Friday, May 22, 2015

Vault of the Drow in Dragon 298

One last thing in the wake of my AD&D Module D3, Vault of the Drow game mentioned last week: Loren Rosson on his blog pointed me to the expansion of the Vault of the Drow, in particular detail on the depraved capital city, in Dragon Magazine #298, August 2002 (link). This would be in the middle of the 3E era, and this particular issue was the first one put out by Paizo Publishing, having taken over the periodical from the rapidly-outsourcing Hasbro/Wizards.It's an all Drow-themed issue and as such, the kind of thing that I would roll my eyes at and pass over.

However, I must say that that the article expanding the Vault of the Drow, by Frederick Weining (under the "Living Greyhawk" rubric at the time), is well worth taking a look out. It's a dense 12 pages of added detail and a full-page map for the city of Erelhei-Cinlu. As usual for this kind of setting information, it's not directly playable, and the DM would have to flesh out any location with maps, monsters and treasures. But it closely honors the original module D3, is surprisingly hardcore in theme for its time, and has some very intriguing ideas -- such an academy run by mind flayers, depraved acrobats, fearsome mimes, infectious and incurably diseased beggars, an arena hosting ghastly events other than battle, undead and medusae prostitutes, etc., etc.

In particular it has some of the best names for locations that I've seen. It includes calling every one of the districts of the city a "Ghetto"; the Black Widow Bordello, Demon's Draw Casino, Haze Avenue, the Antisolar Institute, the judicial Verdict Hall with its Chief Discriminator, Venom Boulevard, the Soul Crusher Saloon, the annual Running of the Ghouls in Necropolis Square, etc., etc., etc.

For me, it hits just the right note of total nightmare mixed with some subtle black humor. The other Drow articles in this issue would be much less useful to me; but if I were running an expanded D3 campaign then I would definitely use Weining's work here as a basis for the city of Erelhei-Cinlu. If you can find a copy in paper form or online, then I'd recommend checking it out.


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