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DDA4 The Dymrak Dread (Basic)
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DDA4 The Dymrak Dread (Basic)

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Are you ready to meet the Lord Forester's challenge: to put an end to needless death and destruction by doing away with the goblin war chieftain, Kosivikh, and his evil bad of raiders? Eager to prove yourselves as new adventures and to collect a sizable bounty, you travel to the goblins' dungeon in the Dymrak Forest--a place that has captivated your interest for years, a place where few have dared to venture. Only you and your fellow adventurers can put and end to the rampant bloodshed and return peace to the territory.

This module is recommended especially for beginner Dungeon Masters and players who are interested in dungeon exploration.

  • Recommended for four to seven characters, level 1-3
  • Handouts and cardboard stand-up characters provided
  • For use with both the Dungeon & Dragons Game box and the D&D Game Cyclopedia
  • Can be use as a follow-up to the DDA3,Eye of Traidar module or it can stand alone
  • Features easy-to-follow rules on dungeon adventuring in the heart of the Dymrak Forest

Product History

DDA4: "The Dymrak Dread" (1991), by John Nephew, is an adventure for the Basic D&D game. It was published in November 1991.

About the Cover. The cover has a little box in the bottom right cover that shows a dragon. It's such an obvious add-on that modern reviewers seem to think it was used to cover up some mistake on the cover. In truth it was part of a new branding program intended to differentiate the products for the new Basic D&D game. Bruce Heard explained in Dragon #174 (October 1991), saying: "a dragon icon indicates an adventure module; a sword-and-shield icon denotes a common supplement; a scroll (like on the side of the D&D boxed set) designates rules; and, finally, a castle indicates a special accessory containing 3-D material or special components."

Origins (I): From the DDAs to Thunder Rift. The basic D&D line had been in flux since the publication of The New Easy To Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), or the black box, some seven months earlier, and that continued to be the case for "The Dymrak Dread". When Nephew signed his contract on September 11, 1990, he was asked to write a 32-page adventure, and planned to intricately connect it to all of the previous adventures in the "DDA" series. This was the book that was advertised in the "1991 TSR Product Catalogue" (1990). However by 1991, Nephew was being asked to cut his book back to a mere 16 pages and was being asked write a fairly simple dungeon crawl.

This caused a real schism with the previous adventure in the "DDA" series. DDA3: "Eye of Traldar" (1991) had advertised that DDA4: "The Dymrak Dread" would be a sequel. Presumably the characters, on the run from the Baron of the Black Eagly Barony, would visit Luln before taking the Eye of Traldar to the seer at the Lake of Lost Dreams. But that all went out the window as well.

These changes were the result of TSR deciding to turn Basic D&D into a very introductory line — at least in "entry level" modules, like "The Dymrak Dread". This new trend toward simpler, shorter, and less detailed adventures would reach its full height a few months later. TSR never published any "DDA" adventures after "The Dymrak Dread", instead replacing it with the new "Thunder Rift" line, the first of which was "Quest for the Silver Sword" (1992).

Origins (II): What Could Have Been. The published "Dymrak Dread" is quite different from the adventure that John Nephew originally planned, and those changes begin with the name. Nephew conceived of the Dymrak Dread as a magical war machine created by the goblins and now gone mad. Instead the Dymrak Dread would end up being just a goblin chief. Nephew also planned to have one of the goblins in this new adventure be related to Yalag from DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990); meanwhile, he'd connect the adventure up with the pursuit and the Eye of Traldar from DDA3: "Eye of Traldar". The intended plot was quite complex, involving Boris Torenescu of Karameikos as well as the Black Eagle Barony and two different tribes of orcs. There would be a siege of Luln and high-level political manipulations.

But that was all put to the wayside by the simplification of the "entry level" Basic D&D line.

Origins (III): Quieting the Mob. Bruce Heard clearly knew that this simplification would have critics. As he said in Dragon #174, "I can already hear some grumbling out there." However, he told players it would ultimately be for the good of the Basic D&D line: "Please understand that the more new gamers these types of products are able to bring in, the more likely we will later be able to increase the number of products that are so dear to you." So the plan genuinely was to produce products for the Basic D&D line that TSR knew current players wouldn't like, in the hope that more complex products could be brought out later.

And TSR did produce a final few "Challenger" products for the Basic D&D that had more depth, from Wrath of the Immortals (1992) to Champions of Mystara

Origins (IV): Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Though John Nephew continued to write for TSR, he was also working on his own company, Atlas Games. Some of his brainstorming and notes for "The Dymrak Dread" was written on the back of dot matrix printouts of the laid out pages for "The Sorcerer's Slave" (1990), an adventure for Ars Magica.

Adventure Tropes. As with most of the adventures for the black box D&D game, "The Dymrak Dread" begins characters at the entrance to a dungeon, and is then a dungeon crawl.

About the Components: Maps. "The Dymrak Dread" supports black box D&D in another way. Just like the original box, it features a battle map for exploring the dungeon, as well as standup cardboard miniatures of a few player characters and all the major monsters. A more typical map, that could be referenced in the pages of the module, is notably missing — causing some consternation for GMs.

The Thunder Rifts modules would find a better balance by including two different maps: one for GMs and one intended as a battle mat.

Exploring the Known World. The Dymrak Forest had previously been featured in B10: Night's Dark Terror (1986) and so this lower level "Dymrak Dread" adventure could have been a prequel. But it's not so much, primarily due to the lack of information on the setting. Oh sure, there are details on a band of marauding goblins and their lair, but there's no background beyond that. This was a purposeful trend in the new black box DDA adventures, which had previously seen a dearth of information on the Black Eagle Barony in DDA3: "Eye of Traldar".

About the Creators. Nephew got into the roleplaying business through Lion Rampant and his own company, Atlas Games, but he also tried his hand at freelancing. This was his fifth Known World book, following PC1: "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" (1989), DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990), and DDA2: "Legions of Thyatis" (1990) and HWR1: "Sons of Azca" (1991).

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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Reviews (1)
Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Zia M October 12, 2016 2:57 am UTC
PURCHASER
Cardboard stand-ups are there, but the fold out map is missing. As noted in the article, this is the only map of the dungeon in the set.
Customer avatar
Andrew K October 17, 2016 9:25 pm UTC
That is a pretty big gap! Thank you for posting that Zia.
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Product Information
Author(s)
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Pages
16
Edition
1.0
ISBN
1-56076-073-7
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TSR 9272
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on October 11, 2016.