From the Vault: Catacombs of the Dragon Master

Here's another resurrected post, originally published 10 years ago.

The specific date of creation for this dungeon is January 26, 1996. I know this because, by this time, I was aware enough of my own need to be able to accurately place my creations on my personal timeline of gaming development that I was more diligent about dating my creations, as you'll see on the included character sheet for "Drakon the Dragon Master." This made it easier to know to what era things belonged when I got swept up in the heat of nostalgia - which I was when I created this.

A little background: I moved from Moldvay Basic D&D (my introduction to this hobby) very quickly. I got the boxed set for Christmas of 1981; by the spring of '82, I was incorporating monsters from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual into the game; by the summer of '82, I was playing a mix of Basic D&D and AD&D (using my new Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide). I continued in this fashion until some time in 1983 or 1984, when I set aside D&D in favor of TSR's Top Secret.

Except for occasional one-off games, I didn't play D&D again until, IIRC, 1989 (immediately following a three-year period where I gave up RPGs altogether). During that renaissance, I played full-on AD&D - Moldvay Basic was a topic of derision in my new gaming group. ("Race as class? Hah! What a joke!") We played at least 14 or 15 AD&D games before the game was again shelved, this time in favor of embarking on the adventure of discovering many of the other role-playing games that I had previously overlooked, or that were just coming out as part of the late-80s/early-90s RPG boom.

I gamed quite regularly with that group, and we tried a lot of different games - and indulged in a long-running series of sessions of Beyond the Supernatural, followed by an even longer-running series of Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic sessions - but we didn't return to D&D for a very long time. However, this being my gaming heyday, I had a fairly large pool of players, and varying subsets of the group not only played at different times, but often different games. This was especially true where my good friend Terry was involved - we played many head-to-head games, because we liked games most of the others didn't.

Terry also shared my penchant for indulging in bouts of nostalgia. This commonality resulted in a second D&D renaissance in the mid-90s. We wanted to go back to our roots, so we opted for Basic D&D - this time, though, the rules came in the form of the Rules Cyclopedia. During this period, I created a number of "dungeons" - some of my best, IMO - of which the following is an example.

Since I was in nostalgia mode, I spent a bit of time looking through my creations from the early '80s. In doing so, I got the idea to recreate one of my first dungeons, the Dungeon of the Dragon Lord, for our game. For your enjoyment, here is the end result:

As I mentioned in reply to a comment on my first dungeon ever, the location descriptions for this dungeon were written out on the same paper I used to map and describe my dungeons in the early '80s. This was done on purpose - to preserve the sense of nostalgia.

Also, should you wish to actually use this dungeon, you may want to scale back the treasure rewards a bit; Terry and I, being true to our "old school" roots, opted for over-the-top, Monty Hall play. You'll see this style reflected in the treasure rewards in this dungeon. (Our PCs could have easily destabilized the economy of the entire game world...)


  1. My kids have recently started getting into Dungeons and Dragons, and as their defacto DM, I've been looking for what I think would be fun adventures for them. This old dungeon map of yours looks really great. It's a perfect template for me to work off of and develop one of my own for them to play through.

    Just came across your site for the first time today. I really like what you're doing with it. I'll be back often.

    1. Thanks, Mickey - and I'm glad you like the site! I hope you and your kids get tons of fun out of this old dungeon - have fun! :D


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