Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King is rightfully considered a classic of Dungeons & Dragons adventures. For an module that is only 16 pages in length, it contains a great deal of incident, evocative description and adventure. It premiered as the final round of the D&D tournament at Origins '78, and an account of the winning team's accomplishments was published in Dragon Magazine #19 (The Battle for Snurre's Hall)
G1 found the giants distracted and feasting; G2 had the difficulty of the terrain providing almost more of a foe than the monsters. With G3, the monsters take centre stage, and Gygax exhorts the DM to play them intelligently. There is no easy approach here - once the characters enter the hall, it is likely a guard will alert the rest of the hall and the battle will be joined.
King Snurre, the major villain of the piece, is placed in only the third chamber! The initial foray into the hall is likely to be hard-fought, but even if the King is slain early on, it proves that the rest of the giants will continue to contest the invasion, and - given the instructions to the party - they can't rest with just the King dead.
The adventure is not all combat, although there's quite a bit of it throughout. Once the second level is attained, a number of opportunities for negotiation and role-playing exist, especially with the slaves of the fire giants... including a rebel fire giant who the party must decide whether to trust or not. However, the best NPC in the first part of the adventure is definitely the treacherous dwarf Obmi, who Gygax took from his original Castle Greyhawk campaign and later would use as a major foe in the Gord the Rogue books. With friends like Obmi, who needs enemies? (The victors of the original tournament trusted Obmi and gave him a potion of invisibility... the fools!)
One also has the second appearance of a strange, mad temple, but unlike that in G1, this one is being used for active worship - of the Elder Elemental God. Later authors would confuse the Elder Elemental God with Tharizdun, and it's easy to see why, but at this point they were still considered separate (and Tharizdun had not yet appeared in published D&D lore).
It is on the second level of the adventure that the PCs will get their first glimpse of the drow, the mysterious black-skinned elves who are behind all the giant raids. With this, G3 moves from being merely a good adventure into being a great adventure: by now there's a real epic feeling about the overall structure of the scenario, and it's one that doesn't diminish in the later adventures of the Descent into the Depths. Eclavdra appears here, an 10th level Drow Fighter/Cleric, and the instigator of the giant raids. It is noteworthy that Eclavdra is not described in depth past her combat stats; only a simple note as to her role in the plot. Far less is written about her than Obmi; is this a flaw in the adventure? Perhaps. A good DM will expand on this section, but it is a surprising lack of detail.
The third level moves more into the stranger allies of Snurre, including a red dragon and its hoard which are sure to provide a memorable encounter for the PCs. Of particular note is a drow foe of Eclavdra, who is here to check up on the schemes of her rival. It is possible that the encounter will devolve into combat, but once more the possibility of negotiation is noted by Gygax.
The adventure concludes with the possibility of chasing the fleeing drow into the Depths of the Earth, and a 1-1/2 page description of the dark elves. This description is superbly evocative.
The art in this adventure, like most early D&D adventures, is inconsistent. Some very good pieces exist (mostly by Dave Trampier), whilst others are extremely poor (one of a drow holding a hand-crossbow that looks like a pistol is particularly bad). The maps are nicely done, and are printed on the interior of the tri-fold cover.
I think G3 provides an excellent adventure for AD&D; it might be well the most complete of any of Gygax's early adventures for the game. It really is a great example of what can be done with the form.
G3 concluded the adventure against the giants, but further adventures in the series would soon be available...