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I11 Needle (1e)

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An Adventure for 6-8 Characters, Levels 8-10

The king's notice asked for adventurers to undertake a mission to a far land. It was marked with the rune for "high danger, high reward" so of course you volunteered.

The king has heard of a great obelisk that towers over a ruined city in a far country. He wants to know more about the obelisk and its strange powers. Your job is to find the obelisk and bring back a report to the king. The mission seems absurdly easy...until you reach the jungle.

Don't think the king is through with you if you get back to the capital city alive. You haven't seen the last of that jungle yet. Is a share in the spoils of an ancient civilization worth the risk?

Don't forget to pack you bug repellent!

Product History

I11: "Needle" (1987), by Frank Mentzer, is the eleventh adventure in the Intermediate series for AD&D. It was published in February 1987.

Origins. After founding the RPGA in 1980, Frank Mentzer immediately began writing tournament modules for his new organization. He recalls writing more than 14 of them, though only the first four were published — appearing as R1: "To the Aid of Falx" (1982) through R4: "Doc's Island" (1982).

When Frank moved over to working on the BECMI Basic D&D Set (1983-1986), TSR decided to revamp the "R" RPGA series as the "RPGA" RPGA series (1983), which began publishing Tracy Hickman modules rather than Mentzer's other works. Mentzer's later "R" adventures were either unpublished or instead appeared in the RPGA's Polyhedron magazine.

This was the fate of an adventure that Mentzer has labeled as R11: "Needle". It was a three-round tournament that featured what Mentzer calls "a pretty silly round 3". The adventure was originally published in Polyhedron #24-26 (May/June 1985 to Sept/Oct 1985) in three parts: "Ruins of Empire", "Retrieval", and "The Powers that Be". A few years later, TSR decided to publish it for the mass-market. Under the editorship of Barbara Young, the tournament adventure appeared as I11: "Needle" (1987).

Continuing the Intermediate Adventures. By 1987, the Intermediate series of adventures had been running since 1981, making it one of the longest-running series at TSR. It was best known for the writings of Tracy Hickman — who had contributed I3, I4, I5, I6, and the recent I10.

Publishing an RPGA adventure in the "I" series was something new, but it wasn't the first time material had been recycled into the "I" line — as I3: "Pharaoh" (1982) had originally been released by the Hickmans' own publishing house.

The publication of "Needle" also marked another change in the "I" adventures: it began the move away from the cohesive adventures of the previous years and toward anthologies of different types (be they tournament adventures or true adventure anthologies). This is a trend that would carry through the end of the "I" line in 1988.

Adventuring Tropes. "Needle" is neatly divided into three mini-adventures, one for each round of the original tournament: a quest for a magical obelisk; the return of that obelisk to the king; and a journey into strange lands through the obelisk. It's a great example of how to divide a tournament into rounds while still creating a coherent story.

The first part, "Ruins of Empire", is a very typical adventure for the '80s. It contains an episodic series of wilderness adventures followed by a dungeon delve that includes mazes, traps, and puzzles.

The second part, "Retrieval", was much more innovative for the time. It's an Oregon Trail sort of wilderness trek that features two months worth of events and is quite open-ended. This was all very unusual for the early '80s.

The third part, "The Powers that Be", returns to more typical dungeon exploration — albeit in a very unusual locale.

A Return to Science Fantasy. As was much more common in the '70s and early '80s, this adventure includes some important use of science-fantasy elements. There's a major encounter in "Ruins of Empire" involving technology, then the Needle itself turns out to be a technological artefact! Later parts of the adventure bring players into space, years before the release of Spelljammer (1989).

Monsters of Note. A new race of intelligent spiders called the Black Chak appear in "Needle". They were later revealed by the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994) to be the same species as Mystara's planar spiders, who appeared in M5: "Talons of Night" (1987) and the "IM" series — particularly IM3: "The Best of Intentions" (1987). Though "Needle" was officially a generic module, this might suggest it's actually set in Mystara.

"Needle" also makes good use of both bullywugs and grippli, revealing that they were once one nation that was sundered by a civil war. Most adventures of the era would instead have used lizard men for this role.

Future History. TSR continued to revamp Mentzer's RPGA adventures with I12: Egg of the Phoenix (1987), which reprinted R1-R4, compiled into a single connected adventure.

About the Creators. Mentzer was a prolific writer of adventures during his early years with the RPGA — which continued to benefit TSR and Polyhedron for years afterward. By 1987 when his final adventures were published, Mentzer had already moved on to Gary Gygax's new company, New Infinities, where he was co-authoring Cyborg Commando (1987).

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.

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Heath P December 05, 2021 12:05 am UTC
Please make this available for POD.
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POD would be great.
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