14 February 2015

The Classic D&D Campaign Settings part 3: Gateways to the Known World

The Known World, later rebranded as Mystara, is a rather sprawling, large campaign, and choosing where to begin can be a little daunting to a DM or group just getting started. In this installments of the campaign settings overview, we'll look at two options that are ideal for those groups, or even for a DM who just wants a smaller scale map with some settlements and a wilderness in which to place his adventures.

The Thunder Rift
Many Classic D&D players who got their start in the early 1990s cut their teeth on the Thunder Rift campaign, a small scale "world" made up of a large valley about 40 or 50 square miles in area. The Rift is home to a handful of settlements, as well as a fully mapped out wilderness with a few planned adventure locales and plenty of room for the DM to add his own. The trick is, Thunder Rift is a demi-plane of sorts; and though some fans have plotted a physical location in the known world for the valley, access between the realms is extremely limited to magical portals. The sheer, towering cliffs that form the valley's walls are impenetrable to mundane methods of escape.

Thunder Rift starts out with the Thunder Rift adventure and setting (TSR 9357) and continues with a short series of adventures that develop the encounter areas noted on the map in that book
Quest for the Silver Sword (TSR 9342)
Assault on Raven's Ruin (TSR 9350)
Sword and Shield (TSR 9387)
The Knight of Newts (TSR 9434)
Rage of the Rakasta (TSR 9435)
In the Phantom's Wake (TSR 9436)

Finally, DMR1 Dungeon Master's Screen (TSR 9437,black cover with green dragon art) include the mini-adventure Escape from Thunder Rift, which allows the heroes to venture out into the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (or wherever the DM wants to put them next).

The 1992 Character & Monster Assortment (TSR 9363) bears the now familiar Thunder Rift graphic presentation on its cover, but it's just a collection of fold up 3-d cardboard gaming miniatures and doesn't offer any new material for the Thunder Rift setting.

To those who just want to use the adventures but not the setting, the good news is that these are mostly generic adventures in the tradition of the other Basic D&D adventure modules, and adapt easily to wherever you want to place them.

To learn more and connect with Thunder Rift fans, be sure and visit the Thunder Rift section at The Piazza forums http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewforum.php?f=45

The Barony of Gulluvia
Dungeon module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess exists in two published forms, the original orange covered version, and a revised edition with a green cover. The revised edition replaced some controversial artwork (that supposedly represented some TSR employees in an unflattering light) and more importantly, removed the setting map and a few encounters the PCs face on the way to the Palace. You'll want to get the orange cover version, which sadly fetches insane prices on ebay and online outlets if and when you can find it, but don't fret, for many years, TSR/WotC offered this adventure as a freebie pdf download on their website. Now lost on their site due to years of reorganizations, you should be able to easily find the file for download on google.

The Barony of Gulluvia is technically a part of the Principalities of Glantri, a nation of the Known World, but like the Thunder Rift, it features everything you need to run adventures with no further setting material, including settlements, wilderness areas and of course, the Princesses doomed Palace. If your player bore of the adventure hooks in the small barony, just send them out into Glantri and beyond into the Known World, which we'll examine next time.


  1. I just wanted to point out something Rich didn't mention. The adventures in the Thunder Rift "series" are not a true adventure path, in the modern sense of that term. They just use the same setting, and for all intents, you can play them in whatever order you want, even skipping some completely or adding other Classic D&D, OSR or homebrew adventures as you see fit.

  2. You have forgotten The Goblin's Lair Adventure Pack and The Haunted Tower Adventure Pack, both situated in Thunder Rift.

    These are oversized boxed sets containing three adventures each along with those cardboard minis like in the Character & Monster Assortment, and full-sized poster maps for each dungeon.

    Although not set in Thunder Rift, The Dragon's Den Adventure Pack has the same three adventures, cardboard minis, and poster map contents, and is favored for conversion to Thunder Rift.

  3. I forgot about those as well! Goblin's Lair and Haunted Tower don't expand the setting a whole lot, but like the other TR adventure modules, they are explicitly set there.

    We might have to add Dragon Den's "Greetland" mini setting as another setting option for this series!

    Thanks for the reminder.


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