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Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1986)

Here’s a mixed bag if there ever was one: Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1986), by Douglas Niles, the next volume in the unofficial 1.5 edition of D&D.

This book and its companion (which we’ll tackle tomorrow) represent the furthest extremes in D&D of creating rules to simulate minutiae that no one cares about. Fully a third of this book seems designed to grind play to halt, detailing intricate rules for moving, climbing, falling, breathing and more.  But wait, there’s more! Casting spells in darkness, hypothermia…eight pages on mining? Ugh.

We also have the revamped non-weapon proficiency rules, laid out in broader terms than those in Oriental Adventures and now keyed to specific attributes. This forms the core of the skill system that would be integral to frustrating players of AD&D Second Edition for years to come.

Unfortunately, it also has one of the first examples of what would grow into the chainmail bikini era of D&D that I can think of, though Day of Al-Akbar also came out in ‘86. This is one of many signs that Gygax’s control over his company had slipped; he left entirely in October of ‘86.

However, for all its faults, the DSG also introduces the Underdark.

Now, it sooooort of existed already – the D-series originally came out in 1978 – but this is the first time it was given the name Underdark and, well, that’s pretty important. DSG details a region called Deepearth, which is an important starting point for future interpretations of one of D&D’s most famous locales.

I am a big fan of this Easley cover. He does some interior work as well, but the standout for me is Greg Harper, whose work I am not really familiar with beyond this book. Which is a shame, I really like the vibes he brings. Any of you know where else Harper’s work appears/what happened to him? Am I just somehow overlooking him?

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