Worst Module Ever

Castle Greyhawk CoverOver the years there has been hundreds of modules made and it would be impossible to get people to agree on the worst. For me there is just one that is head and shoulders above the rest. I know for many people the Forest Oracle ranks as the worst D&D module. While that one is badly written in pales in comparison to the farce that is Castle Greyhawk.

The year was 1988. Greyhawk was a setting we had been playing in for years. At the time I had the box set and a few modules and we read about different aspects in Dragon magazine. There were hints and little blurbs about the majestic Castle Greyhawk. It was the one area of the work that we wanted to see more than any other. What we received were thirteen different levels that have basically nothing to do with one another. It was written as a joke with more puns then a Paranoia adventure and not nearly as well thought out. There really isn’t anything salvageable in here.

It starts with a decent enough premise. The old castle has been rediscovered and they are looking for people to explore the monster invested basement. Except there is no one that can explore it. The entrance to the first area is successfully hidden away. Only the PCs when they are approached as dopes by a kid can they learn the location to get in there. But even before that we have the weather. The druids around the castle are pissed off so the weather of any day is randomly rolled. It could be hot, it could be snow, and it could be anything. One would think this would be a problem to be solved but it is barely talked about. It is just poorly planned out and not a lot of it makes sense. I would get used to that as it is one of the few inconsistencies through this module.

The setup to the first dungeon is really odd. A crying kid asks the PCs to help find his dad. But it isn’t his dad it’s who he works for. Basically some guy found the entrance to the dungeons that everyone wants cleared and hid it so he could turn it into a zoo. So, the PCs go on and explore an underground zoo. It has all kinds of weird creatures to kill, but it tries to be funny and fails. The worst part is this is probably the best part of the dungeon.

The second level is also on a level the PCs can get to. It says the door is secured and no one can get through, but how others get through the Zoo when no one knows about the zoo is baffling to me.

Anyway the second level is one that gets built around a simple idea of irony. What if a group of orcs, trolls, goblins, and such all got together and made a plan to find someone to serve? So, they get this big banquet planned so that whomever shows up will be impressed. This is the plot of the second one. It doesn’t matter what day the PCs explore this area that is the day that the whomever is going to show up. There is party planning going on and all these monsters are busy. They assume the PCs are there for the party so they don’t fight the PCs. And if the PCs fight them there are too many. If things go bad for the PCs they get captured and tossed into a sewage pit for punishment.

The PCs have to explore everything here so they get the clues as to what is going on. What is really going on is that the PCs are spectators. They do nothing here that changes anything. The party happens, Asmodeus shows up. Yes, the real Asmodeus one of many demon lords who apparently regularly hangs out in Castle Greyhawk. He basically is unimpressed and tries to kill everyone. Wasn’t that fun?

It just gets worse from there. The next level has been taken over with plotting chefs. The creatures here are food puns and one of the only workable NPCs Poppinfarsh Doughboy. Fourth level has a three dimension quality that doesn’t work well. They tried and failed at doing something. The whole point of that level is to give cryptic pointless clues at the other levels. The fifth level is a role playing game. They have a paranoia take off, some characters loosely based on Marvel Superheroes, and other shake your head it is so pathetically bad encounters.

At this point I really did not want to read anymore. I wanted to make a meme with the picture of the module and warning label over top the whole thing. I did read more but it is not something I want to go over in any more detail. I don’t know the history of the product. I don’t know what vindictive person thought this version of Castle Greyhawk was a good idea. It is just a bad module that fails to be funny, fails to be clever, and fails to do anything but insult the Greyhawk name.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

4 thoughts on “Worst Module Ever

  1. I saw this at a Half-Price Books a few years back for five bucks. Didn’t know anything about it and thought “Ooo, Castle Greyhawk adventure for 5 bucks, that’s a steal.” Got home and read it and I feel like it was a steal. HPB stole my five bucks and gave me a crap adventure that as you say, tries to be funny and clever, but fails miserably.

  2. I was unfortunate enough to pick this module up back in the late 80’s when it was published. At the time, I would pretty much pick up anything that TSR came out with. This abomination of a module, along with other stinkers (such as WG9 Gargoyle) soon disabused me of my fervent belief and support for the company. If you are looking for good interpretations of Castle Greyhawk–try Greyhawk Ruins and the later Expedition to Castle Greyhawk for 3.5 which are much closer in spirit to what Gygax conceived of.

  3. I was going to mention WG9 Gargoyle myself, but John beat me to it! LOL

    Yeah, there’s been some bad material published. I blame it on their instance of using “in house” writers. Just because some of those people “qualify” to work at W.o.t.C. doesn’t mean they’re qualified to write.

  4. The module was intended to be a tongue in cheek, satirical parody of TSR’s standard dungeon crawl scenario’s; they were poking fun at themselves as well as providing some silliness in the vein of Dungeonland & The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. Honestly, I thought it was a fun break for my often too serious gamers. Of course, I also like Paranoia & Toon, so what do I know…? I have been playing & running RPGs since the 70’s & I love serious gaming. But sometimes being silly can be fun too.
    On a side note, even though Michael Breault edited it, the module does wind up being a bit disconnected because each of the 12 levels was written by a different free lance author. But I hardly think it qualifies as the worst ever module.

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