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Classic D&D Modules A Collector’s Guide to AD&D S1-S4 Modules

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In the annals of tabletop role-playing games, few series have captivated and challenged players like the S-Series modules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D S1-S4 Modules). Released between 1978 and 1982, these four adventures—Tomb of Horrors (S1), White Plume Mountain (S2), Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (S3), and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (S4)—represent a pinnacle of adventure design, creativity, and the ingenious melding of fantasy with elements of science fiction. Each module, while distinct in theme and execution, contributes to a legendary collection that has tested the mettle of adventurers for decades.

I remember playing and being enthralled by these modules especially The Tomb of Horrors and Expedition to the Barrier Peak. I wish I still had my collection seeing how collectible and valuable they have become, even more so if they are in near mint condition. Modules are now even being CGC graded.

CGC 5.5 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tomb of Horrors S1 Module
CGC 5.5 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tomb of Horrors S1 Module. This CGC example sold for $750 on ebay, January 2024.

These AD&D S1-S4 Modules have not only stood the test of time as iconic adventures but have also grown significantly in collectability and value. For enthusiasts and collectors, these modules represent a tangible piece of the rich history of tabletop gaming. Over the years, as the rarity of these original prints has increased, so too has their value—particularly for copies in mint or near-mint condition. The surge in popularity of Dungeons & Dragons in recent years, fueled by its presence in popular culture and the resurgence of tabletop gaming, has further elevated the demand and price of these classic modules. Collectors and fans vie for the chance to own a piece of D&D history, with original copies of adventures like “Tomb of Horrors” and “White Plume Mountain” fetching premium prices on auction sites and collectors’ markets. The combination of nostalgia, historical significance, and the finite availability of these modules in their original printings has cemented their status as highly sought-after collectibles in the realm of role-playing games.

AD&D S1 TOMB OF HORRORS Module. This very good copy with no internal writing sold for $175 on ebay, February 2024.

S1: Tomb of Horrors – The Ultimate Challenge

Conceived by Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the Tomb of Horrors is an adventure that has become synonymous with perilous traps and insidious puzzles. Designed as a test for the most experienced players, this module is infamous for its minimal combat and lethal challenges, requiring players to think creatively and tread cautiously. The tomb of the demilich Acererak, filled with cunningly hidden traps and riddles, promises immense treasure but more often leads to untimely demise. Its reputation for difficulty and the demand for strategic thinking over brute force combat has made it a classic, often revisited in later editions and celebrated in D&D lore.

AD&D S2 WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN Module. This good copy with no internal writing sold for $79.95 on ebay, February 2024.

S2: White Plume Mountain – A Puzzling Adventure

White Plume Mountain, penned by Lawrence Schick as a job application to TSR (the original publisher of D&D), serves as a lighter, more whimsical counterpoint to the deadly seriousness of the Tomb of Horrors. Players embark on a quest to retrieve three legendary weapons from a volcano dungeon, filled with creative traps and unique monsters. The module is renowned for its imaginative challenges that go beyond straightforward combat, encouraging players to engage in problem-solving and exploration. Its enduring popularity led to its inclusion in the Tales from the Yawning Portal collection for 5th Edition D&D.

AD&D S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Module
AD&D S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Module. This very fine copy sold for $68 on ebay, March 2024.

S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks – A Sci-Fi Crossover

With Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Gary Gygax introduced a groundbreaking fusion of science fiction with traditional fantasy. Originally developed for a convention, this module sends adventurers to investigate a mysterious mountain only to discover a crashed spaceship. The juxtaposition of medieval fantasy elements with high-tech science fiction—complete with robots, alien creatures, and futuristic weapons—offered a novel experience for D&D players. This adventurous blend has made the module a memorable experiment in genre-bending, illustrating the versatility of the game.

AD&D S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth Module
AD&D S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth Module. This good copy sold for $30 on ebay, March 2024.

S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth – A Treasure Hunt

The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, another creation of Gygax, offers an epic treasure hunt through monster-infested caverns in search of the legendary sorcerer Tsojcanth’s hidden lair and its arcane secrets. The module is celebrated for its detailed setting, intricate dungeon design, and the introduction of new monsters that have since become staples in the D&D bestiary. It balances combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, providing a comprehensive adventure experience that has been fondly remembered and revisited in various D&D editions.

Legacy and Impact

The S-Series AD&D S1-S4 Modules have not only provided countless hours of entertainment but also influenced the development of role-playing games as a whole. Their innovative designs, blending of genres, and emphasis on storytelling and problem-solving set new standards for what a tabletop RPG could offer. They tested players’ skills in ways that went beyond dice rolls, encouraging strategic thinking, teamwork, and creative engagement with the game world.

These adventures have been reprinted, adapted, and celebrated in various forms, including anniversary editions, references in popular culture, and inclusion in newer D&D products. Their legacy is a testament to the enduring appeal of well-crafted adventures that challenge and inspire players.

As Dungeons & Dragons continues to evolve, the lessons learned and the bar set by the S-Series modules will undoubtedly continue to influence the design of future adventures. The blend of rich storytelling, challenging gameplay, and innovative design found in S1-S4 remains a high watermark for the genre, illustrating the depth and potential of tabletop role-playing games to generations of players and designers alike.

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