The Sword of the Dales, an icon of the Dalelands symbolizing the unity and strength of the people, has reappeared! Created by Shraevyn the weapons-mage hundreds of years ago, the lost Sword had become nothing more than a fantastic children's tale - until now.
A group of warriors led by Randal Morn, rightful ruler of Daggerdale, rushed to the Sword's resting place to recover it, but dark forces awaited them, and Randal and his men fell to an ambush. Only one man escaped, yet he brought with him the hope that Randal Morn yet lives. Resolved to rescue his leader, that lone survivor turned to the great Elminster of Shadowdale for aid.
But Elminster is gone, off plane-hopping while the fate of Daggerbale hangs in the balance. Hence, it is up to Lhaeo, scribe to the old mage, to find a group of heroes who have mettle enough to face down the menace which claimed Randal Morn and his hearty followers...
This is the first of three adventures that grant player characters the opportunity to determine the fate of Daggerdale. The saga continues with "The Secret of Spiderhaunt" and concludes with "The Return of Randal Morn."
"The Sword of the Dales" by Jim Butler is the first adventure in the "Sword of the Dales" trilogy of adventures. It was published in June 1995.
The Fourth Forgotten Realms Trilogy. With the advent of AD&D 2nd edition (1989), TSR began experimenting with the publication of trilogies of adventures rather than the standalone adventures, which had been AD&D's bread and butter in the 70s and 80s. For the Forgotten Realms, this immediately resulted in the "FRE" Avatar trilogy (1989) and the "FRA" Empires trilogy (1990). After that, Realms adventure trilogies were put on hold for a few years, while TSR instead published six standalone adventures through three (!) adventure codes: two "FA" adventures (1990-91), three "FRQ" adventures (1992-93), and one "FRM" adventure (1993).
In 1994, the winds shifted once more. The standalone adventures ended entirely until late 1996, and instead three more trilogies appeared: "Marco Volo" (1994), "The Sword of the Dales" (1995), and "Undermountain" (1996). The "Sword of the Dales" is thus the fourth of five adventure trilogies that were published for the 2e Realms - and the last one that was a proper trilogy, as "Undermountain" featured more scattered adventures.
Though it's called the "Sword of the Dales" trilogy in the introduction to the second adventure in the series, "The Secret of Spiderhaunt" (1995), there's little consensus on the proper name of this trilogy, which has also been called the "Randal Morn" trilogy and the "Daggerdale Adventures" trilogy by different sources.
Another Introduction. As an adventure for characters levels 1-4, "Sword of the Dales" could serve as an introductory AD&D adventure. In fact, it includes a few elements that would be appropriate for an introduction: It starts out in the iconic town of Shadowdale, it gives players a chance to equip themselves, and it also provides a strong reason to go adventuring - in the form of a request for Elminster's scribe, Lhaeo. Yet beyond those elements, it's not a particularly strong introductory adventure such as you might find in the B-series or N-series adventures.
It's All about the NPCs. The Forgotten Realms tends to be about characters, and that's the case here, where the PCs immediately make connections with two of the "great names" of the Realms: They're set on a quest by Lhaeo to save Randal Morn, the leader-in-exile of Daggerdale. The machination of other NPCs underlie the adventure, particularly the wizardess Gothyl, who gets more emphasis in future adventures in the series.
Adventuring Tropes. Though there's backstory underlying the adventure, for the most part "Sword of the Dales" consists of a series of episodic wilderness adventures followed by a short dungeon delve. Adventure plot and backstory was common in the 90s, but most of the adventure could have easily appeared in the 80s.
Expanding the Realms. "Sword of the Dales" is set in Shadowdale and on the Northern Road and the Tethyamar Trail between Shadowdale and Daggerdale. Some of these lands had been previously detailed in FRA1: "Shadowdale" (1989) and more notably in FRS1: The Dalelands (1993). Meanwhile, Daggerdale had been the center of the introductory adventure FRQ3: "The Doom of Daggerdale" a few years earlier; fans suggest this new adventure is set about a year later in the Realms' chronology.
Some of the specific encounters of this adventure add new detail to Shadowdale, Daggerdale, and the lands in between, prime among them the short look at Serpentsbridge on page 12 and the extensive look at the Giant's Craw valley (and of course the tomb within) that begins on page 13.
The Adventure Continues. This trilogy of adventures continues in "The Secret of Spiderhaunt," which was published two months later.
About the Creators. The "Sword of Dales" trilogy was Butler's first published work for TSR. He would produce all three adventures for release in 1995 and then would continue with more Forgotten Realms books in 1996.
About the Product Historian
The 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.