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Setting modules A1-4/Slave Lords in the Gulf of Huleby Paleologos
Continuing my examination of classic AD&D 1e modules, I had a close look at A1-4 "Aerie of the Slave Lords". I've never run these modules, which are designed for character levels 4-7, but have always wanted to use them. As with most early AD&D 1e modules, the A series began as tournament scenarios, in this case for Gen Con XIII (1980). I'm not sure if the original tournament setting was in Greyhawk, but connections in the modules themselves with the setting are weak.
Again, many of the authors have impressive B/X credentials. David Cook became instrumental in defining the B/X version of D&D, co-authoring the Expert Rulebook and writing X1 (with Tom Moldvay), X4, X5, AC2, and B6. Tom Moldvay authored the Basic Rulebook, revised Jean Wells' B3, and wrote B4 and X2. He and Lawrence Schick were co-creators of the original "Known World" setting.
Most folks have run these out of the Black Eagle Barony, since Karameikos already has the Iron Ring. However, the adventures are set in the orc-infested territory of the Pomarj. Highport is a city teeming with humanoids, and so needs changes to be used in place of Fort Doom. In fact, the slaver's operations are of a magnitude far greater than the sneaky Iron Ring.
Which brings me to the Gulf of Hule. Module X5 "The Temple of Death" described the land of Hule, but provided few geographical details. The wilderness map included areas the DM was expected to describe further, including several unnamed towns. One of these, just north of Slagovich (depicted above) is an ideal candidate for Highport.
The population of Hule is described to be a mixture of humans and non-humans, mainly orcs, gnolls, bugbears, kobolds, and ogres. The rulers are chaotic and serve chaotic gods, and most of the human populace are either chaotic or neutral in alignment. The various humanoid tribes consider themselves independent, but are allied with the human rulers.
Of course, much of the land of Hule and neighboring Savage Baronies/City States have been well described for the Mystara setting. All the same, the original version of Hule as presented in X5 is evocative, and perhaps underutilized. Placing Highport just north of Slagovich allows PCs adventuring along the Savage Coast to get embroiled with the Slave Lords - whose activities could be encroaching upon the civilized lands to the East, including Darokin, Karameikos, Ierendi, and Minrothad.
Hule would work well I think. Perhaps a little tweaking of the cities to reflect Hulean (sp?) culture would be all that is needed in addition to a call-out map of the area impacted.
Something like this, perhaps (with Raska or better yet, Ayskudag serving as the location for Highport)?
The above is an overlay of the continental map from X9 on to Thorfinn's replica of the map of the Great Waste from Champions of Mystara. Ayskudag works best of all in Mystara circa 1000 AC, since Highport in the Pomarj is directly north of the Drachensgrab Hills. There are even some choice volcanoes in the mountains for the City of Suderham...
Having the Black Eagle and the Ring be allies works, and makes the organization (the equivalent of or replacement for the slave lords and their organization from the A- series) large enough, i think. But, the region is pretty small to have this series of modules there.
But, the region of the Gulf of Hule is great. I think that EVEN with the development of the Savage Baronies and the City States, it could probably still work. The southern part of Hule is probably lawless enough; even among the city states, those regions are probably fairly chaotic. And, they don't control the Black Mountains area. That's most likely a good area for the Pomarj (even if it doesn't fit the same number of square miles exactly).
I like the idea of having the Iron Ring be allied with the Slavelords, so that the PCs have to track the latter to their base of operations in the Gulf of Hule. Furthermore, the proximity to Hule itself would probably serve well as a market for slaves from the Known World, given that slavery is likely a foundation of Hulean society.