Gardens of Adompha and the Plantmaster
August 2, 2011
Any book I take on vacation seems to become tattered by the end, so I figured I’d grab the most worn out book on my shelf for the trip to SE Asia: The City of Singing Flame, a paperback compilation of Clark Ashton Smith stories I picked up at a used book store a couple years ago. It fit into the pocket of whatever jeans or shorts I was wearing each day, so it really got sat on and beat up pretty good. Of jungle-interest in the book is a short story called “The Garden of Adompha”. An excerpt:
“On palmy boles, beneath feathery-tufted foliage, the heads of eunuchs hung in bunches, like enormous black drupes. A bare, leafless creeper was flowered with the ears of delinquent guardsmen. Misshapen cacti were fruited with the breasts of women or foliated with their hair. Entire limbs or torsos had been united with monstrous trees. Some of the huge salver-like blossoms bore palpitating hears, and certain smaller blooms were centered with eyes that still opened and closed amid their lashes. And there were other graftings, too obscene or repellent for narration.”
Let your prurient imagination meander and you’ll likely have a good idea of where the story is heading. Grognardia discusses it briefly here. And the entire story can be read online here, it’s quite short actually.
Though set in an enclosed garden, it definitely has jungle flavor. It reminds me some of the old module Garden of the Plantmaster by Rob Kuntz. I went back and reread the module this weekend and discovered that, yes, Mr. Kuntz mentions “The Garden of Adompha” as inspiration.
Garden of the Plantmaster was originally published in 1987 as part of Kuntz’s Kalibruhn setting, but its history goes all the way back to Gygax’s original Greyhawk campaign. In 2003 it was modified and published for D&D 3.5 as part of the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting.
There is a decent review of Garden of the Plantmaster at rpg.net, so I don’t feel the need to tread the same ground here, but I do want to point out how the old and new versions differ, as well as my favorite thing about the module.
Much of the text of the new version seems to closely match the original version, except for the expanded stat blocks. What are some differences?
Whereas original has essentially a “your party teleports to another dimension” hook into the adventure, the new version has an extended intro, backstory, and railroad hook to get the PCs into the garden. I prefer the original’s brief intro and modular set up, but some DM’s may find the extended intro useful. It places the garden within a vast jungle in the Kalamar setting, but it’s mostly just “read aloud to the players” text until the garden is entered, so the intro itself isn’t much to get excited about for jungle aficionados.
A benefit of the new version is that the garden map is redone and much easier to read. The original map was rendered in a strange “extended ASCII” type style and is difficult to read. There are slight differences between the maps, mostly connecting passages added or removed in a few places. One major change was the addition of the summoning circle in areas 43-45. Here is the NE section of the map, comparing the style and some changes between the old(top) and new (bottom) versions:
(Mr. Kuntz has posted a color version of the original map on his blog. Check it out. Much easier to read than the original b&w version. I was curious about the module’s early electronic version, so thanks to Mr. Kuntz for making this available.)
The new version also contains an illustration section indexed to keyed locations (like S1 Tomb of Horrors and a few other TSR modules), but the 16 b&w illustrations are nothing special. I prefer the sometimes goofy but imaginative full- and half-page b&w art sprinkled throughout the original version.
Lastly, my biggest disappointment with the new version is that the appendix of monsters is not illustrated. The original version has a simple 1E Monster Manual-esque drawing of each of the 20+ new monsters. Not fine art, but they helped visualize some of the strange monsters, especially the fungus, and loosened up the layout considerably.
The “Garden Dressing” section is my favorite part of the module, and is largely the same in both versions. It’s a finely researched and detailed DM toolkit for garden and jungle adventures, containing:
- d100 table of effects to determine what happens when mutated flora is discovered or eaten.
- 20 different vines, some of which are carnivorous.
- 151 different flowers and their meanings.
- 10 more carnivorous plants.
- 40 different shrubs.
- 20 fungi. Poisonous, edible, hallucinogenic.
- 16 insects.
- A list of interesting magic scroll materials found in the garden.
- Terms of the multitude. A muster of peacocks, a knot of toads, etc.
- A massive glossary of terms relating to insects, fungi, and vegetation of all kinds.
- Multi-page chart of uses for herbs.
- Not in the Garden Dressing section itself, but in the same spirit of utility, is an excellent system for generating properties of attacking flowers, as well as more info on birds, fungi, insects, and vines. The New Monsters section is also eminently usable in any campaign.
Random tables are always appreciated and usable in many situations. The glossary is a good idea and something that rpg supplement creators should consider for biome-specific modules and settings. It works as a quick primer for related flora and fauna, and also as a source of evocative terms and instant inspiration. I never would have known that “stridulate” is the term for the making of noise by rubbing two surfaces together, such as done by grasshoppers and crickets.