Greyhawk Modules – Mr. Haarlaa Has His Say

Sampo Haarlaa, fellow Living Greyhawk module writer and a former Triad-member of the Principality of Naerie, mailed me some commentary of his own on the modules I put up last week. Since he asked me to post it here and I’m all for other people writing me content, here it is.

TSS5-04 The Sun and the Nightingale, by Nick Silverstone & Sampo Haarlaa

This was mainly Nick’s baby. He had an idea for an investigative module but we could not really place it in Naerie and the town of Poelitz for few reasons. Trennenport was chosen because it had been detailed previously by Creighton Broadhurst and offered us a good locale. The movie Third Man served as a bit of an inspiration.

Anyway… this became quite a magnum opus, mainly with statblocks and details of locations. It also requires quite a lot from both DM and players. It could perhaps do with some cutting down and tightening up but as locale presentation, it works pretty well in my opinion and many people definitely liked it.

ESA6-05 A Point of View, by Sampo Haarlaa

A Point of View was first the proper “Naerie metaregional” in the sense that it used local NPCs and so forth (there had been few earlier ones but Naerie had been mostly glossed over in details). It was also born out of an argument on forums with certain people over D&D being all about alignments and how there can be no middle ground, “evil” in alignment means you are always wrong, etc.

Basically, I wanted to make an adventure to take the piss out of such people. For this the whole borderland fortification with slave/prison labor, Hextorites and other such things offered a good setting. The original plan was to make both sides of the story totally despicable but in the end Ahlissan side comes out looking more clean here (writing constraits were also the limit, would have essentially required 10 more pages for other plotline). The villain also has a bit of a tragic side to his character, having gone mad in the Calling Mines (PCs who played ESA3-08 Prisoners of the Calling Mines can relate [a module known for starting the characters without equipment and having an allip as the final boss. – Editor]) and which also foreshadowed later adventures occurring there.

I was quite satisfied with the end result and ties very much with NAE6-05 Sharafon as my pick for “best adventure”. Also, a song by Apulanta, “Pahempi toistaan” (Eng: Each One Worse Than the Other) served as an inspiration when writing this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=754e3-5OZn8

ESA7-05 And All the Prince’s Men, by Sampo Haarlaa

I still don’t know why this was turned into metaregional module as it really offers nothing for surrounding regions. Nonetheless, Pieter Sleijpen, our Circle rep, kindly asked if it could be one and I said “Okay, but it really is a regional module”.

Anyway, it was supposed to be foreshadowing for the reversal of the Flight of Fiends, which was to occur at the end of the campaign, and also shake the command structure in Naerie City a bit. I had some trouble starting the adventure but Sir Ridley Scott came to rescue as I watched the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven for the umpteenth time. In other words, a good public hanging is where it is. The Nasranite Watch introduction has even been copied from same scene where Tiberias (Jeremy Irons) and Raynald of Châtillon (Brendan Gleeson) argue over the men about to be hanged. Here it is, of course, the long-suffering Sertern Embric* (our local Michael Garibaldi/Zack Allan) having words with Commander Wanworth.

Originally, I was not supposed to even write this adventure, having written the barebones structure for another author. However, it soon came clear that the author was frankly clueless, refused to take into account previous adventures or set facts (for example, in that version Nasranite Watch wore leather armor and carried spears like some ancient tribesmen). After NAE4-03 The Apprentice, the policy was to keep it simple and use vanilla Monster Manual stuff if it could suffice. Not here, as much of the original author’s plot relied on a near epic-level druid to pull it off and had stuff like, I kid you not, an advanced legendary dire snake of legend with a page and a half of statblock. So in the end I informed the author that “Sorry, but since you cannot make the changes required, I will write this myself”.

I still retain the original version as example “how not to write an adventure”.

* Who turned into an often seen recurring NPC despite his somewhat humble beginnings in the intro module NAE5-I01 In the Docks, where his main task was to stop the PCs from derailing the plot completely.

ESA8-02 Old Debts, by Sampo Haarlaa

This is not one my favourites. Originally there was supposed to be an epic three-part series for finale of the metaregion, ending eventually in Irongate. Alas, timetables, authors withdrawing and other factors prevented the two others seeing the light of day, so only the first part made it in.

