Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa

Ben's prize for making me laugh the most in the caption contest was to pick a module for me to review. He chose D3, but it's hard to review D3 without giving a look at D1 and D2 (with references to the later, combined module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth). So let's do that.

This review does contain a lot of SPOILERS.

For more reviews see my reviews page.

D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
by Gary Gygax
TSR 1978
18 pages

D2 is the second of the sequel modules to G1-3. It takes you from the end of D2 through the rest of the underground wilderness right up to where module D3 Vault of the Drow begins.

Like D1, D2 largely consists of wandering monster details backed by a few key set-piece encounters. They vary from potential fights if the PCs aren't on their toes to potential allies and one in between.

The first good thing D2 does is tell you your starting hex, and that is it "just beyond" the large encounter area that caps off D1. That is how people pre-D1-2 would be certain where the big set-piece in D1 is placed aside from educated guessing.

Like D1, D2 can be flyover territory. As long as the players are willing to let things be, and find ways to interact successfully with the various set-piece encounters and wandering drow, they can potentially just bypass most of this.

Interestingly, the PCs have a change to pick up some allies - but ones very hostile to the kuo-toa. If they do so, it's likely they will have to fight their way across the shrine. Their new allies aren't likely to just want to tip their hat to the shrine and pay a toll and move on. A fight could be a quick, violent running battle or a drawn-out slog.

It never actually says how you learn what to do at the shrine. You might be able to guess, but certainly no one explains ("go there, do this, pay that, be on your way.") That's part of the challenge, but it does seem odd - you'd think they'd be used to people coming and going, and would prefer to explain the tolls and get them then have people randomly profaning their temple.

The shrine itself is very cool - weirdly lit, full of the odd and interesting kuo-toa, potentially full of loot and absolutely full of "don't touch that!" stuff, continuing the "better just leave it alone" things found in Gary Gygax modules.


D2 has some of the weirdness and organization issues of D1. A good example is the total lack of clarity of how the kuo-toa handle visitors. It's clear if you do the right things, you're fine, but while the shrine is detailed, its response, how it handles day-to-day visitors, etc. isn't really dealt with. As a DM I can decide this, but I can decide anything - it's nice to know what was intended by the author.

The map of the shrine is also odd in that there are some area not on the same level as the rest of the shrine. They're done up in dotted lines, and not numbered in any way - you have to read the text of nearby areas to determine what's in them. I do remember having a huge problem figuring this out when I was in elementary school and had this adventure - I always had problems deciphering maps or matching them to text unless both were clear. This is not.

Additionally, it spends a lot of wordcount repeating material - the kuo-toa are extensively detailed in the back, in a two and a half page spread (counting artwork and stat block.) But some of the same material - their odd HP-per-HD rules - is repeated in the wandering monster details and the race description. Very important details about kuo-toa abilities are just buried deep in the text about them. Special kuo-toa fighters get 6 attacks, but they're listed as a combo of claw/bite followed by claw/bite. Er, and then claw/bite again, is that two claw attacks per? I can easily decide as a DM, but it would be easier if both parts of the text description of their attacks matched.

Also, one of the characters (in area 9 of the shrine) doesn't actually meet the attribute requirements for his class by AD&D or even OD&D standards. This has me thinking I should check all of the stats of encountered NPCs.

How is it for GURPS?

Like D1, if a group depends on skills, communication, and stealth more than heads-up assault, I think a GURPS or DFRPG group would do fine. Languages aren't a dime a dozen like in AD&D, so that could be an issue (no one is just going to happen to speak Drowic or whatever), but magic can mitigate that easily. A DFRPG group that basically just attacks the Shrine will probably suffer - there is a lot of kuo-toa there, plenty of magical support.

War Stories

I don't think I ever ran this. I had it - I had D1-2 - but I think we skipped it and moved on. I always wanted to run it. I planned to run it in High School but we ended up ending the giants series and moving on to what turned out to be a campaign-ending homespun adventure.

Overall: D2 is better than D1, if only because its encounters have less "why?" in my head. The three set-piece encounters are very cool, too, and I'd love to run them all as part of this adventure or pulled out and used elsewhere. The barge encounter alone makes for a cool non-combat encounter or a potential disaster, and certainly inspired similar things in my own games. Worth picking up D1-2 just to read the shrine, even if there is a good chance the PCs will figure out how to just walk through peacefully.


  1. I'm getting a lot of mileage out of my request, which is great, and the impression that D1-2 isn't going to be my cup of tea at this stage of my gaming life. Unless there's more to the whole trilogy than "Save the world!" as the hook.

    Looking forward to your third installment! And thanks. :)

    1. It's not "save the world," really. Even the G-series isn't that. This feels more like finishing a fight the drow started. More on that in my review of D3.

  2. On NPCs not making the stat requirements asked of PCs, I've always played that NPCs are not bound by the same rules as PCs. The way PCs go is due to the need to set boundaries on what players are allowed to have their characters do. NPCs are tools of the Referee or Adversary. If I want to have a clumsy Assassin (for example) with Dex 9 to fulfill a particular role, I shouldn't have to be bound by the same guidelines that are set to roughly balance PCs against each other and the setting.

    1. I understand that way of playing, but that's now how AD&D works as written. If it was intended that stat requirements are for PCs only, and that NPCs don't need to meet the minimums for their class (or any other requirements for their class - alignment, race, etc.) it's not stated anywhere.

      I think it's just a mistake in this case, like that 37 HP black dragon.


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