At the start of the year, I mentioned that I was writing product histories for the DnD Classics web site. You can find links to the 47 histories that I’d prepared for the site’s launch in D&D Product Histories, Part One.

Eight more months have gone by, and I’ve continued writing histories the whole time. Including some upcoming releases, I’ve now written a total of 140 histories, for 94,000 words of text. (Yep, that’s approaching a book’s worth!) So, this week I wanted to share with you my continuing history of D&D by linking all of the histories that I wrote between the launch and the end of Q3, 2012. You’ll find that below. In a few places, I’ve repeated links from the original article, to keep everything in a series together.

Meanwhile, work continues on the new Designers & Dragons books from Evil Hat. The ’70s has been fully laid out and is awaiting indexing and my final comments. The ’80s has been fully edited and is now in proofing. The ’90s is edited and awaiting proofing. Finally, I’m still working on the ’00s. I’ve prepared six new histories for the book so far, and have several more to go. My goal is to have it done by the end of the year. My hope is that we’ll see the first published book by then too, but that’s in the hands of fate and Evil Hat. Join me on Facebook to keep up to date. —SA, 10/2/13

This article was originally published as Designers & Dragons: The Column #26 on RPGnet. Its publication followed the publication of the original Designers & Dragons (2011) and preceded the publication of the four-volume Designers & Dragons (2014). A more up to date version of this history can be found in Designers & Dragons: The 00s.

Just click any link and scroll down about half a page, and you’ll see my history of the book.

AD&D 1e Rulebooks (1977-1988)

A few of the gaps in the 1e hardcover rules have gotten filled in at DnDClassics since the start of the year. I think that (still unavailable) Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures were the most interesting books following the core rules, but it’s good to have weirdness of the Monster Manual II and the first appearance of the Underdark in the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide.

Basic Level D&D (1978-1989)

Most of these histories are from the original release, but DnDClassics has since released the 3e of the Basic Set (which is the red box that was many peoples’ entryway to the game) and the previously missing B10 (which many consider one of the best Bs).

Expert Level D&D (1981-1987)

I was thrilled to see the release of the first half of the Expert level adventures because they were some missing classics from the early ’80s. Historically, they represent the first look at the Known World, particularly in the Expert Set, X1, X4, X5, and X7. There’s more foundational Known World material in the back half of the Expert adventure series, so I hope to see those too, in the near future.

Around 1983, TSR also started to release Basic D&D adventures under codes other than the traditional “B” and “X” codes. DnDClassics has put out a motley selection of these miscellaneous Expert-level adventures, and they’re all interesting historically: O1 is based on a (very old) old con adventure; XL1 was built around action figures; and DA2 is a new edition of TSR’s first published adventure from Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975)

The Intermediate Adventures (1981-1988)

In the early ’80s, TSR introduced the “I” (1981-1988) and “N” (1982-1987) module codes as new ways to group modules, sorted by their adventurer level. They could have been totally generic and easily forgotten, but the “I” series lucked out by having a lot of notable adventures throughout its run. In the early adventures that I’ve written about so far, you have Zeb Cook’s fun, pulpy “I1” and some of Tracy Hickman’s earliest adventures in the “I3-5” Desert of Desolation series. Whereas Zeb Cook showed how D&D adventures could use other genres of fiction, Hickman showed that plot could be important, even in dungeons.

And of course I6: Ravenloft is right around the corner! (Wizards has revealed that it’ll be out next Tuesday.)

The Lendore Isle Adventures (1981-1983, 1999)

Len Lakofka is one of the great figures from the primordial days of D&D, primarily thanks to the advice that he occasionally offered Gary Gygax. His Lendore Isle adventures were equally influential, both as an early description of part of Greyhawk and as an early look at RPG adventures that were more than just dungeon crawls. Unfortunately, his time working with D&D was cut short by the various upheavals and political coups that began occurring at TSR around 1983. The “L3” adventure is particularly notable, because it was the TSR adventure lost for 15 years; see the history for more.

The Novice Adventures (1982-1987)

The Novice adventures were, like the intermediate adventures, a new way to organize adventures published by TSR. However, TSR seems to have been a lot less enthusiastic about publishing them, as they put out just five, compared to fourteen intermediate adventures in about the same timeframe. For whatever reason, the “N” adventures seem less well known too, though the last two are quite good.

Most of these history were already published at the start of the year, but DnDClassics added N5 — the last in the “N” series and also the first original Forgotten Realms adventure.

The World of Greyhawk Adventures (1982-1989,1990)

Though TSR started detailing the Known World in 1981, it was only a year later that they explicitly started coding adventures for use with campaign settings, when they introduced the “WG” series. DnDClassics has released some of these, as well as the “EX” adventures, which are meant to be “EX”tensions to Castle Greyhawk. After TSR ended the “WG” series, they replaced it with “WGA”, as part of the increasingly confusing set of codes the company used in AD&D Second Edition.

There are no WG1-WG3 (and for why see my history of WG4). However, DnDClassics is currently missing much of the WG series, including WG5 and WG6, which were both Greyhawk adventures by the creators of the setting.

The UK Adventures (1983-1985)

The seven UK adventures (which continued on from the “U” adventure which was listed in my previous article) were rather revolutionary for the early ’80s. They were among the first AD&D adventures to focus heavily on plot and setting rather than simple dungeon delves. Alongside the adventures by Tracy Hickman the UK adventures really presaged AD&D’s direction in the ’90s.

