Return to ‘Dungeons of Dread’!


Novelist Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that “you can’t go home again.” With apologies to Mr. Wolfe, you can indeed go home…to a dungeon. Or rather, dungeons. Wizards of the Coast recently saw the sense in making available all or most of the editions of the Dungeons & Dragons game, from the earliest “zero” edition in its little wooden box to the still-warm 3.5. Included in this, of course, are many products from the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, which warms the cockles of my middle-aged heart.

I recently received a review copy of a product titled Dungeons of Dread: a hardcover compilation of the original four “S” series Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules. While I’ve got original copies of three of the four adventures in the series (“Tomb of Horrors”, “White Plume Mountain”, “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” and “The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth”), it’s awfully nice to have all of them collected together in a sturdy format that I don’t have to worry about falling apart due to age. Each adventure is reprinted in full within the volume, with all of the original text and artwork preserved, and provided one has the recently reissued AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook and Monster Manual (or still own the original prints – I do!) then these adventures are ready to play. I suspect with a little tweaking they’d be convertible to most editions, though.

All four of these adventures are famous “death-trap dungeons”. “The Tomb of Horrors” is a real meat-grinder; one of those modules where you went in with a stack of characters generated and ready to go because you knew you’d lose a few of them right off. They also represent D&D in its weirdest. “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” finds the characters investigating a crashed UFO. To be fair, genre boundaries were fuzzy and sometimes non-existent in the golden age of science fiction and fantasy – authors like Clark Ashton Smith and Leigh Brackett come to mind as writers who blurred boundaries – but to have had an adventure like this pop up during the epic fantasy’s heyday was unprecedented. It wasn’t unwelcome, though: I can still remember capturing a suit of power armor and using it to ill effect in a run-through, and I’m sure many other players enjoyed the change of pace. It’s amusing to me to see that even today it’s likely to be seen as a bit of an oddball adventure, and I’m hoping that the new generation of gamers will get to appreciate it as much as I did as a new gamer.

Returning to what Mr. Wolfe said, indeed, you can go home. Some of my best youthful memories are still contained within these dungeons, and it’s going to be nice to pay them a visit again. Maybe a monster and trap filled labyrinth isn’t most people’s idea of “home”, but it feels that way to me.