Saturday, May 21, 2022

Mark of Amber

The ultimate fate of Etienne d'Ambreville is decided in "Mark of Amber" (1995) by Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb, and John D. Rateliff, an audio CD tie-in adventure to the "Glantri: Kingdom of Magic" boxed set, released as part of the AD&D 2e Mystara line.

Cover to "Mark of Amber" (1995) adventure, by Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb, and John D. Rateliff.  Illustration by Den Beauvais, from a concept by Jennell Jaquays.

"Mark of Amber" involves a return to Chateau d'Ambreville, and is a sequel to "The Immortals' Fury" campaign arc in the "Wrath of the Immortals" (1992) boxed set, rather than to module X2 "Castle Amber", itself.

Nevertheless, the adventure fills in plenty of details regarding the early history of the Amber family, dating back to when they fled Old Averoigne, as well as events following the conclusion of module X2:

For a time, Etienne traveled incognito, learning about the changes to Glantri and the world at large during the years he had lain entranced in his coffin.  It is thought that during this time he also visited many other worlds, and learned there spells not otherwise known on Mystara.  He visited Old Averoigne to see what had happened there since the d'Ambrevilles left.  Little had changed; a new generation of rulers still hunted magic-users and burned them as witches.  If anything, the nation was in worse shape than ever.

But he discovered that an old friend of his, one who had not come to Mystara, was still alive.  Genevieve de Sephora, now posing as her own great-granddaughter, still ruled the territory of Sylaire from her great tower.  She was delighted to see Etienne and weary of the worsening situation in Averoigne.  She made him an offer.  She'd help him transport her entire tower to Mystara for him to live in and help him rebuild his life.  He agreed.

Together, they moved the great tower through a gate back to Nouvelle Averoigne.  They cleared away the rubble of le Chateau d'Ambreville, erected the tower in its place, and then rebuilt the castle around the tower. naming the new building Chateau Sylaire.

from "Etienne's Wanderings" in "Mark of Amber" (1995)

We therefore learn that Chateau Sylaire was erected upon the ruins of the old Chateau d'Ambreville (something not mentioned in GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri")

Additional events following the "Wrath of the Immortals" are described in AC1010-12: Poor Wizard's Almanac I-III and Book of Facts (1992-4) by Aaron Allston and Ann Dupuis.

Design Origins:

On his now-defunct website, Allston revealed that Mark of Amber "was originally written for the D&D; game rather than the AD&D; game and was titled Return to Castle Ambreville."

In his product history for the adventure, Shannon Appelcline states that:

Allston was quite happy with the result, saying that "it had a plot whose outcome was determined by player-character interaction but still functioned as a plot, [and] it had a lot of material on handling crises resulting from PCs leading the events off into unexpected directions". 

Shannon Appelcline

Allston likely wrote "Mark of Amber" shortly after "Wrath of the Immortals", although publication of the adventure was delayed:

Jeff Grubb was brought in to revamp Allston's original manuscript.  He needed to convert it to AD&D, link it to the Glantri boxed set, and also support the Audio CD system.  Grubb's work went smooth, but Allston wasn't thrilled by the mandated reliance on the Audio CD, which he felt was "harmful to [the adventure's] usefulness".

Shannon Appelcline

A minor correction to Appelcline's product summary is that the Nucleus of Spheres was altered to drain from the Sphere of Entropy rather than the Sphere of Energy at the conclusion of "Wrath of the Immortals".


"Mark of Amber" was edited by John D. Rateliff, and features multiple new interior illustrations by Jim Holloway (in addition to a few recycled pieces), both in color as well as black and white.

Illustration by Jim Holloway, from "Mark of Amber"

Holloway was one of the illustrators for module X2 "Castle Amber" and so his contributions to "Mark of Amber" are fitting and aesthetically quite pleasing.

Cartography was by Michael Scott, and calligraphy by Elise Boucher.  Decorative page borders were by Randy Asplund-Faith and illuminated letters by Robin Wood.

Playtesting and helpful commentary was credited to Andrew Morris, Margarita De La Garza, Max De La Garza, Sam Johnson, Beth Miller Loubet, Raini Madden, Dee R. Starns, Andrew Trent, and Andria Hayday.

Chateau Sylaire:

The first part of the adventure describes the castle grounds and rooms within Chateau Sylaire.

The chateau was reconstructed larger that before, with a second floor to each of the wings, in addition to attic spaces.

The central part of the mansion was built around the reconstructed tower of Sylaire.

In Search of Etienne:

The second part of the adventure details a timeline of events, interspersed with dream sequences in which the actions of the PCs can influence the outcome.

D'Ambrevilles and Others:

An appendix includes detailed biographies and game statistics for four generations of d'Ambrevilles, as well as retainers, employees, servants, and others.

d'Ambreville family tree, calligraphy by Elise Boucher

Many of the entries feature thumbnail illustrations by Holloway, which are a nice touch.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Etienne d'Ambreville

Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Ambreville) is one of the ten Princes of Glantri and a major non-player character in GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987) by Bruce Heard.

Prince Etienne d'Ambreville, as depicted in GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri".  Portrait by Stephen Fabian.

"Le Prince-Magicien" is the ruler of New Averoigne, Grand Master of the School and Viscount of Sylaire... 
It is next to impossible to meet him in person; however, he may show up at embarrassing moments when an important character is plotting against him.

from GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri"

Etienne is a major character in "The Immortals' Fury" campaign arc, a series of adventures detailed in the "Wrath of the Immortals" (1992) boxed set, by Aaron Allston.

Cover to "Book Two: The Immortals' Fury" from the "Wrath of the Immortals" boxed set.  Cover illustration by Jeff Easley* 
*originally used for the cover of the Forgotten Realms novel "Darkwell" (1989) by Douglas Niles

Etienne's fate in "The Immortals' Fury" is left unresolved, although revisited in "Mark of Amber" (1995) by Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb, and John D. Rateliff.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

La Nouvelle Averoigne

The Amber family (d'Ambrevilles) were revisited in GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987) by Bruce Heard.

