Monday, January 18, 2021

The Halls of Tizun Thane

A constant lament of this blog since its inception is the extent to which fantasy games and gamers are ignorant of the literary origins of the genre on which they both depend. This lament is not universally applicable, however: many older games and game writers were better versed in the foundational works of fantasy. A good example of this can be seen in issue #18 of White Dwarf (April/May 1980), which contains a low-level Dungeons & Dragons adventure entitled "The Halls of Tizun Thane" by the late, great Albie Fiore, whose title is clearly a riff of that of the titular wizard from Robert E. Howard's "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune."

"The Halls of Tizun Thane" is a remarkable piece of work from the early days of White Dwarf, as this terrific map of more sixty-five keyed areas amply demonstrates.

The scenario involves a party of adventurers exploring the former abode of Tizun Thane, "a high level evil magic user, who was as cruel as he was cunning." Thane, we learn, had a hall of mirrors in his abode, and, if one stared into them, one could see "not reflections but instead a scene from another scenario" – a clever echo of what Kull observes in the short story linked above. Otherwise, the adventure doesn't have any other obvious connections to the story, but the fact that it has any whatsoever is a testament, I think, to how much more commonplace familiarity with pulp fantasy stories was among early RPG players. 

13 comments:

  1. Thank you for this reminder that I am not entirely alone in this lamentation.
    I suspect that we are of a similar "age", both in years and outlook. :-)

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  2. There are some other Howard references in the scenario, especially to the Conan story Shadows in the Moonlight. Albie Fiore was an interesting character, as can be seen from his obituary- https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2009/aug/18/albie-fiore-obituary

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    1. "Shadows in the Moonlight," eh? That's a story I haven't read in a long time. I may need to revisit it.

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  3. I never read the Kull books, but I have always been drawn to this scenario (and thus immediately thought about it when I saw the title of the Kull post). I'm not sure I ever ran the scenario, or at least completed it.

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  4. BBC archives have a video clip with Albie Fiore ref’ing the adventure in question here: https://twitter.com/BBCArchive/status/1000045807226228736?s=20

    On the podcast Grogtalk, there was an actual play of this module (with myself as one of the players, as it happens). It can be watched here: https://youtu.be/mfhnNVCxNj4

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    1. I've seen that BBC clip before, but thanks for reminding me of it and sharing the link here. Anyone interested in the early history of the hobby should find it worthwhile.

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    2. One of the players -- the sharply dressed one with the beard -- is Steve Jackson, co founder of Games Workshop, and I'd be very surprised if the shop in which they are playing isn't the first proper GW in Hammersmith.

      I'm not sure who the other two players are, although the woman looks familiar. I remember another, similar video, with a young Jervis Johnson, and she may have appeared in that one too.

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    3. This is probably the other video you mention, but I don’t think the same woman is in it:
      https://youtu.be/4ItRW9uXfIQ

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  5. Crypts & Things Remastered has an a ventured called the Halls of Nizar Thun which I'd say it's recent spin on this. I ran it once and it was pretty fun as an introductory piece.

    Thanks for the informative post!

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  6. An interesting post, thanks - I think that back in the day, it helped to have a store of S&S knowledge to be able to create your own dungeons.

    Surely Thaak is based on Thak from Howard's Rogues in the House in which the ape Thak is wearing the red priests robe and pretending to be him. In the film Red Sonja, thay seem to have borrowed the Albie Fiore's retelling as it has a scene with a palace in a lake and an ape in a red robe who appears out of a mirror in a hall of mirrors. Pity they didn't mention Albie in the credits!

    I'm about to play The Halls of Tizun Thane with my partner and the kids - 42 years after I first read it! We played the Lichway last year and they absolutely loved it. I've converted both modules to 5e.

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  7. or some reason this particular scenario has been in my pile of dungeons to run for nigh on ten years. and yet I never actually gave it more than a cursory glance, and only because I actually really liked the Lichway. That said, I think it does actually fit quite well into the current setting I am working on, which is supposed to have more of a Byzantine/Central Asian vibe.

    There are a few weird things in there though. Fiore clearly tried as hard as possible to get references to other WD articles in there. Many of the monsters are from previous White Dwarf issues, one of the NPCs is statted as a Necromancer from a not-yet published article by Lew Pulsipher, and there is a miniscule chance of meeting a Houri on the encounter table (by my calculations a chance of 0.25%).
    There are three new monsters statted (the Gu'en-deeko clearly is a Wendigo, but the Nandie's origins still elude me), multiple monstes are given as references to the MM or other WDs, and still there are two monsters that are not detailed at all, a bunch of small gremlins that just get mentioned in the text, and the shadow dancers, which are technically the whole impetus for the adventure.

    I am amazed at how much Fiore packs into the whole scenario, but it is curiously lacking in some details like that.

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    1. The harem girl Izis (room 29) is an Houri so the party will definitely meet her. I've made the shadow dancers vulnerable to silver as well as magical weapons, to give the PCs a chance to use the silvered stuff from the Lichway and added silver bars to the windows to give them a clue. As the Dancers are activated by moonlight, it seemed to fit with the theme. I also made Tizun a Warlock as in 5e they get their magical powers from pacts with demons...

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  8. Actually, ignore that bit about Izis being an Houri... she isn't!

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