We sometimes talk about what a Gygax module is like; there are commonalities of structure and theme throughout. And we commonly hear about Tom Moldvay's pulp inspirations in his adventures. I'm wondering what thematic through-lines we might find in the works of other adventure-writers.
In this case, I'm thinking about Mike Mearls, who I didn't really think of as an adventure writer. I thought of him as a rules guy primarily, and a developer. Some time ago when raiding my collection for low-level content to rob, I came across my copy of The Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho - by Mike Mearls. That rediscovery led me to consider "what's a Mearls adventure like?" and consider some kind of blogpost like this one.
I'd thought it would be easy - just a handful of adventures to look through. I was dead wrong. Mearls has quite a list of adventures to his (full or partial) credit, including stuff for the World of Darkness and Feng Shui. I had no idea. But there were a ton of fantasy adventures from across the years. I wondered, did they resemble each other like siblings? Were there elements Mearls used over and over? And could you staple some of these together into a single campaign or hexmap? A Mearlsverse, if you will.
* Adventures where Mearls is 50%+ of the design team
* Fantasy only, no World of Darkness or Feng Shui
* Shied away from Iron Heroes and Arcana Evolved stuff generally
Hammerfast (1st-10th) dwarves, orcs, undead
Aerial Adventure Guide (cities of Sellaine and Dreadfall) elves, undead
Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho (1st) kobolds, ogre, evil wizard
Scalegloom Hall (1st) kobolds
Fear the Worst (1-2) mutants (WFRP adventure)
Keep on the Shadowfell (1-3) kobolds, undead, Orcus
In the Belly of the Beast (2-4) slavers, orcs, necromancers, nasty outsider
Death in the Skyfire Wastes (3rd) undead
Darwell’s Tower (3-4) necromancer
Daggers at Midnight (3-5) urban, human foes
Looking-Glass Deep (4th lvl) wizard’s abode, hobgoblins
Thunderspire Labyrinth (4-6) evil wizards
Return to the Moathouse (5th) orcs, undead
Forge of the Dawn Titan (5th) deviltry & hellfire
Folnar’s Dagger (5 to 7) demon cultists
Siege of Durgam’s Folly (5-8) ogres, clockworks, Orcus
Swords Through The Ice Gate (6th) bugbears, dragon
Prison City of Hell’s Reach human foes
Lost Menagerie (7-9) extreme wizardry, dinosaurs
Pyramid of Shadows (7-10) evil wizard
Swords Against Deception (10th) cult, undead
Demon Queen’s Enclave (14-17) demons, drow, Orcus
Beyond the Door (18th) extreme wizardry, time travel
The Mearlsverse is:
* A fairly standard ‘vanilla’ D&D realm, as you’d expect
* Big movers are wizards and their use/seeking of powerful unique artifacts
* Orcus everywhere you look.