The d'Ambrevilles came from a parallel world similar to medieval France, where sorcery was forbidden and mages burned at the stake.  The d'Ambrevilles left through a magical gate and settled in Glantri.*

During the darker years of Glantrian history, the d'Ambrevilles and their estate disappeared without a trace,** only to reappear years later,*** as if nothing had happened.  In the meantime, several of his family members betrayed Etienne in hopes of becoming the head of the household.  Fortunately, a band of adventurers intervened (see module X2) and saved Etienne from oblivion.  Etienne's relatives died; in his great generosity, Etienne wished his relatives back to life.  He wisely forced upon them a powerful magical oath to ensure they would not act against him again.  These eccentric relatives never again betrayed him, not knowing what kind of horrible fate the oath would bring upon them.  The whimsical d'Ambrevilles now spend a great deal of their time embarrassing other nobles.

In the years following their return to Glantri, the d'Ambrevilles managed to assist the passage of other spell-casters from their world to this.  These people are now nobles faithful to Sylaire; they, with many of their servants and retainers, now form a fair portion of New Averoigne's population.  Most speak both Common Glantrian and French.  They were quick to call their new domain "La Nouvelle Averoigne," and rule it the more to resemble their homeland.  Alas, they brought with them the curse of lycanthropy, spreading it through New Averoigne's hills.

from GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri"

*728 AC, **896 AC, and ***979 AC according to PC4 "Night Howlers" (1992) by Ann Dupuis, a guide to running lycanthropes as playable creatures

GAZ 3 also contains bios and updated stats for Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Ambreville) and members of his extended family.

An overview of the Principality of New Averoigne (la Nouvelle Averoigne) in western Glantri is provided (further detailed in PC4 "Night Howlers"):

Central portion of New Averoigne (La Nouvelle Averoigne) in the Principalities of Glantri, from the replica map by Thorfinn Tait, posted at the Atlas of Mystara.

New Averoigne is famous for its excellent wines and sparkling beverages sold all over the nation.  Its specialty is all food-related businesses.  Local chefs boast they can cook anything, from normal ingredients to monster meats.  Many fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products are available in this pleasant region.  The inhabitants are an easy-going people and the area boasts many famous entertainers and actors.

Weavers produce many clothes in various styles.  New Averoigne is probably the largest producer of furs, especially different types of wolf.  These fur coats can reach high gold value at the capital, because of their workmanship, and because they are a mark of class among the nobles.  Belladonna is also a local production.*

from GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri"

*belladonna was included in the equipment list in OD&D vol. 1 "Men & Magic" (see this thread** on Dragonsfoot for ideas on how to use it)

**alternate rules (4-24 points of damage on the third melee round after consumption of entire bunch) in this thread

Sunday, May 8, 2022


Module X2 "Castle Amber (Château d'Ambreville)" came with a bibliography of the eleven Averoigne stories by Clark Ashton Smith:

The Enchantress of Sylaire in "The Abominations of Yondo"
The Colossus of Ylourgne, The Distinterment of Venus, and The Satyr in "Genius Loci and Other Tales"
The Beast of Averoigne and The Holiness of Azedarac in "Lost Worlds"
The Mandrakes in "Other Dimensions"
The End of the Story and A Rendezvous in Averoigne in "Out of Space & Time"
The Maker of Gargoyles and Mother of Toads in "Tales of Science and Sorcery"

Try as I might, I could locate none of these collections when I first ran "Castle Amber" in the mid-1980s, neither in libraries nor in second-hand bookstores.  Then, one day, I saw "A Rendezvous in Averoigne" in Bakka bookstore in Toronto.

Cover to "A Rendezvous in Averoigne" (1988) published by Arkham House, with jacket and interior illustrations by Jeffrey K Potter.

This collection included four of the Averoigne stories "The Holiness of Azédarac", "The Colossus of Ylourgne", "The End of the Story", and "A Rendezvous in Averoigne" along with tales of Atlantis, Hyperborea, Lost Worlds, and Zothique.  I was hooked.

Map of Averoigne, by Ron Hilger (source: The Eldritch Dark)

Smith's Averoigne was based upon the French region of Auvergne, as discussed in "The History of Averoigne?" by Glenn Rahman (originally published in Crypt of Cthulhu #26).  Enterprising DMs therefore have no shortage of material to flesh out a campaign.

"The Averoigne Chronicles" (2021) edited by Ronald S. Hilger, trade paperback version of the definitive collection of Smith's Averoigne material.

Smith's Averoigne stories are now easier to access.*  Options include The Eldritch Dark, "The Averoigne Archives" (2019; see this review), "The Averoigne Chronicles" (2021), or even digitized issues of the original pulp magazines, at

*a faux Ballantine version is unauthorized

(For capsule reviews on each of the eleven stories, check out this post on "Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature".  For in-depth discussion, see the Averoigne episodes on "The Double Shadow: A Clark Ashton Smith podcast".)

"The Averoigne Legacy" (2019) edited by Edward Stasheff.  Cover design by Jervy Bonifacio chosen from among 71 entries.

Averoigne continues to inspire, with "The Averoigne Legacy" collection of tribute tales, and music including the concept album "The Beast of Averoigne" by Haunted Abbey Mythos, and "The Bard of Averoigne" by composer Peter Scartabello.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

X2: Castle Amber (Château d'Ambreville)

X2 "Castle Amber (Château d'Ambreville)" by Tom Moldvay was the second module published for use with the D&D Expert Set.  As in X1 "The Isle of Dread" and B4 "The Lost City" there is a heavy emphasis on pulp fiction/weird fantasy tropes.

