H4: The Throne of Bloodstone (1988)

Well, whatever the problems of the previous modules in the series, H4: The Throne of Bloodstone (1988) has no intention of leaving players wanting. The theme here is “Go big” and, well, it does. The “H” always stood for “high-level” but none of the previous modules earn that classification quite like H4, which has a rating of level 18 to ONE HUNDRED.

Plot? Simple. Get the Wand of Orcus. Destroy it. And also Orcus. In his house. The adventure starts with the final confrontation with the Witch King, who had been the source of all the problems in H1-3. They then journey to the Abyss and make their way to Orcus’ fortress. The encounters are frankly ridiculous. Demogorgon, Yeenoghu, Juiblex, Graz’zt and more await to be battled or bargained with along the way. There is a city of 100 liches. There is another tarrasque. There are multiple hard to parse mazes that defy conventional physics. Then you fight Orcus. And after all that, you know what you need to do to destroy Orcus’ stupid wand? It needs to be dipped in the heartblood of Tiamat. Sure, no biggie, off to Hell we go!

I don’t think H4 gets talked about enough. It is possible the most over the top, ridiculous, improbably difficult adventure TSR ever produced (the book offhandedly recommends two DMs run the fight against Tiamat, but gives zero guidance on how that would turn out). Everybody is always like “Oh, yea, gonzo old school, like White Plume Mountain,” or “Oh, yea, deadly old school, like Tomb of Horrors.” This thing has both those beat. Handily.

Great cover by Keith Parkinson. Among my favorites. The lads from the band Final Gasp like it too.

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