Thanks to Delta's D&D for pointing this out.
Why the Temple of the Frog, Dungeons & Dragons’ first printed dungeon, seemed unplayable
I bought Blackmoor years before I attempted to use it. But I liked the idea of a temple in a swamp, surrounded by monks and full of killer frogs headed by a otherworldly being. I couldn't figure out what I was going to do with it. We didn't play games with that kind of location - we generally ran modules (as I've discussed before) and you ran one guy, and no one had any army and we didn't play wargames on D&D days.
In High School, though, I aimed to use it. I was running an UA-era AD&D game at the time. I was also playing a lot of 1st edition Battlesystem. So it was pretty clear how to run it:
- set it up for a giant Battlesystem battle.
- have the PCs go in and clean the place out after the army smashed the monastery and the waves of killer frogs.
I can't say I had some deep insight on how it was intended to play, just that I saw a good chance to foist one of my favorite things (playing Battlesystem!) onto the players of my other favorite thing (RPGs.) One of my players was my main opponent in Battlesystem, so it seemed obvious as a way to work it together.
I never did get the run it, but I did stat it out pretty thoroughly. I had images in my head of the PC monk getting to kick NPC monk butt (yes, I read monk and said, well, obviously I'll make them monk-monks.)
But the idea that it was an army-and-party adventure, not a party adventure, was clear to me. After all, I had a system for dealing with 200 soldiers.
Years later, I dug it out for my GURPS game. I used the lower level from the Blackmoor supplement as the shattered remnants of the temple. As if the previous campaign's plan had come to fruition in the past.
There were killer frogs, sure, and some degenerate tribesmen in the swamps around the place. They were descendants of the villagers and monks. And there was a froghemoth in there, as well.
It's nice to hear more details of its background. D&D grew out of wargaming, so it was probably more obvious back in the early days that's you'd transition back and forth between wargaming. And you'd play out inter-player conflict negotiations just like in side-shifting games like Diplomacy. You have to wonder how it would have gone if the players had finally had enough of Stephen the Rock and stomped on his setup. In my game, that was done as background . . . but I really did mean to do it as foreground, too.