Cover to module X2 "Castle Amber (Château d'Ambreville)" (1981) by Tom Moldvay.  Illustration of the Colossus of Ylourgne by Erol Otus.

The player characters are on a journey to Glantri City, although become lost after taking the wrong fork in a river.  They awake the next morning in the foyer of the mansion of the legendary Amber family.

The Amber Family:

The Amber family came from another world, similar to medieval France in our world, and settled in the Principalities of Glantri.

For a century or so, the Ambers were one of the major powers in Glantri.  In particular, the seventh and last Prince, Prince Stephen Amber, was one of the most powerful magic-users in the history of Glantri.  Suddenly, however, the entire Amber family and their mansion, Castle Amber, disappeared.  They were never seen again and no one knows for sure what happened to them.  In time, the Ambers became legends, the subjects of tales to frighten misbehaving children.

Castle Amber (1981)

Members of the Amber family are clearly modeled after the Amber royal family from Roger Zelazny's "The Chronicles of Amber", although credit for the inspiration is not explicitly given.

The Gray Mist:

The mansion is surrounded by a deadly gray mist, similar to the Mists of Ravenloft from module I6 "Ravenloft" (1983) by Tracy and Laura Hickman, published two years later.

A deadly gray mist surrounds Castle Amber.  (Is that someone in the window?)

Castle Amber:

Castle Amber also seems to owe at least a partial debt to "Tegel Manor" (1977) by Bob Bledsaw.

The mansion is divided into five major sections.

The West Wing

Notable rooms include the Grand Salon (featuring a boxing match), the Dining Room, and the Master Bedroom.

The Indoor Forest

A huge octagon-shaped building with seven glass domes permitting sunlight into a large arboretum.

Notable encounters include the Maiden and the Unicorn, the Wild Hunt, and the Blood-Stained Arch.

Madeline Amber attacks her brother Charles.  Illustration by Jim Holloway.

The Chapel

One of the main encounters draws inspiration from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe.

The East Wing

Notable rooms include the Throne Room, the Ballroom, the Card Room,* and the Green Room (featuring an incarnation of the Green Man),

*possibly based on/inspired by an article by Kevin Hendryx "Deck of Fate" in The Dragon #26; see also "The Tarot of Many Things" in Dragon #77; the magical effect of one of the cards is the "strength" spell, from the Holmes Basic rulebook

The Dungeon

Notable encounters include the Magical Letter Square, the Brain Collector, the Alchemistry Laboratory, and the Entrance to the Land of the Ghouls.*

*it is suggested that the DM create an underground labyrinth and ghoul kingdom to supplement the adventure, something I did when I first ran the module, back in 1985


Hex map for the province of Averoigne, from module X2 "Castle Amber".  (The party appears at "X").

The player characters pass through the Gate of the Silver Keys into the province of Averoigne,* a wilderness based upon the stories of Clark Ashton Smith.

*pronunciation is given as "" on pg. 27, although "Av-er-RON" is technically more accurate

The party must locate four special magic items in Averoigne:
1) The Enchanted Sword of Sylaire
2) The Viper-Circled Mirror
3) The Ring of Eibon
4) A potion of time travel 

These items are linked to four scenarios based upon short stories by Clark Ashton Smith:
The Enchantress of Sylaire
The Colossus of Ylourne
The Beast of Averoigne
The Holiness of Azedarac

I so thoroughly enjoyed this part of the module the first time I ran it, that I incorporated all four scenarios into an AD&D campaign I was running for my friends, a couple of years later.

Illustration by Harry Quinn.

The Tomb of Stephen Amber:

Once the four special magic items are collected, it is possible to summon the tomb of Stephen Amber, and break his curse.

New Monsters:

Amber Lotus Flowers, Amoeba (Giant), Aranea, Brain Collector, Death Demon,** Golem (Mud), Grab Grass, Gremlin,* Killer Trees,** Lupin, Magen (Hypnos, Demos, Caldron, Galvan), Pagan, Phantoms, Rakasta, Slime Worm, Sun Brother,*** Vampire Roses

*White Dwarf #5 (Feb/March 1978) describes a version of the Gremlin that is clearly a precursor to the one introduced by Moldvay in X2 (1981)

**Killer Trees and Death Demons had their origin in Schick and Moldvay's "Original Known World" campaign (see this post)

***Sun Brothers (Sollux) originally appeared as "Saraphs" (for AD&D) in an article by Moldvay "Demons, Devils and Spirits" in Dragon #42, and subsequently in module DA4

Saturday, April 30, 2022

B3: Further Adventures

Once the ruins of the Palace of the Silver Princess have been explored, and possibilities for adventure in the surrounding lands exhausted, here are suggestions for further adventures.

The Pit of the Oracle:

"The Pit of the Oracle" by Stephen Sullivan won 2nd place in The International Dungeon Design Competition.  The adventure was published in The Dragon #37 (May, 1980)

Sullivan is credited, along with Edward G. Sollers, with editing and production for the original version of module B3 by Jean Wells.  The style and aesthetic of both adventures is quite similar.

Map of the land surrounding the town of Narrion.  The "shunned hills" could be the western edge of the Moorfowl Mountains from the original version of module B3

The road west from Gullavia could ultimately lead north to the town of Narrion:

The small town of Narrion is located precariously on the very edge of the wild country, and as such is often a stopping place for adventurers going from one area to the other.  There is not terribly much trouble in wandering by day down the small roads through the large expanses of untended grasslands which extend southeastward between Narrion and the next nearest town (except for an occasional bandit or two)—but the legends of the blasphemous things that roam the deserted plains by night are numerous and particularly horrible (at least, to the pale-hearted folk of the town).

The Pit of the Oracle, The Dragon #37 (May, 1980)

Castle Amber (Chateau d'Amberville):

Module X2 "Castle Amber (Chateau d'Amberville)" by Tom Moldvay, set within the Principalities of Glantri in the B/X continental setting, is a good sequel to either version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess".

