Dragonspear Castle. All who live within several hundred miles have heard the name and know its import. Once home to the proud and the brave, it stands now a ruin, cloaked behind a history of murder and diabolic plots. Few go there, for the only reward to be found is death.
Rumors abound that Dragonspear holds a portal to the sinister planes, but until now those have been unfounded. Following a great battle against orcs and trolls from the High Moor who had taken possession of the castle, a temple to ward against further evil was established. However, by the Time of Troubles, that temple and its clergy had disappeared. Now, a horde of fiends and monsters has amassed at Dragonspear Castle, and it terrorizing the surrounding countryside.
The portal is active, that is for certain. The army of Daggerford needs reinforcements! Is you party made of the stuff of heroes?
Hordes of Dragonspear can be played using either the Battlesystem miniatures rules, or the quick combat resolution system found in DMGR2, The Castle Guide. Alternatively, a few simple changes render the entire module playable without any special rules.
FRQ2: "Hordes of Dragonspear" (1992), by William W. Connors, is the second adventure in the series of Forgotten Realms "Quest" adventures. It was published in October 1992.
Continuing the FRQs. FRQ2: "Hordes of Dragonspear" continued the series of Forgotten Realms adventures that began with FRQ1: "Haunted Halls of Evening Star" (1992). The adventures were unconnected standalones — other than the fact that each had a place name in its title. Curiously TSR's next published Forgotten Realms adventure used a totally different code, FRM1: "Jungles of Chult" (1993), before the FRQ series finished up with to FRQ3: "Doom of Daggerdale" (1993) several months later.
"Hordes of Dragonspear" was also a small milestone, because it was the final adventure to use the original Forgotten Realms trade dress, with its colorful frames. A few later sourcebooks also used those frames, but then "Jungles of Chult" did away with them, in preparation for the revised Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1993).
Adventure Tropes. "Hordes of Dragonspear" is an event-based adventure of the sort common in the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000). Even the one dungeon crawl in the adventure, beneath Dragonspear, is just a simplistic labyrinth.
The purpose of the adventure's events is to get the players to big battles. That's because "Hordes of Dragonspear" is a stop-the-army adventure, a trope common in the swords & sorcery fiction that D&D evolved from, but only seen occasionally in D&D adventures like X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield" (1985) and of course the Realms' own Horde campaign (1990-1991).
The Battlesystem Connection. The reason for all those battles is (of course) Battlesystem (1985, 1989), TSR's fantasy mass-combat rules system that was pushed in the late '80s and early '90s. The system had actually gotten its start in the Realms with H1: "Bloodstone Pass" (1985). In the '90s it continued to be influential in Realms events like the Horde campaign, but much of TSR's Battlesystem focus was now going to the "War World" of Dark Sun (1991).
As was common for adventures in this era, the quick combat resolution system from DMGR2: The Castle Guide (1990) was offered as an alternative for players who didn't want to play the more complex Battlesystem mechanics.
Exploring the Realms. Forgotten Realms adventures got their start with N5: "Under Illefarn" (1987). Much like "Hordes of Dragonspear", that classic adventure used the village of Daggerford on the Sword Coast as its home base, before sending players off to explore.
"Hordes of Dragonspear" is set in the same part of the richly detailed Sword Coast. It contains more details on Daggerford and also visits some nearby lands and peoples. However, it was the promise of Dragonspear Castle that made this adventure the most exciting. The "sprawling ruin" was first hinted at in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987) and was briefly visited in FRE3: "Waterdeep" (1989). Sadly, the visit here is brief too, amounting to just two pages set in a labyrinth.
Monsters of Note. This adventure contains a number of devils, a class of monsters that had been exiled from the Great Wheel with the release of AD&D 2e (1989) but recently returned in MC8: "Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix" (1991). Their name here is changed to baatezu, a sop to angry mothers. However they're still said to come from the "Nine Hells", an artifact that stuck around until the release of Planescape Campaign Setting (1994), when the Nine Hells was changed to the mom-friendly name of "Baator".
Four devils get new Monstrous Compendium entries for AD&D 2e: the amnizu (styx devil), the barbazu (bearded devil), the cornugon (horned devil), and the pit fiend.
Future History. The settings of Daggerford and Dragonspear remain potent and evocative. Decades later, D&D revisited them yet again in "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" (2013), the preview for D&D 5e (2014).
About the Creators. Connors may be best known for his Ravenloft work at TSR. This was one of his few Realms supplements, which also included Wizards and Rogues of the Realms (1995).
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 email@example.com.