Thursday, November 9, 2017

Palace of the Silver Princess Orange v. Green: module showdown feat. D Osgood

Orange, as in "Original"
Archaic D&D module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess, published in 1981, has a more interesting publishing history than most works in the genre. Written by Jean Wells--the only girl in the TSR boy's club back in the day--and printed up with a snazzy orange cover, Upper Management found the thing so shockingly offensive that they hunted down every known copy--purportedly going so far as removing copies from employees desks under cover of night*--and heaving them into the dumpster behind the Lake Geneva KFC. 

Green for "festering act of bowdlerization"
Not satisfied with this heavy handed gesture, the honchos of TSR then took the original manuscript and tossed it to the pack of underfed hounds in the writer's kennel, where Tom Moldvay snatched it from the grasp of Lawrence Schick and tore into the thing with his teeth, drastically re-working the text for a second publication under the same name but with a vomitous green cover.

What drove this effort to erase Ms. Wells's original work and chasten the offending author? Was it the risque art? The seditious messages hidden in the text? An aversion to the color orange? The debate rages on. 

Well, I'm not raging on about it; I've never had any contact with this module before now. But fortunately DiceChucker Caverns Platinum® member and guest blogger emeritus D. Osgood is seething with fury on the topic and has taken it upon himself to further the discussion by writing up a comparison. In a misguided effort to help publicize his plea--have you seen how few hits this site gets?--he called me up on the Bat Phone and we had this conversation: 
Osgood: "Hey Chucker, you haven't posted squat all year, I'm taking over your stupid blog."

Me: "Fine."  

Osgood: "Cool."
What follows is the transcript of a debate that Osgood facilitated at NerDivaCon '17 between Princess Argenta, damsel in distress in the Moldvay version of B3, and Lady D'hmis or D'jiminez or D'something, the sardonic pro(an?)tagonist of the original Wells version. Also, His Steaminess, Lord Osgood--as part of our licensing agreement I have to refer to him using this honorific--tells me there are Easter Eggs hidden in the copy. Let me know if you find them and you'll win something that I'm sure you will find incredibly unrewarding.

Osgood:  Princess Argenta of Haven and from the land of Gulluvia, Her Grace, Lady D'hummus. D'Thanks to both of these eminent women for joining our panel today. Princess Argenta would you care to start us off with a description of your version of the Palace?

Princess Argenta:      Why of course. My palace is made of shining white marble which glows like silver when the sun sets--hence the title of the adventure. It lies in the land of Haven, a bucolic valley hidden in the heart of the Thunder "All Through the Night" Mountains. Here the crops are bounteous, the rivers run fresh and clear, the weather is pleasantly mild, and the humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings live in interracial harmony. Everyone is good, fair, and free of acne. Teehee!

Lady D'hmis:     "Haven?" Please. The setting in my version is the Barony of Gulluvia and it’s All Mine, sister. Ever since my husband accidentally fell on my poisoned knife I rule not just one cutesy castle, but six thriving communities. Now the barony is efficient and safe for militant feminists of all the important races. Everyone, especially men, know their place. All except possibly the NPC tinker and his daughter who can be used as a plot device as needed.
            The closest princesses are to the south east in the lands of Glantri, past the Thunder Mountains and Abaddon Woods. My lands are also bordered by the Moorfowl Mountains and the Misty Swamp to the north. They are all nasty places that my adventure-writer put some thoughtful detail into.
           Your precious castle, my dear princess, doesn't glow at all because it lies in ruins up in the Moorfowl Mountains. And, it gives me great sadness to report that you, my dear, [Winking at the crowd] have been dead for centuries. 

PA:      My goodness. A little testy aren’t we? Fear not! It can't be as bad as that for Haven is defended by good faeries called the Protectors, and they are the adorable!

LD:      They’re green; like the cover of your module. And by the way, I submit that you would have fared better if you had some strength of your own rather than relying on some jumped-up faeries who couldn't prevent a third level cleric--that’s two whole spells, dearie, neither of which cause damage--from sacking your precious palace.

PA:      Anyway, all of my subjects adooooore me. So much so that when my dwarven miners discovered a ruby the size of an apple, as a token of their devotion, they committed it to me.

LD:      Bequeathed, bequeathed.

PA:      They named it “My Lady’s Heart.” Touching, isn't it? I was so pleased that I invited all the realm to attend a celebration of the wondrous gem.

