For absolutely no reason, I was thinking about White Plume Mountain this morning. Alert readers will recall that I'm not a fan of this D&D module. It scratches an itch that I don't have. Perhaps you love it. That's cool.
What I was thinking about this morning was one of the fundamental flaws in this type of adventure. It's something that doesn't seem to be discussed by The Great RPG Thinkers, but it's a crucial omission that's common to funhouse dungeons like White Plume Mountain. What do all these critters eat?
"But Matt," you may say, "a wizard did it! The place is sustained by magic! Please suspend your disbelief at the door as you descend into a labyrinth of subconscious terror and..." by now I'm already rapping on the table to interrupt you.
We can debate the relative merits of "a wizard did it" another day. That ain't the problem here. Ditto for the fatal blow that this kind of dungeon strikes against one's sense of verisimilitude. The problem is that if the monsters don't have a food source, I can't exploit it. By detaching White Plume Mountain's inhabitants from such day-to-day concerns as what they eat and where they sleep and how they spend their time when they aren't waiting for some moron to wander into the mountain, the module deprives me of several promising lines of attack.
Anyone who's played Cyberpunk or Shadowrun knows that, in order to get into The Secure Location, you dress as a delivery guy. Who's the delivery guy for White Plume Mountain? Beating him up and taking his place would be an awesome adventure. I'm sure a competent GM could work that out on the fly. But a competent module-writer could also have included a few sentences about it, saving us some trouble when our players have a brilliant idea like that, and also getting paid more on a per-word basis. Exploiting the real-world-ish behaviors of fantastic critters is a promising line of thought.
EDIT: I know some people who worked with White Plume Mountain's author, Lawrence Schick. He is, in fact, a very competent designer and writer. But I still think the module needs some background logistical stuff. Maybe 250 words of it; at 2 cents/word, that's another $5 for Lawrence right there.