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A Hero's Tale (2e)
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A Hero's Tale (2e)

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Behind every great hero is a story - a tale of brave deeds, cunning plans, self-sacrifice, and bold fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds.

A Hero's Tale is a collection of nine short adventures, each slightly more challenging than the one before and suitable for any campaign world. Use them for a change of pace between larger quests or to sidetrack the heroes during major missions.

Each adventure can stand alone, but if played in sequence they tell a connected, gradually unfolding tale of magic and chaos.

Product History

"A Hero's Tale" (1996), by Monte Cook, is an adventure anthology for AD&D 2e. It was published in July 1996.

About the Title. The title "A Hero's Tale" sounds like a generic description of AD&D 2e adventures, which were generally focused on stories, not delves. But, that's not really what's going on here. The Hero's Tale of the title is actually just a thin connective tissue that ties together nine anthology adventures using the shallow narrative of a hero, Thadeus, who might have undertaken these adventures himself.

Origins (I): The Generic Adventures. Though settings were the order of the day during the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000), TSR did publish occasional generic adventures, with the numbers slightly increasing during TSR's last few years. "A Hero's Tale" is one of the lesser known generic adventures from that time, positioned between better remembered releases like "Labyrinth of Madness" (1995) and "The Gates of Firestorm Peak" (1996).

Origins (II): Chaos & Law. D&D's core ideas of law and chaos probably originated with Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion series (1961-Present). Elric of Melniboné famously fight for chaos, Hawkmoon sided with the Runestaff and the Balance, while Corum fought for law. Law, chaos, and neutrality were in turn the original three alignments found in OD&D (1974), before Good and Evil ever reared their heads.

In latter days, chaos and law were still somewhat important to AD&D, especially for how they showed the difference between demons and devils. However they were largely eclipsed by the eternal battle between good and evil. "Labyrinth of Madness", also by Monte Cook, was one of the first adventures to really put chaos center stage, with a cult that worships chaos and destruction. "A Hero's Tale" expands upon that trope, as chaos infiltrates the mundane world.

Adventure Tropes: Side Quests. "A Hero's Tale" is more than just an anthologized series of adventures. It's a set of "side encounters", or if you prefer "interludes", which were designed to easily fit amidst other adventures.

However, "A Hero's Tale" is also more than that. These interludes are very loosely connected: the first adventure releases chaos; the middle adventures show the effects of growing chaos; and the last adventure resolves the problem of chaos. As such it forms an episodic campaign, revealed in bite-sized pieces amidst a longer series of adventures. This is a rare but intriguing model for adventures that's appeared only infrequently in professional publications.

"Secrets of the Towers", by Larry Church" for Dungeon #10 (March/April 1988) was a rare predecessor for this style of play at TSR. Day of the Beast (1998) was a roughly contemporary book that this historian produced for Chaosium's
Call of Cthulhu game, as an expansion of the less-episodic Fungi From Yuggoth (1984). Eden Studios dove into the format a few years later with some of their d20 adventures. They called them "vignette books"; the first was Akrasia: Thief of Time (2001).

Exploring the Planes. "A Hero's Tale" is largely set in a generic world, but the last chapter travels to Abados, a "demiplane", which is to say a "tiny pocket dimension" in the Ethereal Plane.

NPCs of Note. Shalshinis, a lamia noble, makes an appearance in the last chapter of "A Hero's Tale". She's notable because her lost twin sister, Shslinsi, can be found in "Labyrinth of Madness". This creates an additional tie between the two adventures, beyond the chaos found in both.

About the Creators. Former Rolemaster writer Monte Cook made his debut at TSR in 1994, but 1995 was the first year that saw multiple products from him, across four different lines. By 1996, Cook had become the goto-Planescape, but that didn't stop him from producing one last generic adventure as well.

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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File Last Updated:
July 26, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on July 26, 2016.