Gygax’s AD&D Modules

So we all know who Gary Gygax was.  We know that he wrote the core rulebooks for 1e AD&D.  But what about the modules?  After all, that’s the goal of my project: to play through all of Gygax’s AD&D modules!  So which ones would that be?  Let’s review all seventeen of them in chronological order according to their publication:


1978 was a prolific year for Gygax.  The AD&D Monster Manual had been published in December 1977 with the Players Handbook to follow in June 1978.  So in 1978, Gygax released seven modules in conjuntion with the release of the game:

The Giant Series

G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
G3: Hall of the Fire

This series was released at Origins ’78, each module intended for “tournament play.”  The adventure was run for players at the convention and then it was released for sale.  Intended for characters levels 8-12, these modules were no walk in the park.

The Descent Series

D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth
D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
D3: Vault of the Drow

This series was released at GenCon XI, again for “tournament play,” which again means most parties died.  Players needed characters between levels 9-14 to endure this difficult road.  These modules introduce the drow to the D&D universe.

The Special Series

S1: Tomb of Horrors

That’s right!  The infamous TPKing slaughterhouse was released in AD&D’s first year of existence.  Gygax had actually been using an unpublished version of it for a few years to test players’ skill and acumen.  Many self-professed heroes perished in the halls of that tomb.  It was a bloodbath.

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CtD Podcast, Episode 5: Character Creation

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For our fifth episode, I sat down with my brother in Memphis, TN to discuss character creation for AD&D.  We hear about both of our experiences creating characters for other games and how AD&D contrasts with them.

A few affiliate links to works referenced in the show:

And now, the podcast:



Modules for Learning to DM AD&D

New DM for AD&D?  Want to know where to start?  Me too.  I’ve never DMed this system, let alone played it.  So I may be getting ahead of myself.  Regardless, I took everyone’s advice and started at square one:

T1 – The Village of Hommlet

For many players, this was their first experience of AD&D.  A very sandboxy Gygax module featuring a sleepy town with more than meets the eye.  And, of course, a dungeon.  What sets this module apart from others that I have read is this: there is no quest, no storyline, no plot.  Only very detailed and interesting setting.  For a beginner DM, this could be very challenging.

But what other options are out there that support new DMs and new players?  A challenging question, to be sure.  Hommlet is Gygax’s only introductory AD&D module.  But there are a few out there that I’ve tracked down.


N1 – Against the Cult of the Reptile God

Another village.  With yet more secrets.  I think a pattern may be forming.  This module was actually written specifically for new DMs, so it might actually be my first recommendation for those looking to learn.  If I were not trying to go through all of Gygax’s work, this module would probably be the one I started with as a DM.

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Progressive Revelation of AD&D

Within orthodox Christianity, there’s a concept called “progressive revelation,” which means that God did not reveal everything about Himself at once to humankind.  Otherwise, who knows what would’ve happened?  Maybe our heads would have exploded, a lá Dogma.

Dogma-Bethany-and-friendsRegardless, the Christian God chose to reveal Himself in baby steps.  And I like to think that Gary Gygax did the same.

As I have mentioned before, AD&D was released in this order:

Monster Manual (December 1977)
Players Handbook (June 1978)
Dungeon Masters Guide (August 1979)
[These dates come from this unbelievably helpful site]

As a result, the ruleset was somewhat incomplete until all three books were released.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in combat and character creation.  Since I wrote at length about combat and initiative order last week, let’s focus on character creation this week. Continue reading

CtD Podcast, Episode 3: The Gygaxian Tone

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For our third episode, we commemorate the birthday of the late Gary Gygax, Dungeon Master par excellence!  In an effort to remember him well, we explore a number of quotes that I’ve chosen that accentuate his personality and role in relation to the roleplayers.

A few links to sites referenced in the show:

And without further adieu, the podcast:



CtD Podcast, Episode 2: Which Edition Now?

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In my sophomore episode, I am joined by Daniel Fisher, podcaster for Innroads Ministries and owner of  I enlisted him to help me sort out the early history of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as why we call AD&D “first edition,” when it wasn’t actually the first D&D.

