Writing a review for Against the Giants is a bit like telling someone about Diet Coke and Mentos. As soon as the words "Diet Coke and Mentos" come out of your mouth, most people are going to start telling you about their own experience with them and their spectacular effects. But some people are going to look at you confused and ask what you are talking about. So you grab that moment with both hands and immediately run to the nearest Stop-n-Rob to buy some innocent-looking candy and soda and be part of a moment that someone is going to remember for the rest of their life.
If you have played AD&D, Against the Giants is probably one of the adventures you reminisce about most at the Old Gamers' Home. You remember that moment when you opened that one door in the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and felt like Han Solo rounding the corner into the StormTroopers. Or the guy who made the mistake of using the fireball at the wrong time and place in the Glacial Rift. Like any other module, you watched good characters die and lucky characters make exactly the roll they needed at the crucial moment. And if you were a serious gamer you probably went through it multiple times.
But like bell bottoms and that old flame that sent you a Facebook friend request, AD&D is making a comeback, and a new generation of gamers are being introduced to the mysterious alliance between factions of giants who would normally no sooner work together than twerk together. When DriveThruStuff announced the opening of the DnD Classics section, this was no doubt one of the first modules many searched for, and it was the first purchase I made when I logged in.
Now for those of you who have yet to experience Against the Giants, this one is called a Classic for good reason. It is a challenge for players and DMs alike. For the player, there are giants. Lots of giants. And there are giants' pets, giants' servants, and giant's houseguests and family to deal with. This doesn't mean you can check your brain at the door. Giants may not be brilliant strategists, but invading a giant environment has challenges you may not anticipate until you face them. And if you don't think, you are going to miss out on loot. You can, however, expect to gain a LOT of rocks. Giants love rocks, and carry them around in bags (according to the Monster Manual).
This leads us to some of the challenges the DM will face.
1) LOTS of bags with random contents: There are approximately 52 giants just on the first level. Each has a bag that holds from 2-8 items which are randomly generated from a percentile table. Your party is going to want to look through a LOT of those bags. If any of the first ten or so have gold, they may want to search every bag in the place. Download a random die roller and do all of this before the first session.
2) Dense population surrounded by empty spaces: If they don't use the right entrance a particularly stealthy party, or one that moves fast, could get through a significant amount of the first level and only see a few giants here and there. That is, until they open one particular door. You may want to change the population density a little and have the giants move around a bit. Or you may want the party to walk in to a particularly memorable event. Just be aware that they could get the impression that the giants are away on a raid.
3) Layout favors the cautious/cowardly: Parties who want loot more than glory can get their wish if they play their cards right. For example, in the Steading it is possible to get into the main treasure stash by opening less than 10 doors and quite possibly not even seeing a giant. On that route they will also pick up a significant clue that essentially satisfies they requirements of the mission. Are you, as the DM, going to let the chips fall where Gygax put them, or are you going to intervene?
There are some minor issues with the text itself, but nothing that applying some common sense won't get the DM through. But those issues were in the original published version. The PDF is true to the format of the combined modules. Older gamers may remember when the three Giant modules were sold separately, so they may be surprised at the size of some of the maps in this combined version, but they still print well even if enlarged.
The important thing to keep in mind is that Against the Giants is not a nostalgia module. It doesn't "give you the feel" of old-school Fantasy RPG. It IS old-school Fantasy RPG, the standard by which other old-school style games is to be judged. When you picture a group of nerdy gamers in the late 70s in their Kiss Army T-shirts having pizza and Mountain Dew while playing D&D, this is what they are gathered around.