I pulled out an old favourite from when I was a teenager for last night’s DCC game. Chagmat, by Larry DiTillio. This adventure was included in issue 63 of Dragon Magazine, back before they were doing the whole Dungeon magazine thing. It was set up so you could pull it out of the magazine with minimal damage to the adventure or the magazine (or none really, if you had the patience to bend the staples open and extract it carefully).
That’s what I did with my copy. I don’t have the hardcopy of Dragon 63 anymore, but I do have an old and beat-up copy of Chagmat on my Old School D&D shelf. So it was time to pull it out!
SPOILER ALERT – SPOILERS BELOW THIS TEXT, LIKE YOU WOULD FIND ON A HORRIBLY UGLY STREET RACING CAR. ALSO – IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY DCC PLAYERS, YOU CAN STOP READING NOW.
Fortunately I read through the whole adventure again first and realized there is basically NO WAY for a party to figure out how to get from the first part of the adventure to the second part. They literally have to ring a chime they will probably find on a dead body at one point in the adventure within 5 feet of a specific dead end in one of the 8 different caves, each of which has (on average) 2.5 dead-end caves. And it’s not the most interesting of the caves in question – there are at least two dead end caves that would seem to be far more interesting and more likely to be hiding the secret passage. So I added some clues in cavern #8 to send them back to cavern #7 and the specific dead end in question.
Anyways, the adventure pace is pretty slow too. It actually starts to feel like a classic Traveller adventure to me – slow exploration in an alien environment with few dangers. In fact, it reminds me of the first published Traveller adventure I was ever exposed to “Shadows” from the Shadows / Annic Nova double adventure – Except that one of the wandering monsters down there in this level 1-4 adventure is a motherfucking black pudding. Just oozing around in the Chagmat temple, cool as a cucumber.
I figure the Chagmat are aware of it, and when they see it coming they haul ass to another section of the temple and haven’t figured out how to “take care” of it yet.
The villains of the adventure are cool and the overall plot is a classic – the maidens have been kidnapped by evil forces (bugbears we think!), but some old fart in town keeps muttering about the spider creatures that used to have lairs near here but were eradicated 50 years ago, except he thinks they are back. And of course, they are back. The Chagmat (the spider people) are basically anthro spiders, but not very anthro. They stand on four legs and wield shields and swords with their four upper limbs. They look like creepy spiders stalking around half-upright.
The level range is actually one of the weak points of the adventure. It’s well suited difficulty-wise to level 2 characters, IMO, but level 4s will totally cake-walk it, and there’s way too much treasure (especially magic items) for level 1-2 characters. The problem is trying to make the adventure suit all four levels listed ends up making it suit none of them all that well.
Overall, like many favourite adventures from my early D&D years, this module doesn’t hold up nearly to my modern expectations – but few do.