Thursday, April 23, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 60: Judges Guild Installment M - Modron

This was the package sent out to Judges Guild subscribers in June of 1977.  It contained the following products:

  • JG33 Journal M (issue 4 of the Judges Guild Journal)
  • JG32 Booklet M - Modron
  • JG31 City of Modron Maps (one for Judges and one for players)
  • JG35 Monstrous Statistics Compendium Sheets


The journal begins with its regular "Jocular Judgements" segment, which is mostly very short news snippets and recommendations.  Of particular note is that the authors have been sent a pre-publication version of the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, due out in September.

"Shrewd Slants From the Sagacious Sages" notes that Monster Assortment Set One: Levels 1-3 has just been released by TSR, as has Dungeon Geomorphs Set 3: Lower Dungeons.  I just covered Dungeon Geomorphs Set 2, and had the third set slated for coverage later in the year; I need to update my chronology a bit.  It ends with a short note from Bob Bledsaw answering some frequently asked questions about the nature of the alignments of Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good. He equates Lawful Evil to characters like Tolkien's Morgoth, or Adolf Hitler, and Chaotic Good to unorganised, sporadic acts of kindness such as those practised by flower children.

"Demented Demography" by Bob Bledsaw: This article provides some notes on the demographics and economy of the area surrounding the City State. This includes all sorts of little snippets of info: five hours of labor in the City-State is worth 1 copper piece; the total population of the City-State is about 80,000, with a further 6,240 living outside the walls; there are villages that provide troop levies, and notes on mercenaries.  It ends with a short look at the ratio between adventurers and regular folks, and an explanation for why pretty much everyone in the City-State has a level in fighter or some other adventuring class.  It's a glossing over of materials that are obviously of great depth: it's apparent that there's much more to the City-State that has yet been published.  I find it interesting to see the emphasis that the different RPG companies have.  Judges Guild has a focus on intricate setting details, with a strong basis in a workable economy to underpin the adventuring side of things. The majority of what they've put out has been urban-related, with lots of shops and NPCs.  TSR is much more focused on things that directly pertain to adventuring, and to me it seems like they couldn't care less if the economic side of things makes sense.  I think this holds up going forward, at least for the next few years: TSR's products will mostly be self-contained adventure sites, with little in the way of coherent setting details.  They'll eventually start doing setting materials, but I don't think they ever create something that gets down into the details like Judges Guild.

"Religion and Justification for Magic" by Tom Holsinger: The author puts forth the idea that magic is actually taking energy from another realm through a "gate", and spends a couple of pages writing about the nature of gods and religion in D&D campaign worlds, and giving some suggestions, with special mention being given to the religions in Empire of the Petal Throne.  There's good advice and ideas in here, but it's all pretty scattershot, bouncing from topic to topic without ever expanding on the concepts introduced in a useful way.

"Economics & Technology" by Tom Holsinger: This article, like the Bledsaw one from earlier, stresses the importance of a strong economy in a campaign. It gives special attention to the realities of transporting food, and the effect that can have on a nation's military. It then gets into some very dense economics from the author's own campaign, and I have to admit that this stuff flies right over my head.  I can see the value in it if you're interested in having any sort of realism in your campaign world, but I struggle to care about it, and I rather doubt that the amount of effort required to get it to work would be worth it, unless you and your players are into that sort of thing.

"The Quest of Klanker Wildfoot" by Cathy Bledsaw: This is the beginning (I think) of a short story that apparently continues next issue. It's about a hobbit who is given a treasure map by a creature called an Alleroid.  The story begins in Modron, so I'll have to consider it as having happened in the Wilderlands setting.  It's not particularly good though.


The original cover, and the 1980 rerelease

This book details the port city of Modron, which lies northeast of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.  Five hundred years ago it was a thriving centre of trade, whose inhabitants worshipped the river goddess Modron, and Proteus, the Shepherd of Neptune. A migration of orcs cut off their flow of dwarven merchandise, trade dwindled, and the rival temples erupted in civil war.  Raiders from the sea started carrying the people away into slavery, and the city finally fell when orc scavengers moved in.

More recently, a new town was founded on the old one's ruins, funded by the City-State to protect the Overlord's merchant ships from river pirates. The builders of this new city were protected by Maelstron, a giant sea snake who owed allegiance to the City-State. (This is a pretty odd detail that should be elaborated on further, but really isn't.  He's shown in an illustration and titled Guardian of the Estuary. Is he still there?)  The new city has been open for the past fifty years, filled with "sailors, star-men, buccaneers and traders".  Star-men?  Is Modron being frequented by visitors from outer space?

