, treasure, or weird magical happenings; this is fine, I'm quite happy for a module to stick to the relevant stuff. There's a lot of info covered on the map though: labels for what type of room it is (bedroom, kitchen, etc.), traps, magic statues, weird noises, teleportation squares, paintings of the Rump family that bestow magical effects when they are looked at... It's a lot to keep track of, and none of it's covered in the room descriptions.  Here's a description of room A2:

"A2  150'x110'x40' H  Two long tables with 12 skeletons 1 HD, 5-3-4-4-1-2-3-5-6-7-1-2 HTK, AC 7, sword armed.  30 Silver goblets 120 SP @ and gigantic halbard hanging on wall."

The map has it labelled as the Great Hall, and shows six pillars.  There are eight statues around the walls, two of which are magical. There are two fireplaces, one of which has a secret door in it.  The east wall is covered by a curtain, and has a couple of secret doors behind it as well. The west wall has a teleport square that leads to DL1B (which I assume means dungeon level 1, room B). There's a fake door on the south wall. And there are two squares that have an unspecified trap.  That's one of the more complex rooms, but it's very busy. I'd need to consolidate all of that info to ever have a hope of running it.

The magic statues are determined randomly as to their effects; some will raise or lower stats, some will cast a spell, some may ask a riddle or answer a question, or give a map, and some will perform a service if a missing part is recovered. 

There are also a number of portraits of the Rump family around the mansion, 100 in total. Most of them appear as some sort of undead creature, and do something magical when looked at. For example, Riven the Refected appears as a Spectre, and cries a potion of ESP. Rudlong the Revenger forewarns the party of their next encounter. Some have more mundane effects, like laughter or following the PCs with their eyes, and other do nothing. Probably my favourite is Radded Rufus, whose effect is "PROB 30% of ripped sack". Ouch!

A lot of the rooms seem to have scenes that play out over and over again, such as ghosts that go through their motions, or an Invisible Stalker that is continuously walking through a secret door from one side of the room to the other. The inhabitants of the manor may be cursed, but it's never specified exactly what's going on in this place.  I'd struggle to run this adventure, I think. It has a level of goofiness and an anything-goes defiance of logic that don't really fit my sensibilities, or those of my players.

That said, I'll say this for it: the place is memorable.  It kind of reminds me of the later D&D module Castle Amber in that regard. In almost every room there's something insane going on, or some new wild thing that could happen to your character.  I could see all sorts of great stories coming out of Tegel Manor, and now that I think of it it'd work great as a one-off party adventure, as long as you're in the right mood for it. I will certainly have the manor as a location in my version of the Wilderlands, but I may never actually point my players towards it, or require them to go inside.

The map is also great. It has tons of info packed in, and manages to include the upper floor as well as all the levels of several towers. Judges Guild have always made great maps, and this is another one.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that there's a whole dungeon underneath the manor, with four levels. It's kind of banal in comparison to what's going on up above. The first level is a series of giant rat warrens that can be accessed via holes in the manor walls. Dungeon level 2 has the living quarters of Ranorek Rump, a missing link caveman who I forgot to mention under living relatives above. Level 3 is a lot of undead and vermin, and Level 4 is undead and monsters (harpies, a basilisk).

The booklet ends with some optional rules for resurrection, which determine whether a character returns maimed or scarred. I tend to think that resurrection magic implies healing as well, and prefer that characters come back hale and hearty, so I won't be using this. Although perhaps resurrection is different in the Wilderlands, and less effective?  Perhaps.

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