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Return to White Plume Mountain (2e)
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Return to White Plume Mountain (2e)

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In ancient times, a sorcerer named Keraptis searched for eternal life. Within the magma domes and steam vents of an active volcano, he conducted his arcane experiments. Eventually he faded into legend, and the world heard no more of Keraptis form more than a millennium.

Two decades ago, however, Keraptis reappeared in White Plume. The mountain and its insane lord proved too much for most, but eventually courage and justice triumphed. Keraptis was finally dead?or so the world thought.

Now, twenty years later, a face has appeared in the volcano's smoke? the face of Keraptis himself, say those who should know. Is the vile wizard immortal after all? Or is there an even grater thereat building beneath White Plume Mountain?

The original S2: White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick, released in 1979, was one of the first scripted scenarios to appear for the AD&D game. If you have your own fond memories of experiences within the volcano, you will find this adventure just as fascinating, and just as deadly, as its predecessor. If you are about to tackle White Plume Mountain for the first time, it will be an experience you'll never forget.

Product History

Return to White Plume Mountain (1999), by Bruce R. Cordell, is a Silver Anniversary adventure for AD&D 2e. It was published in November 1999.

About the Cover. One of the most evocative elements from S2: "White Plume Mountain" (1979) is Erol Otus' map of the surroundings, first appearing in the second edition (1980) of the module. It revealed nearby features like the lair of Dragotha and the Dead Gnolls Eye Socket — details that were never mentioned in the actual adventure.

Arnie Swekel recreates that map as the cover for Return to White Plume Mountain (1999). A bare copy of the map, without the module branding, can be found on page 8.

Origins (I): The Last Silver Anniversary. Return to White Plume Mountain (1999) is the last of the six silver anniversary modules, which either updated, reprinted, or returned to adventures from D&D's past in recognition of the 25th anniversary of OD&D (1974).

Like Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (1999) and Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (1999), Return to White Plume Mountain (1999) is explicitly a sequel to a classic adventure. Wizards would keep this idea going past the Silver Anniversary with two more modules: Slavers (2000) and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001).

Origins (II): A Tale of Many Authors. When Greyhawk brand manager Lisa Stevens began planning for Return to White Plume Mountain, she reached out to the internet for help "with product ideas, continuity assistance, and general advice". There she found Erik Mona and Steve Wilson, two members of the Council of Greyhawk — an organization that sponsored weekly Greyhawk chats on AOL (1994+) and who published the fanzine Oerth Journal (1995-2011, 2016).

Stevens commissioned Mona and Wilson to write a "background primer on how White Plume Mountain fit into the Greyhawk setting's rich history". Though Mona says they considered the original module a classic, he also felt that it makes "absolutely no sense and contains nothing resembling a plot or coherent story". He was frustrated by the fact that villain Keraptis had never actually appeared in the original adventure, and that there was no purpose to the artifact weapons that are so well-remembered.

So, Mona and Wilson wrote an extensive background for the Mountain, which was then handed to designer Bruce R. Cordell. Some of the ideas were used and others not. As Mona says: "What Bruce did with this information, I've never really known. Certain elements from this document (such as the Null Enigma) appear in the adventure, but others are completely ignored. The magical arrow Seeker, created by Steve Wilson to satisfy an urge to create a 'new' weapon of White Plume Mountain, was not used, but Bruce did include a new weapon of his own, the sword Frostrazor."

These sorts of projects for shared worlds are often the product of divers hands, and that was certainly the case here. Roger Moore, the lead of the Greyhawk '98 revival, also made some notes after he saw Cordell's manuscript. He still had questions about Keraptis' motives, such as why he lured adventurers to White Plume Mountain in the original adventure; as the latter-day expert on Greyhawk, Moore was also able to make some corrections in relation to modern sources.

Thanks to the generosity of the designers involved, many of these unofficial background notes have been made available as "Return to White Plume Mountain Backstory Synopsis" through the Greyhawk Canonfire! web site.

Origins (III): The Return of the Plume. Of all the adventures published in the Silver Anniversary and Return series, S2: "White Plume Mountain" is probably the least known. Nonetheless, as Mona says, it's a classic. It went through two editions: a beige monochrome cover (1979) and an orange full-color cover (1980); the Acaeum further records nine distinct printings. It was also chosen by fans to be one of the six classic modules included in the Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition (1999).

