D&D General Dungeon Magazine's Top 30 Adventures: Do they hold up?

edosan

Explorer
Whenever a discussion like this comes up I realize I can never really understand what people are looking for in a "good" adventure.

So many times the I hear "Well, I played X and we had fun" but I'd argue that "fun" has more to do with the group than the adventure itself because I know we've had fun with some godawful adventures over the years.

I'd also say it isn't because they're well-designed and easy to run because you get adventures that people day "Man, you have to spend ages to whip it into usable shape but, man, it's a good adventure" which begs the question it it really that good then?

Nostalgia is a factor too - part of me wants to put Keep on the Borderlands on the list but I also acknowledge that since it was one of the few adventures we actually had because we are all kids with no money we played it to death and most of my memories come from that.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
No, he is not. He is the typical Gygaxian "screw you" that undermines the adventure whose purpose is to undermine the party ever trusting a NPC in the future. From level 1.

:oops:
Having run this adventure many times, this has not been my experience. Though this brings to mind the following scenario:

NPC the party should have trusted but didn't: Who hurt you?
PC: Ned, Ned hurt me.

:ROFLMAO:


To be fair, however, the last two times I have run U1, instead of the ridiculous idea that Ned has been tied up naked as a trap - I have him be there for a punishment by the other bandits for being a drunk and a layabout - thus, I have him be less loyal to the bandits and how (and if) he screws over the party depends on whether he thinks he the PCs can be defeated and it gets him back in his gang's good graces. It has never happened, but I can imagine a version playing out where Ned never turns his coat during the old mansion search, but later tries to signal the Sea Ghost to warn them about the PCs.
 
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delericho

Legend
In case it's of interest, here's the top 10 list of Dungeon adventures from that same article in #116:

10. "Siege of Kratys Freehold", by Ted James Thomas Zuvich (#33)
9. "The Forgotten Man", by Steve Daveney (#75)
8. "The Lich-Queen's Beloved", by Christopher Perkins (#100)
7. "The Lady of the Mists", by Peter Aberg (#42)
6. "Eye of Myrkul", by Eric L. Boyd (#73)
5. "Life's Bazaar", by Christopher Perkins (#97)
4. "Into the Fire", by Grant & David Boucher (#1)
3. "Kingdom of the Ghouls", by Wolfgang Baur (#70)
2. "The Harrowing", by Monte Cook (#84)
1. "The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb", by Mike Shel (#37)

I should note that I've only ever run #5 (when I did "Shackled City" - it was really good), and have only ever read a handful of them (and that a long time ago), so I'm making no comment on the quality of this list. :)
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
As I recall Bryce Lynch culled the entirety of Dungeon's print run to ten adventures he genuinely liked.

Bryce gives detailed capsule notes on his top 10 at the link, but here is the list:

10. The Spottle Parlor, issue #12, by Rick Swan, for levels 2-4
9. The Ruins of Nol-Daer, issue #13, by Howard McClesky, for levels 5-8
8. Ancient Blood, issue #20, by Dave Boucher, for levels 3-5
7. Incident at Strathern Point, issue #21, Matthew Maaske, for levels 8-10
6. Mightier than the Sword, issue #29, Willie Walsh, levels 1-4
5. Thiondar's Legacy, issue #30, Steven Kurtz, levels 8-12
4. Dovedale, issue #46, Ted James & Thomas Zuvich, levels 1-3
3. Peer Among the Waters, issue #78, Johnathan Richards, levels 1-2
2. Depths of Rage, issue #83, JD Walker, level 3
1. Shut-In, issue #128, F. Wesley Schneider & James L. Sutter, level 2

He also gives special mentions to Kingdom of the Ghouls, from issue #70 and The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb, from #37.

And has a series of six more articles each covering 25 issues and highlighting adventures that he thought were decent or had something interesting about them.

 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In case it's of interest, here's the top 10 list of Dungeon adventures from that same article in #116:

10. "Siege of Kratys Freehold", by Ted James Thomas Zuvich (#33)
9. "The Forgotten Man", by Steve Daveney (#75)
8. "The Lich-Queen's Beloved", by Christopher Perkins (#100)
7. "The Lady of the Mists", by Peter Aberg (#42)
6. "Eye of Myrkul", by Eric L. Boyd (#73)
5. "Life's Bazaar", by Christopher Perkins (#97)
4. "Into the Fire", by Grant & David Boucher (#1)
3. "Kingdom of the Ghouls", by Wolfgang Baur (#70)
2. "The Harrowing", by Monte Cook (#84)
1. "The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb", by Mike Shel (#37)

I should note that I've only ever run #5 (when I did "Shackled City" - it was really good), and have only ever read a handful of them (and that a long time ago), so I'm making no comment on the quality of this list. :)

My list would be completely different, except maybe for #10. I have never read #3. I have it and have heard it is great, but haven't gotten around to it.

