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Setting module G1-2-3/Against the Giants in the Northern Reaches

by Demos Sachlas

I'm back with another look at a classic AD&D 1e module - this time, the iconic G1-2-3. I'm actually in the middle of running this right now (my players have made it all the way to G3 - you can check out our campaign journal over on Dragonsfoot here) so I've been contemplating where these adventures might work best on Mystara.

The G series, by Gygax himself, kicked off the practice of publishing tournament scenarios as modules. In this case, the adventures debuted at the Origins tournament in 1978, recounted in Dragon #19 (October 1978). The original setting seemed generic (these were the first modules ever published by TSR), but later established to be Greyhawk when the Folio came out (1980). The series in general and G1 in particular was inspired by "The Roaring Trumpet" by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp (and is recommended reading for anyone running these).

With its strong nordic connection, the Northern Reaches are a natural setting for these modules in Mystara.

In terms of specific locations for each of the giant strongholds, I couldn't help noticing the volcanoes in the middle of the Makkres mountains for the Hall of the Fire Giant King. They're represented by a single hex on the Continental map from X1, and as broken territory with 3 volcanoes in Gaz 7. I'm not aware of anything else that's been developed for this area.

Here is the description of the location of the Hall of the Fire Giant King from G3:

The plain about is most evil and drab appearing. The sky is gray and filled with sooty clouds. A distant volcano can be seen, and far to the south a glowing river of molten lava moves sluggishly down a slope and out of sight. It is hot, and the air smells of heated rock and metal. The ground is full of cinders and sharp rocks. The place is lit by night with dim red light from flaming gases shooting forth from the earth and from molten rock.

For the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl I reviewed the map from Gaz 7 to see where giants are known to dwell. There are 2 areas (circled above, reproduced from Thorfinn's most recent updated version of the region).

I figured the northern area, in Vestland, would be more fitting for the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (the hex is hill terrain, after all).

The southern area, near the Jotunvalk pass, seems more fitting for the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (it's technically within the Soderfjord Jarldoms, as well...) There's no mention of glaciers in these mountains, but Odharjokull at an altitude of 15,750 feet is nearby. Here's what the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has to say about where glaciers are located:

Because certain climatic and geographic conditions must be present for glaciers to exist, they are most commonly found above snow line: regions of high snowfall in winter, and cool temperatures in summer. This condition allows more snow to accumulate on the glacier in the winter than will melt from it in the summer. This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or the polar regions. However, snow line occurs at different altitudes: in Washington State the snow line is around 1,600 meters (5,500 feet), while in Africa it is over 5,100 meters (16,732 feet)

So definitely high enough for a glacial rift near the Jotunvalk pass. There are, of course, frost giants in the Altan Tepe mountains of Karameikos, but for the purposes of G1-2-3 (and based on the close coordination of giantish raids) a closer grouping of the 3 strongholds makes more sense. Gaz 7 also works well as a unified setting for all 3 adventures. The prominence of other humanoid races (gnolls, trolls in G3) fits particularly well with material on these races in Gaz 7.

Campaign Arc/Adventure Path

I've previously written about Kick-starting a Northern Reaches campaign using module B9. There's also an adventure published in Dungeon #23 called "The Vineyard Vales" (levels 2-4) set in the Soderfjord Jarldoms. Finally, there are 3 complete adventure scenarios presented in Gaz 7. "Falun Caverns" (pgs 37-47), "The Defence of Otkel's Stead" (pgs 47-51), and "The Jarl's Hall" (pgs 51-59).

X3 "Curse of Xanathon" (levels 5-7) and X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory" (levels 7-10) are both set in Vestland, and could serve as adventures also leading up to G1-2-3 (levels 8-12). However, while X3 is fully integrated with Gaz 7, X13 doesn't mesh well, and was pushed 150 years into the future by Ken Rolston. Fortunately, there's a wealth of adventure hooks in Gaz 7, or the PCs could have adventures in neighboring regions.

As a neat alternative, enterprising DMs might wish to transport high-level PCs to some of The Nine Worlds for these adventures (detailed as outer planes on pgs 62-63 of Gaz 7). For example, the Glacial Rift could be in Niflheim, and the PCs could travel there (using the first Thor movie as a template!) and the Hall of the Fire Giant King is even mentioned to be in a Muspelheim-like environment.