Dungeons & Dragons First Official Adventure Ended on a Giant Steam-Powered Spider Ship

Dungeons & Dragons players should never worry about how bizarre their games get, because even official adventures have a tendency to end in some very weird places. Dungeons & Dragons has changed a lot over its 45 year history, from player classes to game mechanics to the very worlds that players explore in their campaigns. One thing that hasn't changed about the game is how sessions tend to mix deadly serious moments with weird and hilarious elements. For instance, Dungeons & Dragons first-ever series of campaign modules ended with a trek into the Abyss to face a demon lord on her giant steam-powered spider ship.

Back in 1978, the original maker of Dungeons & Dragons released a series of adventure modules originally used in competitive play. These modules featured players storming their way through various giant strongholds before pursuing their drow masters into the Underdark back to their underground series. The first three parts of the campaign, collectively known as Against the Giants, were your typical "storm the castle" style adventures, with players trying to survive against waves of giants and their hirelings. The next three parts were more exploratory in nature, with players choosing a route through the Underdark and interacting with various underground inhabitants as they kept pace with the drow who were raising trouble for the surface route.

The climax of this adventure series was Queen of the Demonweb Pits, which featured the players confronting the true mastermind behind all of their recent troubles - the demon lord Lolth. Instead of fighting Lolth on a giant spider-web or a classic monster lair, players instead confronted her on her personal vessel - a giant mechanical spider that marched its way through a desert plain of the Abyss. The spider ship seemed to be heavily inspired by the likes of Star Trek, as it even had a bridge with multiple stations and consoles. It also had a wepaons control room (for the spider ship's mandible) and a full engine room with turbines and boilers.

Even Lolth had her issues in the adventure module. Lolth herself had only 66 hit points and could be killed in a single round if a DM didn't know how to use her. On the other hand, if players used her full abilities, she could easily rip her way through the players without too much trouble. Lolth also kept multiple dragons, giants, and other monsters on hand, most of which had no other purpose on the ship then to harass would-be adventurers when they walked into different rooms.

For an adventure that featured a traditional romp against giants and dark elves, ending the campaign on a set piece from Wild Wild West seemed strange, even back in 1980 when Queen of the Demonweb Pits was released, two years after the other adventures. The reason for the dissonance between the finale and the rest of the adventure was simple - TSR asked writer David Sutherland III to take over design of the module from Gary Gygax, who had written the rest of the series. Sutherland apparently convinced TSR executives to give him the module after showing them a pattern for the Demonweb map, which he had taken off a hand towel.


While Queen of the Demonweb Pits has received a mixed reception from D&D players over the years, it shows that there's really no right or wrong way to end a D&D campaign. If you feel that your story calls for a giant steam-powered spider ship, use it and don't worry too much about whether it meshes well with the other elements of your D&D world.

What's the strangest place your Dungeons & Dragons campaign has gone? Let us know in the comment section or find me on Twitter at @CHofferCBus to talk all things D&D!

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