The Lost City:

Module B4 "The Lost City" by Tom Moldvay, set within the Alasiyan Desert in the B/X continental setting, represents another good follow-up adventure to either version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess".

The Grand Duchy of Karameikos:

The release of the revised version of the D&D Expert Set, edited by Frank Mentzer, situated module B3 in the northeastern part of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

This location was considered to be the canon placement for several years, and many BECMI campaigns starting with module B3 often continued with further adventures in the Grand Duchy.*

*a Finnish version of module B3 was even combined with module B6 "The Veiled Society" by David Cook, set within the capital city of Specularum

When GAZ1 "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987) was published, there was no mention of the valley of Haven, and subsequent material ignored the location.*

*an exception is supermodule B1-9 "In Search of Adventure" in which the valley is considered to be located somewhere deep within the Altan Tepe mountains

Saturday, April 23, 2022

B3: Derivative Works

There have been far fewer derivative works for module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" than for module B1 "In Search of the Unknown" or module B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands", although a couple of examples do exist: 

Vault of Catharandamus

The dungeon on pages 276-281 in the "Tome of Magic: Pact, shadow, and truename magic supplement" (2006) by Matthew Sernett et al. for 3.5e is the "Vault of Catharandamus".

The "Vault of Catharandamus".  Cartography by Mike Schley.

The location is described as a truename magic adventure site:

A few crumbling walls, eroded statues and columns, and the remnants of a few roads are all that remain of the Palace of Princess Argent. Years ago, a foul and alien sorcerer named Arik imprisoned the lady and her beloved champion beyond time and space, and cursed the place. Serving the dark spellcaster was a despicable man named Catharandamus who worked to bring his master into the Material Plane. Though a group of bold adventurers thwarted the curse, freed the princess and her knight, and put an end to the spellcaster’s evil, the palace never recovered, nor did the lands around it.  Over the decades since, earthquakes, rains, and time took their toll, leaving little but a pile of rubble and a passage into a hill on which the palace once stood as evidence that anything ever stood here.

from the "Tome of Magic" (2006)

DIY Remix

DIY version of "Palace of the Silver Princess" (2017).  Illustration by Kiel Chenier.

The DIY remix of "Palace of the Silver Princess" (2017) represents a third, recent version of Wells' original module.  The collective effort was overseen by Zak Sabbath and Kiel Chenier.

Contributors included Tom FitzgeraldDavid McGroganZzarchov Kowolski, Barry Blatt, Natalie Bennett, James Raggi, Trent B, Humza K., Ramanan Sivaranjan, Reynaldo Madriñan, Kelvin Green, Daniel Dean, James Maliszewski, Jensen Toperzer, Anthony Picaro, Logan Knight, Stacy Dellorfano, Patrick Stuart, Scrap Princess, and Ken Baumann

As one of the contributors put it:

I worked on this, along with @allandaros and @dungeonsdonuts and many, many others whose Tumblrs I don’t know. Basically, a whole bunch of people over in the G+ indie tabletop gaming community were given one page of the old TSR adventure Palace of the Silver Princess to re-write. None of us communicated with each other about what we were writing, we just had the original dungeon and that was it. The end result is surprisingly coherent and showcases some of the best Weird Indie D&D Talent out there these days.

Jensen Toperzer (Apr 6th, 2016) 

There are several great ideas in this version, which is well worth a perusal for anyone thinking about running "Palace of the Silver Princess" for themselves.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

B3: Art and Artists

It seems as though almost every artist working at TSR between 1980-81 contributed to some version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess".  Many pieces are unsigned, so I sometimes had to make my best guess as to who did what:


Illustration by Darlene for the French version of module B3.

Darlene contributed three illustrations to the French version of module B3 "Le palais de la Princesse Argenta" (see this thread on Dragonsfoot, for more details).

Jeff Dee

The ghosts of Princess Argenta and her knight.  Illustration attributed to Jeff Dee (unsigned).

Dee's characteristic style is recognizable in the pose of Princess Argenta's ghost, as she and her knight defend the pedestal (OB3, pg. 22).*

*the illustration was modified to depict the pink pedestal with an amulet in the revised version (RB3, pg. 16), so it wasn't clear the illustration was of Argenta

Dee also contributed the back cover illustration (color) of a Protector facing a warrior, against the backdrop of a starry sky.

Jim Holloway

Vampire roses ensnare a luckless adventurer.  Illustration attributed to Jim Holloway (unsigned).

Holloway was brought in to provide a number of new pieces for the revised version.

He contributed illustrations of warriors battling skeletons (RB3, pg. 7); adventurers lifting a portcullis (RB3, pg. 12); a group of kobolds (RB3, pg. 14); a skeleton (RB3, pg. 19); a cave locust (RB3, pg. 22); and vampire roses (RB3, pg. 32).

David S. La Force

It's not clear to me which illustration(s) was/were contributed by "Diesel", although he likely did the cartography.

Erol Otus

Illustration of a mountain range, by Erol Otus.  The buildings in the foreground are similar to others he illustrated (see this thread).

In addition to the front cover illustration (color) of the Decapus, Otus also contributed a small illustration of a mountain range (OB3/RB3, pg. 4); and a full-page illustration depicting Wells' uboes as hermaphrodites (OB3, pg. 19).*

*Wells had not conceived of these three-headed creatures as hermaphrodites, and objected to the illustration, but was told that it was too late to change it

Harry Quinn

Candella and Duchess.  Illustration attributed to Harry Quinn (alternately attributed to Jim Roslof).

Like Holloway, Quinn contributed several pieces to the revised version.  Although most are unsigned, I believe these include the silhouette of the palace (RB3, pg. 2); the skeleton (RB3, pg. 11); the bear (RB3, pg. 13); the blocked exit (RB3, pg. 17; signed); the barracks (RB3, pg. 20; signed); Candella and Duchess (RB3, pg. 24);* and the throne room (RB3, pg. 29).

