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A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (1e)
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A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (1e)

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Into the Drachensgrab Mountains! Hot on the trail of the marauding slavers, you and your fellow adventurers plunge deep into hostile hills. Spurred on by your past success, you now seek the heart of the slaver conspiracy. But hurry! Your must move quickly before the slavers recover from your previous forays and attack!

This module was originally used for the official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament at Gen Con XIII and is the third of four in a series of related tournament modules.

This module contains a challenging scenario, the tournament scoring system, plus nine pre-rolled, playtested tournament characters. Also included are large scale referee's maps, notes, and background information. A3 is a complete adventure in itself, but it is also a companion to A1 (Slave Pits of the Undercity), A2 (Secret of the Slavers' Stockade), and A4 (In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords).

An adventure for character levels 4-7.

Product History

A3: "Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords" (1981), by Allen Hammack, is the third of the "A" Slave Lords adventures. It was published in May 1981.

Origins: From Tourney to Book. Like its predecessors, "Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords" was used as part of the AD&D Open Tournament at Gen Con XIII (1980), then was sold as a published adventure. To be specific, "Aerie" contains: one of the initial rounds of play from the tournament; the semi-final round of play; and some new material.

Though it was the third adventure in the series, A3: "Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords" was actually released in advance of A2: "Secret of the Slavers Stockade" (1981), which followed a few months later.

Adventure Tropes (I): Dungeon Crawls. The five initial rounds of play for the Gen Con XIII tournament were each built on a specific structure, to keep them balanced. This formula specified how many encounters each adventure should have and abstracted what those encounters should contain. "Assault's" initial round of play, "The Caves of Drachensgrab", is the closest to its tournament source. Nine underground rooms are contained in just four pages of text, supporting three to four hours of play! Gnolls are obviously the base monster this time around.

The semi-final round of play, The Catacombs, wasn't as limited in its design, because everyone would be playing it at the same time, so there was no need to keep secrets. However, it's another tight little dungeon, once more including nine encounters in just four pages.

Unsurprisingly, these tournament rounds are both hack-and-slash dungeon crawls, with some puzzles, tricks, and traps thrown in. These were the type of encounters that could be included in scored tournaments. More surprisingly, they're both very linear. In both adventures, players are required to go through the encounters in order, one after another. Branching tunnels sometimes suggest choice, but they always lead back to the encounter choke points. Some of this same linearity was obvious in some of the earlier Slave Lords modules, particular the dungeon of A2: "Secret of the Slavers Stockade"; it was probably another constraint of the tournament form. However, it's more absolute here — and also less disguised, because the tournament dungeons of "Aerie" weren't expanded with additional areas as was the case in the previous modules.

Adventure Tropes (II): Urban Affairs. The expansion of "Aerie" over the original tournament adventures instead occurs in the middle section, which details the secret city of Suderham. The description of the city is still quite brief, with lots of the homes and businesses said to be closed, but it's an interesting little urban sandbox that GMs could expand if they wanted — and a pretty rare city for TSR at the time, though it was preceded by the groundbreaking T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979).

Adventure Tropes (III): A Fight to Lose. The finale of "Aerie" bears some discussion, because it's an encounter that the players are expected to lose. In the tournament, the characters were simply gassed into unconsciousness, while the adventure module suggests the messier option of the PCs fighting a battle that they're very unlikely to win (with dead characters raised afterward if need be).

This trope has been heavily overused since, but back in 1980 it was fresh and relatively unknown. In fact, most of the players of the semifinal round were certain they'd lost the tournament, because of their defeat by the Slave Lords. Those who got invites to the final found were pleasantly surprised.

About the Product Tie-In. Three decades later, Gale Force Nine released The Scourge of Suderham (2013) a set of miniatures depicting the five Slave Lords that players fight in the railroaded finale of this adventure.

Exploring Greyhawk. "Aerie" continues the exploration of the Drachensgrab Hills in the humanoid-infested Pomarj peninsula. However unlike its predecessors, it actually contains some meaningful detail of that area, thanks to Hammacks' detailing of the hidden Slave Lord city of Suderham — a city that Hammack named to connote the idea of "South Home". In the entire Slave Lords series, Suderham would be the only locale that received enough attention to support further adventuring — supplemented by the fact that players actually get to meet five of the Slave Lord leaders.

So of course it's all ruined in A4: "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords" (1981).

Monsters of Note. Each of the initial rounds of play for the Slave Lords tournaments introduced a new monster. For "The Caves of Drachensgrab", that's the storoper — a variant of one of D&D's stranger critters. Like all of the original Slave Lord creatures, the storoper returned in Monster Manual II (1983) and like most of them it didn't survive past AD&D 2e (1989-2000).

About the Creators. Hammack is probably better known for his other early AD&D adventure C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980). He'd return a few years later with I9: "The Day of Al'Akbar" (1986), after authoring a Boot Hill adventure in between.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

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