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A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity (1e)


A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity, an adventure for characters level 4-7, is the first of the series which also includes A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade, A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, and A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. This adventure is complete with original black-and-white interior art.

A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity: It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!

Note: If you are looking for a print version of this book there is a collected version of the series available here:

A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords (1e)

Product History

A1: "Slave Pits of the Under City" (1980), by David "Zeb" Cook is the first of the "A" Slave Lords adventures. It was published in October 1980.

About the Module Code. Why "A"? Lawrence Schick explains that "S" for Slave Lords was taken (by the "Special" adventures), as was "T" for Tournament (by the "Temple" adventures). So instead they picked "A" for "Aerie of the Slave Lords" … which also ensured the these modules would always be listed first.

About the Artwork. Jeff Dee drew some of the covers and interiors for the "A" Slave Lords series. Though his originals were long ago destroyed, he's run kickstarters in recent years to recreate much of his original artwork.

Origins (I): A Controversial Tourney. At Gen Con XII (1979), TSR was busy running "Doomkeep", the Second Official AD&D Masters Tournament, which was reprinted in Dragon #34 (February 1980). Robin Hostetter won that. Meanwhile, Len Lakofka was running "Deep Dwarven Delve", which wouldn't be published for two decades, but was finally released on D&D's 25th anniversary as L3: "Deep Dwarven Delve" (1999).

Oh, and there was an AD&D Tournament too, the first AD&D Open, and therefore the father of the D&D Championship Series that ran through 2013. It was an impressive event, supporting 324 players. But, no one talks about that particular AD&D tournament much. That's probably because the tournament, run by an outside party, was pummeled by heavy criticism at the time. The main problems seems to be that it was too high level to support easy tournament play. It even involved a battle against Orcus!

Given the first Open's problems, TSR came to the conclusion that the tournament hadn't been "up to par" so they decided to write the AD&D Open Tournament for Gen Con XIII (1980) themselves.

Origins (II): A Team Tournament. TSR's 1980 Open Tournament was planned as a three-round tournament. It was also planned as "the largest single AD&D tournament yet staged", supporting over 800 players. This required that play be spread out over multiple days, which caused a problem: early players of the tournament's first round of play could spoil it for others (making it possible for later tournament-goers to do better!). To resolve this issue, TSR's designers created five different first rounds, to fill the five slots of play from Thursday through Saturday: different players delved through different dungeons on different days. Following those five initial rounds of play, there was also a traditional semi-final round and a final round.

There wasn't enough time for a single designer to write all seven rounds, so TSR instead had four different authors each take on part of the work. To be sure that tournament remained linked, the different designers connected their scenarios with a single overarching theme: "slave lords".

Origins (III): A Planned Finale. The entire Slave Lords tournament was actually built around the final round, which would appear in A4: "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords" (1981). There, players were to begin play captured. Everything else built toward that ending.

Origins (IV): A Planned Publication. However, TSR wasn't interested in just producing a tournament. They wanted to do the same thing they had with the "D" and "G" adventures in 1978, where they released each of the tournament rounds as a published adventure right after the tournament round was played. However, TSR didn't ultimately manage to align the publication of the adventure with Gen Con. A1: "Slave Pits of the Under City" (1980) appeared in October, while the rest of the series would be delayed into 1981.

About the Book. "Slave Pits" contains the first two first rounds. Even with doubling up the rounds, they still needed to be expanded for adventure publication. Though TSR adventures at the time were short, the tournament adventures were even shorter! (Even then, the resulting book was just 24 pages long.)

Adventure Tropes. To keep things fair, the five first rounds were meticulously balanced using a rigid formula. Each of these early tournament rounds had nine encounters, including 2 traps, 1 trick, 1 problem, 1 encounter with the adventure's base monster, 1 ambush by that base monster, 1 encounter with the base monster and a higher-powered ally, 1 encounter with an unintelligent monster, and 1 encounter with a new monster.

It's pretty easy to see this formula in the two rounds of play published in "Slave Pits", a Temple delve and a Sewer delve. Orcs are the base monster, while the new monsters are the aspis and the giant sundew.

Adventure Tropes: Tournament Play. Cook later gave insight into his adventure in "Survival Tips for the Slave Pits" in Dragon #43 (November 1980). He said that the tournament winners tended to have "organization and decisiveness". This let them quickly move through the adventure within their four-hour time limit, maximizing the number of encounters they had, and thus the number of points they scored. This in turn suggests design tropes for early tournaments: they should allow rapid movement through the adventure, perhaps even supporting short cuts.

All of the published "A" adventures included hints for how to run the original, tournament versions of the adventures. To support this, maps shade out portions of the adventures which did not exist in the tournaments — which cuts the 40 encounters in "Slave Pits" to the 18 of the original. Unfortunately, modern electronic reproductions don't always replicate those shadings.

