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The Dragon's Den (Basic)
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The Dragon's Den (Basic)

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The dragon laughs and prepares to strike. But you were nearly defeated by his minions, and you are now too weak to wield your sword. Your magic-user is out of spells; your other comrades, too, have lost their fighting spirit. What hope have you of defeating the vile dragon? Do you run, or do you try one last, desperate plan?

This new entry-level supplement to the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game lets you and your friends play mighty fighters, crafty magic-users, and cunning elves, thieves, dwarves, and more!

Inside this box you'll find three complete adventures, each featuring a different dragon. But before you and your friends can confront a fiendish black, green, or red dragon, you must first fight off hordes of evil lizard men, troglodytes, bugbears, and more! Then it's up to you to escape from the dungeon alive!

In addition to the three adventures, there's also a stand-alone board game that uses all the game pieces and poster maps inside. You and your friends will enjoy hours of high excitement with the three adventures and the bonus game, too!

Please note: To play the 3 Dragon Adventures in this game, you must own the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. The bonus board game is playable immediately.

Product History

The Dragon's Den (1992), by Ken Rolston, is the first adventure pack for The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991). It was published in March 1992.

About the Cover. You might think that's Tiamat on the cover, but some fans would disagree. It's specifically Takhisis, cropped from the cover of DL14: "Dragons of Triumph" (1986). And, she doesn't actually feature in this adventure pack, which instead features three of her children.

All of the adventure pack covers would feature reused artwork … at least one of them, quite inappropriately.

Origins (I): One Year Later. The black boxed New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991) was one of TSR's biggest successes in the early '90s. One suspects that TSR wasn't quite ready for how popular it was, and how much potential it had for bringing new players into the hobby. That's because their product lines were business as usual for the rest of 1991, with the final "DDA" (1990-1991) and "GAZ" modules (1987-1991) appearing as if nothing had happened.

DDA4: "The Dymrak Dread" (1991) was probably a first try at a simpler adventure, but it was only in 1992 that TSR explicitly began to publish supplements intended to support the black box's new players. The first of these were the Thunder Rift adventures (1992-1993), which tended to be short and simple dungeon crawls. However, they still missed the more board-game-like appeal of the black box.

For that, TSR would need yet another line …

Origins (II): Another Black Box. The adventure packs are a line of boxed supplements that are a nice match for the black box rules. They're the same size, so that the boxes can be stacked together, but the adventure packs have different-colored sides to differentiate them. (Dragon's Den is terra cotta.)

Inside, each adventure pack contains three adventures, complete with battle mats and stand-up figures for those maps. Though most of these elements were also found in the Thunder Rift line, the adventure packs laid them all out in a board game form, just like the original.

Graphic Design: Maps. Each adventure comes with a numbered black and white map for the dungeon master and a color dungeon mat for the players. The GM maps aren't quite as useful as those found in Thunder Rift adventures (which contained additional info), but they allowed for more content. In fact, some of the adventure pack maps would be quite large.

Adventure Tropes. The black-boxed D&D game focused on dungeon exploration, and all of the adventure packs would stay within those confines. As a result, the Dragon's Den adventures are all simple dungeon crawls that move the players to the dungeons with very little prelude.

However, Rolston did his best to add some variety and depth to the dungeons. So, one features multiple entrances and another focuses on the monsters as intelligent adversaries, who have their own internal politics and their specific tactics and who can be alerted to the coming of the adventurers.

Board Game Tropes. Each of the adventure packs also came with a simple board game that could be played using the components. Dragon's Den is the simplest of them. It's a cooperative adventure game with an overlord, meaning that one players fights against the rest. The mechanics and stats are extremely simple, limited to health, speed, and a single special ability for each character.

Exploring … The Known World? Fans often assume that Dragon's Den is located in Thunder Rift, the default setting for the beginner black-box modules. It's in fact the only adventure pack that's not.

Dragon's Den claims to be set in the generic setting of Greetland, but a casual scan of the player's map quickly reveals that Greetland is actually … Karameikos. The Kellshire Dales to the west are the Five Shires, while the rebellious West March, ruled by the Black Prince, is the Black Eagle Barony. The rivers, forests, and mountains also clearly line up with the maps of Karameikos.

Transforming a Karameikos adventure into something generic seems unusual, but it probably reflected the evolving lines for the Basic D&D game. Starting in 1992, TSR would mark all of its Known World releases with their more advanced "Challenger" symbol. That didn't match with the basic approach of Dragon's Den, and someone at TSR probably thought it made sense not to mix the streams. The rest of the adventure packs would solve the problem by moving their setting to Thunder Rift.

Monsters of Note. Each of the three adventures focuses on one sort of dragon. "Wild Dragon Den" is about a black dragon (and lizard men); "Wyrmhaven" is about a green dragon (and troglodytes); and "League of the Red Serpent" is about a red dragon (and orcs and rats).

It's somewhat unusual for a '90s adventure that runs levels 1-5 to feature three dragons … but those were the limits of the black box, so if TSR wanted to include dragons, those were the levels they had to write for.

About the Creators. Rolston was an RPG star in the '80s and early '90s, contributing to numerous Chaosium books, line editing Paranoia, and later line editing RuneQuest. His contributions to TSR were somewhat more scattered, but included a previous Known World release, GAZ7: "The Northern Reaches" (1988).

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 shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Brendan P January 28, 2017 7:33 pm UTC
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The scan is bad.
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Adam K January 28, 2017 4:48 am UTC
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Bad PDF Scan.
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Product Information
Author(s)
Pages
50
Edition
1.0
Publisher Stock #
TSR 1073
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17 MB
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on January 24, 2017.