I continue to be impressed with Wizards of the Coast’s premium reprint program. It started with an inspired effort to get Gary Gygax’s original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules back into print in high-quality hardcovers. We’ve discussed it before — Scott Taylor looked at the original announcement back in August; I examined the corrected edition of Unearthed Arcana here, and we invited readers to win copies by sharing stories of their game characters here.
It’s a praise-worthy undertaking indeed. But like a lot of folks I still have copies of Gygax’s bestselling rulebooks, so while I’m glad modern gamers – especially OSR players – can easily get copies of the finest RPG ever written, to me it was chiefly of academic interest.
All that changed with the release of Dungeons of Dread, which collects four classic AD&D adventure modules written by Gary Gygax and Lawrence Schick, originally released between 1978 and 1982. Dungeons of Dread puts some of the genre’s most famous early adventures – which previously existed only in yellowing softcover pamphlets – in hardcover for the first time, complete with maps and all the original black-and-white interior art.
Dungeons of Dread gathers the first four S-series adventures: Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I’ve discussed S1: Tomb of Horrors recently, and I admit I’m not much of a fan. A masterpiece of design, the module is a player-killer extraordinaire, and not a lot of fun. I’ve never read White Plume Mountain, but I’m certainly familiar with the gonzo Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, one of Gygax’s most esoteric creations, a module created to merge AD&D and Metamorphosis Alpha by placing adventurers at the crash site of an alien craft high on a desolate mountain peak.
But The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is one of the finest adventures ever created. Twice the size of Tomb of Horrors, Tsojcanth is an old-school dungeon crawl which introduced a host a new monsters (later collected in the Monster Manual II) and challenged the players to cross a dangerous wilderness and multiple levels of an ingeniously designed subterranean lair, before coming face-to-face with Drelzna, the vampiric daughter of long-deceased archmage Iggwilv. Gygax built on the plot threads he carefully laid here in its loose sequel, WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.
All four adventures were collected in a slightly abridged form, revised to form a connected campaign, in the softcover Realms of Horror in 1987, which is now long out of print. But this is the first true permanent edition. For me, it is also the first must-have release in WotC’s premium reprint line, and I hope it is only the first of many to come. I’d love to see, for example, similar treatment for Gygax’s Against the Giants and Descent in the Depths adventures, and of course The Temple of Elemental Evil — copies of which demand outrageous prices on eBay.
Dungeons of Dread was published by Wizards of the Coast on March 19. It is 192 pages in hardcover, priced at $39.95. There is no digital edition.