Red dragons. Storm giants. Dragon rulers. Frost giants. They're all here, in this book, in complete, ready-to-play mini-adventures. No matter what level your characters are, there is something here for you (and them).
Need a diversion? Want to spice up a long-running campaign? Want to play, but don't have more than an hour or so? This is the book for your gaming group. As DM, you have everything you'll need to play right at your fingertips. As players, you'll have challenges worthy of your characters.
AC10: "Bestiary of Dragons and Giants" (1987) is the tenth Game Accessory for the Basic D&D Game. It was published in October 1987.
Origins (I): Increasing AC. During the middle of its run (1983-1987), the AC series of Basic D&D accessories was focused on pragmatic physical releases like character sheets, dragon tiles, and GM screens. That changed with the publication of Basic D&D's only monster manual, AC9: "Creature Catalogue" (1986). It marked the beginning of a short-lived run of more creative "AC" supplements. AC10: "Bestiary of Dragons and Giants" (1987) was the second of those.
Readers could easily be fooled into thinking that "Bestiary" is indeed a bestiary. After all, it's right there in the title, and it would have clearly followed in the footsteps of the "Creature Catalogue". In truth, "Bestiary" is a book of adventures featuring dragons and giants — though there's also a little bit of info on running the monsters, and some of the adventures contain additional background material and rules.
Origins (II): Adventure Anthologies. This format was part of a new trend at TSR: adventure anthologies. It sort of started with B9: "Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985), which was a series of mini-adventures that came in over the transom, and it sort of continued with AD&D's tight and focused Books of Lairs (1986-1987, 1992-1993). However it was only in 1987 and 1988 that TSR began to more widely produce adventure anthologies. "Bestiary" was one of the first to go beyond the limited Lairs format, though it still focuses each adventure on a specific monster, like the Lairs did.
Origins (III): A History of Giants. "Bestiary" was one of TSR's earliest supplements to highlight giants, who were fast becoming one of the game's most iconic monsters (alongside dragons, of course).
Giants had first appeared in OD&D (1974), which included very terse descriptions of hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, and cloud giants. The standard six types were then topped off in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), which introduced storm giants. However, the importance of giants was really locked down in the "G" Giants adventures (1978), which let players war against hill giants, frost giants, and fire giants.
New minor races of giants appeared for AD&D in books like Fiend Folio (1981) and Monster Manual II (1983), while Basic D&D got its own new giants in the Master Rules (1985), which introduced the sea giant and the mountain giant. These new giant races showed that there was continuing interest in the monsters, but otherwise they were starting to fade away in the late '80s, almost a decade after the classic Giants adventures were first released. It was time for them to make a resurgence!
Dragons are of course deserving of their own history was well, as they were a classic monster that had recently received their biggest highlight ever in the Dragonlance Chronicles adventures (1984-1986), but they would receive far more spotlights than giants over the years, so their history is written elsewhere.
Creative Components: Spell Generator. One of the most interesting D&D components ever can be found in "Bestiary": the draconic "Spell Generator". It had to be hand constructed from cardstock sheets, but when it was complete, it could be slid around to randomly generate spells for arcane and divine draconic casters alike.
Unfortunately a major printing error meant that players had to cut out many of the device's spell windows by hand. Despite this issue, this gaming accessory with its actual moving parts was a real innovation for TSR, matched only by the AD&D Fighting Wheel (1981). It was also a nice innovation for the "AC" series, which had already expanded the boundaries of production with its Dragon Tiles.
Exploring the Known World. As a Basic D&D adventure, "Bestiary" is theoretically set in the Known World, but any connections it has are very, very light. A few places are named, among them Breaker's Reach, Denstehn Keep, Ironroot Mountain, Nandua, and Saffir, but none of them were known Known World locations. Most other places are entirely generic.
Fans have since placed some of these adventures more solidly in the Known World. Threshold #3 (2014) placed both "Thyralax and the Ruby Amulet" and "Isle of the Storm Giant" in the Sea of Dread, while Saffir and Ironroot Mountain were located in Norwold in Threshold #7 (2015) — the latter building on details on Ironroot Mountain that appeared in in GAZ F9: "The Free City of Oceansend" (2007). Finally, Threshold #9 (2015) suggested that "The Deluded Dragon" could fit on the Isle of Dawn.
Monsters of Note. There are adventures for most of the races of dragons and giants in the "Bestiary". That includes the cloud giant, fire giant, frost giant, mountain giant, stone giant, and storm giant as well as the black dragon, green dragon, red dragon, and white dragon, plus the ruby dragon and Opal the Sun Dragon. The giant list only misses the hill giant, plus the line's unique sea giant, while the blue dragon is also unloved — though all of the missing monsters actually show up as minor elements in other adventures.
Monsters of Note: Mountain Giants. Since hill giants were one of the earliest D&D giant races, it's only natural that someone asked the question, "But what happens when the hills become mountains?" In fact, Louis Boschelli asked the question first in the Fiend Folio (1981) for AD&D; his creation then became a Citadel miniature in February 1982 as part of their "Fiend Factory" line. This oafish, rock-throwing clod was pretty similar to its hill giant kin.
Basic D&D introduced its own Mountain Giant in Master Rules (1985). This new variant of Mountain Giant wasn't necessarily meant to match its Fiend Folio brethren. It could also throw boulders, but it was bigger and tougher than its AD&D kin. In fact, it could run as high as 20 HD, making it the toughest giant on record.
Monsters of Note: Gemstone Dragons. The ruby dragon was one of Basic D&D's gemstone dragons. The idea of gem-like dragons also originated in AD&D, as gem dragons; in The Dragon #37 (May 1980), Arthur W. Collins wondered, if chromatic dragons are evil and metal dragons are good, what sorts of dragons are neutral? He then laid out a set of five dragons that answered the question.
The gemstone dragons of Basic D&D again aren't actually the same as the gem dragons of AD&D, in large part because they don't have a natural niche. Instead of being the neutral dragons, they cover the gamut of alignments from lawful through neutral to chaotic. They're mainly intended to trick players, because the five original gemstone dragons look almost exactly like the five chromatic dragons. The Master Rules thus details: crystal, onyx, jade, sapphire, and ruby dragons. A brown dragon in that book (which looks like a gold dragon) later became the amber dragon. The Dragon Rulers of Basic D&D are apparently precious stones too: the Pearl chaotic ruler, the Opal neutral ruler, and the Diamond lawful ruler all debuted in the Master Rules too.
Future History. It would take another decade for giants to get additional starring roles, in FOR7: Giantcraft (1995) and Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (1999).
About the Creators. "Bestiary" was edited by Deborah Christian and written by a small army of '80s game designers, most of them freelance talent. James Ward wrote the introductory material and two of the adventures, while the Spell Generator was produced by Bruce Heard. The rest of the adventures were written by: Scott Bennie; Bob Blake; Deborah Christian; Vince Garcia; Thomas Kane; John Nephew; Steve Perrin; Warren and Caroline Spector; Rick Swan; John Terra; Gary Thomas; and Ray Winninger.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.