Advanced Search

X2 Castle Amber (Basic)Click to magnify
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

X2 Castle Amber (Basic)

Selected Option:

Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?

This module contains referee notes, background information, maps, and exploration keys intended for use with the D&D Expert rules. Be sure to look for other D&D modules!

For characters level 3-6.


Product History

X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)" (1981), by Tom Moldvay, is the second Expert level Basic D&D adventure. It was published in 1981.

Sources. This adventure leads off with the players encountering the fog-shrouded Castle Amber. Some suggest that the Castle and its denizens, and in particular room #25, were influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839). The connection with room #25 is especially clear, since it includes a sister named Madeline calling out from her grave, just like the short story.

Though the adventure focuses largely on the eponymous Castle Amber, which was created for this supplement, it also has connections to the Province of Averoigne - a fictional area in Medieval France that was created by "weird fiction" author Clark Ashton Smith for a series of short stories, most of them published in Weird Tales magazine (1930-41).

The Averoigne material lies in the latter part of the module, which includes a nice hex map of the province and some minimal background material. The PCs even get to quest across Averoigne searching for several items, including the Ring of Eibon - an artifact that would be just as appropriate for a Call of Cthulhu game. "Castle Amber" is thus probably the first published D&D adventure with Lovecraftian influences, almost two decades before Green Ronin's Freeport (2000). Of course, Lovecraftian deities had already appeared in The Dragon #12 (February 1978) and Deities & Demigods (1980).

Pulp Stylings. Because of the connections to Smith's fiction, James Maliszewski identifies "Castle Amber" as the second book in Tom Moldvay's Pulp Fantasy Trilogy, the other two being X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981) and B4: "The Lost City" (1982). Pulp adventure was a common module style at TSR in this era, with interest in the topic being shared by Tom Moldvay and David "Zeb" Cook.

Literary Licenses. "Castle Amber" was published with the approval of Clark Ashton Smith's estate, and thus was one of the earlier RPG products officially based on a literary property. TSR had previously published an official Lankhmar (1976) board game and had unofficially adapted literary characters in The Dragon's "Giants in the Earth" column, starting with issue #26 (June 1979). However, "Castle Amber" was their first major roleplaying adaptation. Licenses of this sort would become much more common when the Blumes ran TSR (1982-85) and began producing products based on Conan, Tarzan, Arthur C. Clarke's 2001, and other properties.

In the wider roleplaying field, "Castle Amber" was preceded by Heritage Model's Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier (1977) and SPI's Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game (1980). However, it was only in 1981, the same year "Castle Amber" was published, that literary licenses really exploded in the roleplaying field; it was competitor Chaosium who initially took the lead in the category with three different licensed properties: Call of Cthulhu (1981), Stormbringer (1981), and Thieves' World (1981).

A Roleplaying Bohnanza? One of the most interesting elements of "Castle Amber"'s adventure design is that it contains the Amber family, a set of wacky and weird NPCs that the players can encounter and interact with - but not necessarily kill. This puts it in the rarified realm of a few early adventures like T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979), which went well beyond the hack-and-slash of the early "roleplaying" field.

Not Much Wilderness. The new ideas of wilderness exploration introduced by the D&D Expert Set (1981) are poorly reflected here. Most of the adventure takes place in the spooky Castle Amber. Though there is a big hex map of Averoigne and a d8 wilderness encounter table, both are brief and sparse - more of an outline of a wilderness adventure than anything else.

Not Expanding the Known World Either. Similarly, if the Known World was supposed to be an important new focus for the Basic D&D game following the release of the Expert Set, "Castle Amber" doesn't seem to have gotten the message. According to the backstory, the Castle briefly appeared in the Known World country of Glantri before returning to Averoigne, and players make the same passage - but it's an extremely weak connection.

Yet despite being only nominally associated with the geography of the Known World, "Castle Amber" is packed full of Known World monsters. It reuses the aranea and the rakasta from "Isle of Dread" and introduces the the lupin and the neh-thalggu brain collectors. The creation of the lupin is surely this module's biggest contribution to the Known World, since that race of wolf-like humanoids reappeared in X9: "The Savage Coast" (1985) and many later books.

Not a Typical Expert Adventure. If you put together the lack of wilderness and the distance from the Known World, it's obvious that "Castle Amber" isn't a typical Expert D&D adventure. Most likely, the Basic D&D designers hadn't entirely decided on the format of Expert D&D adventures yet; the next Expert release, X3: "Curse of Xanathon" (1983), would also be quite weak in its wilderness adventuring.

Mind you, the fact that "Castle Amber" is a bit unusual hasn't stopped it from being one of the more notable and appreciated Expert D&D releases.

Future History. When TSR was AD&D-ifying Mystara, they published Mark of Amber (1995), a boxed adventure that's a sequel to "Castle Amber" set 30 years later. Even more recently, the lupin were revamped for 3.5e in "Winning Races: Lupins" in Dragon #325 (December 2004) - which also traces the evolution of the race over time.