*the subject of multiple homages by Domenico Neziti (hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere, and here)

Jim Roslof

Lamdomon, the tinker, and his daughter, Zappora, prepare their wagon for departure.  Illustration by Jim Roslof.

Jim Roslof was the art director at the time, having taken over from David S. Sutherland III.

He contributed "The Tinker and His Wagon" (OB3, pg. 6); and illustrations of the cave bear cub (OB3, pg. 11); and contents of the game table in room 31 (OB3, pg. 25/RB3, pg. 21).

Roslof may have also done the illustration of the giant rat in the revised version (RB3, pg. 9).

Laura Roslof

Catharandamus the cleric and his followers in the original (above) and revised (below) versions of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess".  Illustrations by Laura Roslof.

Laura Roslof was Jim Roslof's wife.  She contributed "The Illusion of the Decapus" (OB3, pg. 10); and illustrations of the palace garden (OB3, pg. 20/RB3, pg. 26); and Catharandamus (OB3, pg. 24/RB3, pg. 27).*

*the latter two illustrations were significantly altered for the revised version

Stephen D. Sullivan

Sullivan contributed several illustrations depicting the same three or four adventurers (a white male fighter, a black male fighter, and a white female fighter in the original, and a white female magic-user in the revised version).

"You meet in a tavern."  Illustration by Stephen D. Sullivan (his initials are difficult to spot - can you find them?)

The group appears in a tavern (OB3, pg. 7); entering the dungeon (RB3, pg. 8); triggering the pit trap (OB3, pg. 13/RB3, pg. 18); examining the pink pedestal (RB3, pg. 15; a cropped and altered version of the illustration from OB3, pg. 21); encountering the dueling swords (OB3, pg. 17); finding Argenta's portrait (OB3, pg. 18/RB3, pg. 28; cropped on the right in the revised version); approaching the pedestal protected by the ghosts of Argenta and her knight (OB3, pg. 21); and fighting a werewolf (RB3, pg. 28; the female magic-user looks a bit like the Scarlet Witch).

Illustration of a Diger, by Stephen D. Sullivan (initials are once again difficult to spot).

Sullivan also contributed illustrations of the archer bush (OB3, pg. 26); baric (OB3, pg. 26); diger (OB3, pg. 27); and giant marmoset monkey (OB3, pg. 28). 

Finally, Sullivan collaborated with Wells on the illustration of the mysterious knight and his dragon steed (OB3, pg. 3/RB3, pg. 5); and Travis entering the torture chamber from behind the party (OB3, pg. 15).

Jean Wells

The mysterious knight and his dragon steed.  Illustration by Jean Wells and Stephen D. Sullivan.

In addition to collaborating on two illustrations with Sullivan (mentioned above), Wells also created the map of the surrounding lands (OB3, pg. 5).

Bill Willingham

Room with poltergeist.  Illustration by Bill Willingham.

Willingham contributed the frontispiece of a female centaur pointing towards the palace ruins (OB3/RB3, pg. 1); and an illustration of the room containing a poltergeist (OB3, pg. 23).

Saturday, April 16, 2022

B3: Palace of the Silver Princess (Revised)

The revised version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" by Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells receives less attention than Wells' original, although for almost two decades, it was the only version that most of us knew existed.

Cover to the revised, green-cover version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" (1981) by Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells.  Illustration of the monstrous "Decapus" by Erol Otus.

Moldvay introduces a plot in which the player characters are inhabitants of the Valley of Haven and must discover the cause behind the sudden disaster, which has only just occurred.

The Eye of Arik

The ruby discovered by the dwarves and presented to Princess Argenta is actually a magical gem, known as "The Eye of Arik".*

*the Eye of Arik is given an xp value of 7,500 and gp value of 37,500 in the Encyclopedia Magica, volume II (1995)

The Eye of Arik, from the Encyclopedia Magica, vol. II (1995). Illustration by Arnie Swekel.

Arik (also known as "Arik of the Hundred Eyes") is an ancient, evil being of great power, who was banished to a prison dimension centuries ago for his crimes.

Once the ruby was brought into the palace, Arik was able to imprison the princess within the gem, also transforming most of the palace inhabitants to stone.  Others were driven insane, with disasterous consequences.

Arik then teleported Catharandamus, one of his clerics, into the palace in order to prepare the ceremony to permit him to cross the dimensional barriers and enter Haven.

He created a red, glowing force field around the palace in order to prevent help from arriving and interrupting the ceremony.  The power of the ruby also drew hordes of orcs and goblinoids into the valley to fight for its master.

Ellis the Strong and Ariksbane

Wells' knight in silver and blue armor is changed to a knight in black armor, named Ellis the Strong, a Knight of the White Drakes.  The original knight's red dragon steed is changed to a white dragon, named "Ariksbane".

The Knights of the White Drakes* are described as a special band of fighters who ride white dragons and are dedicated to defeating evil wherever it exists.  Ellis and Ariksbane came to Haven because they heard about the discovery of the ruby, and suspected its true nature.

*the Knights of the White Drake are mentioned in the History of Thyatis in "Dawn of the Emperors" (1989) by Aaron Allston, where it's stated that "All known knights of the Order of the White Drake are captured and executed" in AC 960

Destroying the Ruby

Moldvay describes three ways by which the ruby can be destroyed, thereby preventing Arik from entering the valley.*  It's up to the player characters to figure out at least one of these three ways, which makes for a nice, non-linear approach to the adventure.

*Arik is described as a "Celestial, Sphere of Entropy; AL C" in "Wrath of the Immortals" (1992) by Aaron Allston

The Eye of Arik, from the Codex of Immortals (1992) by Aaron Allston.  Illustration by Terry Dykstra.


