Dungeons & Dragons: Hollow World by Aaron Allston (1990)

HollowEarthRPGCover blurb

THE KNOWN WORLD: IT ISN’T FLAT, BUT IT IS HOLLOW!

Within the sphere of the Known World is another world, a hollow world. There your characters will meet ancient Nithians, long disappeared from the surface world and thought extinct; Blacklore Elves, living in a magical valley and served by automatons — devices that take care of everything, from serving their food to trimming their grass; Arcans, terrifying, war-mongering natives whose taste for battle extends even into their favorite game — the losers always die — and many more. Monsters abound as well, from dinosaurs to aurochs.

In the Hollow World, the sun never sets. Magic works differently than it does “outside”– some spells don’t work at all. And quite often, getting in is much, much easier than getting out.

My thoughts

There was a time when the people producing Dungeons & Dragons games were more creative than they are now, and when the company that put out the famous roleplaying brand — originally TSR but now Wizards of the Coast — experimented with several campaign settings. I actually learned about this RPG supplement through a video game that used the setting: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun for the SEGA Genesis, a favorite of mine even though I never did manage to beat it.

D&D: Hollow World is set in the campaign world of Mystara, or rather, below it. The planet of Mystara isn’t a rocky solid ball floating in space, but rather a hollow sphere with an interior lit by a small sun. Dinosaurs and civilizations that have long disappeared from the surface thrive in the hollow world, and magic doesn’t always work as expected.

Basically the campaign combines the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired world of D&D with the hollow earth setting Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar series. This allows gamers to encounter civilizations other than the Western European kingdoms found in most D&D games. There are Romans, Aztecs, Egyptians and other cultures, most of which never interact because of the high mountain ranges that separate them. The Hollow World also has its own pantheon of gods, including Ka the Preserver, who is an intelligent Tyrannosaurus rex.

Sure, it’s all pretty silly, but no more than your average D&D setting. There is an interesting backstory about how the Hollow World came to be and what function it serves, but that information is for game masters only so I won’t spoil it here. What’s nice about the campaign world is the author gives players plenty of different cultures and creatures to choose from — the Hollow World is a big place and gamers could spend a lot of time exploring it and never run into the same thing twice. One valley may contain a lost Roman civilization, while the next one over may be filled with primitive cavemen and dinosaurs. Any setting that allows player to tailor the game to their own tastes is a winner in my book.

D&D: Hollow World uses the original rules, not the advanced rules, although the game is generic enough that it could be easily converted. This is one supplement worth getting, if you can find it.

Trivia

  • The author, Aaron Allston, has written several gaming supplements and science fiction novels, the latter mostly tie-ins to film franchises such as Star Wars. He is also the author of Lands of Mystery, a supplement for roleplaying lost world adventures.
  • Allston also wrote the story for the roleplaying computer game Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, which is set in a valley filled with dinosaurs and primitive tribes. I recommend The Savage Empire and Warriors of the Eternal Sun to any gamers looking for fun RPGs that are a little different from your standard sword-and-sorcery fare.

Reviews

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