Saturday, April 30, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! Z is for Zanzer's Dungeon

Z is for Zanzer's Dungeon.

Here we are once again at the end of the A to Z challenge.

Z, like some other letters here, does not signify a module code.  In this case there is an obvious choice.  Back in the early 90s the D&D brand was in transition.  There was the Dungeons & Dragons line, with rule-books named Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, and Immortal (BECMI) and a single book Rules Cyclopedia that combined the first four.  Then there was the completely separate Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line which had rules-books named Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monstrous Manual.  These books were in their 2nd Edition.
Confusing?  Yeah it was to us too.

In 1991 TSR, the then publisher of D&D released their newest, and what would be one of their last, in the "Basic" sets. The set was called "The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game" but gamers often called it the "Black Box".  The adventure inside was a bit of preview of things to soon come.  Zanzer's Dungeon was laid out like a board game complete with little plastic minis for the characters and paper fold top minis for monsters.  This was compatible with the BECMI flavor of D&D and worked as a replacement for the Basic Set and an introduction to the Rules Cyclopedia.

While the game was highly praised for it ease of use and intuitiveness. I never bothered getting it at the time.  I picked up my copy (pictured here) many years later as a means to teach my kids how to play.  Turns out they learned like I did...just by playing.

The board-game like play area is welcoming to new players.  Now they can see what they are doing.
Persoanlly that annoyed me because for years my rule books would say that you don't need a board, only your imagination!  Though today I use tiles and maps just like this.

In fact Zanzer's Dungeon here is the same scale as the maps used in 3rd and 4th edition D&D (and 5th if you care to), so the minis we have been using will work here too.

This set would later be expanded with the Dragon's Den boxed set, which was also board game "shaped".

One day I'll use these as an intro game for something.  Better than them collecting dust on my shelves!


Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Congrats on making it all the way to Z. Can't believe it's all over for another year - well except the roundup. At times I have had no idea what you are talking about :), but I have really enjoyed reading your posts. Thank you so much for all the info.
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

Birgit said...

I am just checking in now and plan to be back. I fell behind:) I love games but was always scared to play dunegeons and dragons because I could see myself get addicted

Anonymous said...

Ah, there it is. The set that got me started in D&D all those years ago. I still have it too, though the interior is rather well-worn from all the use it got.

By the by, The Dragon's Den wasn't the only expansion for the Black Box. There was also The Goblin's Lair and The Haunted Tower. The latter was explicitly set in the Thunder Rift area of Mystara (and I've heard that something later officially placed Zanzer's Dungeon - and, I suspect, Stonefast as well - in that same region).

Jonathan Linneman said...

Great close to a great series, Tim! I'm old, an old-school geek, and a player of old-school games, but I wasn't a gamer yet during the heyday of the old school, so I really appreciate the history you gave us this month.

This boxed set is one that I'd really like to add to the collection some day. It just looks like a lot of fun to play with.