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HWA1 Nightwail (Basic)
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HWA1 Nightwail (Basic)

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Under the ruins of Barleycorn Monastery, a tunnel leads one thousand miles downward. Through it a rescue mission into the Broken Lands turns much stranger. Much more serious. For the trail leads to the Hollow World.

Launch your D&D game players into fabulous lost-worlds adventure across the Hollow World! Travel the Azcan Empire. Explore the secret labyrinth of the Great Pyramid in Chitlacan. Fly to the core of the world and enter the Smoking Mirror, before the monstrous Prince Kano enacts his devastating scheme? a scheme called: Nightwail!

Product History

HWA1: "Nightwail" (1990), by Allen Varney, is the first of the Hollow World Adventures and also the first of the Blood Brethren trilogy. It was published in October 1990.

Origins (I): Evolving Adventures. Beginning with the November 1978 publication of B1: "In Search of the Unknown" (1978), TSR carefully organized almost all of its Basic D&D (1977, 1981, 1983) adventures into the B, X, C, M, and I lines; each adventure clearly noted its levels of play and thus the set it was intended for. Most of those lines ended in 1987 when TSR instead began publishing the "GAZ" series of setting books. A few years later, B11: "King's Festival" (1989) and B12: "Queen's Harvest" (1989) ended the long-running series.

But that doesn't mean that TSR was done with Basic D&D adventures. Instead, they created new adventures that complemented the Gazetteer line by being set even more strongly in the Known World. The first of these was DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990). It then made sense that the Hollow World would get its own series of setting-focused adventures following the release of the Hollow World Campaign Set (1990). The first of these was HWA1: "Nightwail" (1990).

Origins (II): Creating the Blood Brethren Trilogy. Author Varney had a pretty free hand when creating his adventures. He would end up designing a trilogy of adventures that spanned three major civilizations in the Hollow World and offered an epic conclusion. His original intent was to make the modules playable in any order once the PCs arrived in the Hollow World — which is why they highlight three different schemes necessary to carry out Thanatos' master plan. However, Varney says that effort was pointless, and it makes sense to just play them in order.

Varney suffered from strong writer's block while working on the HWA adventures; despite that, they're quite widely acclaimed.

Genre Tropes. The Hollow World Campaign Set returned Basic D&D to some of its pulp genre origins, a trope that "Nightwail" continues … when it actually gets to the Hollow World. Once there, characters travel through huge caverns, discover ancient pyramids, see herds of dinosaurs, and foil evil ceremonies. These genre tropes would continue through the entire trilogy, as was appropriate for the Hollow World.

Adventure Tropes. "Nightwail" is a classic introductory adventure. Its beginning is intentionally mundane. The PCs adventure on the surface world, hunting a MacGuffin: two hostage princes. After encountering events and engaging in investigation, the PCs travel through the wilderness to a simple monastery crawl. Only then are the players plunged into the extraordinary lands beneath the Known World.

Exploring the Hollow World. "Nightwail" is the only "HWA" adventure that also details the surface of the Known World. Players begin their journey in Glantri, then move on to the Broken Lands. In the Hollow World, the focus turns to Azca, the Aztec-influenced land that would be further detailed several months later in HWR1: "Sons of Azca" (1991). In all of these lands, the focus is on adventuring. The most useful detailing of these lands probably occurs in chapter 5, which involves an adventuresome traversal from the Known World to the Hollow World.

NPCs of Note. The major antagonist of the Blood Brethren trilogy is Thanatos, the greatest immortal of Entropy in the Known World. He'd been mentioned in numerous previous books, including Dawn of the Emperors (1989) and Hollow World Campaign Set (1990), but this was his first starring role.

The eponymous Blood Brethren are Simm of the Grasping Dark and Koresh Teyd, Nightkiller. They're named after two famous proponents of the Hollow Earth theory, John Cleves Symmes Jr. (1780-1829) and Cyrus ("Koresh") Teed (1839-1908).

The Cutting Room Floor. An encounter involving an ambush on the road to the Broken Lands was written as part of this adventure, but instead appeared as a side trek in Dungeon #28 (March/April 1991).

About the Creators. Freelancer Varney had previously worked for Steve Jackson Games, but was now writing for a variety of publishers. His TSR work started with M4: "Five Coins for a Kingdom" (1987) and now continued with a whole trilogy of supplements.

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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Silver seller
Rule System(s)
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TSR 9303
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File Last Updated:
October 03, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on October 04, 2016.