N-Series: Why the setting switch?

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N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Big Mac » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:53 pm

I've been looking at the N-Series of Adventures at the Book-House on The Piazza:

N5 is set in Forgotten Realms, but the others are not listed as Forgotten Realms adventures. I did a bit of digging and found out that N1 is set in Greyhawk (not Forgotten Realms).

What's the deal with N2, N3 and N4? Are any of them set in Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms? Are they all generic? Or was there something else going on?

N seems to stand for "Novice". Were these adventures all designed to be played one after another or were they all "newbie adventures" for a GM to start their first campaign?

Does anyone know why the series ends with N5? Were there plans for an N6 adventure that got abandoned? Or did the N-Series run until the end of the 1st Edition Era and get wound up as part of the start of the 2nd Edition Era?
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby ripvanwormer » Fri Dec 30, 2016 5:41 pm

When N1 was published in 1982, Greyhawk was the D&D setting and every module was given a place there. N1 is explicitly placed on the border between the Gran March and Keoland, though the goddess mentioned in the adventure, Merikka, wasn't a preexisting part of the setting and didn't get mentioned in any other Greyhawk sourcebook until the publication of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer in 2000.

In 1982, Gary Gygax was forced to step down as CEO and sent to the West Coast to work on the D&D cartoon and try to get a D&D movie made. Greyhawk was Gary's world, and few others cared as much about it, so modules began to be more generic. By 1984, when N2 was published, Dragonlance was becoming a thing and Gygax was no longer overseeing the (A)D&D line. By 1986, when N3 was published, Gygax had been forced out of the company altogether and Greyhawk was marginalized. N4 was also published in 1986 and initially written as a generic adventure, though TSR soon purchased the Forgotten Realms from Ed Greenwood in the hope of having a new default setting not so closely tied to the now-departed Gygax and his vision, and the setting of N4 (the Korinn Archipelago) was retconned to be part of the world of Abeir-Toril. The sourcebook FR2 Moonshae placed the archipelago near the Moonshae Isles, themselves a new addition by TSR not part of Greenwood's original world.

By 1987, when N5 was published, the Forgotten Realms was officially AD&D's default setting, so new modules were placed there and older modules like the Bloodstone series, the Kara-Tur adventures, and N4 were retconned to exist somewhere on Toril.

The five modules in the N series don't have any connections in their characters or plots. The only thing they have in common is that they're all intended for lower-level characters. Both N4 and N5 are playable by 0-level characters, an idea that didn't make the jump to 2nd edition. The highest level module is N2, intended for levels 2-4. N1 is for characters of levels 1-3 and N3 is for characters of levels 1-4.

N2 is set in the Greate Olde Woode and N3 is set in the Kingdom of Dunador. Neither setting to my knowledge has ever appeared anywhere else.
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Havard » Fri Dec 30, 2016 5:44 pm

I once did some research into adapting N4 to Mystara. The main reason was because it was written by Aaron Allston. I found that it had been by many retroactively associated with the Moonshaes region of the Forgotten Realms, though the module is fairly generic.

Some have speculated that N3 was originally written for Blackmoor as there are many similarities between it and the Blackmoor setting, though I have seen nothing specific confirming this beyond these similarities. A revised version of this module interestingly has King Stefan Karameikos (of Mystara) as the cover art:

Image

I assume this is mainly yet another example of TSR reusing art, but it should be noted that the author of N3, Stephen Bourne around the same time also wrote X11 and X13 both set in Mystara.

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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby ripvanwormer » Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:22 pm

Havard wrote:Some have speculated that N3 was originally written for Blackmoor as there are many similarities between it and the Blackmoor setting, though I have seen nothing specific confirming this beyond these similarities.


What similarities do you see? I suppose Aimar, Duke of Andevar (a small, unimportant province on the northern border of Dunador) might be Uther Andahar, Baron of Blackmoor, and Prince Edmund might be the future Emperor Iyx of Thonia, but that reverses the alignments of those characters; in N3, Edmund is the good guy and Aimar is one of the antagonists, while in DA1 the situation is definitely reversed. Alternately, Aimar could be Taha Marcovic, Duke of Borno, and Edmund could be Uther. Both Edmund and Uther are kidnapped by their respective dukes. If you give Uther an evil uncle who stands ready to inherit the title of Baron of Blackmoor in Uther's stead, it could fit.
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Cthulhudrew » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:36 pm

Havard wrote:I assume this is mainly yet another example of TSR reusing art, but it should be noted that the author of N3, Stephen Bourne around the same time also wrote X11 and X13 both set in Mystara.


