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Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad (2e)


The lich Lyzandred: a madman, an undead archmage, a survivor of the twin cataclysms that destroyed tow great empires. His name invokes fear in the hears of the smallest children, the bravest warriors, and the wisest sages. Like a malicious cat, the lich toys with all who stumble into his maze, tormenting them with strange puzzles and obscure riddles, monsters and demons, weird traps and dangerous magics. All who enter the crypt of Lyzandred find themselves scarred with his rune, proof of their visit -- and their folly.

But there is a method to the madness of Lyzandred, a purpose to his twisted games. If you're lucky, you might even live to learn about it.

The Lost Tombs series begins with Star Cairns and concludes with The Doomgrinder. Each adventure is playable separately, or they can be linked to form an epic-length story.

Product History

"Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" (1998), by Sean Reynolds, is the second adventure in the Lost Tombs trilogy. It was published in October 1998.

About the Cover. The cover of "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" shows a monster sticking a tentacle straight through a man's chest, causing a bit of blood spatter. Author Reynolds calls it "violent and bloody" and says that it caused Wizards a bit of controversy.

Origins (I): Lost Tombs. "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" was part of Wizards' strong 1998 push to return to the world of Greyhawk. It's also the second part of a loosely connected set of classic (but modern) dungeon crawl adventures. Actually, the connections between the first, "The Star Cairns" (1998), and the second, "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" (1998), aren't that loose: Lyzandred caused the destruction of the Star Cairns and left runes in them that could lead foolish adventurers to his own lair.

Origins (II): Quick Writing. Reynolds' due date for "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad", his second major solo project, was just two weeks after "The Star Cairns", his first. He set it set it aside for a few weeks to "percolate" … and then realized it was the weekend before the book was due! With barely any work done in advance, he wrote 20,000 words over the course of that weekend!

Origins (III): More Ashes. Like the other Lost Tombs, this one draws its inspiration from the From the Ashes (1992) era. In the original supplement, author Carl Sargent first mentioned "Lyzandred's Tombs" in the section on "Abbor-Alz". He talks of "bizarre traps", "cryptic clues", and even a "crossword-maze dungeon". Unlike the other Lost Tombs, this early description of Lyzandred's lair is pretty much what players get; there's even an explanation for the plural "tombs" and just like promised, there's a crystal sphere at the heart of things!

Origins (IV): Many References. Metaphysical handwaving allows Lyzandred to "tune certain rooms to their Oerthly equivalents and 'anchor' them there." In other words, certain rooms in this Lost Tomb reflect other locations in Oerth. This allows Reynolds to reference several classic modules (and one classic game):

  • An inhuman face containing a sphere of annihilation in E57 is drawn from S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978).
  • A circular chamber with a gem in E70 references C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980).
  • A rough cavern in E71 is the throne room from G2: "The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl" (1978).
  • A rubble-filled ruin in E72 is the house of Eilservs from D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978).
  • The dragonchess game in E91 was introduced in Dragon #100 (August 1985).

Origins (V): Contest Winners. There's one other special inclusion: the winner of a "design-a-trap" contest from Dragon magazine. The winner was Jonathan M. Richards — a long-time Dragon author who had recently written "The Ecology of the Flumph" for Dragon #246 (April 1998). His trap was a mimic pretending to be a lady-in-distress; author Reynolds was umimpressed, saying "I think people got wise to that trick in the original Slave Lords series (werewolf ladies in cages, woo!)".

Adventure Tropes: The Do-It-Yourself Dungeon. "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" is a rather unique dungeon because the GM gets to decide what goes in what rooms: there are 101 encounters, but only 50 rooms, so a GM picks what he likes best (and what best fits his group). Though past introductory modules had occasionally asked GMs to fill in the final levels, asking them to put together a dungeon from pieces like this was entirely unknown.

Adventure Tropes: Puzzle Dungeons. The Crypt is a very classic dungeon crawl of the sort that was once known as a killer dungeon — though by the 2e era, even dungeons of this sort were often less killer. However, "Crypt" focuses very heavily on the more tricky encounters often found in those classic delves. Reynolds says, "I wanted to give a wide variety of experiences — riddles, logic puzzles, math puzzles, traps, 'gotchas' (encounters where you think you can get by safely but are just a setup for a combat), and standard combat encounter". He says that "Many of the puzzles were adapted from real-world puzzles".

Many of those puzzles are based on math, which some players didn't like; this was due in part to Reynolds' self-imposed limitation. He didn't want to use puzzles that depended on how words sounded in English. He says: "It always annoyed me when a D&D puzzle used some English homonym as its solution, like 'what is the reverse of LIVE?' (answer: EVIL) or 'what name for a bird also means to jump into water?' (answer: DOVE) For one reason, D&D characters don’t speak English and it breaks my suspension of disbelief when I’m forced to think about English definitions and spellings to answer a fantasy riddle."

Exploring Greyhawk. "Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad" has connections to Abbor-Alz and the Cairns Hills, but it's entirely set in a demiplane, so its connections to the actual world of Greyhawk are loose.

NPCs of Note. The star of the "Crypt" is of course Lyzandred, its creator (and as it turns out the destroyer of the Star Cairns from the previous adventure). He gets a full history and even stats. To better tie him into Greyhawk, Reynolds connects Lyzandred's history to Zagig, making the lich instrumental in the downfall of the magus.

About the Creators. This was Reynolds' second full-length work for D&D, following "The Star Cairns" (1998). Though he would not write the third of the Lost Tombs, Reynolds would be instrumental to the scant few remaining Greyhawk publications, with Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (1999) and The Scarlet Brotherhood (1999) coming up next.

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 Thanks to the Acaeum for careful research on Monster Manual printings.

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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Tidal W October 30, 2022 3:40 pm UTC
POD, and improved scan, please.
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