The battle between the mighty undead army of the Witch-King of Vaasa and the forces of Bloodstone has come to a standstill. As long as the source of the Witch-King's power is at work, his evil forces will never be defeated!
As the rulers of Bloodstone Pass, it is up to you to find and destroy the source of Vaasa's power. All you have to do is journey to the Abyss, confront the mightiest demon of all, steal the Wand of Orcus, and take it to the Seven Heavens to be destroyed.
The Throne of Bloodstone is the fourth and final installment in a series of modules specially designed for high-level characters. While it is not necessary to have played any of the three previous modules, The Throne of Bloodstone is the climax of an epic struggle for a kingdom against the forces of darkest evil. Recommended for characters of levels 18-100, The Throne of Bloodstone is the highest-level adventure ever published by TSR!
H4: "The Throne of Bloodstone" (1988), by Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson, is the fourth and last of the "High-Level" adventures for AD&D. It was published in May 1988.
Origins: The H Series. Once upon the time, the "H" High-level module series began with H1: Bloodstone Pass (1985), a war-oriented scenario that supported the Battlesystem (1985) supplement. It was so popular that the "high-level" series became the "high-level Bloodstone Pass saga". "The Throne of Bloodstone" completes that saga.
Though the previous "H" modules all gave some attention to Battlesystem, it's almost entirely gone here. The adventures suggests that one large-scale battle could be fought with Battlesystem, but this isn't a warfare-oriented adventure like its predecessors.
About the Product Tie-In. Instead, "Throne" provides tie-ins to another new TSR product, Jeff Grubb's Manual of the Planes (1987). "Throne" was the second adventure book to make extensive use of the planes depicted in the Manual, following OP1: Tales of the Outer Planes (1988) a few months earlier.
Adventure Tropes. The main plot of "Throne" focuses on a "One Ring" variant of a MacGuffin quest: the players must find an object (the Wand of Orcus), then destroy it. To get there, players engage in a few wilderness adventures across the Abyss, with the result feeling somewhat picaresque, as the players bounce from one realm to another. "Throne" also contains a castle crawl and a fortress crawl. Overall, it's a pretty traditional classic D&D adventure.
Expanding D&D. First edition AD&D's character levels were open ended. A GM could easily extrapolate the progression tables to allow characters to level-up as high as they wanted. However, the practical limits to the game were actually relatively low. Interesting character progression petered out between levels 11-17, while to-hit and saving-throw tables topped out in the level 20-25 range. The spell progression tables went the highest, with the cleric and magic-user tables both running up to level 29 … but that was probably far higher than most campaigns went. In the first edition era, only very few adventures hit level 14. CA2: "Swords of Deceit" (1986) was the the only one to make it higher, running from levels 10-15 … and then there was the "H" High-level adventure series.
The high-level adventures started from a foundation of level 13, but by "Throne" the pre-gen characters are all level 18. However, "Throne" also offers another option, for the power-gamers that had been the hobgoblins of D&D's designers since the days of OD&D: it allows players to take on the roles of 100th(!) level characters. To support this play, the adventure includes four 100th level pre-gens and a few bits of GMly advice. It says that 100th level characters should be restricted to the standard (non-artifact) magic items, and that the GM should strictly arbitrate the rules and not give the players a break!
This option of 100th level play would be the highest-level possible ever for a D&D game, though it's comparable to the contemporary Basic D&D Immortal Rules (1986). As the game developed and matured with the advent of AD&D 2e (1989), the possibility of this sort of gonzo play would soon be lost.
Exploring the Realms. Though H3: "The Bloodstone Wars" (1987) featured the Forgotten Realms logo on the back cover, H4: "The Throne of Bloodstone" (1988) was the only Bloodstone Pass adventure that had the Forgotten Realms tradedress front (cover) and center. And, that's somewhat ironic, because it's just barely set in the Realms. The adventure opens at the Citadel of the Witch-King in Vaasa but from there soon heads out into the Outer Planes …
Exploring the Outer Planes. Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980) was D&D's first major delve into the Outer Planes. Years later Manual of the Planes (1987) offered a big overview of the realm. "Throne" builds on that by offering the first major trip into the Abyss. And, it's pretty major. "Throne" kicks off with an extensive look at Pazunia, the first level of the Abyss, then proceeds to provide quick overviews of about thirty additional layers. Some, such as the realms of Baphomet, Demogorgon, Feng-Tu, Graz'zt, Juiblex, Kali, Yeenoghu, and Zuggtmoy even get rather simplistic maps!
However the heart of the adventure focuses on the 333rd layer of the Abyss, called the "Realm of the Undead": Orcus' home. "Throne" contains extensive details on both the layer and Orcus' Fortress. Oddly, by the time that Planes of Chaos (1994) arrived several years later, Orcus' home would be moved to the 113rd layer of the Abyss, now called Thanatos. Later source remain inconsistent: Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006) settled on 113 as the correct layer, giving 333 over to Hiddukel's Broken Scale; then Demonomicon (2010) returned Orcus to the 333rd layer.
Whatever number you prefer, this adventure certainly offers the first look at Orcus' home in the Abyss.
Monsters of Note. What kind of monsters do you fill a super-high-level adventure with? Well to start with, there's a tarrasque, the second in this adventure series! There are also a bunch of singular beings as well as ridiculously large groups of monsters such as 100 Type III demons, 100 liches, and 10,000 zombies.
NPCs of Note. Orcus has been the big antagonist of the entire Bloodstone series, but he finally comes center stage here, so that PCs can beat him up and take his stuff. In fact, the whole goal is to take his Wand and destroy it. Unfortunately, this event hasn't fit well into Orcus' later chronology. Some sources suggest "Throne" must have happened hundreds of years ago (to give the Wand time to regenerate) and others put it in the modern day. Add that on to the problems with the location of Thanatos, and it seems like this adventure has been somewhat forgotten by later D&D publications.
Tiamat is also a major presence in this adventure because the players need to kill her (or at least borrow her heart) in order to destroy the Wand. By Powers & Pantheons (1997), this event had become a part of official Forgotten Realms lore, though it was said to just set the dragon goddess back by a year, while she created a new avatar.
Many other demon lords appear in "Throne", of which Baphomet is the most central to the plot. The others are largely cameos, though players could interact with them if they choose. The 100th level pregen characters are also interesting because they represent heroes who had previously appeared in Deities & Demigods (1980): Artemis, Circe, Hermes, and Perseus.
About the Creators. Niles was the author of Battlesystem and Dobson was the editor. This would be one of several books that they'd produce in the waning days of AD&D 1e to support their game system.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.