The credits for the revised version of the module are notable for the inclusion of Allen Hammack and Harold Johnson in addition to Moldvay for development, and the replacement of Edward G. Sollers and Stephen D. Sullivan with Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, Jon Pickens and Deborah Ritchie for editing (Johnson was also singled out for inspiration, in both versions).

*    *    *

I ran "Palace of the Silver Princess" for my friends, and again for my brother and his friends, back in 1983.  I drew a detailed, full-page map of the Valley of Haven (now lost, although I keep hoping it will turn up), with settlements for elves, dwarves, halflings, and humans.

Moldvay's version of the module really fired my imagination.  I wrote short stories set in Haven, and even composed some Tolkienesque poetry.  (I still remember the first two verses, modeled after "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold"):

The dwarves of Haven, they did find, / Deep in the heart of the mountainside,
a wondrous ruby that dazzled the mind, / And back to the Palace, they did ride.

The gem was given as a gift, / To the princess, kind and dear.
Unknown to all, 'twas but a rift, / For the wicked Prince of Fear.

from "The Lay of the Silver Princess"

I designed some further adventures "The Cave Bear of Sparn", "The Tower of Shadows", and "The Book of Arik", and later prepared "The Cave Bear of Sparn" for submission to Dungeon magazine, but never sent it in (I still have the typewritten manuscript).

In his review of the module for White Dwarf #35 (November, 1982), Jim Bambra states that "Palace of the Silver Princess" should replace "The Keep on the Borderlands" in the D&D Basic Set, and as much as I love module B2, I think he was right.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

B3: The Surrounding Lands

The original version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" is notable for the mini-gazetteer of "the surrounding lands near the Palace of the Silver Princess in the land of the Princes of Glantri."

Cartography by Jean Wells, depicting the lands to the northwest of the Principalities of Glantri in the B/X continental setting

Thorfinn Tait produced replica maps with 8- and 6-mile hexes, also lining up the map with module X1 "The Isle of Dread" in "Placing B3's Gullavia Map".

The plateau was designated as "wastelands" in GAZ 3 "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987), although much of the area was covered by the map legend.

The region was referred to as "The Great Northern Wildlands" in "Wrath of the Immortals" (1992) and labeled the "Adri Varma Plateau" in "Champions of Mystara" (1993).

Michele Carpita (LoZompatore) did his usual excellent work mapping the plateau with and without the original B3 module in 2006, reconciling the various sources.

Cover to the English version of the unofficial Adri Varma Plateau fan gazetteer (2016), compiled and expanded by Omnibus

The maps and related fan material were compiled and expanded by Omnibus into an unofficial fan gazetteer (Italian) in 2016, which was translated by Gary Davies into English (downloadable here).

Saturday, April 9, 2022

B3: Palace of the Silver Princess (Original)

The original version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" by Jean Wells is known for having been recalled in a single day.  It's nevertheless an interesting adventure, with geographic notes on the northwestern part of the B/X continental setting.

Cover to the original, orange-cover version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" (1981) by Jean Wells.  Illustration of the monstrous "Decapus" by Erol Otus.

The first published indication that an original version of module B3 existed was in supermodule B1-9 "In Search of Adventure" (1987)* in the general notes to module B3, which mentioned that "An early version of this module has become a rare item".

*B1-9 edited and assembled the first nine basic modules into a series of interconnected adventures, set within the Grand Duchy of Karameikos

In February, 2000, Wizards of the Coast released a pdf of the original, orange-cover version, with an introduction by John Rateliff (while the link is long dead, Rateliff's essay is preserved here, and the pdf is downloadable here).


I posted a review of the original version of module B3 over on Dragonsfoot, in which I speculate that Princess Argenta may have been a Princess of Glantri.

As with module B1 "In Search of the Unknown", there is no underlying plot. The centrepiece of the module is a two-level dungeon beneath and within the palace, with enough extra material to run wilderness adventures in the surrounding lands.

I used the revised, green-cover version as a guide to stock the empty rooms in the original version (downloadable here), and also prepared a players' handout (here).

Illustration by Wells from Polyhedron #4, depicting Duchess and Candella, the infamous pair of thieves in both versions of module B3.

About the Author:

Wells was 23 years-old when she wrote "Palace of the Silver Princess".

She left the gaming industry soon thereafter, although gave interviews on Grognardia (here and here) and the Save or Die! podcast (here) in 2010.

Sadly, Wells passed away in 2012, at the age of 53.

New Monsters:

Archer Bushes, Baric, Bubbles, Decapus, Diger, Ghost, Giant Marble Snake, Jupiter Blood Sucker, Giant Marmoset, Poltergeist, Protectors, Purple Moss, Ubue

Illustration by Wells from Polyhedron #3, pg 10 (credited as a "Plant Creature" in Polyhedron #4) likely depicting a "Jupiter Blood Sucker", precursor to Tom Moldvay's "Vampire Roses"

Wells had a knack for coming up with new monsters, and wrote "How to Create Monsters for the D&D Basic and Expert Games" in Polyhedron #2 (Autumn, 1981).

Campaign Journal:

Over the past few years, I've run an on-again, off-again campaign for my son and his cousins, using the original version of the Palace of the Silver Princess.

You can read our campaign journal, here.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Imirrhos: The Original Known World

In 2015, Lawrence Schick revealed the hidden origins of the B/X continental setting in "The 'Known World' D&D Setting: A Secret History" posted on "Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature".

Map of the original "Known World" setting, also known as the continent of Imirrhos (east and west portions originally posted separately, on Black Gate).

Schick collaborated with Tom Moldvay in the mid-1970s to create a fantasy world setting for their shared D&D campaign.  After Schick was hired by TSR in 1979, he was soon joined by Moldvay.

I can’t remember whether it was Moldvay or me who suggested it, but we proposed dusting off our Known World documents for use as the new, standard D&D campaign setting.  This got approved, I think by Mike Carr, and a revised version of our campaign map was hexed-up by the Art Department for use in X1, The Isle of Dread module, which was designed by Moldvay and Zeb Cook to be included in the Expert Set box.

