Monday, March 3, 2014

The Lost Caverns of Tsjoconth, Conclusion

In the center lies the gate 
But opening is sure to vex 
Many are the guards who wait 
As you go to the middle hex 

Randomly sent to find a way 
Back to a different iron door 
A seventh time and you may stay 
And seek the prize no more 

You have won my choicest prize 
My warded cache of magic 
And freed the one with yearning eyes 
Whose lot was hunger tragic. (original, pg. 7) 

Entering into the second levels of the Lost Caverns players are greeted with the above poem in the original version of this module. This three stanza poem spells out everything there is about the level in an elegant way. In the sequel, however, players have to find this information in room 17 of the Lesser Caverns (Upper left corner of the map). Otherwise the players will be left wandering about the Greater Caverns hoping to run across the following clues: 

Going south takes you southwest 
Going north takes you southeast 
Travel southeast and you are south 
Northwest brings you north 
Travel southwest reverses that 
From northeast you go northwest (sequel, pg. 20) 

 It’s clear that given the truncated time scale and nature of tournament play that Gary did not want to encumber the game with the steady plodding and high frustration levels that would occur later in S4: the Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth – a feature Gary warned about.
 . . . When confronted with the teleportation corridors in area 19, players may become disheartened if they have not had considerable experience in similar situations. If the players are unable to deal with the situation, the DM may place certain clues, to be found with monsters that have other treasure. Each clue will be one of the following lines, written on a piece of parchment and found in a scroll tube of little or no value . . . 

 Nothing else should be said when the clues are read. After being teleported a time or two, the players should realize the meaning of the clues, yet still be challenged by the situation . . . (sequel, pg. 20) 
Without spoiling the adventure there are a lot of differences between the two versions of the module. Many locations have a greater and more wondrous feel in the sequel and there way more monsters present. Not only that, but unlike the original which confines play within the Greater Caverns the sequel has no compunction about sending players careening off into alternate dimensions and deadly pocket dimensions where they’re left to fend for themselves. As an adventure you could easily lose yourself within the traps and tricks of the Greater Caverns for the entirety of your adventuring career without ever beating the damn thing. 

 A thoroughly impressive feat. 

A Word on Dungeon Master Prep

Of the two versions of the game the sequel require a substantially greater effort on the part of any would be Dungeon Master. Without the time spent designing several of the offshoot dimensions play will grind to a halt and it will ruin the adventure. 

S4 should not be attempted unless you're willing to expend the effort to make it something special - but it should be noted that if you do, your rewards will be great.

The Slumbering Warrior Queen Awaits by Jeff Easley pg. 28

Works Cited
Gygax, Gary  The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth. MDG, USA: 1976. pg. 7.

Gygax, Gary S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth. TSR Hobbies, Inc. USA: 1982. pg. 20, 28.

Read the Complete Series
Part 6: Conclusion


  1. Thank you for your work on detailing this. I often wondered what the differences were between the original tournament version and the S4 module. I'm currently running this for the first time via D&D 5e. I never got to play it when i was growing up, but i put this together to run it as a DM last year. My players have JUST got to the caverns a few weeks ago, after MONTHS in the wilderness. Day 1 of getting in there, a player died to one of the Fomorians. Last session, they engaged the Harpies in Area 4 ( Mobats from the 2e version), we pick up this Sunday. We will see how they survive. Glad i found your blog, its great to read about the past history of D&D from a player/DM perspective.


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