A few links to sites referenced in the show:


And without further adieu, the podcast:



AD&D Players Handbook: The Best

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The 1e AD&D Players Handbook is the best RPG rulebook that I’ve ever read.  I say that without any qualification whatsoever.  Here are my reasons why:

  1. This picture on the title page.  It sums up  the very essence of the book and the game. is seeking to harness the Tolkienesque ambiance of the Lord of the Rings with the help of a die.  I actually didn’t even notice the die in the picture until my third or fourth time looking at it.  And really, the game should function the same way.  The fantasy is primary–the dice, secondary.  Whether or not that is how it turns out still waits to be shown (to me).
  2. I actually read the whole thing in one sitting.  And I enjoyed every second of it.  Now granted, it’s only 126 pages and I may have skimmed a bit here and there, but it was an absolute blast to read.  It’s just plain fun.
  3. The organization is pretty remarkable.  I commented previously on the shoddy organization of the Dungeon Masters Guide…not the case with the PHB.  Basically, the book takes the player step-by-step through character creation, reserving some of the more space-intensive matters (spells) for later.Additionally, the way that Gygax references items that would come later or had come before really showed that he had a command of this book’s organization.  It is well thought-out, easy to process, and if something is going to be left unexplained for a time, he tells you.
  4. How blatantly Gygax is ripping off Tolkien.  On the ranger table (pg. 25), a level three Ranger is called “Strider” and levels 10-12 are called “Ranger Lord.”  This theme continues in the Dungeon Masters Guide.
  5. This explanation of hit points, which makes more sense than any other RPG (whether print, or video):It is ridiculous to assume that even a fantastic fighter can take [85 hit points, the equivalent of four huge warhorses]. … Thus, the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces.So every hit point is not actually physical damage, but rather it represents the gradual wearing down of the character, as it battles and expends its energy and skills to survive.
  6. Hirelings and henchmen.  Players are straight-up encouraged to get NPCs to help them.  I could see this getting old as a DM, but as a player it sounds like a hoot.
  7. There are 60 pages of spells.  Saves you from buying a second book and I appreciate this.
  8. The optional appendices: as much as I want to play rules-as-written, psionics seems a bit complex to add to a first-time campaign.  I’m glad to feel like it’s an optional bit.

The things you might not like

Just because it’s the best RPG rulebook I’ve read doesn’t mean that it’s flawless.  I’m trying my best to reserve criticism or negative judgments until I’ve played.  And I do plan to play (at first) rules as written.  But here are a few things I can tell might be less-than-preferable:

  1. Determining characteristic scores randomly, but then limiting the races, classes, and even genders on those randomly chosen numbers.  Seems like it could be cumbersome for the player who came to the table with a clear character concept beforehand.
  2. It does seem pretty apparent that a lot of classes are squishy, especially the Magic-User (which has only 1d4 Hit dice, meaning a possibility of 1-4 hp at Level 1).  Heaven help you if you start with 1 hp.  With this game, it seems apparent that you really do need to start with at least 4-5 characters created, because characters will die.

All in all, this book may have absolutely sold me on the system.  I got into a conversation with some guys the other night who were lauding 5th Edition.  My only response was, “I don’t know, 1st Edition AD&D seems to have captured by curiosity.  It could even be the best…”

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Have you read it?  What would you add?  Sound off in the comments below!

Chasing the Dragon: The Beginning

There’s just something about the first time you play a roleplaying game–the newness, the mystery, the excitement, the fun!  As soon as my first session was over, I wanted to play again.  And in many ways that initial experience of roleplaying compels us to keep going.  In the drug subculture, they call it “chasing the dragon,” always trying to recapture that initial experience–trying to get back to that first high.

Despite the necessary warnings attached to such an endeavor, I have decided to chase the dragon.  Which dragon, you ask?  The advanced one, of course.

In 1977, the first AD&D rulebook was released.  Gary Gygax had taken the kernel of an idea that was original D&D and developed it into its own independent game.  And thus, modern roleplaying games were born.  Unfortunately, I was not yet born.  When I first saw the light of day in 1983, AD&D books were already in their 7th printing.  It was a bit before my time.

In fact, I didn’t start roleplaying until 2011, using the oft-maligned 4th Edition D&D.  Maligned or not, me and my friends enjoyed it for quite a while.  For three years in fact.  Eventually I grew tired of the system (for a whole host of reasons) and I moved on to other games, most relevantly the FFG Star Wars RPG.  But when 5e starting getting really good reviews, I found myself wanting to go back to the swords and shields…yet I was left with a nagging question:

Why play 5th Edition, when I could play 1st Edition?  Why play new modules and scenarios, when I haven’t even played the oldest, most revered, and most nostalgic?

So I envisioned a project, which I’ve called Chasing the Dragon.  It’s all about going back in time and recapturing the experience of the first D&D players.  I’m learning the rules of 1st Edition AD&D from the ground up.  And then I intend to either DM or play through every module written by Gary Gygax.  And I’m going to chronicle this process here on
Every Tuesday and Thursday, you can expect new content.  It may be short and sweet.  It may be a full-length podcast.  It could be recordings of live-play!  The sky (and my schedule) is the limit.  So, grab your sword and put on your running shoes, because we’ve got a dragon to chase.
Have you ever played 1e AD&D?  What advice would you give me?  If you’ve never played it before, why not?  Answer below in the comments!