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Hollow World Campaign Setting (Basic)

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Within the sphere of the Know World is another world, the Hollow World. There your characters will meet ancient Nithians, long disappeared from the surface world and thought extinct: Blacklore Elves, living in a magical valley and served by automatons-devices that take care of everything, from serving their food to trimming their grass: Azcans, terrifying, war-mongering natives whose taste for battle extends even into their favorite game-the loosers always die- and many more. Monsters abound as well, from dinosaurs to aurochs.

In the Hollow World, the sun never sets. Magic works differently than it does "outside"-some spells don't work at all. And quite often, getting in is much, much easier than getting out.

A 128-page Dungeon Master's Sourcebook, with everything the DM needs to run an exciting campaign in the Hollow World. Also in this book are extensive entries on all the Immortals represented in the Hollow World: their interests, their allies, their enemies.

A 64-page Player's Book, including how-to's for creating a native Hollow World character and ways to bring a Known World character into the Hollow World. Included in this are new spells specifically for the Hollow World.

A 32-page Adventure Book, containing several starter adventures and entries on the various monsters found in the Hollow World.

Four full-size, full-color map sheets, showing the Know World and the Hollow World, and detailing the central, most populous areas of the Hollow World.

Ways and means to adapt this material to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition game!

Note on the Softcover edition: While the Hollow World Campaign Setting was originally a box set, this print edition combines the Dungeon Master's Sourcebook, Player's Book, and Adventure Book, plus the maps, into a single softcover tome.

Product History

Hollow World Campaign Set (1990), by Aaron Allston, is the premiere release for a new setting for the Basic D&D game. It was published in July 1990.

Origins (I): Beyond the Gazetteers. Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia (1989) marked the end of the classic Gazetteers for the Known World. A few more trickled out after that, but TSR had filled in the square of land that they'd used to define the Known World, and they were also growingly increasingly wary of the Gazetteers' high-numbered module code. To continue onward, the Known World needed a new direction.

From 1989-1990, TSR experimented with Trail Maps (1989), the Creature Crucible series (1989-1992), and a new line of "DDA" adventures (1990-1991). But it was the Hollow World that would truly offer a replacement for the popular Gazetteers.

Origins (II): Creating a Hollow World. Known World line editor Bruce Heard was the one who came up with the idea of putting a Hollow World inside the Known World. He'd read about hollow worlds when he was a teenager, and hadn't seen anything like it in the roleplaying field. So he decided to "seize the opportunity". After developing the idea with in-house designers and editors, he put together an outline and presented it to freelancer Aaron Allston, who had previously kicked off the original Gazetteers line with GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987).

Origins (III): A Land of Mystery. As it happens, Allston was familiar with the lost world genre that Hollow World was built upon. He wrote his own take on a lost world in Lands of Mystery (1985) for Hero Games' Justice Inc. (1984) line, so this was a return to familiar grounds — though also a unique creative opportunity since it mixed a lost world with the fantasy genre.

Ironically, it had been Lands of Mystery that got Allston involved with TSR in the first place. TSR's Michael Dobson saw and enjoyed the Hero Games book. After writing about Lands of Mystery in Dragon magazine, Dobson "lobbied" for Allston to write supplements for TSR, which led to Allston's work on N4: "Treasure Hunt" (1987) … and soon after that his expansion of the Known World.

About the Box. Hollow World was an impressive boxed set. It sort of matched the format of the late-era Gazetteers by including a 128-page DM's book and a 64-page player's book. However, it also reflected the more recent Creature Crucibles by throwing a 32-page adventure book into the mix. As with many of the TSR boxes of the era, it was absolutely packed: a number of large maps filled out the contents.

Genre Tropes: Back to Pulp. Hollow World was also a return to familiar grounds for the Basic D&D game. As a lost world full of dinosaurs and ancient peoples, it was obviously an entry in the pulp genre — a genre that had been popularized for D&D by David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay in adventures such as X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981) — another critical touchstone for the Basic D&D line.

Expanding D&D. Much like the Gazetteers before it, Hollow World is full of rules for creating new sorts of player characters. This includes limitations of how traditional classes work in the Hollow World as well as a new class: the warrior-elf. As with all the later Known World books, Hollow World also contains extensive rules for character skills. A series of "backgrounds" fill out Hollow World's characters with more information on what classes, spells, and skills were available for each of the setting's numerous cultures.

