I’ve never been a fan of Dungeon Magazine, mostly because it dominated during the 2e period of D&D (the Bronze and Dark Ages), when the game was on a downward spiral. But there are some good adventures from Dungeon‘s pages, excellent ones even, and I thought it worth sharing ten that I value in particular.
1. Kingdom of the Ghouls. 5+ stars. Wolfgang Baur, 1998, Issue #70. Levels 9-15. The best Dungeon module hands down. An army ghouls is taking over the underworld, forcing other races to flee or join. Baur develops a compelling culture of an intelligent race of ghouls that speak their own language and set an agenda to rival the drow and mind flayers. Those who love the classic D1-3 series, especially Vault of the Drow, will eat this right up. Do not use the 2009 remake for 4e, which is as awful as this original is excellent… and so weird and demented.
2. Tears for Twilight Hollow. 5 stars. Angel Leigh McCoy & Christopher Perkins, 2002, Issue #90. Levels 6-8. Twice the length of most Dungeon adventures, and it never cheats with its complex layers of plotting. A paladin has been murdered, and the trail eventually leads to catacombs under the village, and the discovery of a cult that enforces masochism and pain.
3. The Forgotten Man. 5 stars. Steve Devaney, 1999, Issue #75. Levels 6-8. A story of redemption. A man who seems decent enough has lost his memory. If he regains his memories, things will become very bad, because he’s Evil with a capital E. Starts in a village setting and ends up in a deadly castle requiring lots of shrewdness on the part of the players.
4. The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb. 5 stars. Mike Shel, 1992, Issue #37. Levels 13-15. Many claim this is the best thing Dungeon ever published, and you can certainly make a case for it. It’s basically a Tomb of Horrors that gives the players a chance of surviving. The traps and tricks are creative, the puzzles make sense, and the tension never lets up.
5. The Ghost of Mistmoor. 4 ½ stars. Leonard Wilson, 1992, Issue #35. Levels 3-6. A haunted mansion adventure with creative rooms and clever traps — my favorite haunted house adventure ever made for D&D, even more than Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Involves one ghost or more, and ghostly impersonators on top. Nothing is quite as it seems, and it’s not easy to figure out what the hell is going on.
6. The Styes. 4 ½ stars. Richard Pett, 2005, Issue #121. Levels 8-10. Set in a coastal town, the plot involves solving a murder and clearing the wrongly accused, which in turn leads to running afoul the Tharizdun cult, an aboleth, and a young kraken. Heavy Lovecraft vibes, and it’s hard to go wrong there.
7. Mightier Than the Sword. 4 ½ stars. Willie Walsh, 1991, Issue #29. Levels 1-4. A scribe invents a metal nib for the end of a quill, for which he is loved and hated in equal measure, by the town’s guild of scribes (hated), ink makers (loved), druids (hated), and paper manufacturers (loved). Then he’s murdered, and everyone starts jumping to conclusions. Probably the best murder mystery I’ve seen in D&D.
8. The Harrowing. 4 stars. Monte Cook, 2001, Issue #84. Levels 14-16. If you use the classic module Vault of the Drow in conjunction with Drow culture material from Dragon #298, and then follow it up with this module instead of Queen of the Demonweb Pits, you’ve got a kick-ass campaign. PCs can be expected to die, as The Harrowing takes place in the Demonweb Pits on the Abyss… but then who wants to live forever?
9. Slave Vats of the Yuan-ti. 4 stars. Jason Kuhl, 1998, Issue #69. Levels 3-5. Set in a swamp where the wildlife grows too big, thanks to enchanted atmosphere. It ends at an abandoned house being used by the Yuan-ti as a laboratory for hideous cloning experiments. That’s down in the basement level. The ground and upper floors are playgrounds for gremlins who wreak havoc on unsuspecting intruders.
10. Into the Fire. 4 stars. Grant & David Boucher, 1986, Issue #1. Levels 6-10. For a game called Dungeons & Dragons, there are surprisingly few good modules focusing on dragons. (The Dragonlance series of the mid-’80s was horrible.) Into the Fire is a decent adventure from the very first Dungeon issue that gets right back to basics. A red dragon needs to be dealt with ASAP before more people are roasted.