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.
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.