Still, Lawrence Schick's classic wasn't quite the same sort of touchstone as adventures like the Giants modules (1978), S1: "Tomb of Horror" (1978), and B2: "The Keep on the Borderlands" (1979). Its funhouse dungeon design was very representative of dungeons in its time periods, but it was also clearly part of the past by the time that the silver anniversary rolled around.

The Media Tie-In. The Greyhawk Classics series of novels continued in October 1999 with its second release, White Plume Mountain (1999), by Paul Kidd, which perfectly complemented this new adventure.

Of the various Greyhawk Classics novels, White Plume Mountain may have been the most nuanced tie-in. It doesn't try to retell the story of either the original adventure or the Return. Instead, it tells the story of the artifact weapons out in the world in CY 588, after their liberation from White Plume Mountain … before the inevitable return to the dungeon. None of the Greyhawk Classics novels have great continuity with the various Returns, but Kidd's at least tries to find its own place in the Greyhawk timeline.

The Magazine Tie-In. There's a third member of the Keraptis trilogy of adventures, which appeared simultaneously with Return to White Plume Mountain. "Ex Keraptis Cum Amore", by Andy Miller, appeared in Dungeon #77 (November/December 1999). This high-level adventure brings characters to the Burning Cliffs … to search a dungeon for three magic items (the Gem of Souls, the Wand of Stars, and the Stone of Life, which together form the Infinity Wand).

What a Difference an Edition Makes. Return to White Plume Mountain follows the same methodology as Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (1999). It doesn't include the original module, but instead redevelops the original dungeons for changes over a twenty-year span. Sean K Reynolds explained the decision to not include the originals in these adventures, saying "you'd have the original layout, and then you'd have to say 'Oh, yeah, room #4 also had this OTHER exit in it…' [in a different time period] which would be very confusing".

Return to White Plume Mountain follows the original maps, but has expanded them in several ways, introducing new, previously hidden rooms and realms throughout the map. It also posits a more complex political situation within the dungeon. Where the original was pure Funhouse, without much concern about how it fit together, the new dungeon moves toward Gygaxian Naturalism, with forces feuding across the dungeon, breaking it into various zones of control.

Adventure Style: Dungeon Crawls. Return to White Plume Mountain is a pretty pure dungeon crawl, though a more dynamic and complex one than the original.

Eras of Greyhawk: CY 591. Set 20 years after "White Plume Mountain", this adventure reveals that the original adventure must have occurred in CY 571, which is a bit early for Greyhawk play.

Exploring Greyhawk: The Shield Lands. Unlike the original "White Plume Mountain", this Return details some of the nearby features in the land, such as Castle Mukos, the Great Swamp, and Ringland.

Exploring Neverness. As with the rest of Cordell's writing from the late '90s, this one contains some minor links to the world of Neverness. Most notably, there are a number of duergar who came bearing a message from a priest named Naentoth, hoping to "overthrow the corrupt leaders of his city". This is all a reference to The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996). Does that mean Firestorm Peak is in the Shieldlands? Or just that these poor duergar got massively lost?

Artifacts of Note: Magic Weapons. Of course Return to White Plume Mountains revisits the dungeon's three iconic weapons: Blackrazor, Wave, and Whelm. However, it also introduces a fourth weapon. It's not Steve Wilson's arrow named Seeker, but instead a new sword named Frostrazor. This offers another link to Neverness, because the sword Icerazor in "The Shattered Circle" (1999) was born of this blade.

NPCs of Note. The heart of this adventure is of course Keraptis, the ancient wizard who was heard but not seen in the original "White Plume Mountain". Return makes up for that by laying out his history and motives and then including four versions of him: Killjoy, Mossmutter, Nightfear, and Spatterdock.

Future History. This adventure is notably missing a description of the nearby dracolich lair. That appeared in "Dragotha's Lair" (1999) an RPGA adventure from Series Eight (October - December 1999) of the Adventurer's Guild offerings for stores.

Several years later, Wizards published an online PDF for "White Plume Mountain" for D&D 3.5e (2005), along with a web enhancement called "Outside the Mountain is just as Dangerous as Inside" (2006), which updated "Frostrazor" and some of the outside adventures from Return. Most recently, the Mountain appeared again in Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017).

About the Creators. By 1999, Cordell was one of D&D's most prolific writers. He'd soon move on to equally notable adventures such as Die Vecna Die (2000) and the beginning of 3e’s first adventure path, The Sunless Citadel (2000) and The Forge of Fury (2000).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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This title was added to our catalog on August 08, 2017.