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Reverse Dungeon (2e)

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See how the other half lives!

Herpulh the goblin heard a knock-knock-knocking in the upper corridor?those nosy explorers have found the secret entrance to the goblin den! Herpulh must hurry to warn the tribe. If the invaders cut him off at the pass, there will be no means of stopping their mad advance into the lair!

Welcome to Reverse Dungeon, the adventure where everything is backward! Instead of playing bold heroes who venture into the dens of evil, the players take the roles of the monsters, determined to stop adventurers from invading their homes. Instead of always being the good guys, the players get a chance to be the bad guys.

Reverse Dungeon contains three linked mini-campaigns in which the players represent:

  • Goblins whose warrens are under siege from a band of heroes seeking fame and fortune
  • Guardian abominations whose vaults are attacked from several directions at once
  • Ancient undead that must defend the silence of their tomb against crusading clerics intent on destroying them.

Enter the Reverse Dungeon?and find out how it feels to be on the receiving end of a hero's blade.

Product History

"Reverse Dungeon" (2000), by John D. Rateliff and Bruce R. Cordell is one of the final AD&D 2e generic adventures. It was published in May 2000.

Origins (I): Another Generic. Following on from "The Shattered Circle" (1999) over a year earlier, "Reverse Dungeon" was one of the few latter-day generic adventure for AD&D 2e that didn't have some other motive, such as revisiting Dungeon adventures, RPGA adventures, or TSR's own classic adventures.

Origins (II): Bring on the Bad Guys. However, "Reverse Dungeon" was classic in another way: it returned to the idea of playing the bad guys. This was something that went back to the origins of the game. The first "Rogues Gallery" (1980) had long ago revealed that characters from the earliest OD&D games were evil, among them Ernie Gygax's Erac's Cousin, Lawrence Schick's Lanolin, Al Hammack's Lassiviren the Dark, and most notably Rob Kuntz's Robilar. The earliest 'zines also suggest that being evil, and creating interparty rivalry as a result, was totally OK.

When TSR began publishing books, it was more ambivalent on the issue. Dungeon magazine offered some of the few exceptions. "MonsterQuest" in Dungeon #10 (March/April 1988) allowed players to take on the roles of a variety of evil monsters, but was meant to be "humorous". "Rank Amateurs" in Dungeon #22 (March/April 1990), based on GAZ10: The Orcs of That" (1988), was even more obviously parody. Of course the latter was published in the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000), when TSR became increasingly afraid of "angry mothers", and so made D&D positively heroic. Unshockingly, later books like PHBR10: The Complete Book of Humanoids allowed PC monsters to be good or neutral aligned.

Wizards proved they were willing to go a different way with the publication of "A Paladin of Hell" (1998). Having broken the infernal barrier, they were now willing to take another step, and let players act the role of evil monsters. There's even a section directly addressing the topic, called "Bad or Just Plain Evil?" It admits that most characters "will be playing evil characters", but offers some advice in case the GM is uncomfortable with the idea.

Genre Tropes: Humor. There's another classic return in this adventure: "Reverse Dungeon" uses it unlikely setup to offer a more tongue-in-cheek D&D adventure, of the sort largely not seen since the early '90s. Oh, there's certainly plenty of grim trapping of humans and invading of their homes, but there are also weird quirks like "Mourn", the Minor Death, who likes card games and chess.

Adventure Styles: (Reverse) Dungeon Crawl. "Reverse Dungeon" lays out a classic dungeon crawl in three levels. There's a goblin level, which recalls the humanoid dungeons of old adventures like B2: "The Keep on the Borderlands"; there's a classic funhouse dungeon level, full of lots of different abominations; and there's an undead tomb, which is more original, but doubtless was meant to tip the hat to classics like S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978)l

But, this adventure is of course a "Reverse" dungeon crawl, which means that the players take on the roles of monsters who have to protect those lovingly craft dungeon levels. This is managed in the adventure by events, which describe various peoples invading these sandboxes.

