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The Knight of Newts (Basic)
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The Knight of Newts (Basic)

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Centuries ago in the Black Swamp, Castle Kraal was a well-respected keep. Its warriors defended the folk of Thunder Rift from the marauding bands of ogres and goblins who swarmed to attack from the Horned Hills.

And then one day the keep and all of its warriors vanished, never to be seen again. Now, all these years later, historians are still trying to find the answers to the disappearance of Castle Kraal, answers which may be hidden in Kraal's ruins. The heroes are asked to investigate and to try and solve the mystery.

Be Warned: Not every mystery wishes to be solved! Recommended for beginning players and DMs For use with the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Game Box.

Product History

"The Knight of Newts" (1993), by Dale "Slade" Henson, is the fourth Thunder Rift adventure. It was published in February 1993.

Origins: Simple Adventures. The Thunder Rift adventures (1992-1993) were written to support the black box The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991). TSR offered a transition from the black box rules to the more complex Rule Cyclopedia (1991) in the "Escape from Thunder Rift" adventure, found in January's DMR1: Dungeon Master Screen (1993), but they weren't done with the Thunder Rift yet! "The Knight of Newts" went right back to the introductory well with a new adventure for first to second level characters.

Graphic Tropes. As usual, this Thunder Rift adventure features a map for the GM, complete with locale descriptions, a battle map for the players, and cardstock figures for use on the map. However, new mechanics in this new module would put that "GM's map" to new use …

Adventure Tropes: Choose Your Own Adventure. "Knight of Newts" was a first in the Thunder Rift series: it optionally allowed for "Playing without a DUNGEON MASTERtm".


Unlike most GM-less D&D play, "Knight of Newts" is still a multiplayer adventure, and the GM-less play is quite primitive. The players get to see a map of the whole dungeon (using either the battle mat or the "GM" map), and a "Caller" reads aloud descriptions as the players enter new rooms. Players decide what to do based on the descriptions, then they go to the adventure text … and see if it actually supports their actions (and if so, they read the results).

This GM-less caller-based play style would be used in the all of the remaining Thunder Rift adventures.

Adventure Tropes. Like most of the Thunder Rift adventures, "Knight of Newts" is essentially a dungeon crawl (or, a ruins crawl if you prefer). There's a little bit of narrative at the beginning, set in a town, then the module suggests that a GM could roleplay the journey to the dungeon (if there is a GM!). But those are the only optional variations of the simple Thunder Rift format.

Expanding D&D. Some of the later Thunder Rift adventures included rules to expand the bore-bones black box. This one has a few rules for swimming and diving.

Exploring Thunder Rift. "Knight of Newts" starts in Melinir, the town described in the Thunder Rift sourcebook. However the main adventure takes place in the Ruins of Kraal, in the Black Swamp. Like the Keep of the Black Knight in Sword and Shield (1992), this is a locale originally described in the "Rumors of Thunder Rift" section of the Thunder Rift sourcebook.

Monsters of Note. This adventure introduces a new monster, the new, a "bipedal frog-like amphibian". They're otherwise unknown in Basic D&D lore, but they're clearly a variant of the bullywug, introduced in the Fiend Folio (1981). The name change was probably due to the fact that Basic D&D was theoretically based on OD&D and couldn't copy newer concepts from AD&D without potentially running into legal problems.

About the Creators. Henson did work for TSR throughout the early '90s. This was his first adventure for Thunder Rift; it would be followed by "In the Phantom's Wake" (1993).

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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Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Patrick D March 28, 2020 2:40 pm UTC
Would anyone know if this particular download includes the mentioned "DM Reference Map" mentioned on page 4? That map is " addition to the large poster map..." There are other PDFs of this module out there that don't include that map. My printed original is shrink-wrapped and I'm loathe to open it just to find out. Thanks!
Customer avatar
Michelle S September 27, 2020 1:48 pm UTC
There is a second map but, it seems to be missing a lot of the information that is mentioned in the module. There is no mention of traps, monsters etc. I’m uncertain about the one that is on the inside cover of the original module.
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TSR 9434
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File Last Updated:
November 12, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on November 15, 2016.