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REF3: The Book of Lairs (1e)
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REF3: The Book of Lairs (1e)

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DM's how many times have you told your players, " Well, you walked for five days, saw some trees and a few animals, and now you are at the dungeon"? You would like to create more challenging encounters, but who has the time to develop all those mini-adventures that make journeys so exciting?

The Book of Lairs is the first in a series of ground breaking AD&D accessories. This book contains over 60 fully developed adventures that can be easily inserted into any DM's campaign. These intriguing and innovative encounters are ready to play and will challenge player characters of all levels. No longer do you have to spend endless hours devising clever lairs and traps for monsters to spring on your PCs. Why make your player wait while you thumb through books and roll dice trying to scare up a random encounter? Here are ready-made adventures available instantly for almost any terrain and party level.

These adventures can be inserted into your campaign at any time and are adaptable to almost any situation. Rather than introduce new monsters, The Book of Lairs presents a number of familiar monsters in unique settings to provide your players with many unexpected dangers and thrills. Unusual beings are also spotlighted to bring variety and mystery back to your campaign. DMs are sure to find The Book of Lairs convenient, innovative and ultimately invaluable!

Product History

REF3: The Book of Lairs (1986), by James M. Ward and Mike Breault, is the third AD&D REFerence and the first of the Lairs books of short adventures. It was published in September 1986.

About the Cover. Ubiquitous D&D artist Clyde Caldwell offers a very iconic D&D scene, with a party of a dwarf, a fighter, and a cleric (or magic-user) being faced by a lurking dragon. The dragon is green, which was somewhat of a rarity when most artists preferred reds.

This was not a new cover. It originally appeared on Dragon #65 (September 1982).

Origins (I): A New Anthology. D&D's first major adventure anthology was B9: "Castle Caldwell & Beyond" (1985), a freelance submission. However by 1986 TSR had taken the concept in-house and was starting to play with anthology products of their own such as OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986), which featured three shorter adventures. Still, anthologies weren't yet a major part of their production.

Thus, REF3: The Book of Lairs (1986) was a pretty big innovation for the D&D line. It was a full-fledged anthology, published in house. But it was more than that. It wasn't a book of short adventures, but instead a book of briefer encounters, with about 60 of them filling out the 96-page book.

Origins (II): A New Format. The Book of Lairs is also one of TSR's earlier square-bound books. To date, the format had primarily been used for "super modules" like Lankhmar: City of Adventure (1985) and T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985). TSR's decision to also use the format for this book of smaller adventures showed their belief in its importance as a new sort of DM's reference.

Adventure Tropes. The Book of Lairs presents D&D's first attempt at an encounter format. The book even describes it that way, saying that it contains "a series of pregenerated encounters to insert into any AD&D® game campaign". Each encounter is set in a specific sort of terrain and focuses on a specific monster, usually in his home lair. In other words, the lairs also demonstrates the combat focus of D&D play.

Surprisingly, the lairs lack maps, creating more work for GMs — and varying from the later encounter format that D&D would adopt during the 4e era (2008-2012).

Monsters of Note. The Book of Lairs largely focuses on D&D's more standard monsters, including most of the classic undead (from skeletons to a lich) and many of the classic humanoids (from goblins to ogre magi). The weirdest monsters are probably buckawns, a little known woodland brownie from Monster Manual II (1983), and the hu hsien, a single entry from Oriental Adventures (1985). The majority of monsters run from 3 to 8 HD, with vampire bats and rats picking up the low end (at 1/4 HD) and the lich picking up the high end at 18 HD.

Future History. There were many follow-ups to this book including REF4: The Book of Lairs II (1987), RR2: Book of Crypts (1991), SJR8: Space Lairs (1993), DLT2: Book of Lairs (1993), and Forgotten Realms Book of Lairs (1994). AC10: Bestiary of Dragons and Giants (1987) and REF5: Lords of Darkness (1988) were very similar, but tended to have longer adventures.

About the Creators. Ward was a long-lived TSR staffer best known for his work on Metamorphosis Alpha (1976) and Gamma World (1978). Breault worked for TSR for just a few years from 1984-1989 and primarily stayed on the editorial side of things; after his work on the Pool of Radiance AD&D computer game, he would move over to freelance work, mostly for video games.

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

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John S January 09, 2021 5:21 am UTC
Print on demand please!
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Antonio W December 06, 2020 1:34 am UTC
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Stephen H April 09, 2020 7:14 pm UTC
I would love a hard copy of this. Print on demand please.
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File Last Updated:
October 24, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on October 25, 2016.