THRONE ROOM AND AUDIENCE CHAMBER. Two steps of white veined black marble lead up to this area. The floor is a deep red polished stone, the huge stone pillars of polished obsidian, between them a massive throne of jet and black and white banded onyx, the whole inlaid with sard and set with 12 fire opals and 12 rubies. The walls are inlaid with colored stone to show various scenes of victory by King Snurre over opponents. Behind the throne the wall shows the flaming skull which is Snurre’s own device, flanked by fire giants with clubs over their shoulders. Crouching beside either arm of the throne are 2 large hell hounds which are the King’s constant companions. King Snurre himself is seated on the throne. He is over 13′ tall. Snurre is clad in his black iron armor, and holds a huge two-handed sword which has flames along its blade when it is swung. Snurre wears a neclace of coral skulls and has a broad girdle set with 66 garnets. He is hugely muscled and extraordinarly ugly, very broad, with bandy legs. His teeth are tusk-like and protruding, almost orange in color. Snurre’s head beneath his iron helmet is bald, but his side whiskers and beard are bright orange and full. Note that he is clad in a cloak of white dragon hide. He wears his crown of iron, set with 6 rubies, 6 diamonds, and huge jacinth when he is on his throne. (Hall of the Fire Giant King, by Gary Gygax)
Back in 1978, Dungeons and Dragons was just in the process of becoming Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The Monster Manual had been released in 1977, the Players Handbook in 1978 and the Dungeon Master’s Guide was still to be released (1979).
D&D has its roots in a wargame, and one thing that players of wargames did was gather together for tournaments. Such was also the case for D&D. The tournaments of those days were very different from those today. Groups were larger, and the action focused on killing monsters, solving puzzles and survival.
So, in 1978, 275 players and judges gathered together for the official D&D tournament at Origins ’78. Teams of nine players each adventured through three rounds of competition. The theme of the adventure? To slay the evil giants that had been attacking mankind, and to find out the reason for their unholy alliance. Points were given for giants slain and for survival – no mean trick, as the giants were quite deadly.
Just as the trail led from the STEADING OF THE HILL GIANT CHIEF to the frozen wastes where was found the GLACIAL RIFT OF THE FROST GIANT JARL, so the adventure in the latter place has led (or transported) the intrepid party to what they hope will be their last challenge. They are about to venture into the hot and smoking barrens which are in effect Muspelheim, the home of fire giants. In the vast rocky halls of the fire giants’ doughty liege lord, the dread King Snurre Iron Belly, they hope to find both the answer to the riddle of what or who is behind the strange alliance of many different types of giants as well as great treasure. Surely here in the stronghold of the fire giants will be encountered the evil genius – or genii – controlling the uprising and planning the well-executed attacks, for Snurre is said to be far stronger than smart… (Hall of the Fire Giant King, by Gary Gygax)
The participants in this tournament were making history: they were the first public players of the very first adventure modules released by TSR for D&D: G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King.
These three modules, written by Gary Gygax (co-creator of D&D, if you haven’t been paying attention), were very short by today’s standards. The first two were only 8 pages long, and G3 was a giant 16 pages! They were collected together and reprinted as G1-2-3: Against the Giants, and then collected again (with new additions) in the AD&D 2nd Edition module, Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff.
By the conclusion of the adventure, the King of the Giants had been discovered – King Snurre, a fearsome Fire Giant. The “Battle for Snurre’s Hall” is described in The Dragon #19, from which this description of the final battle comes:
As the second ettin fell in the south, the east hall became a bloodbath leaving only one giant as survivor after another six melee rounds. As the 12th level MU charmed this last battered survivor, we fell back and regrouped. After making sure of our charm by having him be affectionate to our dwarf, we demanded that he take us to King Snurre. With our 14th level fighter carrying our thief, we followed the giant as he set off down the south corridor. We turned east and entered into a large chamber to be greeted by a ballista bolt which felled our charmed giant guide. We were then doused with water and flour, thus making us momentarily visible.
Our thief quickly tossed up another pinch of disappearance dust and we all “hastily” dispersed as boulders began to crash into our former positions. While the 12th level MU stood back in a corner against the wall and began to conjure up an elemental, the rest of the party split, with the ranger and the 9th level MU attacking the giants manning the ballista and the rest rushing the six fire giants in front of the King.
The bit about the ballista and the water and flour almost prompted a serious disagreement between myself and several of the players, until one of them suddenly remembered that Obmi was nowhere to be “heard” and since they had never really trusted him the events were (rightly) blamed on him. I begun culling up reinforcements right and left, and much was planned for these hapless adventurers. From here on is where the group showed the true value of teamwork. – DM
As the fight before the king proceeded with little damage to either side, the ballista crew managed to reload. Three blasts from the cold wand while they were leading, however, killed them before they could fire. While the battle continued, our earth elemental sprang into being and began moving towards the hell hounds surrounding the king. When the six giants showed signs of weakening, we noticed that the female giants began preparing to enter the battle. At this point, the ranger and MU who were in the process of turning the ballista against the king and giants called out a warning of another group of hell hounds and giants approaching from our rear. The thief began climbing the wall at his unhasted speed and moving across the ceiling to position himself over the king. On the first part of the next melee round the elf/ fighter/ MU killed her giant and turned to cast a slow spell on the group coming up on our rear. The ranger then fired the ballista and with great skill(?) struck the king as the 9th level MU hit the slowed hell hounds and giants with his cold wand. The elemental then passed through our ranks and began engaging the hell hounds and giantesses guarding the king. Another giant fell and the thief moved closer into position.
While the MU continued to blast with his cold wand and the thief moved across the ceiling, the elemental began crushing the hell hounds. The next round the 12th level cleric dropped his giant and shouted “Rush the king!” The giantesses moved to block our way, but, being both invisible and hasted we easily avoided their awkward blows. As the thief dropped on the king, the elf, dwarf, cleric, and fighter all also struck and King Snurre feel dead. The thief then cut his head off and placed it in his bag of holding while the others turned and killed the queen. As more fire giants began entering the room, a previously unnoticed group of gnolls rushed to attack. The round was called as plans were being hastily made or escape.
Here the round ended, luckily for the players. Snurre had not really been dead, only pretending, but the bit about the head confirmed the apparent death. I was really surprised at this bit of shennanigans until I found out that it was a regular part of any coup they staged. – DM
So, that was the fate of King Snurre – beheaded by the victorious team in Origins ’78!
In fact, King Snurre, despite being the titular leader of the Giant Alliance was no more than a pawn. He was actually being manipulated by the Drow, and one Drow in particular: Eclavdra of House Eilservs. In the Hall of the Fire Giant King could be found a map showing the path to the Vault of the Drow… and it was there that the adventure continued.
Despite being premiered at the Origins ’78 tournament, the Against the Giants series was written for general play. It remains part of the most highly regarded series of adventure modules for any edition of Dungeons and Dragons.