Saturday, July 17, 2021

JG 102: The Caverns of Thracia

"The Caverns of Thracia" was the first in a series of dungeon adventures published by Judges Guild, written and illustrated by Jennell Jaquays, for use with D&D, (followed by "The Book of Treasure Maps").

Full-page advertisement for JG 102 "The Caverns of Thracia" appearing in The Dungeoneer #16 (March/April, 1980).

Originally designed for characters of the 1st and higher levels, its re-release for the d20 system/3.5 in 2004 by Necromancer Games was for characters of 3rd-8th level.

A rumour table "The Taverns of Thracia" is presented in the style of module B1 "In Search of the Unknown" (published by TSR several months earlier).

Jaquays has explained that her intent was to create a scenario using "beast men" (gnolls, lizard men, jackalweres, and minotaurs) as opposed to orcs/goblinoids.

The four level dungeon, including a massive underground cavern, is a landmark of three-dimensional design, and years ahead of its time.

AD&D vs. D&D:

Jacquays had just completed "Dark Tower", the first Judges Guild adventure approved for use with AD&D.  "The Caverns of Thracia" was to be the second.

After much of the work had already been completed, approval for Judges Guild to publish adventures for use with AD&D was apparently rescinded.

This necessitated some adjustments (such as changing jackalweres to "dog brothers"*) although certain AD&Disms persisted (the 9-point alignment system is used).

*one could substitute lupins for dog brothers if running BECMI

Spell progression is per OD&D, although a few spells (such as animate dead) are taken from the 1e Players Handbook.  (There is also a gnome illusionist).

Greek Mythology:

In the Caverns of Thracia there exists a religion that may not exist elsewhere.  These are the worshippers of Thanatos, the death god or as he is currently called "The Dark One".

Notes for the Judge, The Caverns of Thracia

In addition to a death god inspired by Thanatos,* other gods of Greek mythology are mentioned, including Zeus, Athena, and Apollo.

*there is a powerful immortal in the Sphere of Entropy in the Mystara setting also named Thanatos

Jaquays describes a new monster "The Incarnation of Death", an actual, albeit minor, physical manifestation of Thanatos, the death god.


The only time I ran "The Caverns of Thracia", the entire party was massacred in our second session, (as recounted in this campaign journal).

Using "The Caverns of Thracia" in the Known World:

This adventure is not specifically located on the Judges Guild world.  It can be, but it is not.  Suggested areas for its location would include: A large, misted, off-shore island, possibly once connected via landbridge to the mainland; A ruined city near the edge of a subtropical forest; A ruined city on the edge of a mountain or in large, forsaken hills.

Notes for the Judge, The Caverns of Thracia

As mentioned in the campaign journal, above, the Empire of Thyatis in the Known World/Mystara setting is a fitting location for "The Caverns of Thracia".

The Greek references work particularly well, given the Byzantine inspiration behind the Empire of Thyatis.

In fact, beginning with "Morkendaine", continuing with "The Caverns of Thracia", and concluding with "Dark Tower" would make for an epic, all-Jaquays campaign.


  1. My current, sandboxy campaign is using the Caverns with some tweaks. They had some skirmishes with the lizards & gnolls, went down the hole and massacred most of the death cultists, but eventually figured out that the organized factions of scores of 2HD monsters was too rich for their blood and moved on elsewhere.

    1. That's the nice thing about a sandbox campaign - players have a choice about the challenge level, and can decide whether or not certain adventures align with their goals (and risk tolerance!)