LD:      Your palace isn’t that big. Where would you keep the sheep?

PA:      Hush. They’ll organize themselves. At any rate, the day before the celebration, a gorgeous knight in black armor arrived riding a glamorous white dragon. He was Ellis, a Knight of the White Drakes.

LD:      You do know that white dragons are evil, don’t you? And this is coming from a company that was so stuck on alignments and races that goblins were not allowed to have shamans. Their spellcasters were all crazy humans. Every time: The Caves of Chaos, The Palace of the Silver Princess…

PA:      My beau Ellis…

LD:      ...Horror on the Hill…

PA:      My Beau Ellis was a good and honorable, and so was his dragon steed Ariksbane. He requested to escort me to the celebration and since Haven is known for hospitality, of course I granted his request.

LD:      A valley tucked into the heart of the mountains and sealed off from the rest of world by little green men is known for its hospitality? It seems like a land so far, far away would not have a reputation at all. Sounds like a boring reputation anyway. Now my reputation… mwah hah haah!

PA:      Alas, at midnight, disaster struck. Dark clouds hid the moon and a freezing wind blew through the valley. The crops withered in the fields, the cattle fell ill and the valley began to die. An explosion in my alchemist's laboratory destroyed much of the castle and an eerie, red glow surrounded the palace. All of my people were turned to white marble, while my beau and I were trapped inside the ruby.

LD:      Let me guess, this adventure was written during the Cold War when fear of nuclear weapons was high, the peasants’ understanding of radiation was low, and when it wasn't considered racist to turn into white marble. 

PA:      Raiding bands of humanoids now roam the countryside, Haven lies in chaos…

LD:      Right on!

PA:      ...and even the Protectors have disappeared!

LD:      I warned you about relying on faeries. Just sayin’…

PA:      The situation has become desperate!

LD:      I’d say so. This is an introductory module; that means you're counting on 1st level characters to save your bacon. Here, let me fill you in on your future. In my world, what you've related all happened almost five hundred years ago. Your beau-legged Ellis was no knight in shining armor; he was a bandit intent on stealing the ruby. When he saw your beauty, he decided to take you as well. The extent of the disaster that struck at midnight was a confrontation between the knight and a small party of demihumans. The palace was not destroyed by your alchemist Napolean Blownapart…

PA:      His name was Silverheart.

LD:      Silverheart?! Seriously? Oh Tom, Tom, Tom. Excuse me a moment, I feel an attack of the vapors coming on… Right. The people were not turned to white marble – those are statues carved by... statue carvers one presumes. And you were not trapped inside a giant ruby.

PA:      I most certainly was! And for all its outer beauty, it was rather drab on the inside.

LD:     About that. Are you saying that the ruby was hollow? Didn’t anyone notice that?

PA:      The ruby was magical of course. Its true name was “The Eye of Arik.” Arik of the Hundred Eyes was an ancient being of great evil. Several centuries ago, Arik was banished to a special dimension where he was to be imprisoned for all eternity. He had been trying to escape from his prison-dimension for ages…

LD:      At least he wasn't stuck in a ruby.

PA:      ...and he desired to take over Haven and enslave all its people.

LD:      Small-time thinker.

PA:      He at last managed to send one of his eyes across the dimensional barriers into the heart of the mountains. There the dwarves mined it, brought it to the palace…

LD:      And that’s when you threw a party for an eyeball. That is disturbing, princess.

PA:      The Protectors would have sensed the evil, but by the time they saw the ruby it was too late. Arik had already struck.

LD:      What about your palace cleric?

PA:      Branaur? What about him?

LD:      Well. That’s a much better name than the one your alchemist is cursed with. Yes, this Branaur, then, why didn’t he detect the evil radiating from the demon eyeball? Pretty simple spell, right?

PA:      Ermmm...

LD:     You did take magical precautions, didn’t you?

PA:      Well, that’s beyond the scope of… that it to say, I am certain he would have taken a look after Silverheart was done with it.
LD:     [Wincing in agony] Can we just call him 'The Alchemist' from here on out? I don't think my intestines can withstand hearing that name again. But back up a bit. You were throwing a party for the ruby before you had court security take a look at it to make sure the gem wasn't cursed? Tell me again why princesses outrank baronesses? So then this eyeball attracted hordes of orcs and goblins and such to town?

PA:      Evil eyes have a reputation for doing that.

