Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Modules

This comprises of the short DDA series, which I am assuming stands for "Dungeons & Dragons Adventure". Each module has a section of gazetteer style map on the back cover, centred on the location for the adventure:

DDA series DDA1 - Arena of Thyatis
DDA2 - Legions of Thyatis
DDA3 - The Eye of Traldar
DDA4 - The Dymark Dread

DDA1 - Dungeons & Dragons Official Game Adventure -
Arena of Thyatis

Summary
Stock Code9284
Released1990
DesignerJohn Nephew
EditorJohn Pickens
Product ManagerBruce Heard
CartographyDennis Kauth
TypographyAngelika Lokotz
Interior ArtistDavid Dorman
Cover ArtistGerald Brom
Format32 page book, and 2 pane cover
Party4-6 characters of levels 2-3 (total levels 10-15)
Rating***

For some reason, this was not published as B13 (unlucky for some?), even through it is only a year on from B12. Instead, it is the first in the "DDA" series. Presumably, the designers knew that Dungeons & Dragons was due for a fourth edition, and so the designations of B, X, CM, and M would soon not mean anything. In any case, it ties into the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set of the previous year, being set in the capital city of the Empire of Thyatis.

On the whole, I like this adventure. Similar to the previous Basic module, B6 - The Veiled Society, it mostly involves role-playing, even though there is an underground component to the adventure. This being one of the most important centres of the Known World, there is politics aplenty, and a whole cast of new characters. The plot of this adventure is that a wealthy senator is rigging gladiatorial games by spiking them with the soporific zzonga fruit (this has previously appeared in M1 - Into the Maelstrom. The gladiators are becoming addicted, and they are unable to fight properly in the arena (drugs're bad, m'kay!).

The PCs get involved when they are invited to a party, where are then drugged and kidnapped. When they wake up, they discover that they are in the arena, have been press ganged as gladiators. Next comes the most ludicrous part of the adventure - the secret dungeon under the arena, which is supposed to join up with the Known World's version of the Underdark. Despite this, the dungeon part of the adventure is not full-on hack and slash. In fact it has loads of empty rooms, and hardly any combat type encounters. When they manage to make it out to the surface again, armed with only leather armour and gladiator weapons, they are now officially gladiators. Here, things get a bit open-ended. It you want to, you can have the PCs face challenges in the arena for as long as your like, but I imagine it could get very boring and depressing. I think it is more likely that the PCs would try to escape under their own steam. However, at some point, a particular bout causes the PCs to be in disfavour, and they are deliberately allowed to escape, only to be set upon by a street gang, who will try to give them a good kicking. The adventure ends in a showdown in the house of the people responsible for their immediate plight. Rather nicely, the designer suggested many different ways that this could be handled. In any case, they should be fully free by the end of the adventure.

I am particularly pleased at heavy emphasis on lots of general information, but enough to allow the DM to improvise around the plot. In particular there is a lot of invaluable information on Thyatis City. A lot of the module can be reused for further adventures in Thyatis. But one of the best reusable sections is the one page article "The DM's guide to Winging It" - it is full of very good advice.

My main problem with this module is that Magic Users are going to have a very bad time whilst they are without their spellbooks. I suppose that the only reason why they would be press ganged as well as the other characters is to prevent them from telling the authorities of the rest of the party's kidnapping.
Not so much a problem, but an added annoyance is that there are no keyed locations as to where to place the two houses which are important in this adventure.

"Known World" Placement

This adventure is entirely located in the City of Thyatis, in the Empire of Thyatis. This module name checks the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set, the Broken Lands, the Shadow Elves, and even the Hollow World.

New Classes

There is an updated version of the Rake class from the Dawn of the Emperors - basically it has been given some extra abilities to make up for the loss of pick pocketing and back stabbing.

New Rules

New Locations


DDA2 - Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game Adventure -
Legions of Thyatis

Summary
Stock Code9296
Released1990
DesignerJohn Nephew
EditorJon Pickens
Product ManagerBruce Heard
TypographyGaye O'Keefe
Interior ArtistsGerald Brom, Dave Simons
Cover ArtistGerald Brom
Format32 page book, and 2 pane cover
Party4-6 characters of levels 3-4
Rating**

More so than its immediate prequel, Arena of Thyatis, this is very much a role-playing based adventure. It is also heavily reliant on previous "Known World" lore; in particular, it ties into the Hollow World setting. If I was unkind, I would say that it seems to follow the same pattern as the previous adventure: lots of talking, an unlikely dungeon adventure, and then more talking. It starts out with the PCs meeting the chief gladiator a month or so afterwards. He tells them that the legion have been sent in to put down the gladiators' strike. The PCs get caught up in the ensuing melée, and flee into some conveniently placed catacombs. They then meet various NPCs, each of whom know a bit of the big picture. It is then up to the PCs to put a case together to convict the person who controls the legion of murder. It is the trial section which might not be to everyone's taste, because it is actually done with the players each assuming a rôle out of the defence counsel, the prosecutor counsel, and the judges!

