The Dungeon of Death: Who says there's no truth in advertising?
Cryptic rumors spread across the far North, sparking new interest in a shadow-haunted ruin. Although it was once a seat of ancient dwarven power, centuries of unspeakable evil have transformed this former gem mine into the demon-infested, trap-filled Dungeon of Death. Its name is well deserved - unwary visitors fall victim either to the ravenous fiends that reside within the dungeon or to the insidious Shadow Curse that pervades the place. Inside lies a grueling challenge of skill and courage that only the bravest and most experienced heroes will survive.
A deadly dungeon crawl set in the heart of one of the most dangerous and mysterious locales in the Forgotten Realms setting, this stand-alone adventure easily fits within an existing Forgotten Realms campaign, and it can also be incorporated into any other AD&D campaign world with minor modifications. The adventure is for mid-level (5th-9th) characters, which are in high demand by loyal D&D players.
For the first time, D&D players will have access to one of the most mysterious locales from the 1st ed. Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The Dungeon of Death features an elaborate array of tricks, traps, and monsters sure to challenge any party.
"The Dungeon of Death," by Jason Carl, is a Dungeon Crawl adventure set in the Forgotten Realms. It was published in May 2000.
Ending the Dungeon Crawls. The Dungeon Crawls were an ongoing series that kicked off with "Undermountain: The Lost Level" (1996). There were six total, of which five were set in the Forgotten Realms. "The Dungeon of Death" was the last in the series. The Dungeon Crawls were all meant to be short, standalone adventures, usually intended for mid-level characters. Though the Dungeon of Death is clearly set in the Realms, it generally fits these criteria: Setting and background material is kept to a minimum.
However, that background material does contain a very subtle link to "Hellgate Keep" (1998), the previous Dungeon Crawl for the Forgotten Realms. The histories of both dungeons talk about the Blue Bear Uthgardt tribe and their evil shaman, Tanta Hagar. Apparently, this tribe served the nabassu of the Dungeon of Death, but then went off and got killed at Hellgate Keep. Busy guys!
Adventure Tropes. As with the rest of the Dungeon Crawls, this module presents a dungeon adventure of the sort that would have been appropriate in the 70s, backed up with just enough background material to allow it to fit into the rubric of plot-heavy 90s adventure design. Staying with the Dungeon Crawl theme, "The Dungeon of Death" is full of both monsters and traps. Beyond that, it's a very elegant dungeon with a carefully considered ecology and multiple interconnected levels - some of which are very innnovatively mapped out through a flow chart.
Several of the Dungeon Crawl adventures showed how dungeons could be polished and interesting when produced in the 90s, and this one is no exception.
Expanding the Realms. The Dungeon of Death is set in the north of the Forgotten Realms, an area that was first revealed to many AD&D players through R.A. Salvatore's "Icewind Dale Trilogy" novels (1988-90). Over the years, the area was also described in a variety of sourcebooks including FR5: "The Savage Frontier" (1988), Volo's Guide to the North (1993), and The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (1996).
The Dungeon of Death itself was mentioned early on, in FR5: "The Savage Frontier," which revealed many of the details later used in this adventure: "The Dungeon of Death was once a dwarven gem mine. The upper levels, the old dwarven habitats open onto a deep lava bubble. Here the dwarves mined diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other gems. The bubble is quite deep and even the dwarves never delved into its greatest depths."
Those details were repeated in FR11: "Dwarves Deep" (1990) and elsewhere over the years. However, the Dungeon of Death had never received more than half-a-page of description prior to the release of this eponymous adventure; thus, "The Dungeon of Death" represents a considerable expansion of a location within the Realms that had been wrapped in legends for over a decade.
About the Creators. Jason Carl was a game designer for Wizards of the Coast from 1999-2001. During 2000, he also coauthored The Apocalypse Stone (2000) to end 2e campaigns and the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game (2000) to quick-start 3e campaigns.
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.