Your peaceful evening has been interrupted by an unusual request. As a thief, your skills are unmatched, but can you rise to the challenge of thieving for a powerful and frightening wizard? Do you have a choice?
"The Gem and the Staff" is a special One-on-One competition adventure designed for one player and one Dungeon Master; the module contains two separate scenarios, so you can switch roles after the first adventure. Scoring sheets and encounter summaries are provided for each adventure to make running competitions quick and simple. Character figures and a map book are also provided to help visualize the adventures. The player's maps are designed so you can see the rooms as they would appear. Complete DM's maps are also included.
This is a One-on-One Competition Module for Thieves, Level 8.
O1: "The Gem and the Staff," by John and Laurie Van De Graaf, was the first adventure in a (short) series of one-on-one adventures for Basic D&D, supporting one GM and one player. It was published in 1983.
A New "X" Series. Prior to 1983, all of the Basic D&D adventures had been coded with either a "B" for Basic adventures or an "X" for Expert adventures. Following Frank Mentzer's revision of Basic D&D (1983), TSR expanded the line with new adventure series. There were three in 1983: the AC ("Accessories") series; the M ("Magic Marker") series of solo adventures; and the O ("One-on-One") series. Of those three, both the M- and O-series would die out in 1983 after just two supplements each.
Origins. "The Gem and the Staff" was originally run as the tournament adventure "Quest for the Fazzlewood" (1978) at WinterCon VII (1978) in Detroit. As was common at the time, copies of the adventure were published for the GM and for additional sale. The Acaeum reports that about 300 copies were printed by Metro Detroit Gamers in 13 looseleaf pages, and that remaining copies of the adventure was sold at WinterCon VIII (1979).
The WinterCon tournament was generally quite notable in those early years; it also featured the first appearance of "The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth" [sic] at WinterCon V Gamefest (1976) and the first appearance of "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" at Wintercon VIII (1979). With such a pedigree, it's no great surprise that the Van De Graafs were invited to turn their tournament adventure in to a TSR module.
Introducing the One-on-One. "Quest for the Fazzlewood" was an experiment. Usually the Van De Graafs had GMed for six D&D players in a 3-hour tournament round when they ran games for local cons. For WinterCon VII, they instead decided to create an adventure where the player and GM would play one-on-one over just 30 minutes of play. The resulting scenario was very specialized, requiring a pregenerated 8th level thief, which in itself wasn't unusual at all for a tournament adventure, but it would seem more restrictive when used as the model for the O-series modules.
Even five years later, when "Fazzlewood" was published as "The Gem and the Staff," the idea of a one-on-one adventure between a player and a GM was still quite unusual. In fact, the TSR publication of the adventure was probably many D&D players' introduction to the idea. After the publication of "The Gem and the Staff," TSR would quickly support the style of play with two more one-on-one adventures from the UK: O2: "Blade of Vengeance" (1984) for Basic D&D; and UK5: "Eye of the Serpent" (1984) for AD&D.
Accessories. "The Gem and the Staff" comes with a few accessories that were unusual for D&D adventures at the time.
The first was an "evaluation sheet" that allowed the GM to score how well the player had done in the game. Sheets of this sort were common tournament accessories and thus had been regularly used by TSR in their "C" series. However, by 1983 it had been three years since the publication of C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980), so this sort of evaluation hadn't been seen in a while. It was also a real first for the Basic D&D line, as all of the other tournament modules published by TSR had been for AD&D.
The other accessory of note in O1 was a booklet of player maps, each of which showed a separate encounter. These were extremely uncommon at the time, though a few had appeared in "The Ghost Tower of Inverness." Expanding on the idea of player maps, "The Gem and the Staff" even included standup figures to be placed on them - foreshadowing the more complex 3D maps that TSR would experiment with beginning with AC3: "3-D Dragon Tiles Featuring The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina" (1984) and continuing into several AD&D supplements in the late 80s.
Expanding the Known World. "The Gem and the Staff" is one of the few Basic D&D adventures that's not officially set in the Known World. Multiple fans at numerous online fan sites have suggested that it would work well in the high-magic region of the Empire of Alphatia.
About the Creators. John Van De Graaf and his wife Laurie were early adopters of D&D. They bought their first copy of D&D from Gary Gygax himself, when he was acting as a vendor at Michicon. John then appeared in The Strategic Review v1 #5 (Winter 1975) in the "Dungeonmaster listing." The Van De Graafs often talked with Gygax in those early days, and some of their campaign gaming elements ended up in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975). John was later one of the elite group invited to the first invitational "AD&D Masters Tournament."
"The Staff and the Gem" was the De Graafs' only publication for TSR, although they stayed involved in the Michigan gaming community through the mid-90s (and are still gamers today). On their own, they published the Yggdrasill Chronicle (an amateur Diplomacy magazine) and ran a PBM company called Graaf Simulations. Their Feudal Lords game was later picked up by Flying Buffalo.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, editor-in-chief at 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.