White Plume Mountain has always been a subject of superstitious awe to the neighboring villagers. People still travel many miles to gaze upon this natural wonder, though few will approach it closely, as it is reputed to be the haunt of various demons and devils.
This adventure contains background information, referee's notes, player aids, a complete map level, and a cutaway view of the mountain complex. White Plume Mountain is form the Special ("S") series; like others in this series, it is meant to stand on its own and is a complete Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure.
For 4-10 characters levels 5-10.
S2: "White Plume Mountain" (1979), by Lawrence Schick, is the second "Special" adventure for AD&D. It was published in August 1979.
Origins. In 1978, Gary Gygax decided to create a Design Department within TSR, and so began advertising job positions. One of the applicants was Lawrence Schick, a recent graduate of Kent State University. After he was asked to submit an AD&D adventure as a sample of his work he cobbled together his "best ideas" from five years of dungeon design and wrote "White Plume Mountain". Not only was Schick hired, soon becoming the Head of the expanding department, but "White Plume Mountain" was also scheduled by Gygax for publication.
Sources. The sword Blackrazor, one of the three named weapons in White Plume Mountain, is an obvious rip-off of Elric's black blade, Stormbringer. Schick says he "would not have put it into the scenario if [he] ever thought it might be published."
Continuing the Special Adventures. "White Plume Mountain" followed S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978) as the second "Special" adventure — which seems to mainly mean one-off adventures for AD&D, not connected as part of a campaign like the G, D, and T adventures that had preceded it.
"White Plume Mountain" is notable for being the first AD&D adventure not authored by Gary Gygax — though it was preceded by Mike Carr's B1: "In Search of the Unknown" (1978) for the Basic D&D game. The trend of other authors writing for D&D would really take off in 1980.
Like all of TSR's early D&D adventures, the first edition of "White Plume Mountain" was printed with a monochrome (orannge) cover. It was updated with a full-color cover with an orange border (1980) just a year later; at the same time the book was expanded from 12 to 16 pages, mainly thanks to the addition of more illustrations.
Continuing the Adventures Archive. By late 2005, TSR's free 3e adventure archive was nearing its end, but that year also contained two of their most notable adventures, 3e revamps of classics "Tomb of Horrors" (2005) and "White Plume Mountain".
The 3.5e version of "White Plume Mountain" is based closely on the original, with the design adjusted in some areas for balance and better polish. The three named weapons have also been statted up with the Weapons of Legacy (2005) system.
Wizards supplemented this adventure with a web enhancement, "Outside the Mountain is just as Dangerous as Inside" (2006). It updates material from Return to White Plume Mountain (1999), including the fourth weapon, Frostrazor.
Adventure Tropes. White Plume Mountain is an interesting contrast. On the one hand it's one of the earliest quest dungeons: players go into the Mountain searching for three magic weapons. The dungeon is very tightly organized around that quest. On the other hand, "White Plume Mountain" was TSR's first "fun house" dungeon. This was doubtless a result of the piecemeal way that Schick constructed the dungeon. The result doesn't feel like an organic whole and certainly doesn't contain any "Gygaxian naturalism". Instead, it's a random assortment of monsters, puzzles, and traps. Just as "Tomb of Horrors" popularized the idea that D&D dungeons could be "killers", "White Plume Mountain" in turn debuted the idea of fun house dungeons as professional releases (though GMs all over the country had surely been cobbling them together for half a decade).
Exploring Greyhawk. Like "Tomb of Horror" before it, "White Plume Mountain" is only very lightly set in Greyhawk. The beautiful full-page map on page three, showing the Great Swamp, White Plume Mountain, and Castle Mukos didn't match up with anything else at the time, though the text of the adventure clearly places White Plume Mountain in the Shield Lands, near the Great Rift. The background in the module was also entirely self-contained at the time.
Years later, Return to White Plume Mountain (1998) would much more fully connect up Schick's famous module with Gygax's world.
NPCs of Note. The central NPC of "White Plume Mountain" is dungeon creator Keraptis — except the 1,300-year-old wizard is never actually seen.
Instead, it's probably the undead dragon Dragotha who's best remembered from this adventure. This primordial dracolich only shows up on the map of the local area as a possible adventure seed. He finally got a full writeup a decade later in the "Lords & Legends" column of Dragon #134 (June 1988).
Both NPCs got much better usage in Return to White Plume Mountain, while Dragotha also starred in the "Age of Worms" adventure path in Dungeon #124 (July 2005) to Dungeon #135 (June 2006).
About the Creators. Schick mainly worked for TSR as a manager, but he did write one other adventure, A4: "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords" (1981).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.