White Plume Mountain

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White Plume Mountain
S2 White Plume Mountain.jpg
The cover of the 1981 reprint of White Plume Mountain, with art by Jeff Dee. The artwork depicts a group of adventurers confronting a manticore.
Code S2
Rules required AD&D (1st Edition)
Character levels 5 - 10[1]
Campaign setting Greyhawk
Authors Lawrence Schick
First published 1979
Linked modules
S1 S2 S3 S4
Return to White Plume Mountain

White Plume Mountain is an adventure module for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, written by Lawrence Schick and published by TSR in 1979. The 16-page adventure bears the code "S2" ("S" for "special")[2] The adventure is a dungeon crawl where the players' characters are hired to retrieve three "notorious" magical weapons: a trident, a war hammer and a sword, each possessing its own intelligence.[1] The adventure contains art by Erol Otus, and a cover by Jeff Dee. A sequel, Return to White Plume Mountain, was published in 1999, and an updated version conforming to v3.5 rules was released online in 2005.

White Plume Mountain was well received by critics. It was ranked the 9th greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time by Dungeon magazine in 2004. One judge, commenting on the ingenuity required to complete the adventure, described it as "the puzzle dungeon to end all puzzle dungeons."[3] A review for British magazine White Dwarf gave it an overall rating of 8/10, noting that the adventure focuses on problem solving. It is also the favorite adventure of Wired magazine's Ken Denmead, who described it as the "amusement park of dungeons".[4] Other adventures in the S series include Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Plot summary[edit]

White Plume Mountain is set in the World of Greyhawk, a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons.[5] The earliest known inhabitant of the volcano known as White Plume Mountain is the druid Aegwareth. Aegwareth is later slain by the evil wizard Keraptis, who took over the mountain with his gnomish servitors. The premise of White Plume Mountain is that thirteen hundred years ago, Keraptis descended into the volcanic mountain with a company of gnomes, and disappeared. The adventure is a dungeon crawl,[1] and hinges on Keraptis' theft of three powerful magical weapons:[6] a trident named Wave, a war hammer named Whelm, and a sword named Blackrazor, all of which have their own intelligence and were first introduced in this adventure.[1] The weapons' former owners each received a copy of a taunting poem, instructing them that the weapons are in White Plume Mountain. The characters' goal is to enter into the Wizard's Mouth, a fissure in the side of the active volcano,[7] to rescue the magical weapons from Keraptis' lair.[6]

The adventure's 16 pages are divided into 27 encounters. The player's characters begin in a cave at the base of White Plume Mountain. In the first numbered encounter, the characters find a spiral staircase in the cave which leads to a "mangy, bedraggled" gynosphinx.[8] Encounter seven involves a large cave with a floor of boiling mud. Circular wooden platforms are suspended from the ceiling, and the characters must jump from platform to platform while dodging geysers of hot mud. In the eighth encounter, the characters confront a vampire who is guarding the magical war hammer Whelm in a room of permanent darkness.

In encounter 17, a corridor leads the characters to a boiling lake. According to the adventure, "The corridor from the dungeon continues out into the lake under a rubbery magical forcefield that keeps out the waters by forming a sort of elastic skin of super-tension."[8] The watery tunnel opens into a watery dome, where the characters must defeat a giant crab in order to collect the magical trident Wave. Encounter 22 involves a frictionless room with spikes, and in encounter 23, the characters kayak on a stream suspended in mid air. In the 26th encounter, the characters must fight various creatures in a magical ziggurat where each level is guarded by a different monster including sea lions, giant crayfish, giant scorpions, and manticores. In the last encounter, an ogre mage must be defeated in order to win the magical sword Blackrazor. An end note recommends that the Dungeon Master add an encounter with two efreet if the characters have succeeded in taking two or three of the magic weapons.

Publication history[edit]

The original White Plume Mountain adventure was written by Lawrence Schick, and was published by TSR in 1979. It features interior art by Erol Otus and David C. Sutherland III, calligraphy by Darlene Pekul, and a front cover by Sutherland.[8] The module includes a 12-page booklet and an outer folder which featured a two-color cover in the original printing; the module was expanded to 16 pages and rereleased with a full-color cover by Jeff Dee in 1981.[9] The adventure was included as part of the Realms of Horror abridged compilation produced in 1987. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1999, a reprinting of the original adventure was made available in the Dungeons & Dragons Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition boxed set, with slight modifications to make it distinguishable from the original (for collecting purposes).[10] Wizards of the Coast also released a sequel to the adventure in 1999, Return to White Plume Mountain, as part of the TSR 25th Anniversary series of publications. The events in the sequel are assumed to take place 20 years following those in the original.[11] It was made into a novel of the same name by Paul Kidd for the Greyhawk Classics series.

Schick wrote the module while applying for a job with TSR. He took what he felt were the best parts from his previously created dungeons and put them together to create White Plume Mountain. After looking at it, TSR hired him and published the module without making any changes. Looking back in an interview, Schick said that he was "a little embarrassed to this day by Blackrazor, inasmuch as it's such a blatant rip-off of Elric's Stormbringer; I would not have put it into the scenario if I ever thought it might be published."[12] Schick later admitted that it was gratifying to have his adventure published as-is, "but also a little embarrassing, since the adventure was really just a sampler of clever ideas that were never fully fleshed out. Its central conceit, a 'funhouse' dungeon full of tricky obstacles designed to challenge adventurers for the amusement of a mad wizard, was already a cliché even at that date."[13]

In 2005, an online version of the adventure was released as a free download, updated to conform with v3.5 rules (Wizards of the Coast periodically alters the rules of Dungeons & Dragons and releases a new version). The revised module is designed for characters of the seventh level of experience. Return to White Plume Mountain has also received a v3.5 update and is likewise available for free download on their website. In both of the revised modules, the classic weapons associated with them (Blackrazor, Whelm and Wave for White Plume Mountain, Frostrazor for Return to White Plume Mountain) have been converted into Legacy Weapons.[14]

All four modules of the S-series were included as part of the Dungeons of Dread hardcover collection, released on March 19, 2013.[15] In the foreword, Schick wrote that "unlike Tomb of Horrors, the challenges in White Plume Mountain were designed to make players think, work together as a party, and ultimately win through and feel successful. Players liked that."[13]

Reception[edit]

A battle against a giant crab in a dome at the floor of a volcanic lake? Check. Reverse gravity water tubes with kayaking bad guys? Check. A completely frictionless surface, studded with pit traps? Check.

