Dungeon Magazine Hidden Gems 1986-2007.

Zardnaar

Hero
In previous threads I have argued that a lot of good adventures were in Dungeon Magazine. This is particularly true IMHO for 2E and 3E which were not known for their masses of high quality adventures.

Dungeon had a circulation that seemed to vary in the 30-60k range and relative to the numbers of D&D players it never had the impact of say Keep on the Borderlands and each issue had multiple adventures so standing out from the crowd is probably harder.

So in this thread I am going to go through the magazine starting at issue 1 and picking the best adventure IMHO that stands out and is the most interesting to run. This is a bit flawed as I have not played all of the adventures but if I have I will mention it.

I can also do requests as well so if you want to pick an issue suggest it and I will see what I can do. IDK if that is a great idea but I'll see how it goes. Several names that are still around now also crop up in the pages of Dungeon- Wolfgang Bauer, Erik Mona and Mike Mearls come to mind.



Issue 1

In 1986 First Edition was the D&D of choice while BECMI was still around. Work on 2E had not yet started AFAIK (that was 1987 IIRC) Issue 1 has 1 D&D adventures in it with 5 AD&D adventures. Its probably not to hard to figure out whats popular. Of the 6 adventures you notice one stands out. Into the Fire eats up 19 pages out of 64, the rest of the adventures are quite small. Its also the best one and the Boucher brothers who authored it turn up in future issues. The adventure is my pick for the best one not due to its length although it perhaps helps but because its also interesting with an outdoors overland hike to get to the dungeon. It also has a somewhat decent plot hook.

The basic gist of it is a group of nights decided to confront Flame a red dragon and they all perish with one exception. One escapes with a necklace from the Dragons horde. The survivor dies and the necklace is sent to the King who recognizes that it belongs to his missing son who died at sea (guess what destroyed the boat).

So a bit of travel, exploration, a mission for a king all tied back to the Dragons lair. Not a bad effort at an intro and tying things together with a touch of mystery. Like any good villain Flame also returns in a future issue.
 

Uller

Explorer
Is there a digital resource where some of these can be resurrected? DDI was a great resource for sandbox campaigns...just look in the Dungeon Index for appropriate level adventures, scatter some hooks for you players to find and the campaign practically runs itself. I think the last one I was able to run was the one that took you through Evard's mansion...it was very Dying Earth-esque...
 

Parmandur

Legend
So youwill point out the best adventure of each issue, whether is's actually good or not? Interesting.:)

Will also be interesting how your results match up with Bryce Lynch's over at tenfootpole. He reviewed every single dungeon magazine from 1 -150, almost losing his sanity in the proces.
I appreciate the service that he provided, but my final conclusion from reading his posts is that he doesn't like Dungeons & Dragons all that much?
 

bryce0lynch

Explorer
I, also, will be following along. ;)

Dungeon suffered from a lot of things that still seem to plague the adventure industry today. It went through it's "Story Games" mode of scene-based railroads ala Giovanni Chronicles. It also suffered, I think, from very poor editing. Not copy-editing but content-partners and layout. One of my core conceits is that the adventure is, first and foremost, a play aid for the DM at the table. In this respect most of them were poor. Bad formatting, trivia descriptions, and so on. This continues to befuddle folks today; there exists no good resources for an aspiring adventure writer. (The sole exception being Ray Vallesse's Writing with Style, on DriveThru, which is more of a copy-edit guide for the RPG adventure writer.)

If you want to READ adventure then Dungeon is a good resource. If you want to spend a lot of prep time on adventures or mine ideas to run then you might be ok.

But ... this ain't my thread. :) I'm looking forward to seeing someone elses journey.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
There were two adventures called something like “champion” series, where each one was like an obstacle puzzle course that were really good. Unfortunately I can’t go look them up because last month, after decades of not being touched in my trunk, I gave away my entire Dungeon and Dragon magazine collection to someone who would actually use them. So the timing of this discussion is pretty funny in an ironic way lol.
 

Parmandur

Legend
I, also, will be following along. ;)

Dungeon suffered from a lot of things that still seem to plague the adventure industry today. It went through it's "Story Games" mode of scene-based railroads ala Giovanni Chronicles. It also suffered, I think, from very poor editing. Not copy-editing but content-partners and layout. One of my core conceits is that the adventure is, first and foremost, a play aid for the DM at the table. In this respect most of them were poor. Bad formatting, trivia descriptions, and so on. This continues to befuddle folks today; there exists no good resources for an aspiring adventure writer. (The sole exception being Ray Vallesse's Writing with Style, on DriveThru, which is more of a copy-edit guide for the RPG adventure writer.)

If you want to READ adventure then Dungeon is a good resource. If you want to spend a lot of prep time on adventures or mine ideas to run then you might be ok.

