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X5 Temple of Death (Basic)
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X5 Temple of Death (Basic)

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Sent on a desperate mission into an unknown land, you must seek out one called "the Master" and his Temple of Death. There is little time to waste, as you must act before the Master's armies destroy your homelands. But to complete your task, you must battle fearsome guardians, travel through a hostile kingdom, and discover the secret of the Master. Can you survive his defenses and win?

This adventure contains referee's notes, background, maps, and detailed keys. It is the second adventure in the two-part Desert Nomads series begun in X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads," but it can stand on its own as a separate adventure. Whether you play "Temple of Death" by itself or as part of a series, the adventure will offer you hours of excitement and fun!

For characters level 6-10.


Product History

X5: "Temple of Death" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook, is the fifth adventure in the Expert series for Basic D&D and the second adventure in the Desert Nomads duology. It was published in 1983.

Pulp Inspirations. As is the case with many of Cook's adventures, "Temple" was clearly inspired by the pulp tradition. The adventure's title, "Temple of Death," makes that clear from the start. We also have desert nomads, a lack of demihumans, a mechanical flying ship, and a maniacal arch-villain with his own pet tigers!

The First Known World Epic Continues. "Temple" is effectively the other half of the epic adventure began in X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983). The players continue their quest to stop a war in the Known World - making "Temple" one of the most pivotal Mystaran adventures to date.

More of the Wilderness. Like its predecessor, this adventure is labeled as a "Wilderness Module," underlining the importance of the wilderness to the Expert Rules (1981). The Great Pass in the Black Mountains has set, numbered locations... but it's really a dungeon delve rather than wilderness. The chapter on Hule and the Dark Wood instead uses the methodology that Cook introduced in "Master of the Desert Nomads": events that occur in unspecified locations, as the GM seems fit.

Expanding the Known World. X5 makes another major expansion of the Known World, this time thanks to the "Map of Hule," which is placed to the west of "The Wilderness Map of the Great Waste" found in the previous adventure. The Great Pass of the Black Mountains, the country of Hule, its Dark Wood, the town of Magden, and the eponymous Temple all get special attention - detailing more of the Known World in the process. Hule later became associated with Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini. This is largely due to a picture of the Master in X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield" (1985) which clearly depicts the Ayatollah. The correspondence isn't obvious here, though Hule is clearly an oppressive theocracy. 

The Known World's moon is also introduced in "Temple"; players can even ascend to it via a magical ladder, though the GM is told he'll have to detail the "Kingdom of the Moon." This was later retconned to be a gateway to the secret Mystaran moon of Patera.

Finally, "Temple" offers up the first look at the flying ships of Mystara, which would also become more important in the future, especially in Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark (1993).

Monsters of Note. There are five new monsters in "Temple," none of which were particularly notable in later Mystaran releases. However, two are interesting for what they say about Mystara's planar realms. (Read on.)

Expanding the Outer Planes.The Malfera is an elephant-faced monster from the "Dimension of Nightmares," while the Spectral Hound is from the "Dimensional Vortex," which is defined as "the void between all dimensions." You won't find either of these realms in AD&D's Great Wheel, so it's interesting to see their placement in Basic D&D's cosmology. Other Basic D&D books such as the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) and CM8: "The Endless Stair" (1987) briefly touch upon these two regions again, so they're apparently canon, though they've never been used very widely.

Whoops! The PCs can gain lycanthropy over the course of the adventure, but the module doesn't say what type!

The Adventure Continues. Cook never intended a sequel to the X4/X5 sequence, but the characters and setting were sufficiently evocative that Michael S. Dobson later wrote X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield", which features the return of the Master and his desert nomads.

Future History. Hule also gets some attention in parts 19-20 of "The Voyage of the Princess Ark," found in Dragon #172-173 (Aug.-Sept 1991) and which were later revised for Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark.

About the Creators. "Temple" was written by Cook during a brief return to Basic D&D, over which he wrote the Desert Nomads duology and M1: "Blizzard Pass" (1983).

The adventure also features artwork by Timothy Truman, which comes across rather stunningly in the electronic edition in what one presumes are the original sepia tones. Truman did artwork on several D&D modules in the early 80s, but he's probably best known for his comic book artwork afterward, including Grimjack (1984-91), Scout (1985-87), and the horror-themed 90s version of Jonah Hex (1993, 1995, 1999).

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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Matt B September 11, 2018 6:03 pm UTC
The POD is a good copy.
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Jay M December 02, 2016 2:05 pm UTC
Direct link for your Temple of Death Conversion guide for 5th Edition games available here at DM's Guild. Find a list of all available 5e conversion guides at the DM's Guild at

Customer avatar
Timothy B December 11, 2017 12:53 pm UTC
Thanks! I was looking for this exact conversion.
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