My list might look something like this (in no particular order).

Moor-Tomb Map (#13)
Tallow's Deep (#18)
Chadranther's Bane (#18)
Ex Libris (#29)
The Wayward Wood (#32)
Is there an Elf in the House? (#32)
Song of the Fens (#40)
Unhallowed Ground (#54)
Janx's Jinx (#56)
The Bullywug's Gambit (#140)
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
In case it's of interest, here's the top 10 list of Dungeon adventures from that same article in #116:

4. "Into the Fire", by Grant & David Boucher (#1)

I should note that I've only ever run #5 (when I did "Shackled City" - it was really good), and have only ever read a handful of them (and that a long time ago), so I'm making no comment on the quality of this list. :)
This is the only one I actually ran mostly "as is" from the list (mostly because we used BECMI rather than AD&D for it). I ran "Into the Fire" 100 years ago when I was a wee pre-teen. We were a bunch of 11-12 year olds around a table going to fight a dragon. I can't remember much beyond that tbh.

The rest of the list has some stuff that I've stripmined for ideas though never actually run - I actually found a lot of Dungeon adventures after the first few years of publication to be way too plot heavy for my use at the time and used it mostly as a source for interesting maps until I let my subscription lapse in high school (when I had a job and had to start paying for my own fun). Picked it back up again in the 3e era so some of the later stuff I've seen though never ran - thought about running both The Shackled City and the Lich Queen's Beloved at times but never got around to it.

(I also periodically think about an adventure from issue 2 that's not on that list at all, and in fact I think has a poor reputation, but I keep thinking about trying it - "The Titan's Dream". A weird adventure where the PCs stumble into a Titan's fragmented dream and have to figure out the right decisions to put the stories he's dreaming about into their proper order to get out again. I didn't think much of it as a kid, but I reread it a few decades ago when I was looking at my Dungeon collection and even 20 years later I'm still thinking about that premise).
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Is there an Elf in the House? (#32)
Co-authored by Professor Dungeonmaster of the Dungeoncraft YouTube channel, back in his college days. I remember he's mentioned that TSR editorial policy required him to make some changes; I think there was supposed to be a demon involved originally, but this was 1991 and those were off the menu.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Co-authored by Professor Dungeonmaster of the Dungeoncraft YouTube channel, back in his college days. I remember he's mentioned that TSR editorial policy required him to make some changes; I think there was supposed to be a demon involved originally, but this was 1991 and those were off the menu.
Yeah, I saw that when I was checking out his videos and thought it was cool.

Edit to add: It may not make an actual list I'd make if I was going back re-familiarizing myself with them all, but it is one I remember really enjoying running.
 

My question is... does this list hold up under scrutiny?
I'd have to agree with the people throughout this thread who are noting the nostalgia value of most of the list. The ultimate example is B2... this one was a very early module and reflected the 'it's all new and we're not really sure what we're doing' attitude at the time. When the game was just starting out, there was a lot of 'murder hobo/hack and slash' going on. The module is very bare bones by not only modern standards, but the standards of later 1E modules... not one NPC or monster is named in the whole thing, for example. The premise of it all is generally that the PCs are going to use the Keep as a base and make multiple forays into the Caverns, resting up in between raids, until they've wiped out everything there and looted everything as well. This kind of play was pretty standard in most of those very early modules, and it took a few years for modules to change.
That said, for those of us who were around and playing in those early years, it was all pretty exciting. I have fond memories of running through B2, as well as the whole GDQ series and others. Still, I'd think a "Top 30 Best Ever Adventures" list would change a lot depending on the ages of those making them up....
 

Generally, I like the list but like any “greatest ever” list it will always tend to wallow in nostalgia a bit but IMO that’s kind of the whole point of the exercise.
The glaring omission for me is The Night Below of course.
I’m going to DM Keep on the Borderlands for 5e in a couple weeks which I’m looking forward to.
Including Undermountain 2E but not Night Below is basically a crime against the entire concept of adventures.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Strangely, prior to 3E, I never bothered to look at non-official D&D adventures. I'd like to see a list of pre-3E 3rd party adventures that are worth looking at.
Back in the day Judges Guild put out a bunch of Basic and-or 1e compatible adventures. They were a VERY mixed bag; some are pure dreck but some are really good. In some cases you do, however, have to wade through JG's - let's just say 'unusual' - stat blocks for NPCs and monsters.

The real highlights for me are:

Dark Tower (as noted above)
Caverns of Thracia (ditto)
Maltese Clue
Tower of Ulission
Sword of Hope (it's gonzo, but fun. The ultimate high-risk high-reward adventure; you'll kill a bunch of PCs but the survivors will be richer than kings!)

