You hold in your hands the introduction to the world's greatest fantasy roleplaying experience, the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. If you have a taste for excitement, if you're ready to take the next step beyond computer adventure games, this is what you've been waiting for! It contains everything you need to learn the fine art of becoming a Dungeon Master, weaving the interactive stories from which heroic adventures are made.
It all starts with the celebrated Fast-Play Rules, a step-by-step tutorial that shows you the basic concepts of the game in a few quick pages. Then, dive right into "Eye of the Wyvern," and exciting adventure that takes heroes across the wilderness to confront a rampaging wyvern that has devastated the countryside!
Experience roleplaying the way it was meant to be, face to face with your friends, where imagination is your only limit. Welcome to the worlds of adventure.
"Eye of the Wyvern", by Jeff Grubb, is a Fast-Play book for AD&D 2e. It was published in February 1999.
Origins: The Fast-Plays. After Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR, they had to figure out how to get D&D back on track. One of their answers was to build "Fast-Play" books. Though they were branded "Dungeons & Dragons", recalling the defunct Basic game, they linked up with the AD&D 2.5 edition release (1995-1996). At first the Fast-Plays advertised TSR's older Introduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1995) set, but they would soon replace it. In the modern-day, we'd call these books "quick-starts", but back in late 1998 small books that combined cut-down rules with simple adventures were almost unknown; Wizards was breaking new ground.
The Fast-Plays began in late 1998 with an insert that was included in Dragon #251 (September 1998), Dungeon #70 (September/October 1998), and Dungeon #71 (November/December 1998). It included the simplest of rules as well as a short adventure called "The Ruined Tower".
Fast-Plays moved onto Wizards' commercial schedule in early 1999 with "Wrath of the Minotaur" (1999) in January and "Eye of the Wyvern" (1999) in February. Each of these books replicated the material from the original Fast-Start, added a new set of slightly more advanced rules, then ended with a new material. For the 48-page "Eye of the Wyvern" book, that means that the first 26 pages were all repeats … but after that readers got the new "Eye of the Wyvern" adventure.
Expanding D&D. The original Fast-Play insert included a very minimal set of D&D rules. Jeff Grubb wrote the adventure using the same conversational voice that he used when he taught the game live. The GM was instructed what to do at each step as the players moved through an adventure. The rules were most notable for telling the GM what to do without necessarily explaining why; for example in each fight the GM is told the to-hit rolls for each character on each monster and for each monster on each character, but the adventure doesn't explain how those numbers correlate to the AC, class, and level found on the character's sheet. By the end of the original Fast-Play the players had fought monsters, earned experience, and gained loot.
The rules expansions in "Wrath of the Minotaur" and "Eye of the Wyvern" are identical. This time the rules do explain foundational concepts like Armor Class and THAC0s; characters also get more complex abilities and may fight in more complex combat. Finally, characters can level up — and gain minor advantages from doing so.
Adventure Tropes: Into the Wilderness. Both "The Ruined Tower" and "Wrath of the Minotaur" were typical dungeon crawls. "Eye of the Wyvern" introduces the other major D&D setting: the wilderness. However, don't expect a classic hex crawl of the sort popularized in X1: "Isle of Dread" (1981). "Eye of the Wyvern" is very much a child of the '90s, which means that its wilderness is organized into six (or seven) linear encounters.
Exploring The Vale. A large-scale wilderness map shows how "The Ruined Tower", "Wrath of the Minotaur", and "Eye of the Wyvern" all fit together into a micro-setting called The Vale. It's one of the teeniest campaign worlds ever created for D&D.
Enterprising fans at the Pandius web site have linked the Vale adventures to another small, introductory D&D setting: Thunder Rift.
Future History. "Eye of the Wyvern" was the last of Wizards' first series of Fast-Plays. Just a few months later they'd publish a new introductory box, Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game (1999), which was followed by a new style of Fast-Play, "Crypt of the Smoke Dragon" (1999).
About the Creators. Jeff Grubb is probably best known for his work creating the Spelljammer (1989) setting and for his role as TSR's Forgotten Realms scholar. He wrote "Eye of the Wyvern" shortly after returning to TSR in the late '90s.
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.