Monday, March 2, 2009

EGG & the Prisoners of the Maze Introduction

As we approach a full year since Gary's passing on March 4th I am sure a lot of us have been reflecting upon his enormous contributions to FRPG and what far-ranging impact that has had on each singular life that this has positively influenced.

I have been giving much thought to my past association with EGG, from family friend when I was a precocious lad who was considered a family member by the Gygax "Clan" (ah, but the Swiss are so like that with their cantons) to the many times and projects and laughs and, yes, arguments we shared over the years. But as his childhood friend and co-founder of TSR Rules, Don Kaye, once said to me about such disagreements he had himself had with EGG: "Rob, don't let it bother you. I've argued with him for years, not because I was right, but just to keep him honest," which we both laughed at.

One of the many things EGG and I agreed on during his time was the direction of the Greyhawk Project 1979 onward, and one of its component parts, The MAZE OF XAENE, which I had been crafting. Gary was very excited about this as it was central to the ideas of what both of us had been writing about in the DRAGON and the route that we were taking the campaign, of course.
But many folks do not know to date that EGG himself wote the introduction for the first adventure in the series, Prisoners of the Maze, which I append hereafter (warning, pretty long).

For some reason I've always immensely appreciated this introduction. Others have criticized his writing, but look here, again, to see some very excellent exposition and meaningful dialog.
Though the project ended up not going to print at TSR with all of the infighting and politics of the time, it still remained a work to me that epitomized the direction that we were both in accord on with the setting's direction as we saw it then. The next project in line for us was the complete
publication of the our Original Castle Levels, and whcih EN Shook (now PPP's VP) was faithfully re-rendering then.

Note that I've bolded the word, moons, below. And I suppose Grodog or someone will tell me what I already know as to the reason why that was written by EGG...

The secret league has voted. The council has met in secret discussion. A verdict has been reached. They, the representatives of the hoped for re-ascendancy of the Kingdom, would put an end to the reign of Ovar the Crazed. These plotters would have the King assassinated and an ordered and glorious kingdom reestablished once again. These savants of power would bring __________ (fill in your Kingdom) to the fore, with its riches and splendor, its influence and might again supreme, and with their number rightfully directing the kingdom. It is your duty to be the embodiments of action!

You and your council brothers have been directed to come before the assembled members. As you enter the draped chamber and sit in a chair next to a long intricately carved table made of priceless teak, your blood races with excitement, then chills. These cloaked figures represent unknown embodiments of power and strength. Even the air of this underground hall exudes an undefinable weirdness. To dare such an undertaking requires either madness or power or both. A cowled head turns towards where you sit; from it comes a rasping voice:

"You are to be the babes who uproot the rotten and impure tree. Be merciless! In its destruction you create a new foundation, one that will be the answer to the peoples' hopes. In its place a greater tree will grow, one whose top will embrace the sun, whose limbs will touch the moons, and cause our former tormentors to wither away!"

An arm points towards an area where the curtains are drawn back to reveal a small door. You and your brothers bow, and then back from the chamber, each filled with his own inner purpose.

It is exhilarating business to serve as executioners of someone not fit to command a rabble of southern savages; and it is quite a different task to stand long before the council's combined gaze: THAT makes one's blood congeal!

You converse in whispers as your party moves steadily and silently through seemingly endless corridors and passageways. Eventually, the floor changes from coarse stone and brick to polished black marble. Torches, lanterns and cressets light the hallways now. In moments you will be standing before the platinum worked portals of the King's lesser throng room. Where you've been in the gargantuan tower none of you know; but where you are bound is certain: At one stroke you will seal the future of the Kingdom and avenge the lives and blood of the thousands who have died in Ovar's mines, torture rooms and slave pens.

A pair of gigantic guards, covered with black mail and with skull like helms stand to either side of the doorway. At your approach, each guard slams the adamantine butt of his long halberd on the floor; and with the sound echoing down the corridor, grasps the gold ring on the door by which he stands, and heaves. The large portals swing open without noise. As you enter, the opulence of the throne room nearly causes you to falter in your steady and purposeful approach to destiny.

All of you draw a deep breath when the great valves shut behind you. You have done it! You are before the crazed tyrant Ovar! He has seen no threat to your entreat for a private audience. He has allowed you to come before him to discover the "new plants" you have supposedly discovered on an alleged voyage to the Horse Lords: miniature flowers, only fractions of an inch tall, and with their miniature insect life as well!

There sits the despot, patiently awaiting you on one of his thrones of obsidian and silver. Ovar smiles upon seeing the cloth draped coffer you bear, for he thinks it contains the tiny flowers he intends to be the culminating pieces in his collection of flora and fauna. You kneel hands touching the lustrous marble floor. Ovar bids you rise and approach to where the sumptuous rugs of red silk and silver thread are spread. As you near the throne you are elated. NOW! Each of you attacks by bounding with drawn weapon or by quickly motioning in spell casting. Just as suddenly Ovar disappears from his throne!

Confusion! Terror! Have you been betrayed? How was Ovar aware of the plan? How could he have escaped so easily and swiftly? You turn to flee, but know that your escape chances are slight indeed, but any chance is better than none. First, the trollish guards no doubt waiting outside; then a sprint to lose pursuit in the labyrinthian passages of the tower. At this moment you see HIM! It is the most powerful of mages, the dreaded Zayene.

Each of you tries to confront the court wizard, but all of your actions seem weak slow, and disjointed. The dreaded mage smiles evilly as he watches you. With laughter on his cruel lips, and an unnatural light glowing from his eyes, Zayene draws a handful of tiny orbs from the breast of his robe and hurls them at you in a single motion quicker than the strike of a giant snake! As the orbs reach positions over the heads of each of your fellows, they stop abruptly and hang suspended. From each floating orb pours a luminous cascade of strange colors: yellow gold; leaf green; glowing brown; translucent white. Your associates' figures become pale and insubstantial; and then your own arm is transparent! The room fades, but the leering face of Zayene seems to grow larger and brighter, filling the whole universe. Then . . . blackness! Thus begins MOZ Part 1, PRISONERS OF THE MAZE.


Anonymous said...


I see that Gary, Eric and Jim Ward were playtesters on MOZ. Who are the "Two Daves"?

Also, did the Player-Characters belong to any of the playtesters or did you create them.


Rob Kuntz said...

Dave Kuntz, a cousin of mine who lived near EGG in DRAGONLAND (EGG's "estate" near Clinton, WI) and actually played in his group (small world), and the other Dave is for the moment lost to my memory.

James Ward was actually to do some editing on the project but as it never went anywhere then he read through it only, at least to my knowledge. He later used a copy of it as a convention tournament (again without my knowledge, though it wasn't a big deal, mind you).

The original PCs were not played and the modules
were only mildly play-tested. My balanced design seems to have worked, however, as I never received a complaint on this. That comes with many years of forming adventures and achieving an intuitive mind-set for balancing the parts, something I am still graced with, I don't mind saying.