Wizards of the Coast published this great module in the early days of D&D Third Edition. I consider it one of the best from that time.

I had a lot of fun running this for my players, and my players had a great time playing though it. Lots of great encounters which made for great memories.

The Premise: the characters aim to explore the lost stronghold of Khundrukar to find the legendary magical blades of the famous dwarven smith Durgeddin the Black. The characters must overcome the traps and monsters of the ruined stronghold to succeed.

In other words, The Forge of Fury is a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. D&D’s rallying cry at the time was “back to the dungeon,” and this module delivers. Khundrukar is five levels deep with mysteries and dangers galore.

The module is designed for 3rd level characters. But the time they finish, they’ll be 5th level (assuming a standard 3e party of four).

They’ll probably have to make a handful of forays to finish the module, and there’s a point at the end of the first level where they might not be able to go farther without a rogue with an Open Lock skill or a spellcaster with knock.  And I think this was designed intentionally, otherwise 3rd level characters wouldn’t survive what lay beyond.

D&D Third Edition worked that way. Encounter levels, challenge ratings, and all that.

Or so some people say. The module has a couple of eye-openers for players who’ve become too comfortable with notions of game balance.

By the time I’d gotten around to running this module (sometime in 2002), I’d learned quite a bit on what worked Third Edition worked and what didn’t. With a critical hit (1d12+3 x3 damage), an orc with a great axe could kill the average 3rd level character. A grick’s damage reduction (15/+1) was a bit too strong for characters without magic weapons.

The Forge of Fury had those, and more.

What it didn’t have was that epic fight scene on the front cover with the black dragon.

Oh, the black dragon’s there all right. And the environment you encounter it in is far more terrifying than that bridge.

Which is all great to scare the players until the monk in the group punches and stuns the dragon for a round or two. Which is what happened in my group back in the day.

We had all just watched The Fellowship of the Ring and I played the soundtrack in the background. Sure, they were exploring Khundrukar, but we all really knew it was the Mines of Moria with a dragon, not a balrog. (Balrogs/Balors were meant for 20th level characters in Third Edition).

My only quibble: the players can some of the magical weapons left behind by Durgeddin the Black, but the weapons just aren’t memorable–just standard +1 or +2 items with Durgeddin’s personal symbol. A bit anti-climatic.

Well, actually I have another quibble: by this time we’d gotten used to D&D encounter level system, but I still didn’t like it. Characters would no longer fight small warbands of orcs and other low-level monsters like they did in previous editions. There’s about 20 orcs in the entire dungeon, and there’s a good chance the PCs will only encounter them in groups of 2 or 4. Because of they didn’t, the math for experience points would be off.

On a more positive note: if I ever ran D&D 3e/3.5e again, I’d definitely put this module in the line up. I can’t emphasize enough how great this module is.

Get this if: You want an exciting dungeon crawl for your games. Perhaps you can converted to an older or newer edition of D&D–though I haven’t tried it, it might be worth the effort.

Don’t get this if: Your group is more into storytelling and less into exploring dungeons.

The PDF version is available at DriveThruRPG, yet you can probably track down a hardcopy on Amazon or a used bookstore for a reasonable price.

Magic Missile and Ki Strike help bring the grick down. The hero figures come from the Chainmail miniatures line, while the Grick came from early D&D Third Edition miniatures. And in the days before official Dungeon Tiles, we had battlemats like this from Dragon Magazine.