Zanzer’s Dungeon

The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons was my first exposure to the D&D basic line. At the time, I was already quite into Second Edition (my gateway edition), so I’m not sure why I even had a copy of this. Maybe it was a present or something? In any case, it ended up being quite educational for someone who had never seen race-as-class or an unarmored AC of 9 before. I ultimately picked up a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia too, for the full experience.

Check out Zanzer’s Dungeon (from this site that is in a language I don’t understand). This was the map of the dungeon for the included beginning adventure. Looking at that map now, it’s a rather wacky design: basically a big spiral leading in to the prison cell where the (captured) PCs are expected to begin. Not much naturalism there. Also, I don’t remember where the actual entrance was supposed to be. Is there a staircase I am missing or something? Maybe it was the concealed door in room 33?

Not that I’m a stickler for logic or anything, but here’s a scenario idea for recasting this map so that it makes more sense. There’s obviously some mining going on here (see rooms 30, 31, and 32). Say the entrance (from the surface) is in room 28. Rooms on the right side (the mining side) are new construction. This would be everything on the right side of the corridors with rough walls. Rooms on the left side are ancient construction (a barrow reinforced with ancient spells and meant to contain an evil power). The center of the map (the “cell” that is room 1) should be recast as the demon containment unit. The rooms leading to it contain greater and greater guardians, intended to keep the ancient evil in and also to prevent evil cultists from releasing it. (Thank you, Glen Cook, for the Barrowlands inspiration.)

The new construction on the east side was started by a greedy merchant who either does not hold the old legends in high esteem, or does not care as long as he extracts the mineral wealth.

Further adventure hooks are left as an exercise for the reader.

10 thoughts on “Zanzer’s Dungeon

  1. Zenopus Archives

    I like Zanzer’s dungeon because it’s part of the lineage of the Basic Set Sample Dungeons. However, I haven’t read it that closely, particularly because it’s spread out on a bunch of cards.

    What I like from that set are the fold-up paper minis. I’ve been using them in our game to fill out monsters in our combats. We use plastic minis for the PCs & it helps to keep track of which are which.

    1. velaran

      I just got this (in the shrinkwrap!) for a few bucks after becoming interested in and researching late ‘Classic’ D&D!

      It turns out that this set(Denning/Brown’s revision of Mentzer’s Basic and some of his Expert[the ‘New, Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game’]) was edited by Doug Stuart in 1994 into the ‘Classic’ Dungeons & Dragons Game and stayed on the market until 1999 as the *last* D&D Basic Set, closing out the tradition began in 1977. šŸ™

      The later 1999 Dungeons & Dragons Adventure game is a stripped down AD&D 2nd Edition sold as a box set, with preview ‘Fast Play’ rules distributed in an issue of Dragon magazine and given out as a pamphlet to select game shops to hand out for free. The booklets contained a $5.00 coupon for the D&D Adventure Game, which oddly enough had *two* supplement adventures(which included the ‘Fast play’ Rules), costing $5.00 apiece, and which promote the D&D Adventure game as if it’s the natural progression from the free booklets and a complete game! There is, however, a mention of moving on to Advanced if your group feels ready. Obviously, this game isn’t ‘D&D’ proper.(Or even 2E, really…) IIRC, a variant of the Dragon/Game Store Fast Play, called Caverns of the Smoke Dragon, was also distributed at Gencon in ’99 or so. I believe it was similar to the free Diablo ‘Fast Play’ game(adventure, really) that came out about this time.(Which *wasn’t* the same as the Diablo Adventure Game that was supposed to ship with Diablo 2 as well as be in game stores! :-/)

      The box’s dimensions switched from 16.73 x 12.20 x 2.09 inches(landscape) to 11.8 x 9.2 x 2.2 inches(portrait) and the cover art changed to another Easley pic,more brownish in color with three adventurers battling a rather tan dragon erupting through a dusty canyon wall. (From what I can tell, it’s an axe wielding fighter, a warrior charging the dragon on a horse, and a rather lost looking mage or something behind the 1st guy…) Funnily enough, a later printing in 1996 re-used the 1991 cover, but kept the ‘new’ name; but hey, they returned the Black Box back to black! šŸ˜‰

      The internal contents changed slightly: the card format for the introductory adventure was jettisoned, incorporating the text into the rule book as discrete sections, thereby bringing the page count up to 128(Coincidentally, this meant the DM’s screen will stand up now! :-D); the cautionary ‘read this first’ notesheet was done away with; the wall poster of the box art is no longer included.

      For more comprehensive(and likely completely accurate) info, check the Acaeum, Tome of Treasures, Dragonsfoot, Original D&D discussion boards, TSR Archive, and the like!

      Intriguing post on Zanzer’s Dungeon, and its possible usefulness!

    2. Brendan

      Interesting, thanks for the added info. I’ve never seen this smaller relative of the “new, easy to master” box. Moving the info on the cards into the ref book seems like a smart move. Are the folding monster tokens and the dungeon “gameboard” map included as well?

    3. velaran

      Yep. Both of those are still in the box, as well as the six plastic minis. My figurines are all red and all male ‘adventurer’ types. Hilariously, Zanzer’s Dungeon mentions that the PCs are scullery maids, dancing girls, delivery boys, street urchins, and the like! The module suggests that each player pick the mini that most resembles their character. Good thing this is a game of imagination, right? šŸ™‚ No doubt a memorable experience, being Trishbeard the Dwarf Axeman Scullery Maid for your first D&D game.(Though probably not memorable in the sense TSR may have been going for.) You could get a few yuks off this, so it’s all good in the end! šŸ™‚

    4. Zenopus Archives

      Good info, velaran. BTW, you should start your own blog!

      I haven’t seen the 1994 set, but I’ve heard complaints that all of the dumbed-down intro stuff (from the cards in the earlier set) is in the booklet, making the rulebook alot longer than needed.

  2. faoladh

    Hokey smokes! That’s an edition that I completely missed back in the day (actually, I may have seen it, but I wasn’t aware of the variations going on, and so dismissed each of the various releases), and wasn’t even aware of until now. Is it any different than the Cyclopedia (or BECMI), or is it just a different presentation of those rules?

    1. Zenopus Archives

      It’s basically a Basic Set for the Rules Cyclopedia, though the editors were different (Brown & Denning vs Allston). IIRC, it was published around the same time and has essentially the same rules, but covers levels 1-5 (more than previous Basic Sets). I actually sold the rule book and just kept the other contents of the set. The Sample Dungeon is described on tutorial cards rather than being in the rulebook. The map Brendan linked above is poster-sized and intended to be used with the fold-up minis.

    2. Brendan

      I don’t have a copy of this anymore, so I’m not sure if there are any rules differences. I’m guessing not. I think by the point of this release, TSR was more interested in providing a uniform play experience within a single product line.

  3. Douglas Lopes de Souza

    Hey! The site mentioned above is a Portuguese language site from Brazil.
    I was a colaborator of that blog and merged some images I found at the internet into one high res image.
    Im glad you liked it and mentioned in a english web site.
    Is good to know more people is playing the old d&d again!
    Best wishes!


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