Against the Slave Lords is a hardcover collection of four interconnected Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules, the A1 – A4 series Scourge of the Slave Lords, originally published in 1980 and 1981. It includes new forewords by the four surviving designers. Lawrence Schick, for example, relates how his inspiration came from fellow author and dungeon master Harold Johnson:
In his campaign one night, Harold had our characters get captured, whereupon he took away all our stuff and threw us in a dungeon. The challenge: escape without relying on all our carefully hoarded adventuring gear. Were our characters people with skills and brains, or were they really just lists of equipment?
It also includes the maps and all of the original black-and-white interior art. Most intriguing of all, there’s also a brand new fifth adventure that sets the stage for the entire series, published here for the first time. Danger at Darkshelf Quarry is designed for low-level players (levels 1-3).
Why celebrate? It signals that publishers Wizards of the Coast are serious about bringing the canonical works of first edition D&D back into print. I was plenty excited at their last premium hardcover reprint, Dungeons of Dread, as it collected some of the most famous adventures written by AD&D‘s creator, Gary Gygax — including Tomb of Horrors and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (still one of my favorite adventure modules of all time) — all of which were long out of print and hard to find.
Wizards has expanded the premium reprint series well beyond the scope of their original announcement last August. They have already reprinted all four of the original AD&D rulebooks — including Unearthed Arcana — and in May moved on to Second Edition (examined in detail by Andrew Zimmerman Jones here.)
I’m glad to see Section Edition back in print. But my real hope is that Wizards will continue to republish Gygax’s most famous adventures — including Against the Giants (which first introduced the Drow), Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, and most especially The Temple of Elemental Evil (which Matthew David Surridge examined in detail here), perhaps the finest RPG adventure module ever written.
Against the Giants, Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, and The Temple of Elemental Evil are all long out of print — and all command exorbitant prices on the collector’s market (Temple alone routinely runs $60-$80 for copies in decent condition on eBay) and are out of reach of all but the most dedicated collectors.
Last year, Wizards published a Fourth Edition update of The Temple of Hommlet, the first portion of the Temple, but that was in a limited release as part of their DM Rewards program — and copies of that are already hard to find.
A proper reprint of those classic adventures would bring them back into the hands of gamers — especially OSR players — for the first time in decades.
Until that happy day, I’m very pleased to see Against the Slave Lords available again. It’s a fine set of classic adventures, and I urge you to check it out.
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity (written by David Cook, originally a 24-page booklet, 1980): It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!
A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade: (Harold Johnson and Tom Moldvay, originally 32 pages, 1981) The battle against the slavers continues! You and your fellow adventurers have defeated the slavers of Highport, but you have learned of the existence of another slaver stronghold, and you have decided to continue the attack. But beware! Only the most fearless of adventurers could challenge the slavers on their own ground, and live to tell of it!
A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: (Allen Hammack, 32 pages, 1981) Into the Drachengrab Mountains! Hot on the trail of the marauding slavers, you and your fellow adventurers plunge deep into hostile hills. Spurred on by your past success, you now seek the heart of the slaver conspiracy. But hurry! You must move quickly before the slavers recover from your previous forays and attack!
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords: (Lawrence Schick, 32 pages, 1981) Trapped in the dungeons of the Slave Lords! The hardy adventurers must find a way out, with only their wits and courage to help them. But can they do it before everything is destroyed by the dreaded Earth Dragon?
Against the Slave Lords was published by Wizards of the Coast on June 18. It is 192 pages in hardcover, priced at $49.95. There is no digital edition.
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