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November 18, 6:39 PM
By Daniel Nations, Games Examiner
Dungeons and Dragons is one of the single most popular games ever and has reached out from its pen and paper roots to touch computer and console gaming, fantasy literature and even the big screen. What made it so popular? An inventive and yet relatively simple system, for one, but there is no doubt that the classic D&D adventures found in the various modules played a significant role in its popularity.
From the original D&D box set to AD&D's first edition all the way up to the current 3.5 edition, Dungeons and Dragons has always had a foundation of creative modules ready and prepared for the willing adventurer, thus taking some of the burden off of would-be dungeon masters.
In looking back at some of my favorite role-playing memories, my mind slides over numerous classic D&D adventures. And is it any surprise? Among their authors number Gary Gygax, who started this whole thing; Tracy Hickman, who along with Margret Weis struck gold with their Dragonlance books; Douglas Niles and Ed Greenwood, who have both authored of over a dozen fantasy books based on AD&D settings; and David Cook, who went on to become the lead designer for City of Villains and is currently working on Stargate Worlds.
The Top 10 Classic D&D Adventures
    10. The Keep on the Borderlands
The Keep on the Borderlands and exploring the Caves of Chaos were many people's first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. Having come bundled with the D&D basic box set, it was easily enough translated to AD&D rules. Like many of the early D&D adventures, the module consisted of a spot to grab your gear and talk to locals and a nearby dungeon to explore.

  1. 9. White Plume Mountain
One of the most memorable modules, White Plume Mountain had a lot of great puzzles to go along with the classic dungeon crawl. The adventure takes place in a geyser-spewing mountain where the adventurers search for three artifacts: a trident named Wave, a war hammer named Whelm, and a sword named Blackrazor. The module is often remembered for the similarity of the sword to Elric's Stormbringer. Blackrazor also makes an appearance in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.

  1. 8. Isle of Dread
While not the most inventive module, Isle of Dread is memorable because it takes place mostly in the wilderness of an island, which separates it from the dungeon-crawling modules of that day. This classic D&D adventure was also distinctive in that it also featured a number of prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs, giving it a Land of the Lost feel.

  1. 7. Expedition to Barrier Peaks
A classic D&D adventure module with a twist, much of Expedition to Barrier Peaks took place on a crashed spaceship complete with strange alien creatures and laser-shooting robots. Players of the early Might and Magic computer role-playing games might note the similarity -- no doubt Expedition to Barrier Peaks was the inspiration to that classic crpg series.

  1. 6. Caste Amber
Possibly one of the most difficult to solve and bizarre modules, Castle Amber had a decidedly Edgar Allen Poe feel to it. If taking part in a boxing match and meeting an ogre that thinks he's a human women wasn't enough, Castle Amber also contained Averoigne, a setting-within-a-setting. Grognardia has a great feature on Castle Amber.

  1. 5. Against the Giants
The G series of modules began with Steading of the Hill Chief, proceeded to the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and ended with Hall of the Fire Giant King. Perhaps one of the most well-remembered modules, Against the Giants is the classic dungeon crawl, with a wide range of nooks and crannies and numerous creatures to fight.

  1. 4. Ravenloft
Written by Tracy and Laura Hickman, it should come as no surprise to find Ravenloft among the top five, and many would argue that it deserves an even higher rank. In trying to imbue vampires with a sense of Dracula again, Tracy and Laura created a module that went on to spawn an entire campaign setting as well as a series of books.

  1. 3. Descent into the Depths/Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Before being popularized to the point of nausea by R. A. Salvatore, drow elves were the residents of the Underdark reached through the Descent into the Depths and ruled over by the demi-god spider-queen, Lolth. Drow elves make their first appearance in Against the Giants, which is used as a lead-in to the Descent into the Depths modules. Later, G1-3, D1-3 and Q1 (Queen of the Demonweb Pits) was rolled into one huge adventure called Queen of the Spiders, which later was named the best D&D adventure of all time by Dragon magazine.

  1. 2. Temple of Elemental Evil
The Temple of Elemental Evil makes it to #2 on the list by virtue of being the utter epitome of the classic D&D adventure. Many people were first introduced to the Temple of Elemental Evil by virtue of visiting the Village of Homlet and the nearby ruined keep long before the Temple of Elemental Evil was released. Originally intended as a series, the individual modules never made it out the door, but a compilation did and it went on to become one of the most popular dungeon crawls in D&D history.

  1. 1. Tomb of Horrors
The Tomb of Horrors contained perhaps the fewest monsters of any of the classic D&D adventures, and yet it was by far the most deadly. The adventure takes place in a tomb filled with deadly traps, like an illusion of an expensive tapestry hiding a glob of green slime and an ending that wasn't an ending. In fact, Tomb of Horrors was so difficult, especially the final showdown with Acererak, that many players found it simply unfair.
What's Your Favorite Classic D&D Adventure?
In formulating this list, I nailed down the basic period I would consider as 'Classic' Dungeons and Dragons as pre-Forgotten Realms and pre-Dragonlance. While there are many great Forgotten Realms modules, and many cool post-Greyhawk settings, I consider this era to be the 'Classic' era of D&D adventures.
So what are your favorites from this time period? There are many other great adventures from this time, and this list simply comprises those most memorable to me and those my friends and I talk about the most.
What's your favorite?


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