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Subject: Investigating the Forbidden City rss

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Eric Dodd
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I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City is an AD&D 1st edition module for 6-8 characters of 4th-7th level. It was written in 1981 by David Cook, based on an 1980 Origins Tournament module. The I series is supposed to be for Intermediate level characters (and players and DMs, too), though I don't ever remember reading that back in the 1980s. At least the first eight modules in this series are worth buying and playing, but here I'll just review the first one. As a thirty-year old module I've mentioned a few basic spoilers, but nothing that details the encounters too closely. The backgound read out to the players does reveal many of these "secrets", anyway.

PRESENTATION:

The module consists of 28 pages of text and drawings, 4 pages of paper maps stapled around the main booklet, and an overall map of the Forbidden City on the inside of the cardboard cover. On the cover by Erol Otus, two PCs are facing a group of Bullywugs, and giving those froggy fiends a good battle. On the back a human fighter faces a Yuan-Ti warrior. The interior illustrations are generally of a good quality, and only a couple of them feel like space fillers. There are only a few illustrations directly tied to locations, but some of the pictures could certainly be used to show PCs what a particular creature looks like. There's one additional map, area K within the main module.

CONTENTS:

The first two pages provide background (a short paragraph to be read to the players), notes for the DM on getting the players to the Forbidden City and the ideal party class make-up. Two more useful sets of notes cover the three main factions active within the safe, and options for running the module for competition purposes. The basic premise is that the characters are charged with discovering the source of raids on merchant caravans, believed to be an ancient city lost in the jungle. The city features keyed locations broken down into groups from "A" to "M". The competition portion is just area "A", consisting of 10 more or less consecutive encounters. Areas "B" to "E", along with "A" are the five different ways of entering the city, more or less easy to find and each with their own dangers. Mr. Cook has also accounted for characters attempting to fly into the city. There are the usual ad hoc rules covering swimming in armour, climbing and crossing wooden bridges while under attack - no standard rules for these things came into the AD&D universe for a good few years after this module.

The remaining sections "F" to "M" detail various parts of the city, controlled by one of the three different groups - The Yuani Ti, Bugbears and Tasloi; The Bullywugs; and The Mongrelmen. Each of these groups is very different in their approaches to the players and their methods of combat and should stretch the characters. The monsters are well used- most come from the Monster Manual, three from the Fiend Folio (though they are also detailed here), while the Aboleth, Yuan-Ti and Mongrelmen are detailed here for the first time. The city seems potentially very deadly for even a well armed group, but the module notes that there is not much activity during daylight, so a prudent party should be able to move and hide out between encounters. There is the potential for the party to gain the favour of one of the groups against the others in the city. This would seem the most likely way for the characters to succeed in their mission.

The last two pages give some additional reasons for adventuring in the Forbidden City, and four adventure seeds for future sessions there. This is very welcome, and could make the City a centre for adventuring for many hours.

VERDICT:

Though styled a "Dungeon Module", much of I1 consists of the open ruined city which is rather more of a wilderness setting. Only a few of the NPCs could be said to have actual personalities, but there is scope for the characters to talk their way around some of the encounters, rather than bashing through them all. Cartainly, not everyone they meet will be immediately hostile. Prudent players who can make good use of their abilities should be able to determine the most dangerous threat in the city and neutralise it. Whether they wish to return to civilisation with their mission accomplised, or stay to rule the city is up to them...

I1 is one of the better AD&D first edition modules, that still gives some useful pointers to module design for a fantasy lost city. It could easily be re-run with different groups or even the same group at a later stage, with new inhabitants moving in to fill any power vacuum created by the characters. Thumbs up, and a positive rating of 7.
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James Lowry
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Quote:
three [monsters] from the Fiend Folio (though they are also detailed here)
That would be because the Fiend Folio got them from here, not the other way around....

Quote:
The I series is supposed to be for Intermediate level characters (and players and DMs, too), though I don't ever remember reading that back in the 1980s.
I don't think TSR ever said what any of their module codes meant, you had to figure it out deductively. I cracked the meaning of 'I' only after having the 'H' and 'N' series to compare against. (Actually, I think H1 was pretty specific in saying that they were doing a new 'high' level series of modules....)
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