A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 12: 1985
In 1985, the controversy surrounding Dungeons and Dragons hit the national news as a segment on the game, including an interview with Gary Gygax, aired on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
TSR was weathering that storm, having acquired a license to produce a roleplaying game based on Marvel Comics, which helped pull them out of the financial difficulties of the previous year. AD&D, meanwhile, began the trend of every edition to create a sort of ½ edition, finally officially appended with a .5 in the 3rd Edition era. In the case of AD&D, the “1.5” edition was presented in the pages of the hardcovers Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures which added a number of new and optional mechanics to the game, including non-weapon proficiencies, the first true skill system in D&D.
1985 also saw the debut of a companion magazine to Dragon, aptly named Dungeon. Dungeon was published bi-monthly and filled with content aimed at Dungeon Masters, primarily adventures. Dungeon saw 150 issues in print form before transitioning to digital format in 2007.
1985 saw a new type of book binding, at least for TSR, squarebound paperbacks, a format used by comic book companies for compilations and a format first made commonplace in RPG circles by Palladium Books, a company that would prove pivotal, in an odd way, in the history of Wizards of the Coast…a company now very familiar to D&D players.
Sales of Unearthed Arcana ultimately allowed Gary Gygax to retake control of the company and mend fences, most notably with Dave Arneson, allowing TSR to publish a few Blackmoor focused adventures. While in Hollywood, Gary befriended Flint Dille, a television producer responsible for several 1980s era animated series including the Transformers and G.I. Joe, and Dille’s sister Lorraine Williams. Williams was the heir to the Buck Rogers estate and was recommended by Dille to Gygax as an excellent business manager. So, when Gygax returned from Hollywood to rescue TSR from the clutches of financial ruin, he brought Williams with him. Williams was instrumental in TSR’s financial turnaround and brought investment money as well. When Gygax sought to oust the Blumes from TSR, they sold their stock to Williams. The Blumes were gone, but Lorraine Williams now had majority control of the company. Gygax tried to block the sale in court, which soured his relationship with Williams. The effort failed and Gygax was left with no other option but to sell his stock to Williams as well and leave the company and game he had created.
1985 D&D Products
February – C3: The Lost Island of Castanamir. This adventure featured a dungeon connected not by corridors but by magical portals.
March – Battlesystem. Battlesystem was a resurrection of D&D’s wargaming roots. For use with either the BECMI rules or AD&D, Battlesystem was a miniatures wargaming system featuring D&D iconic creatures and characters. Several adventure modules would feature Battlesystem scenarios in addition to the regular adventure, including one of the DL series of Dragonlance modules and one of the X series of BECMI Expert level modules. An official line of miniatures was also produced for Battlesystem.
March – C4: To Find a King. The first of a two part series dealing with the Prophecy of Brie.
March – C5: The Bane of Llywelyn. The second part of the Prophecy of Brie series. These two adventures were compilations and revisions of earlier RPGA modules.
May 1985 – DL6: Dragons of Ice. Continuing the Dragonlance series, this module takes the heroes to the southern arctic zone and Icewall Castle. The events of this adventure are largely glossed over in the novels.
June – Unearthed Arcana. An expansion of AD&D, Unearthed Arcana included new classes, Barbarian, Cavalier, and Thief-Acrobat; rules on subraces as player character races, including drow and svirfneblin; and several new rules, including weapon specialization for Fighters and a new ability score, Comeliness.
July – Dragonlance Chronicles Volume 2: Dragons of Winter Night. The second novel in the bestselling Dragonlance series, Dragons of Winter Night follows the companions as the War of the Lance heats up. At this point, Weis and Hickman decided to not follow the published adventures nearly as closely as they had in the first novel, and glossed over much of the material that appeared in the DL5 and DL6 adventure modules. They also split the group to make the sheer number of characters more manageable and to cover more storytelling ground. This novel also marks the debut of Kitiara, half-sister of the twins Caramon and Raistlin and romantic interest of Tanis…as well as being one of the primary antagonists of the series.
July – DL7: Dragons of Light. In this Dragonlance adventure, the heroes seek out the tomb of the legendary Huma in search of the titular weapons of the series, dragonlances.
July – DL8: Dragons of War. This Dragonlance module made use of the new Battlesystem rules to play out the battle of the High Clerist’s Tower (also a pivotal scene in the novel Dragons of Winter Night).
July – H1: Bloodstone Pass. Written specifically for the new Battlesystem miniatures rules, Bloodstone Pass puts player characters in charge of the defense of a town against humanoid invaders. The module included cardboard cutouts for miniatures and buildings to assemble.