Interesting. I didn't know they'd remade that. I do keep meaning to check out the original module, though, as I think those two Expert modules by Bourne are some of my favorites. So well written and crafted.
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Big Mac » Fri Dec 30, 2016 8:36 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:When N1 was published in 1982, Greyhawk was the D&D setting and every module was given a place there. N1 is explicitly placed on the border between the Gran March and Keoland, though the goddess mentioned in the adventure, Merikka, wasn't a preexisting part of the setting and didn't get mentioned in any other Greyhawk sourcebook until the publication of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer in 2000.


I saw something, fairly recently, about 5th Edition designers looking at previous D&D products and deciding which ones were well crafted and which ones didn't have a good fit to the setting. They were talking about Forgotten Realms there, but I think the same logic might have been applied to Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, as it seems to get a lot of respect from people who prefer 2nd Edition and 1st Edition material to 3rd Edition material.

I did notice that N1 had an earlier logo and house-style. I don't actually own any D&D products with that super-old house style, and probably won't be able to afford to buy them until the PoD process gets to them.

ripvanwormer wrote:In 1982, Gary Gygax was forced to step down as CEO and sent to the West Coast to work on the D&D cartoon and try to get a D&D movie made. Greyhawk was Gary's world, and few others cared as much about it, so modules began to be more generic. By 1984, when N2 was published, Dragonlance was becoming a thing and Gygax was no longer overseeing the (A)D&D line. By 1986, when N3 was published, Gygax had been forced out of the company altogether and Greyhawk was marginalized. N4 was also published in 1986 and initially written as a generic adventure, though TSR soon purchased the Forgotten Realms from Ed Greenwood in the hope of having a new default setting not so closely tied to the now-departed Gygax and his vision, and the setting of N4 (the Korinn Archipelago) was retconned to be part of the world of Abeir-Toril. The sourcebook FR2 Moonshae placed the archipelago near the Moonshae Isles, themselves a new addition by TSR not part of Greenwood's original world.


I wonder if N2 was planned earlier...and delayed by the changes in TSR, or if somebody in TSR noticed that they had an orphan N1 product and decided to resurrect the concept to pull in more newbies. I've seen several "newbie D&D" products over there years that are supposed to get people to try out D&D. It seems to be something they do every so often. (I do wonder sometimes if BECMI was better at building in the "easy start for newbies" than AD&D and the following systems. Mind you, I heard that the entire Thunder Rift product line was a "newbie-friendly" BECMI product line.)

Is there anywhere in Krynn that N2 The Forest Oracle would fit? It seems to be about druids. I don't remember much about druids in the DL novels I've read, but I think the 3e Dragonlance Campaign Setting book suggests deities that druids can worship.

So N4 has been officially retronned into Forgotten Realms? I'll have to update that page on the Book-House. I do remember talk of the Moonshae Islands being imported into Forgotten Realms. (I'm not sure if someone said they were originally going to be a TSR UK campaign setting or if that was something else.) Was there a novel that got imported at the same time? Does that have a direct connection to N4 Treasure Hunt?

ripvanwormer wrote:By 1987, when N5 was published, the Forgotten Realms was officially AD&D's default setting, so new modules were placed there and older modules like the Bloodstone series, the Kara-Tur adventures, and N4 were retconned to exist somewhere on Toril.


I did notice a second change in the branding. (That's actually what got me trying to find things. I saw the Forgotten Realms logo, but the Book-House page was not in the Forgotten Realms category - it is now.) N5 claims to be the first Forgotten Realms adventure, so I guess that N4 must have been retconned after N5 came out.

ripvanwormer wrote:The five modules in the N series don't have any connections in their characters or plots. The only thing they have in common is that they're all intended for lower-level characters. Both N4 and N5 are playable by 0-level characters, an idea that didn't make the jump to 2nd edition. The highest level module is N2, intended for levels 2-4. N1 is for characters of levels 1-3 and N3 is for characters of levels 1-4.


I remember seeing the 0-Level stuff in Greyhawk Adventures (and then forgetting where I saw it and spending ages finding it again). I actually thought that was a really interesting idea. It's a shame they abandoned it. I would have liked to have seen this done for 3rd Edition. One of the criticisms of 3e was that people had to choose Skills and Feats. With 0-Level 3e characters, I presume they would just need to have 6 stats.

I presume that N4 and N5 need to have the monsters bumped up a bit to work with non-zero level PCs. That must make converting them to 2nd Edition or other editions slightly more complex than usual.

ripvanwormer wrote:N2 is set in the Greate Olde Woode and N3 is set in the Kingdom of Dunador. Neither setting to my knowledge has ever appeared anywhere else.


Hmm.