Exploring the Known World. The first hints of the Hollow World appeared in Spring 1990 when DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990) gave it a brief mention and then GAZ13: "The Shadow Elves" (1990) detailed the elves' interactions with "the land of the red sun". Now, it received a full description, with vast tracts of land being revealed for the whole time. It should be noted that the Hollow World was definitely not an Underdark: it was not a dark, caverny realms, but instead a whole other world instead the Known one.

One of the most interesting things about the Hollow World is that it reveals the history of the Known World. Each of the kingdoms of the Hollow World is a culture from the surface that was on the verge of extinction. The Immortals of the Known World then saved them by whisking them away to the World's interior. This allowed for the appearance of even more real-world-influenced cultures, such as pseudo-Aztecs (Azcans), pseudo-Egyptians (Nithian Empire), pseudo-Bronze-Age Greeks (Traldar), Alexander-the-Great-influenced Greece and Rome (Milenian Empire), Golden Age Pirates (the Merry Pirates), Renaissance orcs (Krugel Horde), and others.

Notably missing from this list is Blackmoor, the Known Worlds' best-known extinct kingdom. Some of its technology was preserved by the Blacklore Elves of the Hollow World, but the actual kingdom is nowhere to be found. Bruce Heard had plans to revisit this idea in a 1994 series of publications called "Blackmoor Reborn", which would have revealed a "clone" of Blackmoor in the Hollow World that then would return to the surface … but the line shut-down before that could occur.

NPCs of Note. Hollow World details many new Immortals, the most interesting of which may be Ka the Preserver, a sentient Tyrannosaurus Rex!

About the Creators. Allston was the master creator of the Known World in the late '80s and early '90s, with a triumphant run of books from GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987) to the Rules Cyclopedia (1991).

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

Player's Book

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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Reviews (7)
Discussions (12)
Customer avatar
Daniel S May 25, 2023 8:40 am UTC
Bought this recently and I have to say that it came out alot better than I had dared to hope for. The print copy is really really good and the maps are included.
Customer avatar
Lance B December 05, 2021 3:02 am UTC
Everything came out very nice. I'm happy to have Hollow world in my collection once again.
Customer avatar
Filippo Maria O January 16, 2023 10:03 pm UTC
Is the POD version good? Are the maps included?
Customer avatar
Tim N September 14, 2021 3:57 am UTC
Same question - has anyone printed recently. Is the print quality ok?
Customer avatar
Filippo Maria O December 06, 2020 10:53 am UTC
The most recent review says that the POD quality is horrible. Is it though? I'm really tempted, but I don't want to buy a blurred or dark book.
Customer avatar
Adam J July 05, 2020 7:35 pm UTC
Have the maps been added?
Customer avatar
George F July 06, 2020 3:06 pm UTC
The maps are included in the download. I just received the PoD a few weeks ago. I'll check tonight to see if they're present there.
Customer avatar
Adam J July 06, 2020 5:35 pm UTC
Thank you, much appreciated!
Customer avatar
Filippo Maria O December 06, 2020 10:43 am UTC
Have the maps been added to the POD?
Thank you!
Customer avatar
Christopher K April 02, 2020 3:45 am UTC
I really like the print edition. I really look forward to more box sets being converted to PoD
Customer avatar
Håvard F December 12, 2016 10:08 pm UTC
I got the print version. It looks really good. One of the best RPG books I ever bought. I hope they will offer print versions of Dawn of the Emperors and Champions of Mystara too.
Customer avatar
George F November 17, 2016 3:37 am UTC
Note on the Softcover edition: While the Hollow World Campaign Setting was originally a box set, this print edition combines the Dungeon Master's Sourcebook, Player's Book, and Adventure Book, plus the maps, into a single softcover tome.

Are the maps pages by section, or are the poster maps glued to the interior for easy removal?
Customer avatar
Håvard F December 12, 2016 10:09 pm UTC
They are included as pages in the book. It looks decent though and all the labels are readable. Poster Maps would be great, but I could see how that would be more difficult to produce.
Customer avatar
Zia M November 16, 2016 6:06 pm UTC
All four Poster maps just added, both the segmented versions from the prior scan, and new full-version scans. Very nice.
Customer avatar
November 16, 2016 4:15 pm UTC
Yay!!!! Maps were added :)
Customer avatar
Nicholas M November 15, 2016 10:10 pm UTC
Is there any way we can get the maps added to the PDF version?
Customer avatar
Angus W April 05, 2016 3:37 pm UTC
I still have a lot of fondness for the known world setting years later. The detail for each area felt fantastic and I remember this as being a particular cool idea for a game setting.

Always wonder how well it would have done if it wasn't tied to the basic class system instead of the advanced variant.
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This title was added to our catalog on April 05, 2016.