EX1-EX2. Dungeonland and
The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror

Introduction by John D. Rateliff

The fourth of July, 1862. A shy Oxford mathematician whose favorite hobbies were photography, befriending little girls, and writing nonsense verse took three of his boss’s daughters on a picnic. During the course of the outing he made up a story about the adventures of one of the little girls, Alice, after she fell down a rabbit hole into a strange land where she met talking animals, living playing cards, and creatures out of nursery rhymes -- a story he later turned into one of the great classics of English literature, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), published under the pseudonym "Lewis Carroll." Several years later he wrote a sequel, or more properly companion piece, Through the Looking Glass (1871), in which Alice steps through a mirror into a topsy-turvey world inspired by the game of chess. Under the joint title Alice in Wonderland, they have delighted children and scholars ever since. (1)

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The late 1970s. Gary Gygax, the father of D&D, runs a party of battle-hardened adventurers through the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk when, falling down a very deep hole, they stumble upon a very strange level indeed, populated by a senile magic-user polymorphed into a anthropomorphic White Rabbit and other suspiciously familiar characters . . . .

Welcome to Dungeonland (1983), Gygax’s attempt to translate Carroll’s masterpiece into AD&D terms, followed that same year by The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, his version of Through the Looking Glass. Strange adventures were no stranger to Gygax’s original group of adventurers, as readers of early issues of Dragon are well aware. Several of the group’s odder adventures were chronicled in somewhat exaggerated form by Jim Ward under the title "Monty Haul,"(2) wherein they first met the Drow, battled Borglike amorphous monsters, and even found themselves aboard the good ship Warden in an unwitting Metamorphosis Alpha crossover. Based on those accounts, their initial response was to attack on sight. In cases where this failed to work, they pulled out their most powerful weaponry, spells, and artifact and set to it.

This style of play very clearly left its mark on Dungeonland, where all Carroll’s characters are translated into horrifically deadly AD&D equivalents -- the Mad Hatter and March Hare are monks with special abilities and potent items (as if 1st edition monks needed extra powers), the Cheshire Cat is now a sabretooth tiger (smilodon), the White Rabbit a 20th-level magic user, the Caterpillar a behir, and so forth. Even the Duchess’s baby is here a wereboar and the Dormouse a wererat. The same applies to The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, where the White Knight becomes an iron golem riding an iron horse, the Red and White Queens night nags, and so forth, while the Jabberwock, Jub-Jub Bird, and Bandersnatch are all statted out as "nonesuch" unique creatures.(3)

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Aside from Gygax himself, no one else is credited for his or her work (although two of the maps in the first adventure are tagged as being the work of Eric Shook, who is otherwise unknown to me). However, the covers for both adventures are recognizably in the style of Jim Holloway’s color work (compare them with the back cover for S4, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and Holloway’s various Dragon magazine covers from that era). The frontispiece for Dungeonland is also by Holloway, but the rest of the interior art bears the very distinctive touch of Timothy Truman -- thought by some to be the only good thing TSR got from SPI. In particular, the picture of Truman’s Mad Hatter is worthy to stand by the work of other illustrators of Carroll, in particular Barry Moser’s dark, brooding Alice illustrations. In the case of the second module, The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, one of our industry’s premier artists, Larry Elmore (then early in his tenure at TSR), did the frontispiece, but all the rest of the interior art is Holloway’s -- a completely appropriate matching of artist and project (Holloway’s comic touch would later play a major role in defining such games as Paranoia from West End Games and Tales of the Floating Vagabond from Avalon Hill). His illo of the final scene in the second adventure, for example, is a classic that captures the spirit of the original Carroll better than anything else in the adventures.

Sadly, these two adventures stand very near the end of Gygax’s career at TSR. A dozen preceded them (none more than 32 pages long and the majority with only 16, 12, or even 8 pages of text), while only one followed.(4) Brief as they were, these fifteen adventures basically defined what a D&D adventure was and for years stood as exemplars of the genre. The first eleven of them, at least, are still classics of their kind, as is the late Gygax-Mentzer collaboration Temple of Elemental Evil. But the other late adventures give a sense of too much borrowing from other genres (Carroll and King Kong, respectively) without capturing their spirit. Despite being intended in fun, the unrelenting mayhem of Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror creates a sense of bedlam, and the parody element opened the door for the later WG7, Castle Greyhawk (1988) -- thought by some at the time to be a deliberate attempt by TSR to destroy Gygax’s reputation in the wake of his departure from the company. The truth, especially given the freelance talent involved, is more likely to be that someone thought it a good idea at the time. They were wrong. Castle Greyhawk’s assortment of villains -- Col. Sanders, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the cast of Star Trek, and others -- would be more in keeping with a bad episode of Scooby Doo than a dungeon crawl. Unfortunately, the Castle Greyhawk collection of unconnected parody adventures tainted the mystique of D&D’s original dungeon so badly that not even the astonishingly deadly killer dungeon presented slightly later in WGR1. Greyhawk Ruins (1990) could reclaim its lost prestige, and the site has remained abandoned as far as publication is concerned ever since.

Notes

1 Matched only by the excellent nonsense verse found in Carroll’s otherwise terrible duology Sylvie and Bruno (1889)/Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) and his masterpiece, the incompatible Hunting of the Snark (1876).

2 "Monty Haul and His Friends at Play" (issue #14), "Monty and the German High Command" (issue #15), "The Thursday Night D&D Game for Monty and the Boys" (issue #16), "Monty Haul and the Best of Freddie" (issue #24), and "Monty Strikes Back" (issue #28). See also Gygax’s own account of a very strange session in "Faceless Men & Clockwork Monsters" (issue #17).

3 A far deadlier version of the Jabberwock debuted in the third Monstrous Annual (1996) and was used to great effect in Chris Perkins’ short adventure "The Manxome Foe," included in the adventure anthology TSR Jam (1999).
[Listed under "Forgotten Relms - RPGA/Adventurer's Guild" - Stock # 11445 Title: J1, TSR Jam 1999 - whm]

4 The giant series (G1, G2, G3), the drow series (D1, D2, D3), S1. Tomb of Horrors (all 1978); T1. The Village of Hommlet (1979); S3. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1980); B2. Keep on the Borderland (1981); S4. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and its lesser companion piece, WG4. The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (both 1982, the latter apparently based on events from Rob Kuntz’s campaign); EX 1 and EX 2 (1983), and WG6. Isle of the Ape (1985, developed by Bruce Heard). Gygax also collaborated on three other AD&D adventures: Q1. Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1980, written by Dave Sutherland to provide a climax to the unfinished drow series), WG5. Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (1984, with the other DM from the original GH campaign, Rob Kuntz, as the primary author), and T1-4. Temple of Elemental Evil (1985, a masterpiece apparently written by Frank Mentzer from Gygax’s notes).

Classic D&D Online Reprint Series
Palace of the Silver Princess
Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror
Ravenloft: The House on Gryphon Hill
The Assassin’s Knot


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