The Village of Hommlet review (4e)

T1: The Village of Hommlet was one of the original module (adventure) releases for the AD&D line. Prelude to the long-delayed T1-4: The Temple Of Elemental Evil, it has a reputation that speaks well of its quality, as well as its nature as one of the few early module releases that attempts to give you more of the world than merely a dungeon, as it also fleshed out your home base in some detail. (Other early modules that followed this line included B2: The Keep on the Borderlands and L1: The Secret of Bone Hill).

This 2009 release of The Village of Hommlet comes 30 years after the original with the module adapted for the 4e rules set. It makes, by my count, the fourth release of this town. The first is the original, of course. The second was included as part of the release of T1-4: The Temple Of Elemental Evil (basically a straight reprint with a few formatting changes). The third was for Monte Cook's redesign in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, which looked at the village some 20 years after the original.

This edition, adapted by Andy Collins, for the most part just updates the old AD&D adventure to the new ruleset. It was released as a free promotion by the RPGA to anyone who was signed in as a DM Rewards member. In the module, you'll find a cardboard cover which has maps of Hommlet and the Moathouse, a 24 page booklet describing the adventure, and a double-sided poster map: one side has the Moathouse and the other the Inn of the Welcome Wench.

Probably the most significant change to the adventure is the levels of characters it is designed for: the AD&D version was for 1st level PCs. This 4E version is for 4th level PCs.

The first few pages of the booklet are devoted to describing Hommlet: its major buildings and characters. This is done in a far more spare manner than the original: you don't have every odd farmer and his religious allegiance described. Instead the important parts of the village are described, albeit briefly. One thing that is very well done is the inclusion of several minor quests that the party can undertake: fetching some herbs for the local druid, helping an acolyte gain the love of his life, and suchlike.

What this does well is draw attention to the important characters and situations of Hommlet. There is something of a "wall of text" barrier with the original adventure. However, I do feel that there is a certain amount of richness that is sacrificed. For instance, the tension between the "Old Faith" and the worship of the new gods is utterly gone. There's still intrigue in the village, thankfully. 

More space in the adventure is given to the moathouse. I'm glad to say that the Giant Frogs in the pool outside remain. Not so lucky is the green slime in the basement - a most lamentable loss, in my opinion. (Much of my early D&D experience was fearing and wondering at the Green Slime).

Delightfully, Lareth the Beautiful has been returned to his rightful spot as the New Master. A sidebar suggests various allegiances for Lareth - does he serve Lolth, Tharizdun or some other power? As there is some debate over the matter - not helped by Gary Gygax apparently changing plans during the creation of the later Temple design - it's nice to see the confusion acknowledged and the decision put firmly in the hands of the Dungeon Master.

The adventurers can expect to fight a variety of bandits, bugbears, undead and animals in the Moathouse as in the original. Some encounters are updated with new 4e additions, such as the Rage Drake and the Dragonborn. The basic variety of the original is intact, with such odd creatures as a Giant Crayfish making an appearance! Some of the encounters allow for negotiation or the taking of prisoners - which then can impact on the ongoing campaign. It's fantastic to see such details included.

Treasure is handled in the parcel fashion, with individual encounters noting when you should give a parcel of treasure to the players.

A final page in the adventure gives suggestions to where the players could go after they deal with the threat in the moathouse: more intrigues against cult agents, what lurks in Nulb, and the massive Temple of Elemental Evil complex. No, it isn't described in full using two paragraphs, but there is a useful summary if you wanted to create it out of whole cloth and not adapt the original adventure.

So, there you have it: the 4E version of the Village of Hommlet. So, is it any good?

I have to confess, I've never been a big fan of the original Village module. I was often playing with fewer players than the early AD&D modules were designed for and so couldn't have the best experience with it. Then too, the original T1 requires a great deal from the Dungeon Master. It gives a lot of details, but much of that isn't directly useful: the Dungeon Master has to shape it to his or her own wishes. The other problem it has is that low-level adventures tend to be a little less interesting that the weirdness that can enter at higher levels.

The 4E version is, likewise, not a bad module. The dungeon is workmanlike, and it's got a fair bit of action for the players to handle. The village really requires a lot of work from the DM, but the bare bones are there and the DM has been given the pointers to expand it further. Is it a classic? Well, it doesn't grab me the same way that P1: King of the Trollhaunt Warrens does. However, it should prove to give two or three sessions worth of entertainment, and that's as much as you can ask for - especially as it has been given away for free (and in a very attractive package). 

Could you use it as a core of a new Temple campaign? I think it would be admirably suited to that purpose, especially if you followed up on the hints in the text as to how to address that.

Perhaps my only real regret with this version is that it is a 4th level adventure. The original was for novice 1st level PCs, and to recast this as a 4th level adventure does change how it would be used. Instead of being the first experience in the lives of an adventuring group, now it would be the second (or third). I'd be interested to know how other groups handled it if they use this as part of a campaign.

Nostalgia, laced with fun. I'm very glad to own this, even I never have the chance to run it.

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