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DDA1 Arena of Thyatis (Basic)


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It's Party Time in Thyatis. . .

And simply everyone is going to the magnificent Villa Osteroplus, home of the wealthy old senator, Helenites. Raucous fun, exotic food, and even advanced betting on the upcoming Arena games are expected. Even adventurers just in from the outlands may meet the powerful here. So don your festive togas, for in Thyatis City there are important connections to be made and deeds to be done, duels to be fought and fame to be won.

This module is designed especially for the DM who want to sharpen his interactive skills.

  • Presenting the detailed layout of a Thyatian noble's mansion and maps of the multi-level Coliseum of Thyatis
  • For four to six characters, levels 2-3
  • Brief guide to Thyatis legal system
  • New optional class, the Rake
  • Fast unarmed combat system, including disarming attacks
  • Special appendix on creating Thyatian names
  • Featuring the DM Guide to Winging it

Product History

DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990), by John Nephew, is an adventure for the Basic D&D game. It was published in April 1990.

Origins (I): Farewell to BECMI. The famed "B" adventure series began in the late '70s with B1: "In Search of the Unknown" (1978). It survived across three incarnations of the Basic D&D game: the Holmes (1977), Moldvay (1981), and Mentzer (1983) editions. Throughout that time, it featured adventures for Basic D&D characters levels 1-3. The last of the "B" adventures was B12: "Queen's Harvest" (1989), which had appeared just a few months earlier, in November 1989.

Origins (II): Hello to DDA. The rumor mill suggests that "Arena of Thyatis" was originally intended to be "B13", but at the time TSR was increasingly certain that high module code numbers resulted in low sales. So, the Basic adventures got rebooted with what might have been the ugliest module code ever: "DDA". It stands for "Dungeons & Dragon Adventure".

Though the "B" adventures had always been set in the Known World, that focus increased in the "DDA" adventures, where the world was a much more integral part of the adventures. However, that might just have been a sign of the changing times, as settings were much more integral to TSR's products in the '90s.

Origins (III): Gladiators! When John Nephew was handed the specifications for "Arena of Thyatis" they required "an adventure where the PCs become gladiators”. Nephew says that his job upon receiving a spec was to fill in the details while "trying to make something that actually had continuity with the rest of the product line". He said that was something that "a lot of writers didn't pay much attention to." Nephew's philosophy may be another reason for the increased attention to the Known World in these new DDA adventures, since he would write three of the four.

The focus on gladiators would actually be a repeating tropes in the early '90s at TSR. They would feature even more prominently in the Dark Sun line (1991-1997)

About the Product Tie-In. "Arena of Thyatis" is tightly tied to Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia (1989), a boxed set published in July 1989 that detailed Thyatis. This idea of tightly tying a D&D module to other materials was almost unknown before 1989, but was quickly growing in popularity.

Adventure Tropes. In an editorial in Dragon #163 (November 1990), Dragon magazine assistant editor Dale A. Donovan talks about one of the tropes of "Arena of Thyatis": realistic themes, including "political corruption and the detrimental effects of drug abuse."

Beyond that, this adventure's most notable trope is probably its heavy roleplaying. It's a scripted adventure, as would be increasingly common in the '90s, but rather than just putting the players on the railroad track, it gives them lots of opportunity to interact with others; in fact, a gamemaster could easily be overwhelmed by the number of NPCs that he has to voice.

Expanding D&D. "Arena of Thyatis" revisits the rake class that originated in Dawn of the Emperors (1989). Originally, he was just a powered-down thief, without pick pockets or backstab. "Arena of Thyatis" rebalances the character by giving him a dodge ability and +1 CHA — making him a more desirable character option.

Exploring the Known World. "Arena of Thyatis" offers some nice new details on the city of Thyatis. The black and white map from Dawn of the Emperors is reproduced in color, while a map of the Coliseum is added. There are also extensive details on the gladiators of Thyatis and even a list of Thyatian names!

One of the earliest references to the upcoming Hollow World Campaign Set (1990) is also found here. The caverns beneath the colosseum apparently link to the Hollow World — which would become more relevant in the sequel, DDA2: "Legions of Thyatis" (1990).

NPCs of Note. Helenites Osteropolus, a Thyatian senator, is the big bad of "Arena of Thyatis". He is the author of the players' woes, but mainly operates in the background. He would return in "Legions of Thyatis".

About the Creators. Nephew got into the roleplaying business through Lion Rampant and his own company, Atlas Games, but he also tried his hand at freelancing. This was his second Known World book, following PC1: "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" (1989).

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

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.

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Discussions (3)
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Michael B September 12, 2022 1:07 pm UTC
POD please for DDA1 and DDA2 and DDA3!
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Ethan L January 07, 2024 8:17 pm UTC
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Vincent G June 15, 2022 1:55 am UTC
POD please!
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Dwight F August 02, 2020 4:27 am UTC
Where is the print version?
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Benjamin W March 19, 2022 7:32 am UTC
Products need to go platinum, before they become they get made availible as POD. Basically Wizards and OBS need to be sure their is enough of a market to make the effort worthwhile.
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Dwight F March 28, 2022 8:56 pm UTC
That's good to know.
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Chris J April 03, 2022 5:13 pm UTC
That only applies to third party products on DMsGuild, as they need to be more thoroughly reviewed and approved (as they can use trademarked names).

Classics can and have gone straight to print when becoming available. If a product is not DMsGuild (e.g, on DTRPG) anyone can take something straight to print (if they're wiling to do the print layout effort and pay the setup fee).
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This title was added to our catalog on August 23, 2016.