As this became clear, my enthusiams to write also waned quite a bit. Nonetheless, eventually I managed to turn in a completed module. Originally, it was supposed to be very straightforward adventure but I could not resist adding the prison escape sequence to it. In the end, I think it worked well enough as adventure and the prison thing gave PC’s something else to do than just teleport out of the town when shit hits the fan.

NAE4-03 Apprentice, by Sampo Haarlaa

Urgh… what can I say here other than apologise..?

It was my first regional effort, I had more enthusiasm than skill and considered the editing process to be something that happened to other people. Also, I had fallen in love with templates and insisted on using them (you cannot imagine how many times I cocked up those stat blocks).

Anyway, I got the basic plot premise from then Triad, proceeded to write and it sort of became unnecessarily bloated and epic in its scale in regards to adventure and so on. Well, at least a few useful NPCs and locales were created so not a total loss. [indeed, I believe this is the first appearance of Damar Rocharion, who is awesome – Editor]

NAE5-01 When Nightingales Sing…, by Sampo Haarlaa

After NAE4-03 The Apprentice, I wanted to do something simpler, having been humbled by the experience. The result was NAE5-02 Return to Gefjon, but due to various happenings (people stepping down, editors/sanctioners going on holidays) and such, NAE5-01 was published first.

I sort of wanted to look for a non-standard mystery/investigation with some odd angles, having been inspired by a story in old Finnish roleplaying magazine. In fact, much of the plot has been copied there but who cares. In the end it seemed to work out, as I playtested it and then playtested some more to avoid the catastrophe that was NAE4-03 The Apprentice. Hence, the credits section is pretty substantial.

I always liked Ekehold as place and it’s a pity that this is the only adventure where it really features.

NAE5-02 Return to Gefjon, by Sampo Haarlaa

I always liked the premise of NAE3-I01 The Stone Strider but the actual module left me with a vague feeling of “meh”. Why bother with this great setting if the only things you face are some giant rats? So, I decided to write the adventure as I envisioned it, taking into account the earlier adventure’s results.

I liked the end product, was certainly tightly written without any padding. It’s simple, it works, it’s good. At least in my opinion. Also, the statue in AR was a special bonus. 🙂

NAE5-03 Heart of the Wood, by Nick Silverstone & Sampo Haarlaa

This adventure is purely written by Nick. He used to have a small company that published D20 adventures under the OGL. He had abandoned the adventure and offered it to be used as Naerie regional. So the job was promptly done, some local colour added and we had new adventure. My job was to just add the local colour and do the bookkeeping required for an LG adventure.

NAE6-03 Legacy of the Serpent, by Sampo Haarlaa

The Serpent Guard plotline was supposed to be secondary plotline for Naerie and eventually culminate in a two-parter in the town of Gornor’s Cove, which ultimately never happened as the campaign ended. I wrote this to foreshadow possible future events but in most terms it’s a stand-alone adventure, which much inspiration being taken from a certain Bandit Kingdoms regional.

On hindsight, the plotline was largely unthinked and we could have done without it if we had other options, but since the first part got written, there was not much else to do than bite the bullet and go for it.

NAE6-05 Sharafon, by David Howard & Sampo Haarlaa

I don’t remember whose idea it was to feature the prison camp as an adventure location, whether it was me or David Howard. Jukka’s comments are sufficient as far as introductions go so perhaps I shall reveal some history behind this adventure. It was extremely hard to get it out in its current format. For starters, as the adventure progressed, there were certain creative difficulties between me and David, which resulted in me writing the bulk of the adventure as the original was nearly as “grey” as it turned out. However, in the end we sorted out our differences and David liked the adventure too (he was supposed to write another module but that never happened).

Then came the sanctioning process where I was repeatedly told that the ending could not happen, no way it would never be released, and so on. However, in the end the text went through like it was written, with AR entries giving both sides some goodies even if they lost.

Fine module, was worth the struggle to get it out. This was also run in GenCon UK Open Fiesta and got pretty high-praise from people if I remember correctly.

NAE7-05 Trail of the Serpent, by Sampo Haarlaa

It’s a mess, really. I felt need to visit Radoc at some point so as local description it works, but at this stage I was running out of ideas for investigative modules and in the end the module is largely a result of whoring from several different sources. At some point it also came clear that the Serpent Guard plotline would probably never be ended but nevertheless, the adventure was written. Like it’s predecessor, I think it’s okay but does not bring much to the table except the local colour, which itself is pretty good.

Radoc would definetely work as place for mini-campaign. Feel free to give it a shot.

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