Expanding D&D. The three sections of "Reverse Dungeon" allow players to play goblins, abominations, and the undead. But t he adventuredoesn't try and create new classes or anything. Instead it just gives the players monster stat blocks — though there are some brief rules for improving the goblins with experience.

Exploring Neverness. "Reverse Dungeon" is another Bruce Cordell (co)authored adventure that is very lightly set in Neverness. This linkage occurs through a single paragraph in the adventure, which says that "Mother Superior Marithena is very powerful. She has never been defeated by evil. Why, it is by her hand that the Dragon of Shades was sent howling back into the ether. Is was she who turned the demon-devil Cathazar, even while her companions were turned to salt pillars. And, when the Dargeshaad's evil lieutenant, Kahabros, threatened to return to the world, it was Mother Superior Marithena’s prayers that turned it back to its own shadowy halfworld." Both Dargeshaad and the Dragon of Shades are lore from "College of Wizardry" (1998), while Kahabros is from "Bastion of Faith" (1999). The last namedrop, the Cathazar, would appear as the Cathezar in "Bastion of Broken Souls" (2002), drawing one of several potential connections between Neverness and the 3e adventure path (2000-2002).

If you accept "Reverse Dungeon" as a Neverness adventure, then you get one new village for the world, Ardeche. There's even a potential fourth map for the setting, showing the lands around Ardeche. But, it's so generic as to be largely useless. It literally shows farmland, scrubland, forestland, marshland, and an unnamed monastery.

Exploring Greyhawk. "Reverse Dungeon" is another later Neverness adventure that also hints that it could be a Greyhawk adventure. Here that primarily comes through a number of science-fantasy weapons that were said to be liberated from "Barrier Peaks", and thus the adventure S3: "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" (1980). There's also a returning NPC from that adventure.

Artifacts of Note: A History of the Teeth of Dalhver-Nar. This adventure also features the Teeth of Dalhvar-Nar, the less-loved D&D body-part artifact. They're actually better known as the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar, which has been their name in every appearance except "Reverse Dungeon" and the Book of Artifacts (1993).

The teeth appear to have originated in 1974 or 1975 when Gary Gygax wrote "The Quest for the Teeth of Barkash-Nour" as a tournament adventure for the Metro Detroit Gamers. It was never run. Instead, the teeth made their first public appearance in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) as the 32 teeth of a powerful cleric — now Dahlver-Nar instead of Barkash-Nour. They were a very traditional saintly relic and the ultimate collect-them-all artifact. In Book of Artifacts they were inexplicably revealed to be the teeth of the red dragon Incendax, stumbled upon by the cleric Dahlvar-Nar. Perhaps "angry mothers" didn't like the idea of collecting human teeth.

"Reverse Dungeon" doesn't offer much description of the teeth, but it seems to revert to their original idea as a saintly relic, and also resets their powers to be more line with the original Dungeon Masters Guide. Their next major appearance would be in Tome of Magic (2006), which would feature Dahlver-Nar as a vestige, acknowledge both previous histories, and offer a third — of Dahlver-Nar as a binder who collected the teeth of vestiges.

The dragon Incendax has never been heard from again.

NPCs of Note. The mind flayer Hlyddhth in this adventure appears to be the well-known rogue mind flayer from "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks".

About the Creators. Rateliff worked at TSR and Wizards as an editor throughout the '90s. He also contributed to about a book a year from 1995 onward, with his most expansive work being Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (1999). Cordell was one of D&D's most prolific writers in the late '90s. He'd previously authored many slightly related adventures, such as The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) and the sahuagin (1997) and illithid (1998) Monstrous Arcana adventure trilogies.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Rule System(s)
Pages
96
Edition
1.0
Publisher Stock #
TSR 11392
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File Last Updated:
July 30, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on August 01, 2017.