This adventure is pretty high-concept by the standards of most. Played out on the earthly plane is the conflict between four immortals, each who seek to gain influence. Each of them manipulate events, although the PCs will be unaware of them. Even the earthly agent provocateur behind the main drama will probably escape detection.

I am somewhat annoyed by the duplication of material between this adventure and the previous one. Most of the NPCs are in common with that module. The background to Thyatis is the same page! And as for the map of Thyatis city - not only is it in DDA1, it was originally in the Dawn of Emperors boxed set. Space used here could have been reserved for a larger scale map of the city, and more detail. As it is, the DM will have to do a lot of work to flesh out this city.

But the thing that really got me was the fact that all of the NPCs that the PCs need to meet are to be conveniently found in the very same dungeon that the PCs are fleeing to! I know that you could argue that immortals are behind this, but this is going a little too far.

In short: worthy, but not everyone's cup of tea.

"Known World" Placement

This adventure is entirely located in the City of Thyatis, in the Empire of Thyatis. This module namechecks the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set, the Broken Lands, and even the Hollow World.

New Locations


DDA3 - Dungeons & Dragons Official Adventure -
The Eye of Traldar

Summary
Stock Code9271
Released1991
DesignerCarl Sargent
EditorRichard Steinberg
Editing AssistantSteven E. Schend
Production ManagerBruce Heard
TypographyTracey Wrobel
KeyliningSarah Feggestad
Interior ArtistThomas Baxa
Cover ArtistJeff Easley
Format32 page book, and 2 pane cover
Party5-7 characters of levels 1-2
Rating**

After the political wrangling of DDA1 and DDA2, this module is a lot more combat oriented, and a lot more simplistic in tone, probably due to the release of the new Dungeons & Dragons boxed game. There's even a real dungeon in it! It would be safe to say that this is more in the vein of B11 and B12, with the Grand Duchy location.

Whilst on their way along the Westron Road, the characters rescue a fighter who is being attacked by thugs. They are subsequently hired as bodyguards, and are subject to further attack in Luln. They are then persuaded to enter Fort Doom, and rescue an artifact called the Eye of the Traldar, hidden in a keep adjoining the actual castle of Fort Doom. They can also rescue many of the prisoners of the Baron kept in the dungeons beneath the keep.

The remarkable thing is that the keep seems reasonably large, but this is only a glorified gate house for the real castle, which is many times bigger. This is flatly contradicted by the later map in the "Kingdom of Karameikos" campaign box for the "Mystara" AD&D setting.

It would have been nice to have a map of Luln or the town of Fort Doom, instead of reprinting the Grand Duchy gazetteer map on the third panel. And considering that Sascia of Luln, described in GAZ1, is such a foe to the Baron von Hendriks, it is surprising that she has no part in this adventure at all.

"Known World" Placement

Luln and Fort Doom in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Shows a small part of the castle of Fort Doom.

Historical Oddities


DDA4 -
The Dymark Dread

Summary
Stock Code9272
Released1991
DesignerJohn A. Nephew
EditorRichard Steinberg
Product ManagerBruce Heard
Interior ArtistTom Baxa
Cover ArtistJeff Easley
Map Art & 3D StandupsRobin Raab
TypographyTracey Zamagne
ProductionSarah Feggestad
Format16 page book + A3 map + standups
Party4-7 characters of levels 1-3
Rating* (** if this was an Entry Level product)

When compared to the previous module in this series, this is a really dumbed down affair. It has no ties, other than circumstantial, to the Grand Duchy, nor its prequel for that matter. Supposedly, this is set in a marsh in the middle of the Dymrak Forest, not that it is on any map. The ties to DDA3 are minimal - I've written better links than this. The extra powers for the Eye of the Traldar, mentioned in that same module are not to be found anywhere!

The dungeon itself is extremely simple, with a maximum of 13 encounter locations. There is one interesting moral quandary, but little else role playing-wise. The problem is that this is really an Entry Level adventurer, but with a vague tie to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. To be honest it could be set anywhere. Like all of the Entry Level series, the format is a 16 page booklet with map and stand-up figures. Whilst I commend the game accessories, this makes the module extremely short. It doesn't help that the typeface is quite large, and there is excess waffle at the beginning.

"Known World" Placement

The Dymrak Forest in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.