Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Dungeon Module D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa continues the 3-module "Drow" series, or is the 5th part of the 7-module "GDQ" series. By this stage, the party has defeated the giants and is pursuing the drow deeper and deeper into the earth. The first adventure of this series, "Into the Depths of the Earth" introduced the party to the depths of the earth; this adventure deals with the second part of their journey.
The adventure is 20 pages long. The first few pages give an overview of the adventure plus the random monster tables for the long passages into the Underdark. These tables are not the same as in D1! Many of the entries are similar, but the Jermlaine are now gone and in their place are encounters with the new races of Kuo-Toa and Deep Gnomes.
On average, a party should encounter 2 random monsters during this adventure, given the distance travelled (slightly over 20 miles, with one check per mile with a 1 in 10 chance). As 3-1/2 pages are given to random encounter tables, this seems slightly excessive, but these pages do a lot to enhance the feeling of the underworld ecology and culture: slavery is common, and there is the chance of encountering Kuo-Toan pilgrims on their way to or from the shrine.
As with D1, there are two smaller encounter areas (each described in half a page) before the major encounter area of the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa is reached. The first is the crossing of the Svartjet River (or the Blackjet River, given the meaning of Svart), where an insane Kuo-Toa will transport the party for a small fee (although he might also attack them). The second consists of a small party of Deep Gnomes, who might offer their assistance - and such is to be prized, so deep below the Earth!
Assuming the group is not exploring off their map, both these encounters will occur on the path to the Shrine.
The major part of the adventure is the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa People. Compared to the chaos of the Warrens in the previous adventure, this is a much more civilized affair: a grand structure carved out of the rock, with a Ziggurat shrine to the Kuo-Toan deity at its centre.
Interestingly, the adventure specifically notes that the party will not be attacked when they reach the shrine - travellers are common at this place, and the group is expected to go to the shrine and make obeisance to the Sea Mother. Of course, whether the party will actually do this makes up for some interesting times at the table!
The entire place is well described; a very unsettling place it is too! The Kuo-Toa are fish people, banished from the surface wars from long-ago battles with men, and are now forgotten by the world above. They are very chaotic in nature - the entire construction of this place is a surprise as a result - and often insane. 2-1/2 pages at the end of the adventure are given to a description of the Kuo-Toa. For such effort in detailing them, they never quite caught on the way the Drow did.
There is the chance here that party members might find themselves transported to the realm of Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother, and be geas-quested to not harm the Kuo-Toan people. As Blibdoolpoolp hates the Drow people, this won't actually interfere with the overall quest, and indeed may enhance it; although the poor character will find themselves as an "ally" of the Kuo-Toa!
If the party is skilful and observant (or use magic to discover the proper way through), it is possible to pass through the entire Shrine unmolested. A very quick end to this adventure that would be too! However, if the party fails to follow the proper procedure, they'll find themselves attacked by the Kuo-Toan guards (and likely, if subdued, sold as slaves...)
The entire shrine makes up 35 encounter areas and is covered in 6 pages of text. Within are guard posts, living quarters, treasure areas, priest chambers, slave quarters and other parts of a shrine/outpost. Of particular interest are the library and meditation areas, one of which holds a damaged scroll written by a elf who escaped from the drow lands below describing some of what will be discovered. As it stands, it seems unlikely that the Kuo-Toa will be a great threat to an aggressive party, but still they should not be underestimated.
There are a couple of interesting points here. One is a female paladin slave, who has only a 15 Charisma! (In the Greyhawk supplement and the AD&D rulebooks, a 17 charisma was the minimum... so this is an early example of a rules mistake in a D&D product!)
Another slave is Derinnil, a drow noble of House Noquar, who is held by the Chief Whip of the Kuo-Toa. She will aid the party - until it's no longer convenient, when she'll betray them. This gives great opportunity for the DM for fun, although it may be that she'll never be rescued given the structure of this adventure.
The module ends with an extensive description of the Kuo-Toa (as noted before), a 1-page description of the Deep Gnomes (Svirfnebil), the player's map of the Depths, and more encounter area maps for the DM to use.
I'm quite fond of Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, although it must be said that I like it much more as an evocative location than an adventure locale. It continues to flesh out the Depths and provides new foes and friends for the DM to use in his or her campaign. There's a lot to like about D2. It might not be the greatest adventure, but it does a lot to build the D&D world.