A Curse Is on the Land
Daggerford is fairly quiet for a frontier town. Sure, lizard men raid the local baron's holding now and then, orcs sneak out of the Misty Forest to raid caravans on the Trade Way, and Lady Bronwyn has a few suitors who are a touch too passionate, but there's nothing going on that a member of the renowned Daggerford militia can't handle.
Except that the Shining River has turned green, and cattle are dying. Except that the Elf King of Laughing Hollow, a place where no human dares go without fearing for his life, is asking the militia for help. Except that strange substances are oozing from the fissures caused by a recent earthquake. Except that the earthquake also has opened an entrance in the cliffs around the Laughing Hollow that might lead to the fabled dwarf mines of Illefarn.
Suddenly, being a militiaman isn't quite as easy as it used to be.
"Under Illefarn" is the first module produced for use with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set.
N5: "Under Illefarn" (1987), by Steve Perrin, is the fifth book in the N ("Novice") series of adventures for AD&D. It was published in September 1987.
Origins. "Under Illefarn" was designed to be an introductory adventure set in the Forgotten Realms. Ed Greenwood provided some general notes on the area - including how Daggerford got its name and the fact that Illefarn existed - but the adventure proper is the work of designer Steve Perrin.
An Introductory Adventure… for the Realms. "Under Illefarn" follows in the footsteps of N4: "Treasure Hunt" (1987) as the second truly introductory adventure for the AD&D game. To support introductory play, the module includes advice on creating characters, background on the Realms (and the town of Daggerford), and tips on running D&D games. Perhaps more notably, the module provides GMs and players alike with a great home base in the town of Daggerford and a good reason for all of the players to be together: they're all members of the local militia.
Following this first set of episodic adventures, "Under Illefarn" could also be a great starting point for a Forgotten Realms campaign (or some other generic high fantasy setting, with a bit of work) - with Dragonspear Castle, Illefarn, Daggerford, and Waterdeep providing almost everything you'd need for longterm play.
Designing the Adventure. The gargoyles on the balcony in room 41 of "Illefarn" were inspired by the cover, rather than vice-versa; it had been completed before Perrin ever got the assignment. The numerous complex stairways in Illefarn are the result of Perrin trying to give the ruins the feel of a real buried town. Bruce Heard thought this was too hard on the cartographers, though, so Perrin would't use such designs in later books for TSR.
The adventure was rigorously tested by Perrin's normal gaming group. One player even took it and ran it for yet another group, to make sure everything played out smoothly.
Recurring Tropes. "Under Illefarn" uses the (by 1987) old trope of providing a town as a home base for nearby adventuring areas. This practice had originated almost a decade earlier in T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979)
The Early Realms Publications. "Illefarn" was the fifth product for the Forgotten Realms, following I3-5: Desert of Desolation (1987); the novel Darkwalker on Moonshae (1987); H3: "Bloodstone Wars" (1987); and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987), all of which had been published in the previous several months. Unlike "Bloodstone Wars" and the Desert of Desolation trilogy, "Illefarn" was an entirely original adventure that had been intended as a Forgotten Realms publication from the start, and thus it was the first such module. It was also the first Forgotten Realms adventure actually to carry the Forgotten Realms logo.
The coding of a Forgotten Realms adventure as "N5" is somewhat odd. In all, there were only six Forgotten Realms adventures published under TSR's existing module codes, including the H, I, N, and REF series - all of them in 1987 and 1988. Beginning with FRC1: "Ruins of Adventure" (1988), TSR instead published Realms adventures under Realms-specific codes such as FA, FMA, FMQ, FRA, FRC, FRE, FRM, FRQ, and LC. Sadly, many of these codes were much less intuitive than TSR's relatively self-explanatory product codes of the 70s and 80s.
Expanding the Realms. Prior to "Under Illefarn," the Realms seen by the average fan consisted of Bloodstone Pass, the Desert of Desolation, and the Moonshae Islands - a rather varied group of somewhat atypical locations, and none of which were actually part of Greenwood's original conception of the Realms.
Daggerford had been mentioned briefly in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set as a "small, walled community of 40 stone buildings, dominated by the small [castle] of the 'Duke' of Daggerford," but N5 provided the first real details for the area. By doing so, the module also opened up a fourth area of the Realms: the Sword Coast, one of the richest areas for adventuring in TSR's new setting. It was supplemented almost immediately by FR1: "Waterdeep and the North" (1987), which detailed a major city several hundred miles north of Daggerford, but still within the "fallen kingdom" that's at the heart of Illefarn's myths.
Future History. Daggerford gets a 32-page book of information in The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (1996) and is also at the heart of D&D Next's first published adventure, "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" (2013).
About the Creators. In 1987, Steve Perrin was writing products for Chaosium, Hero Games, and TSR. His other major TSR work that year was CM9: "Legacy of Blood" (1987), coauthored with Katharine Kerr.
About the Product Historian
This 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.