Mike Mearls describing the adventure's appeal in Dungeon magazine[3]

White Plume Mountain was well received by critics. Dungeon Master for Dummies lists White Plume Mountain as one of the ten best classic adventures, referring to it as a "classic dungeon crawl."[1] It was ranked the 9th greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time by Dungeon magazine in 2004, on the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Judge Mike Mearls commented on the ingenuity required to complete the adventure, describing it as "the puzzle dungeon to end all puzzle dungeons". Further, when speaking to why it is one of the top adventures ever, he said that while it lacked the "sheer brutality" of Tomb of Horrors, it made up for it with "crazy, over the top, pure fun". Another Judge, Clark Peterson, said that he liked the three magical weapons: Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor. To Peterson, just the inclusion of Blackrazor makes White Plume Mountain a "classic". The editors of Dungeon felt that the adventure was defined by the ziggurat and its monsters.[3]

Kirby T. Griffis reviewed the adventure in The Space Gamer #37. Griffis found the background interesting, namely Keraptis having stolen the magical weapons from prominent dealers, and the player having been hired to get them back, with only a cryptic poem to help. He found the module well organized and its content more believable than most, and despite its shortness he stated, "This on the whole is a very good module. There are no real flaws."[16]

Jim Bambra reviewed White Plume Mountain for the British magazine White Dwarf, and rated it favorably at 8/10 overall. He gave playability, enjoyment, and skill ratings of 9/10, and a complexity rating of 7/10. He noted that the adventure focuses on problem solving, with "many interesting problems for players to overcome".[6] Comparing it to the challenges in the previous S series adventure Tomb of Horrors, Bambra found White Plume Mountain "quite lenient." Where in Tomb of Horrors a wrong decision would leave the player's character dead, in White Plume Mountain it merely leaves the player frustrated. The adventure's tests are "designed to stretch a party to its limits, not deal death at every opportunity".[6]

Ken Denmead of Wired says that White Plume Mountain is his favorite adventure, if not necessarily the best. For him, it was the "amusement park of dungeons". He describes the story arc, where the adventurers are hired to retrieve three magic items, as similar to the A-Team or The Equalizer: "You've been hired to help when no one else has been able." He felt that while the sword Blackrazor was a "blatant ripoff of Elric", it was "still way cool".[4]

Denmead commented on several of the adventure's encounters. He felt the cavern with boiling mud, hanging disks, and geysers, was "just cruel". Concerning the permanently dark room that houses a vampire, he commented on the ease with which one player's character can easily hit that of another in the gloom. He describes the room where a giant crab guards the trident Wave as "basically a bubble inside a tank of boiling water", noting the crab knows not to pierce the walls and asks, "Are you that smart?" Also, if the players end the adventure with the magic weapons, it's up to them to "bribe" their Dungeon Master to keep them.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Rich; Grubb, Jeff (2006). Dungeon Master For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-471-78330-5. 
  2. ^ "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. 2003. Retrieved February 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Mona, Erik; Jacobs, James; Dungeon Design Panel (November 2004). "The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time". Dungeon (Paizo Publishing) (116): 77. 
  4. ^ a b c Denmead, Ken (January 10, 2008). "Top 10 D&D Modules I Found in Storage This Weekend - Finale!". Wired. Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ Stark, Ed; et al. (2004). "Greyhawk". 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast. p. 57. ISBN 0-7869-3498-0. 
  6. ^ a b c d Bambra, Jim (April 1983). "Open Box - White Plume Mountain Review". White Dwarf 40. 
  7. ^ La Farge, Paul (September 2006). "Destroy All Monsters". The Believer Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. 
  8. ^ a b c Schick, Lawrence (1979). White Plume Mountain. TSR, Inc. pp. cover, 3&ndahs5, 9, 13. ISBN 978-0-935696-13-4. 
  9. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 113. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  10. ^ "Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition Boxed Set". Wizards of the Coast. 2003. Retrieved August 14, 2009. 
  11. ^ Cordell, Bruce R.; Penny Williams (1999). Return to White Plume Mountain. Lake Geneva, Wis.: TSR. pp. Back Cover. ISBN 978-0-7869-1434-0. Two decades ago, however, Keraptis reappeared in White Plume. The mountain and its insane lord proved too much for most, but eventually courage and justice triumphed. Keraptis was finally dead or so the world thought. Now, twenty years later, a face has appeared in the volcano's smoke the face of Keraptis himself, say those who should know. Is the vile wizard immortal after all? Or is there an even greater thereat building beneath White Plume Mountain? 
  12. ^ Maliszewski, James (May 16, 2009). "An Interview with Lawrence Schick". Grognardia.Blogspot.com. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  13. ^ a b "Dungeons of Dread: White Plume Mountain". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ Schick, Lawrence; Collins, Andy; Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel; Wyatt, James (December 7, 2005). "White Plume Mountain (Revised)". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Dungeons of Dread". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  16. ^ Griffis, Kirby (March 1981). "Capsule Reviews". The Space Gamer (Steve Jackson Games) (37): 30. 

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