Note that “I8” is essentially “UK8”, except that TSR had stopped using the UK code, probably due to the dissolution of TSR UK’s creative department in 1985. It hasn’t been released quite yet.

Companion Level D&D (1984-1987)

One of the cool things about Basic D&D of the ’80s was that it spiraled up into ever greater levels of power. Thus the Companion level rules allowed players to fight wars and rule dominions. You wouldn’t find that in AD&D except for in the short-lived (but popular) Birthright series (1995-1997). With that said, the Companion level modules are somewhat more inconsistent in quality than the lower level Basic and Expert adventures — but when they were good, they could be earthshakingly good.

Clearly, this series has some gaps in it as published by DnDClassics. CM5: Mystery of the Snow Pearls probably got skipped because it’s a “Magic Viewer” solo adventure that’s unscannable. I have no idea why CM3: Sabre River and CM7: The Tree of Life weren’t included, though.

The Forgotten Realms Computer Adventures (1988-1989)

In 1988, AD&D started getting some great attention from a new source, computer game players, thanks to the publication of Pool of Radiance (1988) and Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989) by SSI. To ride that wave of new attention, TSR put out RPG adventures mirroring these first two computer adventures. They didn’t get very good attention at the time because they were adaptations, but at least FRC2: Curse of the Azure Bonds is a great early source for the Realms, covering areas in the Heartland that was previously unknown.

AD&D 2e Rulebooks (1989-1993)

I played D&D most in the ’80s, so I just barely got to know Second Edition AD&D before I moved to Berkeley to go to college, and discovered a wider world of RPGs. Thus it’s always struck me as quite weird that 2e didn’t have the same focus on hardcover rulebooks as 1e did. Oh, sure, they still managed one a year, but in the early 2e years (before the 2.5 revival), the books just weren’t as important after you got past the four core rulebooks. This would dramatically change with the 2.5 revision of AD&D in 1995.

(And there’s still some good stuff here! I think Forgotten Realms Adventures is particularly vital, for Realms fans.)

Monstrous Compendiums (1989-1998)

The monster manuals for AD&D 2e are often considered the best monster books for any edition of AD&D because of the extensive background details that they provided. There were also tons of them, though to date DnDClassics has only released four.

(The other two Compendiums released at DnDClassics are Ravenloft Appendix I & II and Ravenloft Appendix III. The histories of all things Ravenloft are being written by Kevin Kulp, so he wrote about those, which is why they’re not on my list.)

The Dungeon Master Guide References (1990-1997)

When TSR released second edition, they started looking for ways to release cheaper, prestige-format series that could help with the bottom line. One of those series was the “DMGR” reference series. It may have been the most scattered of all the prestige series since it moved back and forth between rules, setting material, and background advice.

The Forgotten Realms Prestige Series (1990-2000)

The “FOR” series for the Realms for another of TSR’s prestige series for 2e. It looked quite different from the others, since it used a special gloss cover rather than the more traditional leatherette. The “FOR” books allowed Ed Greenwood and others to delve more deeply into a variety of Realms topics. By chance, most of these books are about groups — be they species or organizations — as opposed to the geography books published under the (non-prestige) “FR” code.

Basic D&D Cyclopedia & Challenger (1991-1993)

The last incarnation of Basic D&D as a serious roleplaying game was the Cyclopedia, which collected the first four boxed Mentzer sets, and the Challenger series that followed. I personally like all of the Basic D&D incarnation a lot, but I think this is Basic D&D at its best, because everything has been brought together in such a comprehensive form.

The Campaign Guide References (1992-1994)

By 1992, TSR was clearly looking for new series of books to publish. One of the first that appeared was the “CGR” series of Campaign Guide References. They were essentially more Player Guides, like the infamous “PHBR” series, but this time they were each associated with a specific campaign world. I guess these must not have done well because they ended pretty quickly, which is a shame. I’d prefer a setting splat book to a class splat book any day.

The Head-to-Head Quests (1992-1995)

Another new series of books. I’ll have to admit to being not entirely thrilled by the one-on-one HHQ series. They’re pretty vanilla adventures whose only redeeming factor is that they each showcase a particular character class for one-on-one adventuring. Their most notable element historically is as part of a stream of one-on-one adventures that ran through the ’80s and ’90s.

The New Special Series (1995)

In 1995, TSR published two adventures that they somewhat bizarrely claimed (on one of their posters) were part of the old “S” series . They are both kind of cool old-school-style adventures, but by then the “S” series had been gone for over a decade.

Player’s Options (1995-1996)

The Player’s Option books were one of TSR’s last gasps: a set of hardcover books of alternate rules released to help the bottom line of a failing company. With that said, they’re full of lots of neat options, some of which were directly incorporated into D&D 3e. I had fun writing these histories in part because I got to talk about how much D&D had changed from Gary Gygax’s days when he vehemently opposed game variants.

Monstrous Arcana (1996-1998)

One of TSR’s last ideas for a new series of books, the Monstrous Arcana was pretty cool. It was imagined as a four-book-a-year series. Each year focused on an iconic AD&D monster and included a sourcebook and three adventures. The first year was about beholders, which was even cooler.

Sadly, only the beholder adventures are thus far available from DnDClassics.

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