An omnious encounter with a fortuneteller sends a party of adventurers on a 200-mile journey across the Lands of Intrigue. While traveling throught the towns and terrain (detailed here for the first time) that lie in their path, they hear rumors and obtain clues about their mission. Their ultimate destination is Castle Spulzeer, a once proud stronghold that has become a den of terror.
When the heroes enter the haunted keep, they meet a terrifying trio of residents: a madman armed with stolen magical power, a liche whose secret laboratory houses untold horrors and treasure, and a furious ghost bent on revenge. These three ensnare the party in their fight over an ancient weapon. Each will stop at nothing to keep it from the other two. The heroes must choose with whom they will ally-and the wrong choice could lead to their doom.
Castle Spulzeer is an adventure complete in itself. However, as a crossover story, it offers every Dungeon Master a choice between two endings. The first leaves the party in the Realms. The second transports the characters to the Demiplane of Dread, where the plot continues in the Ravenloft adventure The forgotten Terror.
For 4 to 6 Characters of Levels 8-12
"Castle Spulzeer" (1997), by Doug Stewart, is an adventure for the Forgotten Realms. It was published in October 1997.
Origins (I): After the Crash. "Castle Spulzeer" was originally scheduled for publication by TSR in June 1997. Then, near-bankruptcy causes a total failure of TSR's schedule, resulting in no books being published from February through the very end of July.
Some books would be delayed for over a year, and others would disappear altogether, but "Castle Spulzeer" was relatively lucky: it was just delayed four months, until October 1997. The reason may well have been its theming, and its crossover with the Ravenloft line, which made "Castle Spulzeer" a great Halloween release.
Origins (II): The Forgotten Realms Adventures. The previous year had seen the last yearly trilogy of Forgotten Realms adventures with the publication of three "Undermountain" scenarios (1996). As originally planned, TSR would have offered more and more varied scenarios for the Realms in 1997, including the Four from Cormyr (1997) anthology, Castle Spulzeer itself, the Fall of Myth Drannor (1998) adventure for the Arcane Age, and the Hellgate Keep (1998) Dungeon Crawl.
Adventure Tropes. The adventure tropes of "Castle Spulzeer" are pretty standard. There's encounter-based wilderness travel followed by a dungeon crawl that's focused on a macguffin quest — though there's a bit of variety here as the players are looking for multiple objects.
Adventure Tropes: You and Him Fight. A lot of adventures of this time period ended with a fight between NPCs, while the players watch helplessly. "Castle Spulzeer" threatens this by having three major NPCs appear at the end … but then the players are forced to decide among them. It's a much more interesting use of non-player characters. And then when the NPCs do start to fight afterward … we fade away just in time. (Whew.)
Genre Tropes: Horror. Ghosts! Apparations! Ghastly Murders! "Castle Spulzeer" is full of horror tropes, which was pretty rare for the Realms, which tended to focus on high fantasy and Medieval tropes, but was much more common for another of TSR's lines …
The Intrigue Connection. The back cover of "Castle Spulzeer" boldly states that the adventurers will make a "200-mile journey across the Lands of Intrigue". There was a good reason for that somewhat circular name for the locale: Wizards published a geographical sourcebook of the area called Lands of Intrigue (1997) two months earlier, as one of their first D&D products. "Castle Spulzeer" was clearly intended to supplement that book,
The Ravenloft Connection. Castle Spulzeer has an even more far-reaching connection: its ending can lead players to the demiplane of Ravenloft and "The Forgotten Terror" (1997) adventure. This was probably intended as a bit of advertising for Domains of Dread (1997), the third edition of Ravenloft which was released in August 1997.
In other words: in their last days, TSR was working very hard to cross-market their products, but they didn't live long enough to see the success of the Spulzeer-Intrigue-Dread connection.
Exploring the Realms. Castle Spulzeer was first mentioned in Forgotten Realm Campaign Set (1987) as being the Amn-based center of the Order of the Boar. It got a bit more attention including a map in FR3: "Empires of the Sands" (1987), where it was also revealed as a haunted castle. The castle receives much more comprehensive detailing in this adventure.
However, to get there, players will need to explore a bit more of the Realms. The adventure actually begins in Eshpurta, a town with well-described "places of interest". The adventure then takes players through Amn, revealing the hillforts of Keshla and Torbold as well as the town of Toralth. It's quite a notable tour of this southern Realms land.
NPCs of Note. Charduth Spulzeer was infamously mentioned in "Empires of the Sands" where author Scott Haring gave him an unholy avenger, suggesting that he might be an antipaladin — a forbidden D&D class. He got some pushback for that at TSR, but said "I have always believed that NPCs are not bound by the rules as player characters are, especially when the rules get in the way of a good story or an interesting characterization." Sadly, that antipaladic weapon has become a +2/+5 intelligent battle axe here, and Spulzeer is revealed as a fighter/magic-user. Spulzeer will become the darklord of Aggarath in "The Forgotten Terror" for Ravenloft.
Kartak Spellseer, a put-upon lich that appears here, also got his start in "Empires of the Sands".
About the Creators. Stewart was an author and editor at TSR in the mid '90s. "Castle Spulzeer" was one of his last works for the company, alongside "Children of the Night: Ghosts" (1997). Afterward he'd briefly join the TSR expatriates at Imperium Games, writing for the T4 game (1996).
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.