About the Creators. "Castle Amber" was written by TSR employee Tom Moldvay following his work on the D&D Basic Set (1981) and X1: "The Isle of Dread." All three releases were published in the busy year of 1981. Ironically, Moldvay wouldn't publish an adventure for his own Basic game until the next year, when he wrote B4: "The Lost City."

About the Product Historian

The 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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (17)
Discussions (20)
Customer avatar
April 04, 2023 6:10 am UTC
Haven't received my print copy of Castle Amber.
Was there a delay as there was no receipt for it in the delivery I received just 2 of the 3 items ordered?
Customer avatar
Dominic L November 25, 2021 7:42 pm UTC
POD is overall good. Vibrant cover, text slightly faint in places but readable. The main map is printed on the insides of the cover, so a very small part is blocked by the spine but honestly it's OK as it's an extremely basic map.
Customer avatar
R. C October 23, 2021 4:36 pm UTC
Scan is still hit and miss. The text is readable, but the scan quality itself is uneven. Also as has been noted, a small central portion of the map is missing (so good luck knitting the two images together). As this is now POD it is a shame they have yet to address these issues - this module deserves better.
Customer avatar
Peter D March 20, 2021 4:32 am UTC
Add POD and I will buy it.
Customer avatar
Christopher T March 17, 2021 3:06 pm UTC
wow i have paperback print of this but none here now?
Customer avatar
Amanda R March 06, 2021 5:27 am UTC
POD deleted because goodman games has a $100 version... -.-
Customer avatar
Peter H February 19, 2021 11:20 pm UTC
Add me to the list of folks who want to buy this but are waiting for confirmation that the scan errors have been fixed.
Customer avatar
Filippo Maria O December 04, 2020 8:41 pm UTC
Is the map still scrambled?
Customer avatar
MarcusDe L June 17, 2020 5:00 pm UTC
I purchase the module and was hoping to be able to copy and paste it into my Fantasy Grounds. Even went so far as to puchase Adobe to allow me to convert the picture to text but the images are password protected. Anyone offer advice on how to solve my problem? I really hope that i don't have to manually write out the adventure into FG.
Customer avatar
John W March 27, 2019 4:54 pm UTC
Wizards - or whomever has been contracted to scan the products in - when will you listen to your customers and re-scan these items so they are correct (everything is scanned in and visible, maps included) and not blurry? Some of the scans are a little tough on the eyes due to a slight blurriness.
Customer avatar
John W March 27, 2019 4:55 pm UTC
DriveThruRPG, will you provide support (and pressure) by reaching out to the scanners (or Wizards) about this?
Customer avatar
RJ G March 11, 2019 4:15 pm UTC
I am bummed. I was interested in picking this up, but I see the file hasn't been updated since 2016, implying the issue with the map hasn't been addressed.
Customer avatar
John W February 24, 2019 4:12 am UTC
Somehow, out of my entire set of D&D, I lost my original Castle Amber module. I purchased one from ebay twenty years later. I really want to own a like-new print of this module. WotC and DriveThruRPG, Please get your hands on a good copy and provide an updated scanned image and print-on-demand version that is complete (no missing map sections).
Customer avatar
Joel G January 12, 2019 10:44 pm UTC
I just received the PoD and looks like it is still missing approx. one entire column from the right side from the middle of the original cover map in comparing it to images found online. This obscures features like location 18 for example as seen on the PDF. That being said , I'm still happy to have a print copy of this and, with exception of this issue, it is thrilling to have this in hand. I'm still assuming that this will get fixed and that I can then pull an updated PDF to reference/print out/etc.
Customer avatar
Rob B November 28, 2016 3:53 am UTC
Q - if you get a printed version of this, is it a printout of the PDF or is it a print closer to the original? In short, if the PDF has issues, will the printed copy have issues?

Customer avatar
George F November 15, 2016 6:12 pm UTC
Has anyone purchased the PoD of this? I'm curious how it turns out.
Customer avatar
November 16, 2016 4:56 pm UTC
I'm curious as well. I purchased B4 - The Lost City a ways back and had it printed by Lulu. Turned out ok but the cover is stapled to the body. Easy fix but it would be nice if the PoD is similar to the modules of old.
Customer avatar
John P December 06, 2016 4:04 pm UTC
I just got it yesterday and looked it over and the map is the same. Which is too bad as the print of the rest of the module is very good.
Customer avatar
Samuel K July 14, 2016 8:35 pm UTC
Thanks for the update, but the map is still screwed up ...
See 16 more
Narrow Results
$ to $
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!
 Recent History

Product Information
Mithral seller
Rules Edition(s)
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9051
File Size:
17.95 MB
Scanned image Click for more information
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF Click for more information
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
November 16, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on June 25, 2013.