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HWR1 Sons of Azca (Basic)
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HWR1 Sons of Azca (Basic)

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Heart of Darkness

In the Hollow World, one civilization above all others is known as the fiercest, most dangerous race, to be avoided as much as possible: the Azcans.

Are they truly cannibals, given to performing sacrifices as entertainment? Is their architecture really some of the most extraordinary in all the Hollow World? Is there any truth to the rumor that there is some connection between the Azcans and the outer world tribes of the Atruaghin Clans? Are there any pleasant qualities about this warrior race?

Read the book, and find out for yourself.

This product includes a 64-page DM's booklet with a pullout section especially for players, a 32-page campaign booklet to get you started in an Azcan-centered setting, and a full-color map of the Azcan lands.

Sons of Azca expands and builds on material presented in the Blood Brethren trilogy of adventures: Nightwail, Nightrage, and Nightstorm.

The Hollow World campaign set is required for use with this accessory.

Product History

HWR1: "Sons of Azca" (1991), by John Nephew, is the first Hollow World Resource. It was published in July 1991.

About the Cover. "Sons of Azca" was the first Hollow World publication to follow the release of The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991). As such, it features the new logo of the new game, with its distinctive red ampersand. Unlike later red-ampersand releases, it wasn't yet classified as an "entry" or "challenger" book.

Origins: A New Sort of Gazetteer. In July 1991, the Known World's iconic Gazetteer line was already sputtering. It had been over a year since the release of GAZ13: "The Shadow Elves" (1990); when GAZ14: "The Atruaghin Clans" (1991) came out in August 1991, it would be the end. The somewhat similar "PC" series was in similar straits, with it being a year and a half since the publication of PC3: "The Sea People" (1990). So how do you return the Basic D&D line to its strengths, depicting the Known World? You start a whole new series of Gazetteers, focusing on Basic D&D's new Hollow World Campaign Set (1990).

For the first book in the new series, TSR decided to focus on Azca, an empire that was of course mentioned in the Hollow World Campaign Set, but which had also been featured in the first two Hollow World adventures, HWA1: "Nightwail" (1990) and (to a lesser extent) HWA2: "Nightrage"(1990).

About the Book. The "HWR" books have a slightly different focus than the later Gazetteers. The player and GM information is separated out, but all appears in the same book; the second book then describes a campaign. This was more similar to the DM/adventure division of the "PC" series.

Expanding D&D. The Hollow World Campaign Set presented problems for clerics because of its limitations on their spells. "Sons of Azca" slightly rolled that back with a few new spells for priests of Atzanteotl. It also features the skill system that is ubiquitous in later Basic D&D releases.

Exploring the Known World. "Sons of Azca" of course details Azca, which is the Aztec-influenced setting in the Known World. It contains a history of the Oltec and the Azcan people, as well as geographical and social information. This focus on the Azcans (and the otherwise undetailed Oltecs) also sheds light on the dDavish people of the surface world, who are alluded to in X5: "Temple of Death" (1985) and X9: "The Savage Coast" (1985). The step pyramid in Risilvar, which was depicted in "The Savage Coast", was presumable built by them; a very similar design appears here as a "temple of Atzanteotl", hinting at the ties between the cultures. Even more ties between the Azcans (and the Oltecs) and the surface world would appear in GAZ14: "The Atruaghin Clans" (1991).

This was of course not the first D&D book to focus on an Aztec-influenced culture. That would be C1: "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan" (1979), one of AD&D's classic adventures. Meanwhile, TSR was also detailing another Aztec (and Mayan) influenced setting in the Maztica Campaign Set (1991), which released just a month before "Sons of Azca".

Monsters of Note. Despite the youth of the Hollow World line, it was already experiencing some inconsistencies. One of the most notable was the depiction of the burrowers, which were powerful entities in the Hollow World Campaign Set and dumb monsters in the "HWA" adventures (1990-1991). That's reconciled here, with the simple revelation that there are many sorts of burrowers.

NPCs of Note. Among the NPCs of Azca is Xochiquetzal, a faerie. Why faeries in an Aztec land? Well, "Azca" author John Nephew was also the author of PC1: "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" (1989).

About the Creators. John Nephew was by now an old hand at Basic D&D, having previously authored PC1: "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" (1989), DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990), and DDA2: "Legions of Thyatis" (1990).

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

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File Last Updated:
October 03, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on October 04, 2016.