Hunting for Easter Eggs
By Chris Doyle
Publisher’s note: Read this designer’s diary after you have read OAR4: The Lost City! You will appreciate it more that way.
One of the best parts about converting classic TSR adventure modules to the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is hiding Easter Eggs. Since my early days writing for the 3.0/3.5 Dungeon Crawl Classics line, I’ve enjoyed placing Easter Eggs. Adventures are all about the players, but I’m guessing less than 10% of all published adventure modules are actually played at the table. Personally, I own more than 600 adventures (I have a spreadsheet!), and I’ve probably only gotten 1% to the game table. But Dungeon Masters (and gamers in general) enjoy reading adventure modules. And that is what the Easter Eggs are for: the readers and fans.
Many of my Easter Eggs are inspired by popular culture of the 1980’s. I’m a child of the ’80s, and early in the decade was when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons (and role-playing games in general), which had a major impact on my life to this day. It’s fitting as many of the classic TSR modules we are converting for the Original Adventure Reincarnated product line were originally designed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. My other inspiration are classic adventure modules.
SPOILERS AHEAD! It’s hard to talk about Easter Eggs without spoiling the surprise. Below are some details on a few of the Easter Eggs in B4: The Lost City. There are others to be discovered, but if you prefer not gleaning this information, please stop reading!
Names are an easy target for Easter Eggs. Often, I’ll take a name and re-arrange the letters to form another name. Or name a place after someone. Here is an easy one: The underground lake in the cavern that houses the Lost City is named Lake Moldvay, after the original designer of the classic module. I can’t take credit for this, as I believe another author came up with it, but I did import it to the conversion. Here is another, somewhat obscure. One of the pre-generated player characters we included is a female human rogue named Dayla. This is a shout out to a serving wench (and cutpurse) Dala in the Waterside Hostel from the village of Nulb in T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil. Dala was a reoccurring NPC in my home campaign featuring that module in the late ’80s. This next one is a bit more obvious: the svirfneblin leader in the lower catacombs is named Keogh. This is the root of Keoghtom, a famous Greyhawk alchemist and creator of the magical ointment that bears his name. No idea why I came up with this one!
As mentioned in a previous designer diary, the mid-80’s movie Conan the Destroyer resonated with me in regard to B4: The Lost City, specifically the horned god-like Zargon. I had to create one (or more?) tie-ins. In the movie, the horned deity was Dagoth. In the B4 conversion, I named a brown dragon Dagothra. Again, moving the letters around and we have Dragotha, the infamous undead dragon mentioned on a map in the classic module S2: White Plume Mountain. Boom! Two for one! But it gets better. It’s not as widely known, but the uncredited actor that donned a massive rubber suit to play Dagoth in the movie is none other than André René Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant. Of course, everyone knows him as Fezzik, the lovable brute from The Princess Bride. My Easter Egg and homage to Andre the Giant should be easy to find in the B4 conversion.
Finally, inspiration for places and set pieces can be Easter Eggs. I can share two. The first are the Goblin Caves, located in the cliff faces on the opposite shore of the underground lake. The name and the brief description called my attention to the Caves of Chaos from the classic module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. When I designed the site, that was my guiding inspiration. Although, somewhat in reverse, as the weaker monsters were located in the upper caves, while more challenging monsters occurred down below in the conversion. In B2, this was the reverse as the weaker humanoids inhabited the lower caves. My final Easter Egg (that I’m willing to reveal) inspired an entire map. In the conversion of B4 there is a maze clearly inspired by a classic old video game from the early ’80s. Although the players might not recall the layout of the passages of this maze, they should recall the familiar elements, several of which are important to traverse confusing passages. Enjoy!
Let’s face it. Easter Eggs are fun, both for the designer and the reader. Most are lost on the players, but hey, they get to experience and make their own stories in the framework of the encounters. I hope this has inspired you to hunt for Easter Eggs. You never know where they are to be found!