But ... this ain't my thread. :) I'm looking forward to seeing someone elses journey.
I'm pretty sure Dungeon was operating under the assumption that the main use cases for the readership would be reading, extensive alteration in prep time and idea mining, though? Much like the modern 5E adventure books.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
So youwill point out the best adventure of each issue, whether is's actually good or not? Interesting.:)

Will also be interesting how your results match up with Bryce Lynch's over at tenfootpole. He reviewed every single dungeon magazine from 1 -150, almost losing his sanity in the proces.
Well hopefully I'll get the right one, it's not going to be super in depth
 
There were two adventures called something like “champion” series, where each one was like an obstacle puzzle course that were really good. Unfortunately I can’t go look them up because last month, after decades of not being touched in my trunk, I gave away my entire Dungeon and Dragon magazine collection to someone who would actually use them. So the timing of this discussion is pretty funny in an ironic way lol.
Believe it was challenge of the champions actually. And upwards of 6 adventures



Dungeon had alot of good adventures, alot bad, and alot of ok ones. Remember for most of its history they were reader submitted adventures. I still have mostof my 150 issues and still use them
 

David Howery

Adventurer
I'm pretty sure Dungeon was operating under the assumption that the main use cases for the readership would be reading, extensive alteration in prep time and idea mining, though? Much like the modern 5E adventure books.
I read a couple of his posts, which was all I could stomach. My take on it was that he had very very very very* specific ideas on what an adventure should be, and anything that didn't meet those ideas was pure and utter dreck.

*very very very very very
 

Parmandur

Legend
I think his own take would be that he loves D&D.
I'm sure that would be his point of view: I can only judge from the text.

I read a couple of his posts, which was all I could stomach. My take on it was that he had very very very very* specific ideas on what an adventure should be, and anything that didn't meet those ideas was pure and utter dreck.

*very very very very very
Yes, this precisely.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Well I have reached the second level of this mega Dungeon.

Issue 2 Nov/December 1986

The cover has a 80's style somewhat cheesecake picture of a young lady and a group of sailor on a ship looking at an exploding volcano in the distance. From memory these early Dungeon issues are a bit rough but improve a bit around issue 10 IIRC.

4 adventures, 3 AD&D and 1 D&D.

The Titans Dream
In the Dwarven Kings Court
Caemor
The Keep at Koralgesh

This is late in the 1E lifestyle but the adventures are getting away from ye olde Dungeon hacks with more out door exploration and investigation type adventures which was more common in B/X adventures at least in terms of modules.

The stand out adventure for me in this issue at least is Caemor. Surly village on a remote wind swept spit with a devil infiltration problem. This adventure may be difficult to convert to 5E since its for low level adventurers but the monsters in it have had some large power buffs and a princess of hell is also in the adventure in a non combat capacity. Still you could replace the devil with a weaker one and retain the devil princess a'la Out of the Abyss early encounters with demon lords.

Sheep, booze, and devils you have been warned.

Keep of Korelgesh also looks interesting more because it looks like a fairly typical B/X dungeon hack so even in 1986 they are offering up a bit of variety for all tastes.
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
Digging deeper level 3 beckons and ye old tablet of doom unearthed gives the date of January/February 1987.
The cover is quite interesting and it has a Sumerian or Babylonian type vibe to it. One thing I do like about the older magazine is all the writing is at the top of the magazine so you get almost full cover art without writing being all over it. On the inside there is an ad for the Wilderness Survival Guide which is kind of funny seeing in 2019.

4 adventures all AD&D, probably gives you a hint on 1E relative to Basic in 1987.

Falcons Peak
Blood on the Snow
The Deadly Sea
A Book with No End

Each adventure gets a descriptive paragraph and a Book with no End Stands out due to being for level 8-12 characters. Adventures for higher level 1E were not exactly common but a 4 level range is also kind of funny in modern terms. an ad for Adventures n Blackmoor credited to David Arneson is also interesting.

I quite like this issue for the variety. A book with no end is a wilderness travel adventure to a Dungeon, fairly typical 1E high level type but Blood on the Snow and The Deadly sea have a large amount of outdoors travel and exploration. In the Deadly Seas case some of it is under water, while Blood on the Snow is an arctic/snow type wilderness adventure. Falcons Peak is a small dungeon based adventure you could probably complete in 1 or 2 sessions.

My favorite on and the one I would consider running in 5E is The Deadly Sea. Aquatic adventures were not exactly unknown back then as several take place in such locations in the X series of modules or have elements of it- Isle of Dread, Quagmire, War Rafts of Kron.

And in 5E of course you have several converted in Ghosts of Saltmarsh.
 

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
Caermor's devil princess is none other than Mephistopheles' consort Baalphegor, by the way. It's kind of funny that she's just decided to manifest in a small village.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Caermor's devil princess is none other than Mephistopheles' consort Baalphegor, by the way. It's kind of funny that she's just decided to manifest in a small village.
I know but in the event some runs it they can discover it. I thought Caermor was the stand out adventure though.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Each adventure gets a descriptive paragraph and a Book with no End Stands out due to being for level 8-12 characters. Adventures for higher level 1E were not exactly common but a 4 level range is also kind of funny in modern terms.
Recommended levels spanning a 4-level range was common on 1e adventures; some even had a 5-level range (e.g. WGA4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, for characters level 5-10). Inside there'd sometimes be a suggested total party level as well.
 

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