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D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (1e)

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Having put down a rising of giants, it was discovered that the motivating force behind their depredations was that of long-forgotten evil: the Dark Elves. Determined to seek out these creatures, a body of doughty adventurers mounted an expedition to learn the strength of the Drow and bring retribution to them.

This module contains background information, a large-scale referee's map with a matching partial map for players, referee's notes, special exploration and encounter pieces, a large map detailing a temple complex area, encounter and map matrix keys, and an additional section pertaining to a pair of unique new creatures for use with this adventure and the game as a whole.

A complete setting for playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is contained herein. This adventure can be played

  1. as a standalone module;
  2. as the second part of a series of three modules with D1 "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" and D3 "Vault of the Drow"; or
  3. as the fifth part of a continuing scenario containing G1 "The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief," G2 "The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl," G3 "The Hall of the Fire Giant King," D1 "Descent into the Depths of the Earth," D2 "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa," D3 "Vault of the Drow," and Q1 "Queen of the Demonweb Pits."

For up to nine characters, levels 8th-10th.

Product History

D2 "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" (1978), by Gary Gygax, is the second adventure in the "D" Drow series. It was published in August 1978 for Gen Con XI.

About the Cover. "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" featured one of TSR's early monochrome covers. It was green.

Origins (I): AD&D Ascendant. Like the rest of the Drow adventure series, "Shrine" was written by Gary Gygax as a break while he was working on the AD&D rules. It's labeled as an AD&D adventure, but it was published a full year before the release of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979), which contained most of the game's rules!

Origins (II): The Tournament. Gen Con D&D tournaments date back to at least Gen Con VIII (1975), when Rob Kuntz ran "Sunken City". However, the modern D&D tournament with a focus on small groups running through multiple rounds of play began at Gen Con IX (1976); twenty groups of five players competed. The revolution was initiated by Bob Blake, a member of a northwestern Indiana gaming group called the Valparaiso University D&D Society. Blake ran Gen Con tournaments in both 1976 and 1977; they were later published by Judges Guild as "Gen Con IX Dungeon" (1978) and "Of Skulls and Scrapfaggot Green" (1979).

Meanwhile, TSR had been running tournaments at a variety of conventions, including Origins and WinterCon. At the Origins IV (1978) convention, they dovetailed this work with their publications by running a three-part Giants tournament, then immediately releasing professional editions of those adventures as G1: "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" (1978), G2: "Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl" (1978), and G3: "Hall of the Fire Giant King" (1978). They repeated this idea at Gen Con XI (1978), where they worked with Bob Blake to use Gygax's new Drow adventures as that year's tournament.

Except TSR didn't use all of the adventures. They cut D1: "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" (1978) entirely, though it was offered for sale. D2: "Shrine of the Kuo-Toas" (1978) was instead the first round of the tournament, while D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978) was apparently used for the last two rounds of play.

Bob Blake believed in objectively scoring tournaments. He later explained some of the criteria that used to score "Shrine" in The Dragon #19 (October 1978). Anyone who passed through the shrine, pressing forward in the hunt for the drow, received points. However the most points went to parties that pursued the "perfect" path, which appears to have involved moving nonviolently through the shrine. Points were also awarded for slaying kuo-toa and for surviving the experience.

Origins (III): The Rest of the Con. What else was going on at Gen Con XI? The Dragon #15 (June 1978) reveals some specifics. TSR was pushing Gamma World (1978), which had been released at Origins, and the Players Handbook (1978), which was officially released at Gen Con. There was a Dungeon! (1975) championship as well as beginners' D&D events run by J. Eric Holmes. They were also war game tournaments, showing the origins of the hobby.

Adventure Tropes. "Shrine" exactly matches the format of "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" by leading off with two short encounters, then continuing onto a much longer encounter locale that takes up the bulk of the book.

In many ways, "Shrine" is a much more impressive adventuring locale than any of those previously detailed by TSR. It depicts an entire society of kuo-toa, centered around their eponymous shrine. It's also a more coherent and mature location than the somewhat random collection of monsters found in the troglodyte lair in "Descent into the Depths of the Earth". Finally the Shrine offers the first example in a published adventure of a location that players might not just fight their way through.

Both ideas — of building civilizations and creating locales that could support more than just hacking and slashing — would become even more important in D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978).

Introducing the Underdark. D&D's primordial Underdark first appeared in the caverns of "Descent into the Depths of the Earth". However, "Shrine" really shows the potential of the Underdark by depicting a (small) civilization.

Exploring Greyhawk. Like its predecessor, "Shrine" is lightly set in (beneath) the world of Greyhawk … but you can barely tell.

Monsters of Note. Both the kuo-toa and the sviberfneblin appear for the first time in "Shrine". These races would soon join the drow and mind flayers of "Descent" to become some of the defining races of the Underdark.

Gygax created the kuo-toa because he wanted another non-human race for the Underdark, to complement the drow and mind flayers. He says he made them "out of whole cloth", which probably means that any similarity to H.P. Lovecraft's deep ones was not intentional. (At TSR, Rob Kuntz was the big Lovecraft fan, not Gary Gygax.)

Gygax created the svirfneblin because he was tired of "basically good gnomes hanging around". The svirfneblin were instead gnomes that could "give a party some major headaches". They also referenced gnomes' classic depiction as earth elementals because they had earth elemental summoning abilities of their own.

NPCs of Note. For the first time ever, D&D players are given the chance to meet a god: Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother of the kuo-toa. Notably, Gygax includes no stats for the Sea Mother: PCs are unable to fight her, which is quite different from the direction that D&D would move in with the release of Q:1 "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980).

As for the strange name: Gygax says that it was "onomatopoeic", meant to remind players of "the sound of large drops of water falling into a pool, and splashing in general".

About the Creators. Gary Gygax was of course the co-creator of D&D. He was in the middle of writing the new DA&D rules when he paused to write the Drow adventures.

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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
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Discussions (3)
Customer avatar
Ernie N September 06, 2021 9:03 pm UTC
I've just uploaded a 5e Conversion of D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth with digital maps. Feel free to take a look.
Customer avatar
George F July 04, 2016 4:10 am UTC
Will we ever see the original monochrome versions of D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth & D3 Vault of the Drow?
Customer avatar
Rich F April 12, 2016 12:12 pm UTC
I hope we get the rest of the D and G series in their original, "mono" color versions!
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