WG5: Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (1984)

WG5: Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (1984) is a pretty old school adventure. Literally! Though adapted to the Greyhawk setting for publication, it actually draws primarily on a dungeon designed by Rob Kuntz for his Castle El Raja Key. Gygax experienced it as a player and it proved more than Mordenkainen was capable of (for a time, anyway). Considering that history, the framework of the adventure was likely around ten or twelve years before publication, making it a glimpse of an earlier time and design sense.

In the preface, Gygax calls it a hack and slash adventure, and that is pretty true. Three levels, all action. Lulls in the action are are punctuated by Tomb of Horrors-style death traps and the occasional puzzle (the initial entrance of the dungeon is one such puzzle, sealed with impossible to open doors). There’s a mad mage, there’s a demon, there are hints at a larger world of Greyhawk. There’s the option to play as some of Gary’s characters instead of bespoke PCs. Just the peak at Mordenkainen’s attributes feels somehow important.

It isn’t earthshaking, really, and I don’t love the climactic demon, but on the whole, I would probably pull this off the shelf if I wanted to run something in the “classic” mode. It has an energy that I like better than most of the more popular “classic” modules, though that might be thanks to over-familiarity. I certainly prefer it over Tomb of Horrors. The art package — a classic Caldwell cover and interiors by Easley — goes a long way in selling it, too.

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