July – UK7: Dark Clouds Gather. A module that takes mostly in flight, culminating in a raid on a cloud giant’s castle.
August – T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil. T1: The Village of Hommlet was always intended to be the first in a series, but the follow-up adventures didn’t materialize until 1985. The whole series was released in a super adventure format as The Temple of Elemental Evil, now recognized as one of D&D’s classic iconic adventures. This adventure was adapted in 2003 as a PC game of the same name using the D&D 3.5 rules set. A sequel, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, using the 3rd Edition rules was published in 2001.
September – DL9: Dragons of Deceit. The next in the Dragonlance series, Dragons of Deceit takes the heroes to Sanction, one of the power bases of the evil dragonarmies. This module includes rules for aerial battles between dragons (and their riders).
September – Lankhmar: City of Adventure. The AD&D game entered Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar setting with this boxed set, which includes an extensive overview of the city.
October – Dragonlance Chronicles Volume 3: Dragons of Spring Dawning. The conclusion of the bestselling Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy of novels. Although the story of the War of the Lance ends here, the book leaves some story elements unfinished as Kitiara escapes, and, more importantly, Raistlin comes into his full power. These dangling threads would be picked up in the second Dragonlance trilogy, Legends.
October – Oriental Adventures. This hardcover supplement brought AD&D into Eastern fantasy, very far from its Western fantasy, Tolkien inspired roots. Samurai, Ninja, Kensai, and others were now playable alongside Fighters, Clerics, and Paladins. The book introduced new rules for non-weapon proficiencies and honor as well as the Kara-Tur setting, here an independent setting, though it would later be incorporated in to the Forgotten Realms.
October – REF1: Dungeon Master’s Screen. Another revision of the classic DM’s screen.
October – X9: The Savage Coast. A BECMI Expert level adventure in which the player characters explore the Orcs Head Peninsula.
November – I7: Baltron’s Beacon. In this adventure, the player characters explore a swamp and a ruined tower looking for a substance called “black flame.”
November – X10: Red Arrow, Black Shield. An Expert level war scenario in which the Master of the Desert Nomads invades the Republic of Darokin. The module includes rules options for both the War Machine rules in the Companion Set and the new Battlesystem miniatures rules. This module’s place in the Known World/Mystara timeline is a little odd as it can play out either 200 years in the future, or during the greater campaign of Wrath of the Immortals (published in 1992).
December – CA1: Swords of the Undercity. An anthology of adventures set in Lankhmar.
December – DL10: Dragons of Dreams. In this Dragonlance adventure, the heroes enter the abandoned elven land of Silvanesti and confront the nightmares of its ruler.
AC6: Player Character Record Sheets. Another in the long line of character sheet products.
AC7: Master Player Screen. A screen for players, along with an adventure for Master level BECMI characters, The Spindle.
AC8: 3-D Dragon Tiles: The Revenge of Rusak. The second set of cardstock buildable dungeons with a short mini adventure. Early printings labeled this product AC3.
B9: Castle Caldwell and Beyond. An anthology of short Basic level adventures.
CM5: Mystery of the Snow Pearls. A Companion level solo adventure that came with a “magic viewer” similar to the one included in MV1: Midnight on Dagger Alley.
CM6: Where Chaos Reigns. A Companion level adventure in which the player characters must repair reality itself by traveling through time.
Dungeons & Dragons Master Set. The “M” in the BECMI series, the Master Set covered levels 26-36, the pinnacle of mortal achievement. This set introduced the weapon mastery rules, a complex system of weapon proficiencies that gave characters a variety of special abilities depending on the weapons mastered. Also included are rules for siege weapons, the Mystic class (martial artists similar to AD&D monks), and the paths to Immortality (effectively becoming a God).
M1: Into the Maelstrom. The first Master level adventure, where in the player characters command a fleet of magical flying vessels sent to attack an enemy force, only to get swept into a magical maelstrom.
Sagard: The Barbarian. A series of four Choose Your Own Adventure style gamebooks, The Ice Dragon, The Green Hydra, The Crimson Sea, and The Fire Demon (published in 1986). Written by Gary Gygax and Flint Dille and set in Greyhawk, these books were not published by TSR but by Simon and Schuster.
WG6: Isle of the Ape. Inspired loosely by King Kong and set in Greyhawk, this is the last module written by Gary Gygax before he left TSR.
XS2: Thundelve Mountain. A solo Expert level adventure in which a dwarf player character takes on a red dragon in its lair.