The Giant’s Adventures: I love themPosted: December 11, 2010
I love some of the earliest adventures published by TSR back in the day, but my absolute favorites are what I call “The Giant’s Trilogy” (includes “Steading of the Hill Giant Chief,” “Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl” and “Hall of the Fire Giant King,” (later the three were gathered into one adventure called “Against the Giants”)).
If you are accustomed to the modern “adventure path” style adventures, the first thing you will notice is how physically insubstantial the ‘Giants’ booklets seem in comparison. The older version comes in 3 skinny folders with maps printed in light blue on the inside (in the age of photo copiers, I think this color was chosen because 1970s era Xerox copiers had trouble reproducing it, thus TSR was probably attempting to prevent ‘analog age’ file sharing). There are no boxes of text to be read aloud to the players. Most creatures are not described with any more detail than their hitpoints (other details were to be found in the AD&D Monster Manual). The room descriptions mostly just tell you what (monster, treasure, furnishings) is in any labeled location and may include details like how they will react when player characters come strolling in or any traps or hazards that might be found in the area. Add a few wandering monster lists as well as some suggestions on tactics the giants will use as well as a ‘hook’ to get the players on to the next installment and that is it. The third in the series is a little more elaborate; it includes a couple of named NPCs who will be of interest (as well as introducing ‘The Drow’ to D&D players for the first time) and the suggestion that the adventure can be continued in the D-series of adventures.
The introduction to the first adventure, “Steading of the Hill Giant Chief,” consists of a pargaraph saying that giants have been raiding the lands of humans with greater frequency and unusual efficiency recently. The player characters have been ‘shanghaied’ into investigating; a greater plot is suspected and the player characters have been commanded to find out who is behind the attacks. If the players refuse, they are to be executed (how is that for motivation?). Any treasure the party can find is theirs to keep. The noble who gives the players this draconian assignment isn’t even named in the adventure. With that, players are led off to the nearby ‘Steading’ of the hill giants (kind of a stockade fort/cabin) and told to come back with answers.
If the players succeed in defeating the hill giants, they can move on to the icy caves of the frost giants. If the frost giants are defeated, then the players can proceed to the caverns of the fire giants. The giants have various pet monsters, traps and allies in their lairs, but the adventures consist of a lot of fighting.
So what’s to like about an adventure like this? I’ve heard fans of the 3e and later eras of Dungeons & Dragons dismiss this type of play as ‘hack and slash,’ and, if ‘hack and slash’ means killing monsters and taking their stuff, I suppose they are right. But other than being forced to deal with the giants, the players have complete freedom of action. From my limited experience, this is unlike the more modern ‘adventure path’ adventures where players usually have to first go to location A and talk to NPC B, then retrieve relic C and bring it back to NPC B, who will tell them that they then have to go to location D and defeat bad guy E… but bad guy E will escape, etc. The ‘adventure path’ reads more like a really long novel than what they thought of as an ‘adventure’ back in the mid to late 1970s. During that era, an ‘adventure’ was really just a location — and it was us to the players to provide the ‘inspiration.’