Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fight like an Archmage: lessons from Threshold of Evil

I read this excellent post today about a "Dungeon" adventure that was very influential on me, Theshold of Evil:

How a Real Archmage Fights: Threshold of Evil and D&D’s Most Underrated Wizard

The article is full of spoilers for the adventure, but if you're not going to play this module as part of a very high-level AD&D campaign, you're probably okay reading it.

I learned a lot from that adventure, like:

- archmages don't fight fair.

- archmages sure don't just sit back and wait until you chop your way through low-level minions and single demons and dinky traps and then fight you. Oh no. They watch you from afar as you slog through their best defenses and Wish bad things upon you.

- archmages don't through their spare magic items into a treasury, they issue them to Simulacrums. And I finally saw what Simulacrum was really good for.

- archmages don't care if you think they are good, or evil. Or to quote one of my favorite all-time quotes from my favorite all-time fantasy author, "Ferocious mad-killer sorcerers do not whine because nobody likes them."

- archmages have henchmen and allies that are worthy of archmages.

- and seriously, archmages don't fight fair.

It's a brutally tough module; it's the brute force equivalent of Tomb of Horrors in a way. Oh sure, you won't have deathtrap rooms with "death with no saving throw," but you get direct enemy action from a powerful, powerful foe who doesn't take his enemies lightly, or use a flyswatter when a hammer is needed.

Fun, brutal stuff. I'm glad to read that someone went through it and ended up as my groups likely would have, had I been able to run that in AD&D.


  1. I should reread Black Company, especially since Soldiers Live wasn't even printed when I last read the series...

    1. It's well worth revisiting and then reading "Soldiers Live." One of my friends hates that book, but I really enjoyed it.

    2. Gotta admit, for me the series took a down turn with the Glittering Plain, it very much felt like the Company became too... powerful. They weren't scrabbling to survive so much as steamrolling everything but "gods"... and even then.

      But I'll give it a shot, Cook might be able to bring back the feel the series had in the "first part" of the series, when Croaker was annalist, since it's a return to Croaker as annalist...

      But I had a similar problem with The Garret Files, they were gold right up until Cook got the "last third" (Angry Lead Skies) and there was a serious tone and theme shift that took the series away from what made it so enjoyable fro me.

      Those two series are one the reasons I've taken to disliking books series that 'stay past their welcome' (Wheel of Time and Song of Fire and Ice round out the other two, but The Dresden Files are starting to look like they'll join the team).


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