A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 5: 1978
1978 was the year of the adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, with the publication of the first of many adventure modules, including the now classic Tomb of Horrors and the Giants series. Most of these scenarios began life in prior years as tournament modules run at various conventions.
1978 also saw the publication of the second hardcover volume for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, the Player’s Handbook. Interestingly, key concepts like how to determine ability scores and combat rules were not present in the PHB, reserved for the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which would appear a year later.
The first edition of Gamma World also appeared in 1978, a reimagining of the previous Metamorphosis: Alpha game. While a separate and distinct game at that time, Gamma World would eventually become attached to the D&D game, many years later.
1978 D&D Products
May – G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
May – G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
May – G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King. The Giants trilogy of adventures are now considered among the greatest of the classic modules and have been updated or reimagined several times over the years, most recently by Chris Perkins for 4th Edition in a series of articles in Dungeon Magazine online. They also serve as the first three parts of a loosely connected series that continued with the D series of adventures and concluded in Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits.
May – Monster and Treasure Assortment, Set Three: Levels Seven-Nine.
June – Players Handbook. To quote the book itself, the Players Handbook was “A compiled volume of information for players of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, including: character races, classes, and level abilities; spell tables and descriptions; equipment costs; weapons data; and information on adventuring.” The book compiled, revised, and expanded upon what had previously been available in numerous pamphlets, issues of Dragon Magazine, and other sources. It included seven player character races, ten character classes (eleven counting the proto-prestige class version of the Bard in the appendix), the now well known nine alignment system, and rules for psionics (also in an appendix). Also of note, players are actively dissuaded from purchasing or reading the Dungeon Master’s Guide, to preserve a sense of mystery and discovery as they play the game.
June – S1: Tomb of Horrors. Perhaps one of the most infamous adventure modules of all time, the Tomb of Horrors was originally designed as a tournament module for the first Origins convention in 1975. The tomb which lends its name to the adventure is that of the lich Acererak and featured a multitude of traps, tricks, and false entrances. Like the G series, Tomb of Horrors has been revised or updated multiple times over the course of D&D’s history, and is considered one of the classics. The cover shown below is for the fourth printing. The original cover was monochrome.
September – D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth
September – D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
September – D3: Vault of the Drow. Following the Giants series, the D series took players into the Underdark and brought them face to face with the drow, evil dark elves which, at that time, were a dangerous new enemy.
November – B1: In Search of the Unknown. Designed for the Basic (Holmes) version of the game, B1 is an introductory adventure, the first of several. B1 was later overshadowed in popularity and quality by B2: Keep on the Borderlands. The cover shown below is from a later printing. The original cover was monochrome.