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M4 Five Coins For A Kingdom (Basic)
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M4 Five Coins For A Kingdom (Basic)

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In an instant, the city of Lighthall vanishes from you very midst! In its place come five coins of amazing powers - power to transport you to a realm of fantastic worlds and incredible magic. In this realm, islands float in air and vast armies battle at the brink of oblivion. The return of Lighthall depends on the defeat of one man: the evil enchanter, Durhan the Conqueror.

Surrounding himself with the armies of Volde, Durhan musters his strength for the final assault on Trann. Defeating Durhan insures the preservation of Eloysia. Saving Lighthall, however, is another story. Lost in the raging core of the sun, the city balances on the edge of destruction. The rescue of Trann, its Ruling Wizards, and Lighthall itself all depend upon the powers of the coins - and the brave adventurers who take the quest upon themselves.

For characters of levels 28-32.

Product History

M4: "Five Coins for a Kingdom" (1987), by Allen Varney, is the fourth Master-level adventure for Basic D&D. It was published in May 1987.

Origins (I): More Mastery. Following the publication of the Basic D&D Master Rules (1986), TSR supplemented it with adventures for super high-level play. "Five Coins for a Kingdom" is the fourth of them. However, it's quite far removed from the others in the series. It's not a part of the plot line that ran through M1, M2, and M5 (and to a lesser extent M3), nor does it feature the Big Bad of all the other adventures.

Origins (II): A New Freelancer. After leaving his job as Assistant Editor at Steve Jackson Games, Allen Varney began freelancing more extensively in the gaming industry. His first work for TSR was a pair of books: a Doctor Strange gamebook, Through Six Dimensions (1986) … and the Master-level adventure, "Five Coins for a Kingdom" (1987).

Amusingly, the Big Bads of both books used the same trope: they gained power by draining the life force of hundreds of innocent victims.

Origins (III): A Module Without Maps. When Varney submitted "Five Coins" to TSR, he wanted to emphasize the module's narrative elements. He thus submitted it without maps, because he felt that they weren't needed and that including them could harm the adventure's narrative flow. TSR disagreed; they added 13 maps, a rather high number for an adventure of this length!

Adventure Tropes: A Master Adventure. As planned by Varney, "Five Coins" is primarily a narrative adventure of the sort that would become more popular in the '90s. Its scenes are set in various wilderness and urban areas and are usually limited to a few different encounters each. As with many of the other Master-level adventures, "Five Coins" also includes planar travels and War Machine mass combat.

Varney says that it was difficult devising challenges and offering treasure to players of such high level. He dealt with the latter problem by just teleporting away a kingdom's worth of treasure in the first scene!

About the Media Tie-In. Varney adapted the story of "Five Coins" for his second TSR gamebook, The Vanishing City (1987), which was the fifteenth "AD&D Adventure Gamebook"; it was published about half a year later.

Exploring the Known World. Initial scenes in this adventure are set in Lighthall, a city in Norwold. As usual, this location is assumed to be part of the PCs' own dominion, so it's not actually placed on maps. However, the text very clearly locates it on the "coast of Norwold, about halfway between the cities of Landfall and Oceansend".

More notably, "Five Coins" also introduces the sun of the Known World, and it's not a mystical dimension like the yellow realm from M3: "Twilight Calling" (1987), nor some type of magical phenomenon. Instead, it's a real, super hot, fusion-burning sun. This fit with the conception of the Known World at the time, which was supposed to be the past of our own Earth. So, of course it had to have a real sun.

Exploring the Spheres. Much of "Five Coins" takes place in Eloysia, which is clearly described as an "outer plane" in accordance with the new planar descriptions from the Immortal Rules (1986). It also features a sun and planets, creating an outer planes solar system and foreshadowing the crystal spheres of Spelljammer (1989).

NPCs of Note. "Five Coins" is the only Master-level adventure that doesn't make use of the Immortal Alphaks.

About the Creators. Varney would go on to produce several more projects for TSR. For Known World fans that notably includes the Blood Brothers "HWA" adventure series (1990-1991), for the Hollow World.

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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Amanda R March 08, 2021 7:24 am UTC
no more print?
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It came back
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POD is an excellent copy.
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This title was added to our catalog on July 19, 2016.