With rules full of fey and rabbits, we’re through the looking glass indeed, so join us for the ultimate in Fey trickery and whimsy and adventure in Dungeonland.
What happens when you mix the dark whimsy of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland with the whimsical darkness of early Dungeons & Dragons? Well if you haven’t guessed from reading the title, you get Dungeonland an adventure module in the EX (short for EXtension) series, of which there are two. This tack-on adventure was designed to be run in any other ongoing scenario, as players find themselves transported into a world where the characters from Wonderland have been translated into D&D creatures, including a dangerous Mad Hatter and March Hare, arriving at this twisted vision years before Tim Burton found his one and only color palette. So hold onto your seat, let’s go for a ride and get ready for some Adventures in Wonderland.
And if you’re thinking that this is a metaphor or something, no, it specifically calls out the Alice in Wonderland story as being the universe where this all takes place:
As will soon be apparent, this module is based entirely upon the supposition that somewhere in the proverbial multiverse of play there exist the very lands where little Alice went in pursuit of a white rabbit, and where (in Beyond the Magic Mirror, the soon-to-be-released companion module to Dungeonland) that same worthy lass ventured to discover what awaited behind a mirror. Of course, both places are subtly (or not so subtly) altered for gaming, so there is a whole new world of weird and lovable friends for your Adventurers to meet: a cute white rabbit, a talking cat, the droll walrus and carpenter, and of course, the Duchess!
This is basically the ultimate sidequest. Characters are intended to literally stumble into the world without having any clue that there is anything amiss until they’re standing on the front door of Dungeonland. After that it’s basically a romp through Wonderland, with all the big set pieces you’d expect to see, including a flagon with “Drink Me” and a loaf of bread with “Eat Me” on it. You’ll grow small or tall depending on which one you eat. As you make your way through the doorway, you’ll pass through the story of Alice in Wonderland.
You might come across a quiet garden where you’ll cross into flower beds full of gossipy flowers, or find a magical waterfall that contains enchantments of all stripes. Which if you ever want a random magical effect, why has this table never been reprinted. Let’s correct this oversight:
Following your way through the story, you’ll confront or negotiate with the characters of the book, including a fight with the Mad Hatter, who throws hats of different kinds at players to varying effects; a talk with the Dormouse, a wererat who has been cursed with lethargy; and a chat with the Caterpillar. You’ll also find rules for playing Croquet, and deal with the Cheshire Cat, who might send the characters to the beach where they can talk to a Mock Dragon Turtle, wonder at the Walrus and Carpenter, and eventually wind up in the palace to deal with the crime of stealing tarts!
It says something that the adventure delves into some serious railroading at the end though. First Edition, and Gygax especially, love to have things just happen to the characters so that you can move into the next phase, and heaven help you if you have a clever solution.
Even so, the adventure is a weird mashup of fantasy and fiction, and it’s a fun diversion if you’re looking for inspiration to help out the next time someone’s absent from the table.