Return to White Plume Mountain (1999)

Return to White Plume Mountain (1999) is the fourth of TSR’s modules that return to classic adventure locations, and the third in silver anniversary trade dress. Also, the last of the both those things. Of the silver modules, it is my favorite (Return to the Tomb of Horrors is still my pick for the best of the lot though, probably).

Like Keep, this doesn’t include the original module, but reminagines the original space with twenty years of changes. It also takes pains to make a little more sense of the original module, which was a silly funhouse kind of dungeon that, while classic, is sort of a sore thumb in terms of Greyhawk lore. In fixing that, the designer actually strikes upon a surprisingly satisfying frame for the adventure.

Basically, the mountain was home to a mage named Keraptis, who left for parts unknown. Another mage took his name and home and, through a magical accident, an imprint of the original’s personality—this is the one who was heard but never seen in the original module. He’s dead now, but four others have been imprinted by artifacts the original mage left laying around. There are now four false kerapti—an efreet, an ogre mage, a mold wyrm (?) and a gnome—all with their own turf and control of one of the now four weapon artifacts housed in the volcano (Blackrazor, Whelm and Wave are joined by Frostrazor, an ice sword). Basically, four gangs loosed in a bizarro dungeon. What more can you really ask for? This dynamic really pushes White Plume Mountain into territory staked out in Jennell Jaquays’ Dark Tower, and I like it a lot. And there is something far worse than the gangs under it all, to boot.

Cover by Arnie Swekel, redoing Erol Otus’ fairly iconic overland map. Interiors by Wayne Reynolds, settling into what will be the prime art seat for the imminent 3E.

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