This is making me wonder how many "orphan adventures" D&D has and what mini-settings they use. :?
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Big Mac » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:37 pm

Havard wrote:I once did some research into adapting N4 to Mystara. The main reason was because it was written by Aaron Allston. I found that it had been by many retroactively associated with the Moonshaes region of the Forgotten Realms, though the module is fairly generic.


Have you put any conversion notes up anywhere (like Vaults of Pandius or your blog)? If you have a support document, I can link to, I'll stick a link onto the Book-House page.

Havard wrote:Some have speculated that N3 was originally written for Blackmoor as there are many similarities between it and the Blackmoor setting, though I have seen nothing specific confirming this beyond these similarities. A revised version of this module interestingly has King Stefan Karameikos (of Mystara) as the cover art:

<snip - picture of 2nd Edition reprint of N3>

I assume this is mainly yet another example of TSR reusing art, but it should be noted that the author of N3, Stephen Bourne around the same time also wrote X11 and X13 both set in Mystara.


I don't see many D&D adventures that get converted to new editions. I'm guessing there must have been something about N3 Destiny of Kings that made TSR want to sell more of it.

Do you know if the 2e version is a straight conversion of the 1e stats to 2e or if there are any additional changes that might tie it into a campaign setting?

I know that TSR put out some stealth campaign setting products (without campaign setting branding, but based on campaign settings) in the late 2e era. So if they were going to put out a version of N3 adapted to Mystara, I can't think of a better time for them to have done that.
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Havard » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:38 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Havard wrote:Some have speculated that N3 was originally written for Blackmoor as there are many similarities between it and the Blackmoor setting, though I have seen nothing specific confirming this beyond these similarities.


What similarities do you see? I suppose Aimar, Duke of Andevar (a small, unimportant province on the northern border of Dunador) might be Uther Andahar, Baron of Blackmoor, and Prince Edmund might be the future Emperor Iyx of Thonia, but that reverses the alignments of those characters; in N3, Edmund is the good guy and Aimar is one of the antagonists, while in DA1 the situation is definitely reversed. Alternately, Aimar could be Taha Marcovic, Duke of Borno, and Edmund could be Uther. Both Edmund and Uther are kidnapped by their respective dukes. If you give Uther an evil uncle who stands ready to inherit the title of Baron of Blackmoor in Uther's stead, it could fit.


Actually, Rafael brought this to my attention over at the Comeback Inn a few months ago.

The similarities may be coincidental, but the similarities between Andahar = Andevar, the Royal Council = Regency Council and the overall set up are the main ones. As you point out part of the situation is reversed, but this was also true in Blackmoor prior to the DA modules, during thei reign of Sir Fang for instance. Of course this would have been before the Andahar family took over.

I really like your suggestions for adapting the module to Blackmoor by the way! :)

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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Havard » Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:00 pm

Big Mac wrote:Have you put any conversion notes up anywhere (like Vaults of Pandius or your blog)? If you have a support document, I can link to, I'll stick a link onto the Book-House page.


I never got that far with it, however there is a thread about this module here.



I don't see many D&D adventures that get converted to new editions. I'm guessing there must have been something about N3 Destiny of Kings that made TSR want to sell more of it.

Do you know if the 2e version is a straight conversion of the 1e stats to 2e or if there are any additional changes that might tie it into a campaign setting?



Based on a discussion in this thread, it looks like there was not many changes beyond updating the rules. I only have the original module myself though.

I know that TSR put out some stealth campaign setting products (without campaign setting branding, but based on campaign settings) in the late 2e era. So if they were going to put out a version of N3 adapted to Mystara, I can't think of a better time for them to have done that.


That would have made me happy, but I doubt it is the case.

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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby vestcoat » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:29 am

Most 1e module codes made the leap from GH to FR, per Rip's timeline.

I1 is GH, I12 was scrubbed of GH, I14 and the compiled I3-5 is FR.

H1 contains a singular reference to "Oerth." H3 is firmly FR.

WG11 contains an adapted Raven's Bluff scenario.

The C and UK series started GH, went generic, and died before the FR launch.

Monochrome B1 suggests GH placement, the middle B modules were retconned into Mystara, and the later ones were written for it.
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby Big Mac » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:05 pm

vestcoat wrote:WG11 contains an adapted Raven's Bluff scenario.


Is that Living City? :?
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Re: N-Series: Why the setting switch?

Postby vestcoat » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:18 pm

Big Mac wrote:Is that Living City? :?

I'd assume so. The intro to WG11 says the first half the module was originally an RPGA scenario titled "At Last, Raven's Bluff!"

The second half ("Puppets") is also RPGA, written the same year, and it's an urban adventure, so it was probably also LC.

LOL. It makes sense that the worst GH adventure of all time is a disguised FR adventure. :twisted:
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