LD:      … Indeed.

PA:      And then it teleported the evil priest Catharandamus into the palace to prepare the ceremony that would allow Arik to escape his dimension and cross back into our world. Finally, the ruby created a magical force field around the palace to prevent help from arriving and stopping Catharandamus.

LD:      Katherine who? Yeah, yeah, I know. That name didn’t change between versions. Still, this plot is pretty convoluted. I can’t help but ask - “magical force field?

PA:      [sigh] Don't blame me; I'm quoting straight from the adventure text.

LD:      Well, that's a most fascinating tale. Now please allow me tell you how your fate was written in the original orange version. There was no mention of this Cthulhic demon of the hundred eyes named Arik--I suppose that's a better name than "Jawn" or "Pattee" but not by much. There was a dragon and a dragon rider, but this unnamed Knight of the Suave Hair did not fly into town on a white dragon. He crashed your party and ogled both the gem and your fair demeanor. Then, many weeks later, a red dragon terrorized the land and feasted on its denizens. A few people, mostly the uneaten ones, claimed to see a knight wearing silver and blue armor mounted on the dragon. You, dear princess, were never heard from again and the palace is now in ruins, presumably due to centuries of neglect rather than alchemical misadventure.
What?! No caption?
            Rumors abound as to your fate. Some say the rogue knight made off with you; others say you were slain and the palace looted, but most agree--for no good reason other than to entice PCs into the adventure--that the ruby still lies in the ruins. But fact is stranger than fiction -- well, you know what I mean--because what really happened was that both you and the knight became ghosts who, together, protect the ruby.

PA:      Oh, is that us in that drawing of the angry woman with the knight in shining armor? She has such fabulous hair and a lovely figure. Are my legs really that shapely?

LD:     Did you think it was just a couple of smashingly dressed adventurers with unfortunate headgear? 

PA:      It is rather excessive.

LD:      Finally, we agree on something.

Other changes

      Besides completely cutting out the setting and background; changing a helpful and interesting tinker and his daughter into green faeries who command you to rescue the princess, but won't talk to you or help you other than getting you through the red force field of death; completely altering the character of the knight and the dragon; introducing an extra-dimensional demon god; changing the nature of the ruby; and moving the destruction from 500 years in the past into the present; there are a few other changes that Tom Moldvay made.
      Tom deleted the drowning rules. What?! How dare he! I’m afraid he did.
      He changed Catharandamus from a recently renowned local figure with two dwarven retainers and a female werebear flunky (all with backgrounds and character concepts) into 7 orcs and a werewolf with no personality.
The illusion in question. Roll a save to disbelieve.
      Tom eliminated almost all of the new monsters. Most notably, the 3 headed, 3 armed, 3 legged ubues became bugbears, an ogre, and a wight. The hungry little bear cub was replaced with a black bear wandering around the halls. *sigh* Tom replaced several wandering monsters on the upper level (gelatinous cube, a faction of berserkers, bandits, and ubues) with ghouls, harpies, zombies, and a freaking medusa. He threw in a few white apes for muscle. Notably, he removed the illusion created by the decapus; said illusion had greatly affronted one of the TSR managers. The decapus was retained as a mutated plant creature; rather, it already was a mutated plant creature, but Tom made it a different mutated plant creature. Jean had placed it in a room without plants; Tom moved it to a garden room without access to sunlight and outside air.
      Tom changed the maps here and there. Jean had left 20 rooms unstocked, but had suggested where to put monsters, traps, and treasures. This was done with the intent of training new dungeon masters how to create their own adventures.
      Tom replaced Jean’s several closed portcullises to be moved by main strength with several closed portcullises to be cleverly opened by raising two levers, one in each of two siderooms. His intent was… I’m not sure. The kicker is that he tossed out her one page of straightforward descriptions in favor of a “choose your own adventure” written in 63 entries and covering five pages of a 32 page booklet.
      Tom claims that the palace is enchanted but he removed every single indication of enchantment. He retained the weird physical traps, like the pit trap with unflaming oil between two undescribed rooms; I like to think of them as the school room and the vending machine room.
      The main change was that Jean’s adventure was searching a dilapidated, haunted, enchanted castle in search of famous loot. Tom’s version is a desperate fight to save the land from centuries of oppression by a demon lord with detachable eyeballs.

*You really think I've got a  source for this? Ha! You could try Wikipedia though; they might know something about it.