22 Feb

Dungeons & Dragons PDF Recommendations

Just in case you’re last minute like I am, run over to DriveThruRPG and hunt down all of those classic Dungeons & Dragons adventures and sourcebooks and scoop them up at a discount. Wizards of the Coast and DTRPG are celebrating WotC’s two-year anniversary with the site. People had been clamoring for PDFs of Dungeons & Dragons material for a long time and eventually WotC realized that maybe they should get in on that action.


Here’s a look at just a few of my favorites and some of the products that really influenced me.

B1: In Search of the Unknown, Dungeons & Dragons to the Core

B1 In Search of the UnknownOK, I’m calling this one out for sentimental reasons. Plenty of people can quote entire sections of Keep on the Borderlands in their sleep (and you should worry about those people), but to me B1: In Search of the Unknown was the sister of that module. I got this at the same time as my Basic Set and I think it’s what turned me into a mostly-DM, sometimes-PC. It’s an un-stocked dungeon. Yup, just rooms and descriptions, but no monsters except the ones you put in it. I got that set and module for my birthday when I was about 10 and proceeded to teach my parents to play D&D because I wanted to play the moment I got the box open!

In a way, In Search of the Unknown is ideal for conversion to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons! It doesn’t have the deep story and hard polish of later products, but there’s so much to work with that makes it perfect for adapting to your own style of play.

G1-3: Against the Giants, Bigger Adventures

G1-3 Against the GiantsWhen I picked up this adventure (yes, I got the combined G1-3 version) it dawned on me that I could link adventures. Yes, hardly earth-shattering news to most gamers, but remember that there was a time when you first started to play RPGs that you didn’t know this! The realization was like a bolt of lightning (10d6, save for half) and I failed that save. Suddenly I could chain events together, seed story hooks for the future, and generally think on a much bigger scale than I previously had. The fact that <decades-old spoiler alert> this series fed into D1, D2, D3, and Q1 was, to my young mind, the coolest thing ever! Do yourself a favor and just pick up the whole bundle.

Once again, it’s pretty easy to translate this series to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. And there has been no shortage of remakes and continuation of this series in future editions. (Sadly, one of my favorite projects ever for Dungeons & Dragons Insider, related to this series, languishes in a Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque warehouse at WotC to likely never see the light of day.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark Warehouse
My contribution to a later edition’s “Against the Giants” being shelved somewhere at WotC. Or, at least, that’s how I imagine it looked.


DL1: Dragons of Despair, A Dungeons & Dragons Epic

DL1 Dragons of DespairDragons of Despair was the first time I saw an isometric map. That was reason enough for me to commit to the series: the maps. I never ran the entire series, or even a portion of it as intended. Instead I cannibalized everything it offered. And I devoured each module as it came out, reading them the way most people read the novels of the series. To be honest, I loved the adventures far more than I enjoyed the novels. There’s a part of me that would love to run them now, but that same part of me, given the option, would likely wish for the TIME to run those adventures first. It’s a strange thing to try to play the Dragonlance series without feeling constrained by the narrative of the books.

I think the trick would be finding a group of players who have never read the series, but those books are such a fixture that it would be a serious challenge. Alternately, create a new band of heroes and allow them to save Krynn in their own way. But, like I said, having the time to actually run them all is the greatest limitation. But that’s no reason not to read them all and enjoy what was probably the most epic, inter-connected series of Dungeons & Dragons adventures.

One More Dungeons & Dragons Purchase

Blacksmiths Burden - 5E coverYou didn’t think I wouldn’t slip in a sales pitch, did you? I put it all the way down here at the bottom, though, so hopefully it’s not too obnoxious. I’ve started work on material compatible with 5th Edition, so start watching for it on DTRPG. I’ve also got some official 5E projects in work, so watch this space for me to start talking them up as they go public.

In the meantime, my litmus test for layout and converting, The Blacksmith’s Burden, is now available in a 5th Edition-compatible format. I hope you’ll check it out.

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