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New Treasures: Dungeons of Dread

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Dungeons of DreadI 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.

17 Comments »

  1. Tempting — I never did pick up S4 back in the day … How do they handle the maps? Any kind of pullouts or booklets or anything like that, or are they just printed in the book?

    (And did you ever notice the Easter egg in the S3 maps?)

    Comment by Joe H. - April 12, 2013 10:18 am

  2. > How do they handle the maps?

    The maps are printed in the book; there are no pullouts. It works just fine, although you’ll want to photocopy the maps before running the adventure.

    > (And did you ever notice the Easter egg in the S3 maps?)

    You mean the upside-down EGG (for E. Gary Gygax)? Yes, but only YEARS after I bought it. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - April 12, 2013 10:34 am

  3. Good to know re: the maps. Thanks! And yes, that (EGG) is exactly what I meant …

    Comment by Joe H. - April 12, 2013 10:48 am

  4. Isn’t White Plume Mountain the module where, just when the characters have finally survived, the DM has the option of popping in two efreeti, named (stupidly) Boxx and Soxx? I enjoyed the rest of that place, from what I can dimly remember, but that last was not only juvenile, it was cruel. Or perhaps juvenile and cruel are symbiotic twins, flip sides of the same coin…

    Maybe it’s just me, but my exposure to Gygax modules gave me the distinct impression that his mantra as a world-builder was “No one gets out alive.”

    So much for escapism.

    Comment by markrigney - April 13, 2013 9:45 am

  5. Hey Mark,

    I’ve never played WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN, so I can’t answer definitively.

    But in Gygax’s defense, I’ll point out that WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN was written by Lawrence Schick. The other three (TOMB OF HORRORS, EXPEDITION, and LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH) were Gygax’s, but not that one.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 13, 2013 9:54 am

  6. Fair enough. Except that if you move a few letters around, LAWRENCE SCHICK could be an anagram for GARY GYGAX.

    Comment by markrigney - April 13, 2013 7:23 pm

  7. I think my favorite thing about Tomb is hearing stories from people who didn’t just survive it, but broke it. Like the two different people who used small armies to just dig the damn thing down. One with a mass of animated skeletons, the other by hiring a nearby village as diggers…

    Comment by LurkerWithout - April 13, 2013 8:53 pm

  8. On a related note: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/map_0412barrierpeaks.jpg

    Comment by Joe H. - April 14, 2013 12:36 am

  9. Mark,

    That would almost make sense… except I believe Schick and Gygax later had a major falling out. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - April 14, 2013 4:39 pm

  10. > Like the two different people who used small armies to just dig the damn thing down.

    Lurker,

    Now THAT makes sense. Always love to hear an engineering solution to a killer dungeon!

    Comment by John ONeill - April 14, 2013 4:40 pm

  11. Joe,

    Wak!!

    Where did you find that? It is marvelous! Captures the wacky brilliance of the module splendidly.

    Loved the barbarians loading up with hand soap!

    Comment by John ONeill - April 14, 2013 4:41 pm

  12. John — I think Dave Gross had it linked on his Facebook feed yesterday. It would make me really, really happy to see these for many of the classic modules — can you imagine Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits?

    Comment by Joe H. - April 14, 2013 5:50 pm

  13. And after poking around on the Wizards site, it gets better!

    http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/toon/TombHorrors

    Comment by Joe H. - April 14, 2013 11:35 pm

  14. Joe,

    Brilliant! I had no idea these existed.

    If I’d been able to buy posters of these, I would have had one on every wall of my room as a teenager…

    Comment by John ONeill - April 16, 2013 12:59 pm

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  17. […] edition D&D back into print. I was plenty excited at their last premium hardcover reprint, Dungeons of Dread, as it collected some of the most famous adventures written by AD&D‘s creator, Gary Gygax […]

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