The intro ends with this evocative paragraph: "Soggy, bound chests still nestled in the holds of scuttled warships dot the bottom. A legendary fortune is said to lie within the sunken temple's ruins. Columns laying in the sand, arches dislocated and slime-misted statues are visited only by the Creatures of the Deep. No hero has returned from the foamy labyrinth river-bed. Sulphurous smoke still bubbles from boiling water in one area of the sound. Sages tell of a river of incandescent lava beneath the wavelets, sea-bats, a Triton Treasure House, sea-frogs and deadly clouded water."  It all sounds quite evocative, and would probably make for a good adventure. Too bad it's barely in the book.  Instead, it's much more focused on the city and its inhabitants.

The city of Modron is presented in much the same content-dense style as the City-State, although it's a bit more manageable in terms of size. It's major features are the two docks, the palace to the north-west, the Temple of Mitra to the north-east, and an arena for gladiatorial combat to the south.  Other than that it's shops, shops, NPCs, more NPCs, and probably a few more shops.  It's good content if you're looking for a city adventure, or a place to base your PCs, but it's not the most exciting thing to read, and it's very much the kind of thing that Judges Guild has already provided in plenty.

The city is ruled by the Patriarch-King Anoethin, who came to power after the death of his father two years ago. The other two powers in the city seem to be the Temple of Mitra (a Hyborian god whose stats were given in Supplement IV), and the Waterfront Storage Company, an evil group who run a lot of the city's sea trade.  Anoethin is a 10th level cleric, so I assume he must be a cleric of Mitra, but it's not specified.

The NPC singled out for the "Benevolent Character Module" is Sonniboot the Pirate, who is constantly switching sides to get ahead in the cold war between the temple and the Waterfront Storage Company. He has a tendency to kill gnomes on sight, which is a trait that I can admire.

There's also a write-up of the goddess Modron, for whom the city was named.  She has great power underwater, but can't survive on land for more than 6 turns.  Her temple is currently underwater, but can be reached via a tunnel from the cellars of the Kellarbari Tavern.  There are still some worshippers who go down there, and there's also a city of mermen that attend services.  If any adventurers want to go adventuring underwater, there's a sea hag who lives outside the city walls who serves meals made of red seaweed and octopus eyes that can confer water breathing for a day.

The rest of the book is given over to charts and rules for underwater adventures. These include expanded rules for swimming in armour, drowning, and the effects of weather conditions on both. Also included, pertaining specifically to the map below, are charts for visibility in certain underwater terrains, the effects of certain magical misty waters, and the effects of different types of coral.

The following underwater map of the bottom of the estuary to the west of Modron is provided. It shows the Temple of Modron and the merman village mentioned earlier. It would certainly be possible to run an adventure there as is, but some more details of this would have been appreciated.

The bottom of the Roglaroon Estuary

The back of the book has charts with stats for underwater creatures, and includes a lot that are new to D&D. Most of the underwater monsters from Supplement II are there, as well as a whopping 24 different varieties of shark, and some new fish and sea monsters. I'll list the new ones below:

  • Sand sharks
  • Porbeagle sharks
  • Lemon sharks
  • Great hammerhead sharks
  • Bull sharks
  • Whaler sharks
  • Great blue sharks
  • Tiger sharks
  • Black tip sharks (small and large)
  • Ganges River sharks (which would need a name change if I ever used them)
  • Bay sharks
  • Mako sharks (misspelled as maco)
  • Great white sharks
  • White-tipped sharks
  • Bronze whaler sharks
  • Brown whaler sharks
  • Nurse sharks
  • Whale sharks
  • Basking (bone) sharks
  • Makara (a sea monster from Hindu mythology)
  • The Loch Ness Monster
  • Killer whales
  • Kraken
  • Zeuglodan (a type of prehistoric whale)
  • Cecrops (a mythical Greek king who was often depicted with the lower body of a serpent or fish-tail; how he can have a Number Appearing of 1-4 is anyone's guess)
  • Ea (the Mesopotamian god of water)
  • Great barracuda
  • Flying fish
  • Bluefin tuna
  • Tarpon
  • Needlefish
  • Muskellunge
  • Ocean sunfish
  • Blue marlin
  • Atlantic halibut (name change required)
  • Conger eels
  • Black jewfish
  • Black drums
  • Stingrays
  • Catfish
  • Paddlefish
  • Stingarees
  • Devil rays
  • Ratfish
  • Lantern fish
  • Pilot fish
  • Sea bass
  • Sea raven
  • Porcupine puffer
  • Star gazer
  • Wolfish
  • Remoras
  • Goosefish
  • Hagfish
  • Sea turtles
  • Giant clams

It may not be necessary, but it sure is comprehensive.


This is the Judges Map of Modron.

The city of Modron


These three sheets compile the stats for most of D&D monsters to date.  They're identical to what was printed on the recent Judges Shield, which I covered here. No need to go over it again.

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