Friday Night D&D

B11-Kings Fortune
Basic D&D for levels 1-3

Kingsfestival cover
Someone has “borrowed” a cleric, and without him, the fabled King’s Festival cannot go on. Unfortunately, it looks like the orcs have him, and our heroes must rescue him.

B3- Palace of the Silver Princess
Adventure #2


Not long ago, the valley was green and animals ran free through golden fields of grain. The Princess Argenta ruled over this peaceful land and the people were secure and happy. Then one day, a warrior riding a white dragon appeared in the skies over the castle, and almost overnight the tiny kingdom fell into ruin. Now only ruins and rumors remain, and what legends there are tell of a fabulous treasure still buried somewhere within the Palace of the Silver Princess.

This module is for use with the D&D Basic Set and is specifically designed for beginning players and DMs. Contained within are maps of the palace and its dungeons, background information, new monsters and a special preliminary adventure for novice DMs and players alike.

Product History

B3: “Palace of the Silver Princess” (1981), by Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells, was released by TSR in 1981, around the time that the Basic Dungeons & Dragons line was revised with a new Basic Set by Tom Moldvay (1981) and a new Expert Set (1981) by David “Zeb” Cook. However, the widely released green-covered edition of the book was actually its second printing; much of the book’s interesting history centers on what came before.

The Censored Palace. The first printing of “Palace of the Silver Princess” (1981), which instead featured an orange cover, was solely the product of Jean Wells – making it one of the earlier RPG products written solely by a woman, as well as TSR’s first release in that regard. The book was only lightly edited before it was printed. Various interviews suggest that this was because editor Ed Sollers was pretty new at his job; because Gary Gygax, who had hired Wells, asked that there be a “light” editorial touch; or because the book was on tight deadline.

When the book came back to TSR, it was sent out to some hobby shops and distributed to employees… and that’s when the problems began. Some members of TSR’s management (including Will Niebling and probably Kevin Blume) didn’t like what they saw in the published module. As a result, they recalled it, getting it back from employees and hobby shops as best they could. Some few copies survived, and they’ve become rare collectors’ items. Most have sold for $600-$800 in the 2000s, though The Acaeum records a March 2008 sale for $3050 as the highest confirmed sale price of any non-unique D&D module.

The exact reasons for the censorship aren’t clear, but Erol Otus’ artwork is most often listed as the culprit. “The Illusion of the Decapus” shows a woman being tortured, and Wells recalls Niebling stating that it was “S&M.” Another picture showed a three-armed, three-headed hermaphrodite.

The text is also sometimes listed as a problem. With its light editing, it may not have been up to the levels of professionalism that TSR for shooting for with its new Basic Set. In addition, the adventure left GMs to fill in monsters and treasures from a listing. The basic idea of teaching GMs how to create dungeons had been used previously in B1: “In Search of the Unknown” (1978), but TSR had since abandoned it in favor of more complete dungeons.

Whatever the exact reasons, Tom Moldvay was given the task of revising “Palace.” He polished up the text, revamped some of the dungeon, removed some of Wells’ unique monsters, and filled in all the blanks. Some of Erol Otus’ artwork was also swapped out, then the adventure was reprinted in its familiar green-covered form for actual distribution.

Less Introductory. Although B3 was an introductory adventure, it wasn’t as simplistic as B1: “In Search of the Unknown” or B2: “The Keep on the Borderlands” (1980), both of which included extensive notes on how to run D&D.

About the Creators. This was Jean Wells’ first and last RPG adventure. She left TSR later in the year, though for reasons having nothing to do with the problems surrounding “Palace.” Tom Moldvay, meanwhile, probably worked on B3 just after he produced the second edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, making it the first adventure mostly written for the “red” D&D Basic Set (though the adventure actually mentions both editions, and Jean Wells’ version of the adventure probably predated the red box).

Finally, this wouldn’t be the only time Erol Otus artwork caused controversy. His work on Oracle Games’ Alma Mater (1982) was part of what caused that RPG to be censored. However, Otus is probably better known for the beautiful and iconic covers he produced for the Basic and Expert sets around the same time.

B1-In Search of the unknown
Adventure #1

17081Module B1: “In Search of the Unknown,” forms a complete adventure for use with Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. It is especially designed as an instructional aid for beginning Dungeon Masters and players, specifically created to enable new Dungeon Masters to initiate play with a minimum of preparation.

In addition to descriptive and situational material, this module also includes special informational sections giving background history and legends; listings of possible monsters and treasures, and how to place them; a list of adventuring characters; tips on various aspects of play for the Dungeon Master; and helpful advice for starting players.

Product History

B1: “In Search of the Unknown,” by Mike Carr, was originally released in November 1978 with a monochrome yellow cover. At the time, it was probably TSR’s eighth adventure. It was also the first TSR adventure by someone other than Gary Gygax. However, its place in history as the first introductory adventure is much more important. This adventure module was later revised and rereleased in additional editions in 1980 and 1981, eventually adopting TSR’s full-color trade dress.

An Introductory Offer. The story of “Search” begins with the first Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977), which was a reorganization of the rules from the original 3-book Dungeons & Dragons (1974) and Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) produced by J. Eric Holmes. Following the publication of the Basic Set, TSR was looking for better introductory material to support it. Enter TSR Games & Rule Editor Mike Carr, who saw the need for an introductory adventure that really taught GMs how to create and stock a dungeon. He offered to write such a product for TSR, who accepted. “In Search of the Unknown” was thus an introductory module for the introductory rule set – making it the ultimate introduction to the game.

An Introduction Inclusion. B1 was immediately packaged as part of the Basic Set – replacing geomorphs and monsters & treasure assortments, which had required GMs to be more comfortable creating dungeons on their own. It appeared as a part of the Holmes Basic Set from late 1978 through the end of 1979, at which time is was replaced by the better-known “B2: The Keep on the Borderlands” (1980).

An Introductory Adventure. The actual adventure leads off with advice about running adventures, but its introductory nature goes beyond that. Designer Mike Carr purposefully included a number of features that he thought players should expect in dungeons, like one-way secret doors, magic mouths, teleport doors, and more. Today, B1 is thus a great example of of the tropes of very early D&D dungeon design, but polished and detailed much better than the typical dungeons of the ‘70s.
*The adventure features one other element of historical note:
The rooms don’t actually list what monsters and treasures they contain. Instead, GMs were expected to fill in those details themselves from lists at the end of the book. This design decision may have been intended to keep players on their toes (as there was concern in those early days that players might read modules they were going to play), or it may have been another lesson in how to create a dungeon. Regardless, the decision wouldn’t be repeated again, with the exception of the recalled adventure “B3: Palace of the Silver Princess” (1981).

Basic or Advanced? When B1 was released, Basic D&D was not yet its own rule system, but rather an introductory set of rules that was intended to lead players on to the original D&D game or the AD&D game. The closeness of the Basic and Advanced lines in those days is revealed in B1’s earliest printings, by the inclusion of a short section that explains how to convert the adventure to AD&D. That section was removed by the time the third printing appeared in 1979, and was the last attempt to overlap the two lines.

Afterward, the lines diverged with the release of the second-edition Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981) by Tom Moldvay, which was by the time of its release considered its own game. That new Basic Set was also the impetus for the printing of the full-color covered edition of “In Search of the Unknown” in 1981.

About the Creators. Mike Carr was able to offer a uniquely introductory vision of D&D because he was only lightly involved with the game – his main interest being historical wargames, including his own Fight in the Skies (1966) / Dawn Patrol (1982). Though he edited later D&D adventures, B1 was Carr’s only D&D writing; however, he later co-authored some Top Secret scenarios.


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