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We’re back from Origins, and the official release of the Shackled City Adventure Path hardcover is less than a month away! With that in mind, now seems like a good time to take a look at how we put together this unprecedented compilation. At 416 full-color pages, it’s the largest official Dungeons & Dragons campaign ever published, but how in the world did we make it happen?
The Shackled City Adventure Path debuted in the March, 2003 issue of Dungeon magazine (#97). The brainchild of then-editor Chris Thomasson, the series of 11 linked adventures appeared irregularly over the course of the next 20 issues. Chris started off the series with pulse-pounding adventures by Christopher Perkins and James Jacobs before departing Paizo Publishing for an editing position at Wizards of the Coast. Enter Dungeon’s new editor-in-chief, me, and my newly hired able assistant, Managing Editor James Jacobs (who knew a thing or two about the Adventure Path after writing its second installment).
Over the next year and a half, we continued Chris Thomasson’s legacy with spectacular installments from Dave Noonan, Tito Leati, and Jesse Decker. Both the Chrisses (Thomasson and Perkins) contributed multiple episodes to the endeavor, and by Dungeon #116, we published “Asylum,” the last in the series.
But the last words of “Asylum” were far from the end of the Shackled City. The Adventure Path proved to be one of the most popular features ever printed in Dungeon magazine, generating more mail and more online discussion than anything we’d ever seen before. Back issues featuring Shackled City adventures sold far in excess of other issues, and we knew we had a hit on our hands.
We also knew that the series was becoming more and more difficult to track down as back issues sold out in game stores across the country and at paizo.com. In order to satisfy this demand, we had an interesting thought. “Hey,” we thought, “why not compile all 11 adventures into a full-color hardcover format?”
“Great,” replied management. “Can you have it done in two weeks?”
Well, no. We couldn’t. There was simply too much to do. In order to make the book a worthwhile pick-up for readers who already owned the issues, we decided to pack in all sorts of new material that bridges the gaps between adventures, improves foreshadowing and continuing subplots, and fleshes out the fantastic city of Cauldron, where merchants and cultists scheme from the terraced streets of a great volcano’s tremulous caldera. A new poster map reveals Cauldron as it has never been seen before, and a 24-page detachable map booklet showcases some of the finest work of superstar cartographer Christopher West’s brilliant career. We even convinced Chris Perkins to write an all-new Shackled City adventure, “Drakthar’s Way,” which now serves as the campaign’s second installment. It took a bit longer than two weeks, but I think you’ll find it’s been well worth the wait.
But what the heck is the campaign about? Good question. This preview PDF, a selection from the book’s enormous introduction that includes a complete table of contents, should give you a pretty good idea. So, please download and enjoy.
And watch out for Lord Vhalantru.
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