Lawrence Schick, on Black Gate (February 7, 2015)

Within 24 hours of Schick's article, a colorized, annotated map of the "Original Known World" was posted by James Mishler, on "Adventures in Gaming v2" (February 8, 2015).  This was followed by a series of interviews with Schick (here, here, and here).

Photograph of the original wall map of the pre-TSR "Known World" on display in The Gamehole, as posted on Twitter (July 11, 2018).  (See also this tweet).

The original, full-color wall map created by Schick and Moldvay was restored and purchased by Alex Kammer of Gamehole Con in July, 2015.  (There are some differences between the black-and-white map and the full-color wall map.)

For many years, fans of the D&D Known World/Mystara setting theorized on possible connections between the Original Known World and Mystara.

A few months ago, Bill Wilkerson (a player and DM in the Original Known World campaign) graciously permitted a substantial number of pages to be scanned and uploaded to Google drive, accessible through links in "More OKW documents!" (January 20, 2022) on the Piazza.

First page of the handwritten "History of Imirrhos", describing the history and geopolitical entities of the Original Known World.

Of particular interest are notes on the "History of Imirrhos", which detail a cataclysm in which the southern third of the continent sank to become a series of archipelagos and islands, as well as short descriptions of the various regions.

Wilkerson's material involving the continent of Imirrhos is being actively studied by fans of the Known World/Mystara, with plenty of discussion on the Piazza and elsewhere regarding this lost OD&D setting (see also this post, over at Zenopus Archives).

Saturday, April 2, 2022

B/X The Continent

Module X1 "The Isle of Dread" (1981) by David Cook and Tom Moldvay presents an example of large-scale wilderness design in the form of a map of the southeastern portion of a large, unnamed continent.

"The Continent" as depicted in module X1 "The Isle of Dread" (1981)

"The Continent" became the default setting for the D&D line.  It was referred to as "The Known World" in the D&D Master Set (1985) and rechristened "Mystara" in Dragon #173 (August, 1991).*

Q. What's the name of the Known Worlds planet?  Or is that the name of the world itself?

A. Mystara.  The Known World is the geographical area located at the southeastern corner of the continent of Brun.

Bruce Heard, from Dragon #173

*the origins of the Known World will be discussed in greater detail, tomorrow

Principalities of Glantri:

Glantri is a magocracy; that is, the princes and princesses who rule the state are all high level magic-users.  They live in Glantri City most of the time, though each ruler also has a castle hidden in some remote wilderness area.  Actually, the rulers are more concerned with magical research than with ruling.  Most decisions are left to the various local councils of elders and the princely stewards.  The princes and princesses do not trust each other and live in a state of uneasy truce.  In the face of invasion or rebellion, however, they are quick to unite.  In extreme emergencies, they will elect one of their number as "dictator", to serve for one year.

The Principalities of Glantri seem at least partly inspired by "Nine Princes in Amber" by Roger Zelazny.

The original version of module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" (1981) by Jean Wells was set northwest of Glantri, on the Adri Varma plateau.  The blank hexes on the continental map in this area may have been reserved for Wells' module, which was rewritten by Moldvay.

Module X2 "Castle Amber" (1981) by Tom Moldvay is set in Glantri, and works as a follow-up adventure to module B3.

Ethengar Khanate:

The Ethengar are nomadic herders of horses, cattle, and goats.  They are divided into small family clans.  Usually the clans raid and quarrel with each other, but occasionally a strong leader (khan) emerges to unite the entire Ethangar people into a strong "nation".  However, with the eventual death of the khan, there is rarely an heir strong enough to hold the Ethengar together.  They often break apart and the family clans begin warring with each other once more.  Their culture is similar to that of the horsemen of the central Asian steppes (Huns, Mongols, Magyars, Turks, and so on).

Module X3 "Curse of Xanathon" (1982) by Douglas Niles includes details on Cretia, the god of the "Ethangarians".

Illustration by Larry Elmore, from the cover to "Horselords" (1990), a Forgotten Realms novel by David Cook.

David Cook later wrote the novel "Horselords" (1990) for the Forgotten Realms setting, which provides insight as to how Ethengar culture might have been envisioned, (see this review).

Heldann Freeholds:

The Heldann are a barbaric, fair-haired people who hunt, fish, and raise crops on isolated farms.  They are related to the people in the northeastern kingdoms but acknowledge no ruler among themselves higher than the individual household leader.  Their culture is very similar to that of medieval Iceland.

The Heldann tribes are mentioned in module B4 "The Lost City" (1982) by Tom Moldvay as the barbaric, golden-haired invaders who looted Cynidicea.

The Heldann Freeholds were further detailed in module X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory" (1987) by Stephen Bourne, including the cult of Gylgarid, a chaotic barbarian god.

Kingdom of Vestland, Kingdom of Ostland, and the Soderfjord Jarldoms:

Each of these northeastern states is composed of many petty "kingdoms" that are loosely united under one ruler.  In Vestland and Ostland the underchiefs are called "kings"; in Soderfjord they are known as "jarls".  Their culture resembles that of the Vikings.

Note Vestland ("West"-land), Ostland ("East"-land), and Soderfjord ("Southern"-fjord).

Module X3 "Curse of Xanathon" takes place in Vestland, although a Viking flavour is not particularly evident.  Module X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory" (1987) also takes place in Vestland.

Suggested locations for running the G series on the continental setting for B/X.

The Broken Lands:

The “broken lands” are an area of rocky badlands and old volcanic lava beds.  The land is extremely wild and inhabited mainly by outcasts and monsters.

The Broken Lands hide a gateway into the distant past, as revealed in module DA1 "Adventures in Blackmoor" (1986) by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie.

Also a possible location for module S2 "White Plume Mountain" (1979) by Lawrence Schick.