Exploring Greyhawk. "Slave Pits" is firmly set in the World of Greyhawk. The Slave Lords are raiding along the Wild Coast and into nearby lands. The actual adventure is set in Highport, a city south of the Wild Coast, in the Pomarj — a peninsula overrun by humanoids. With that said, there's almost no detail on the adventure's locale, probably due to the its origins as a tournament. Instead, the details all focus on the two delves: a ruined temple and the city's sewers.

Monsters of Note. The ant-like aspis were a favorite in this adventure. Both they and the giant sundew reappeared in Monster Manual II (1983), then in a few volumes for AD&D 2e (1989-2000), but have since faded into obscurity.

Future History.A1-4: Scourge of the Slavelords (1986), which contains several additional pages of detail on Highport, including a small set of geomorphs to describes parts of the city. Wizards of the Coast would return to the setting decades later with "Lowdown in Highport", a prequel to "Slave Pits" found in Dungeon #221 (December 2013).

About the Creators. Cook was an up-and-coming star at TSR, who would soon become well-known for his work on the D&D Expert Rules (1981) and X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981).

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 (7)
Customer avatar
Ernie N March 01, 2022 8:11 pm UTC
I have just posted a 5e conversion of A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity with Maps on DMsGuild. Please take a look. Thanks!
Customer avatar
Steven L November 06, 2021 5:49 pm UTC
Is there any other soft cover versions of old D&D modules?
Customer avatar
Aneta B June 02, 2020 10:14 am UTC
What is the construction of the "softcover book"? Is it a book, as an ACE paperback, with the cover glued to it?
Or is "softcover book" meant to indicate that this is a module construction circa 1980, with the pages stapled together independent of the cardboard cover which acts as a standing map on the inside and artwork on the outside?

May someone who has purchased the softcover version please answer? I see my comment here 2 years ago to the month is the last interest anyone has shown in this product. It gets difficult to make a purchase when the product's terminology is twisted or unclear.

IF this is a paperback book, like a Ballentyne Adult Fantasy book, then the product is useless "as is" for the purposes of game play, IMHO. Same goes for the hardcover A0 - A4 rendition. Pretty reading copy to shelve but not ready to play.
Customer avatar
September 05, 2018 1:53 am UTC
This adventure just plain doesn't work for me. That's a criticism of the original module, not really this digital rendition of it. It contains various errors and just plain confusing aspects.

The stairways between the upper and lower portions of the adventure are not clearly marked nor clearly described in the text. Additionally the stairways are both going one way on the upper level but the opposite way on the lower level. Add on that the orientation of the two levels is different in the presentation and that there is no compass rose on either and it's just dumb.

There are two wandering monster tables for "the walls" and "the ruins". Nowhere is it clearly communicated which locations qualify as which.

There are few non-tournament locations (9 and 10) which have no described methods of access. If the party would have to climb over the walls or fly in or knock down walls to get to them, that's fine, but since nothing is explained, it just feels like...See more
Customer avatar
Mark M October 31, 2016 3:32 pm UTC
I see that the individual A1, A3, and A4 modules are all up for sale, but A2 doesn't seem to be available. Does anyone know why this is the case?
Customer avatar
George F October 31, 2016 3:37 pm UTC
It's here...
Customer avatar
George F October 31, 2016 3:37 pm UTC
I'm still hoping to see the A1-4 compilation.
Customer avatar
Mark M November 01, 2016 2:39 pm UTC
Odd, as it doesn't seem to show up if one uses the search tool, or in the products found in this section list. In fact, several items seem to be missing from the latter.
Customer avatar
George F November 01, 2016 2:58 pm UTC
Yep - I had to sift through my orders to find it.
Customer avatar
George F July 04, 2016 4:05 am UTC
When will we see A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords and the original compilation, A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords?
Customer avatar
Mark J May 12, 2016 2:18 am UTC
This is the most poorly scanned PDF I have seen amongst the 50+ purchases I have made. This is an uncleaned scan of a beat-up copy from someone’s desktop. You can see the edges of every page: torn, weathered jagged. Even the pages shows yellow of their age. Awful.
Customer avatar
Aneta B June 05, 2018 8:07 pm UTC
Thanks for this information. I was surprised, pleasantly, to see a "softcover color book" available. This would be of use to me. Alas, it would be of no use as a book, except to crowd my overcrowded shelf, but in its original format with the map inside the removable cover.
Customer avatar
Shawn S June 18, 2021 7:13 pm UTC
Agreed. This is a terrible scan job. I could have done better with my dogeared copy.
Customer avatar
Icculus P February 27, 2024 8:22 pm UTC
(replying directly to Aneta didn't seem to be an option):

it appears there was temporarily a softcover version available. was it POD - now apparently unavailable - or did they somehow get their hands on back-stock?
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