Also, either City State quasi-setting (Invincible Overlord or World Emperor) is worth picking up if you can find it, as they are mine-able for all sorts of adventure ideas.

One caution, though: none of the above (in original form) are going to come cheap. :)
The only one I have is Tegel Manor (picked up in late 3E of all things), and I wasn't really impressed looking over it (Zocchi tricked me into buying the adventure with an extended sales pitch about events that aren't even in the module).
I bought Tegel Manor from Zocchi as well, having heard great things about it from numerous people other than he, but wasn't overly impressed with it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Whenever a discussion like this comes up I realize I can never really understand what people are looking for in a "good" adventure.
Some features that can help to make an adventure good are fairly universal:

Interesting and-or memorable foes, creatures, etc. for the PCs to overcome (not necessarily via combat)
Interesting non-foe NPCs for the PCs to interact with
Interesting and-or memorable traps, features, and other physical elements
Numerous ways in and-or out of the adventure setting
A non-linear layout with loops (horizontal and vertical!) and options such that ideally no two parties will take the same path through the adventure unless by sheer random chance
Clear concise writing that a DM can easily interpret
At least some indication that an editor was involved somewhere i.e. no egregious mistakes or errors*
At least some consideration given by the authors to obvious "what-if-they-do-this" situations, the most commonly ignored of these being "what if they fly in?"

* - the module I'm currently running falls way afoul of this, in that the map and the written room dimensions/descriptions completely disagree. At first I thought the error was the map using 10' squares but the author thinking 5' squares, but aligning those only fixes about 1/3 of the problems...
 

GuyBoy

Hero
Including Undermountain 2E but not Night Below is basically a crime against the entire concept of adventures.
I’m 99% sure it will never happen, but I’d love to see a “Return to the Night Below” boxed set, maybe taking Haranshire forward a decade or so, with new (or maybe regrouped) threats from the Underdark rising again.

PS agreed; Undermountain is ok, but not fit to lick the aboleth slime from Night Below.
 

PS agreed; Undermountain is ok, but not fit to lick the aboleth slime from Night Below.
The only good thing I can say about Undermountain is one time the DM had foolishly decided this was a Gold = XP game (his idea!) and we managed to find some ridiculous hidden cache on one of the upper levels of Undermountain that, in terms of gold would make us incredibly rich, and in terms of XP shoot us from pretty low-level to like 15+, at which point the DM just gave up on the Undermountain campaign and ran something more fun instead.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I’m 99% sure it will never happen, but I’d love to see a “Return to the Night Below” boxed set, maybe taking Haranshire forward a decade or so, with new (or maybe regrouped) threats from the Underdark rising again.

PS agreed; Undermountain is ok, but not fit to lick the aboleth slime from Night Below.
Less unlikely than you might think, in my book. We had a thread a while ba k speculating on what sort of books similar to Ghosts of Saltmarsh WotC could do, I threw out a book combining Night Below, Kingdom of the Ghouls, and D1-3, and maybe Q. The maps of the 3 Underdark segments actually line up by design, and the page count would work for a 5E book. I could legitimately see them do this still.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
The only good thing I can say about Undermountain is one time the DM had foolishly decided this was a Gold = XP game (his idea!) and we managed to find some ridiculous hidden cache on one of the upper levels of Undermountain that, in terms of gold would make us incredibly rich, and in terms of XP shoot us from pretty low-level to like 15+, at which point the DM just gave up on the Undermountain campaign and ran something more fun instead.
That sort of sounds like what Ed Greenwoood intended to happen.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I bought Tegel Manor from Zocchi as well, having heard great things about it from numerous people other than he, but wasn't overly impressed with it.
Castle Xyntillan, from Gabor Lux a couple of years ago, is basically an homage and improvement to the concept, and is amazing.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The only good thing I can say about Undermountain is one time the DM had foolishly decided this was a Gold = XP game (his idea!) and we managed to find some ridiculous hidden cache on one of the upper levels of Undermountain that, in terms of gold would make us incredibly rich, and in terms of XP shoot us from pretty low-level to like 15+, at which point the DM just gave up on the Undermountain campaign and ran something more fun instead.

Under the Gygaxian rules that allowed gp=Xp, you immediately ceased earning experience points as soon as you gained enough to level until you stopped and spent time training. Which avoided situations like this.

If you don’t have a rule like that, you can’t allow gp for xp.
 

Under the Gygaxian rules that allowed gp=Xp, you immediately ceased earning experience points as soon as you gained enough to level until you stopped and spent time training. Which avoided situations like this.

If you don’t have a rule like that, you can’t allow gp for xp.
Yeah either 2E wasn't as clear on that, or it was one of the countless 2E rules that just about everyone I'd ever met who played D&D IRL ignored.
 

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