How different things seem now from when you undertook the crushing of a few rebellious hill giants! What seemed a simple adventure has turned into a major expedition. Much time has passed since you discovered the conspiracy that led you to the frost giants, fire giants, and eventually to the long-forgotten Drow. Through your encounter with the dark elves, you have found the true source of the evil -- the demon queen Lolth!
This module is the exciting conclusion of a series of seven AD&D modules. It may be played on its own or as the climax of the "Giant" series (G1-G3) and the 'Drow' series (D1-D3). The first of a new series of other-planar adventures, this module includes several new monsters, maps of the Demonweb and lair of Lolth, and notes on eight alternate worlds, suitable for expansion and addition to existing AD&D campaigns.
For characters level 10 to 14.
Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980), by David C. Sutherland III, was the seventh and final book in the GDQ sequence that TSR began publishing in 1978. It appeared in October 1980 under TSR's new full-color adventure trade dress. The next year, the original "Giants"-series and "Descent"-series adventures were brought up to the same standards in a series of three reprints, covering G1-3, D1-2, and D3.
The Official Story. As the seventh adventure in a path that ran through G1-3 (1978) and D1-3 (1978), most folks expected the finale to be by the same author — which is to say Gary Gygax. Instead, Dave Sutherland was brought in to finish up Gygax's epic. In a preface to "Queen of the Demonweb," Gygax explained why: He said that "The Temple of Elemental Evil" (then also unfinished) had kept him from finishing Q1 because they were too similar in nature. He also praised Sutherland's work to the outer planes, saying that he'd personally chosen to put the adventure into Sutherland's "capable hands" and that the result was "a superior design" and "a fitting climax" (to the adventure path).
The Real Story. It turns out that Gygax was putting on a good face, and that Q1 was in fact produced against his express wishes, apparently at the insistence of Gygax's partner, Brian Blume. It would be the first outward sign of a division in the company that would lead to its takeover by Brian and his brother Kevin in 1982, and Gygax's subsequent exile to California (where he'd get the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on the air).
If you look closer at Q1, you can see the cracks - i.e., that it's not actually the sequel Gygax intended. A careful reading of the G- and D-series modules suggests that the villain of the piece was the Eilservs drow clan, who worshiped the Elder Elemental God. If anything, Lolth should have been an erstwhile ally for the player characters in a final adventure against the EEG, rather than a final foe.
Gygax said that the villain got changed after Sutherland discovered the "demonweb" pattern in a hand towel and talked Blume into making Lolth the Big Bad.
New Settings. The entire GDQ series rushes breathlessly through a series of settings that were very unique for D&D at the time. This final adventure's setting - the Demonweb within the Abyss - is the most unique of all. It's so different that are even special rules for how spells work there. The idea of a planar setting would pave the path for everything from the latter T1-4: "Temple of Elemental Evil" elemental nodes to Planescape and numerous other looks at the Outer Planes. It was a truly original innovation.
Killing Gods. The original D&D (1974) and AD&D (1977-1979) have a bit of a reputation for supporting Monty Haul-style games, in which players killed gods and controlled the welath and the fate of nations. That perception was helped along by the fact that Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976) gave stats for gods as if they were just high-level monsters. However, the idea really gained traction here, where Lolth appears as a monster to be killed in room #32 of her spider ship. After that, it was pretty hard to tell players that they shouldn't be slaying deities - especially when the newest deity book, Deities & Demigods (1980), had appeared just months earlier and was once more full of statted gods.
New Monsters. The very iconic drider appear for the first time here, as does Lolth herself.
Future History. TSR rereleased the entire GDQ sequence a few years later in GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders (1987), a 128-page supermodule. Wizards massively expanded the setting in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (2007) for 3e.
About the Creators. David C. Sutherland III was brought into TSR in 1976 as their first staff artist. "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" was his only D&D design, and his only solo design work other than the Tékumel related miniatures wargame, Legions of the Petal Throne (1977).
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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.