The final confrontation with the giant, King Snurre, and the entry of mighty adventurers into the cavers under his stronghold discovered that Dark Elves, the Drow, had instigated the giant alliance and its warfare upon mankind and its allied races.
This material was originally published as two separate adventures, D1: "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" and D2: "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa." Contained herein are referee notes, background information, maps, and exploration keys intended for use with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. The adventure can be used alone or as part of an extended adventure that begins with G1-3: "Against the Giants" and continues with D3: "The Vault of the Drow" and Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits."
For characters levels 9 to 14.
D1-2: "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" (1981), by Gary Gygax, is a collection of two previous adventures. The collection appeared in 1981 after the final copies of the original adventures had gone out of print. The intent was to upgrade the older modules to match the new trade dress of Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980).
The Original Adventures. The two parts of "Descent" were originally published as D1: "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" (1978) and D2: "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" (1978). They were the fourth and fifth standalone adventures ever published by TSR. Like other early adventures, they were originally published with simple monochromatic covers (orange and green, as it happens).
Like the "Giants" (G-)series (1978) adventures that had preceded them, D1 and D2 were released for use with the AD&D game (1977-1979), even though it wasn't yet complete at that time.
Another Tournament Release. "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa," the second adventure in this collection, was used as part of the D&D tournament at GenCon XI (1978). You got big points in the tournament if you managed to pass the Shrine "unscathed," rather than fighting all the Kuo-Toa. The original D1 adventure was not used in the tournament, but was instead brand-new for the adventure publication. (It's really just a bit of filler between the giants and the more civilized parts of the Underdark.)
The entire series of "Descent" adventures was released at GenCon XI following the tournament.
The Upgraded Adventures. The collected edition was essentially the same as the originals, with improvements to layout and the inclusion of the original tournament characters for "Shrine."
New Settings. As with many of the other adventures in the "GDQ" (Giants, Descent, Queen) series, this one offered up brand new settings for the D&D game, going beyond its traditional dungeons and caves. Most notably, the adventure introduced the Underdark — a civilized land beneath the earth. Note that the name "Underdark" isn't used here yet: that term originates later in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986). However, the Survival Guide's description of the "strange world of the Underdark, including drow, kuo-toa, svirfneblin, derro, and many more" makes it clear that it's talking about the world of "Descent."
New Monsters. Both the kuo-toa and the sviberfneblin appear for the first time in these adventures. The drow were mentioned previously in the Monster Manual (1977), which says "The 'Black Elves,' or drow, are only legend." They had also appeared previously in G3: "Hall of the Fire Giant King" (1978). Yet it's really only in the "Descent" adventures they're fully realized - and only fully in D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978).
Future History. TSR rereleased the entire GDQ sequence a few years later in GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders (1987), a 128-page supermodule.
About the Creators. The "Descent" adventures were written by Gygax in the middle of his work on AD&D, following his completion of the Player's Handbook (1978). As with the early "Giants" (1978) series, Gygax said that creating the adventures provided a form of relaxation from his work on the complex rule system.
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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.