Rockhome is the homeland of the dwarves.  It stretches throughout the northern Altan Tepe mountain range.  The dwarves have built and maintain a road through the mountains for caravans.  They charge toll from all who pass.

Module X3 "Curse of Xanathon" includes details on the dwarves of Rockhome.

Atruaghin Clans:

These grassy plateau, forest, and hilly regions next to the sea are inhabited by herders, hunters, and fishermen who live in small villages.  All the villagers claim to be descended from the ancient hero Atruaghin.  If threatened by war they will unite under a temporarily elected leader.

"Hiawatha" by Thomas Eakins, c. 1874 (source: wikimedia commons)

The Atruaghin Clans seem inspired by stories of Hiawatha.

Republic of Darokin:

The republic is centered around the capital, Darokin.  Its wealth is based on trade from Lake Amsorak (the large inland lake), the Streel river, the eastern caravan route and sea trade filtering in through Malpheggi Swamp.  Darokin is a plutocracy, that is, the government is run by the wealthiest merchant families.  The culture resembles that of Venice or Genoa in medieval Italy.

Module X4 "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983) by David Cook describes a war between the Republic of Darokin and the desert nomads to the west.

Module X10 "Red Arrow, Black Shield" (1985) by Michael S. Dobson provides additional details on Akesoli and the rest of Darokin, as well as other countries in the continental setting.



As the name implies, Alfheim is the homeland of the elves.  The elven king rules the great forest of Canolbarth.  Because Canolbarth is tended by the elves, it is far larger than a natural forest in this area would be.  Darokin pays the elves to protect the caravan route through the forest to Selenica.

Module O2 "Blade of Vengeance" (1985) by Jim Bambra, is set within an area of northern Alfheim, called "the Emerlas".

Emirates of Ylaruam:

Ylaruam is built in the midst of the largest oasis in the Alasiyan Desert.  It is the centre of caravan routes crossing from north to south and from east to west, and is controlled by the Emir of Ylaruam and his royal family.  The culture is similar to that of the Arabic desert states or the Central Asian city-states of Palmyra, Damascus, or Samarkand.

The suggested location for module B4 "The Lost City" is "anywhere in the Alasiyan Desert".

"Sandstorm in the Libyan Desert" by Max Slevogt, c. 1914 (source: wikimedia commons)

Greek names for some of the Cynidiceans suggest a connection with the Empire of Thyatis, perhaps indicating a long-forgotten colony.

The Five Shires:

The five shires are the homeland of the halflings.  The area is ruled by a council of five sheriffs who each control a shire.  Four times a year the sheriffs meet at a great feast and there decide shirewide policy by vote.

Module M1 "Blizzard Pass" (1983) by David Cook is set along "the treacherous path that winds over the Cruth Mountains between the Five Shires and Darokin".

Grand Duchy of Karameikos:

This part of the continent is a wild and unsettled land claimed by Duke Stephan Karameikos.  In reality, little of the land is under the duke’s control.  Large areas are overrun with monsters and hostile humanoids.

A popular take on the Grand Duchy of Karameikos is to embrace the wild and unsettled aspects, as discussed in B/X Karameikos.

Kingdom of Ierendi:

The trading ships of Ierendi rival those of Thyatis, and the kingdom sports a magnificent royal palace carved from pure white coral.  The king and queen of the land are usually popular adventurer-heroes, however, they are without true power and serve only as figureheads.  Actual rule is held by certain aristocratic families (making Ierendi an oligarchy).

The Ierendi princess, Corinna, is kidnapped in module X7 "The War Rafts of Kron" (1984) by Bruce Nesmith.

Possible location for "The Temple of Protius" on an island in the Kingdom of Ierendi.

Also a possible location for the adventure "The Temple of Poseidon" by Paul Reiche III.  ("Poseidon" could be replaced with "Protius", based on the mythological sea-god "Proteus", a better fit for the adventure, given his oracular attributes).

Minrothad Guilds:

The Minrothad island cluster is a syndocracy: the government is run by the heads of the various trading guilds.  Minrothad is closely allied to Thyatis.

Module X7 "The War Rafts of Kron" provides additional details on the Minrothad Guilds.

Empire of Thyatis:

The empire of Thyatis is an autocracy.  The emperor holds absolute power, but his decisions must allow for the desires of powerful nobles and for the threat of mob riots over unfavourable laws.  The city of Thyatis is built beside a large canal that separates the southern peninsula from the mainland, so the city is a major trade centre.  The Thyatis culture is similar to the medieval Byzantine empire.

A short story entitled "Black Lotus Moon" by Tom Moldvay appeared in the 1980 anthology "Dragontales" published by TSR.  It was set in the city of "Biazaan" (similar to "Biazzan" in the Empire of Thyatis).

Module O1 "The Gem and the Staff" (1983) by John and Laurie Van De Graaf was based on the tournament module "Quest for the Fazzlewood".  It takes place in an imperial city, and may be located anywhere within the Empire of Thyatis.

Location of Teki-Nura-Ria in the Sea of Dread, from module X8 "Drums on Fire Mountain".

Module X8 "Drums on Fire Mountain" (1984) by Graeme Morris and Tom Kirby, begins in Thyatis City.  Module X11 "Saga of the Shadow Lord" (1986) by Stephen Bourne begins with meeting a Thyatian agent, although takes place in the Northern Wildlands.

Thyatis is also a possible location for The Ghost Tower of Inverness (1979) by Allen Hammack.  (The original takes place in an unnamed empire, as opposed to the Duchy of Urnst in Greyhawk.)

Thanegioth Archipelago:

The archipelago is a cluster of islands about 1000 miles from the coast of the main continent.  What little knowledge is available about Thanegioth is buried in myth and superstition.

Module X1 "The Isle of Dread" appears to combine aspects of southeast Asia, central Africa, and the Caribbean.