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A Brief Tour of the 1994-1995 Audio CD Box Sets

Remember when TSR Box sets came with all kinds of fun stuff like posters, miniatures, dice, and player aids? Let's take a look at the line of box sets from 1994 and 1995 that also included a CD!

 At the time CDs were new and had a special power that cassette tapes didn't. You could use your device to play a specific track without hunting and rewinding! If the adventure called for a certain track during play, you could choose that track and it would help the DM run the adventure. Most of these sets were set in Mystara.

These CD adventures were part of TSRs campaign to get more new people into the game.

I haven't played these, in the 1990s we were gaming in Santa Fe New Mexico. Most of us were in the service industry so our budgets didn't allow for new technology. Nobody had a CD player and by the time I had one these sets had faded into obscurity.

The first one was First Quest by Richard Baker, David "Zeb" Cook, Flint Dille, and Bruce Nesmith. 

A warrior stands against a rocky pinnacle with a dragon menacing from around the rock. A wizard casts a spell from the other side of the pinnacle.
Cover art for First Quest 

 

a CD in its case, a DM screen with a dragon mounted dwarf doing battle with a white dragon, some blue miniatures, some player aid cards with images and text, and some dice in a plastic bag.
Some of the contents
 

Published in 1994 ( not to be confused with the First Quest LP of electronic music and a few sound effects from 1985), this accessory was marketed to teach new players how to play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was a rather massive box set, including a rule book, an adventure book with four adventures, a monster and treasure book, two spell books, Player Cards, a Wall Poster, a double-sided dungeon map, dice, plastic Ral-Partha miniatures, and a CD. The rules were streamlined AD&D rules, just enough to get new players and Dungeon Masters started.

The CD has an introduction to the game. The beginning of the CD is a lot of fun with the geeky kids getting the set and whining about how they don't want to play because there are too many rules in AD&D. The kid with the box says that It'll be easy, he'll be the Dungeon Master and all they have to do is pretend. There is also an example of how to roleplay. Most reviews panned this as cheesy, but I thought it was rather fun. The second track has the kids actually playing. It's kind of funny with the players calling each other's characters by their class names. "Watch out, Thief!" "You would enjoy that, Fighter!" The NPC is called “Old Man”. Track 2 takes up with the first adventure. In these tracks, you hear sound effects and some of the party members point out some of the things that they see and more sound effects. When you hear the electronic beep, it's time for the DM to return to the printed adventure.

 

If you want to listen to the entire CD you can find it on YouTube at:

 https://www.youtube.com/@robertgreen7593/search?query=first%20quest

Rick Swan reviewed it for Dragon Magazine #210. He said that his younger players were spellbound and the old timers were delighted.

This set had a second printing called Introduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Game in 1995 with slightly different content and art.

From the back of the box:

"The First Quest CD Audio Game is the fastest, easiest way you can play the AD&D game. Everything you need to get off to a great start is here!

The First Quest audio CD game contains:

    The audio role-playing CD featuring over 60 minutes of digitally recorded sound-tracks, in its case
    6 plastic player character miniatures with a hero card for each
    Dungeon Master Screen and Adventure book
    Rulebook and 2 spell books
    Full-color book of monsters and treasure
    Full-color double-sided dungeon map
    Player aid/character sheet card and town map card
    Dramatic wall poster
    Plus 7 adventure dice"

Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure by Aaron Allston and Jeff Grubb

A knight with plate mail and a winged helm stands among ruins while a red d ragon with a wicked gleam in its eye flies above him.
Cover art for Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure

 
This was an accessory that included a lot of the information from GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos with added information taken from Wrath of the Immortals. The Duchy is now a newly formed kingdom. The maps in the set are larger and more detailed than the previously released maps of the area. Also included in this beginners set are two low level adventures and maps of Threshold and the surrounding areas, and Miros, the capitol city (formerly known as Specularum). Threshold is a great place for your players party to use as a base when exploring the area.

You can listen to the first track here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-gqvCarhWs

Search  Mr Green's channel for more.

From the back of the box:

This box set presents the campaign setting of the Kingdom of Karameikos, itself a part of the larger Mystara campaign setting. The box set contains the following:

    The Explorer's Guide, containing background information for the setting.
    - The Adventure Book, containing two adventures.
    - An audio CD for use with the included adventures.
    - 2 poster-sized maps.
    - parchment maps and several player handouts.
    - hero cards.

Hail the Heroes by Tim Beach


A statue of a dragon-like being holding an open book sits behind an archway. A figure in robes stands with a hand on the book. In the forground ia a stone warrior woman with a sword. A fighter in a hoorned helm looks suspiciously over his shoulder. Someones head is resting in a small alcove nearby.
Cover art for Hail the Heroes

Was another adventure set in Mystara. In this case, the CD was filled with only sound effects, monsters, and NPCs, no player characters' voices. It included “listening tracks” that the players were supposed to listen to, “event tracks” for when something happens, and a “background track” to play the rest of the time.

This adventure supported the Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure set and takes place in and around Mirros and Threshold.

From the back of the box:

Long ago, a great king fell in battle and became an immortal hero. The king's devoted followers built a temple to house his magical shield. Time and dust buried the temple, and the relic was forgotten—until now.

Can you win a thrilling race against rival factions to locate the temple? Can you survive the journey through its treacherous halls to gain the shield? Mystara's secret history will be revealed to those who succeed!

Hail the Heroes is an interactive audio CD adventure with digitally recorded soundtracks. Its unique format features only the sounds your hero would actually experience during the quest. Hear villains and monsters, deadly traps, mysterious speakers bearing audio clues, and more—over 80 tracks in all!

Contents:

    Audio CD in jewel case
    Full-color poster-size map
    32-page Adventure Book
    4 parchment player props
    For 3 to 6 heroes of levels 1 to 3.
 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1166507271/hail-the-heroes-tsr2502-vintage-advanced

Night of the Vampire By Richard Baker.

This was published in 1994, also in Mystara.
 

a vampire in a red cloak stands in fron of a stained glass window at the top of a staircase, a bat flutters in the window and a wolf stands next to him.

This adventure for low-level play actually had the 1st- 3rd level players taking on a vampire! In the review on Dungeon Masters Guild, they explain how that was done and also had some great information about how the CDs were basically created without much input from the designers of the adventures

“The CDs were the product of TSR West, a department created around 1989 to be run by Flint Dille, the brother of TSR's latter-day president, Lorraine Williams. The Wisconsin TSR offices, where the adventures were being produced, had almost no input on the Californian TSR office's creation of the CDs. As Baker recounts, "We weren't even supposed to write the scripts for these things, although, in practice, we created a sort of 'here's what needs to be in this script' script that the West Coast office used or didn’t use as the mood took them." TSR West then did all the voice casting and production with no feedback or approval from the actual game designers; they only got a final error check, to ensure that TSR West hadn't literally broken the adventure.

The results were sometimes hilarious. Baker recounts that for Night of the Vampire, he wrote a scene where the PCs captured some assassins and threatened them. Where Baker suggested the PCs say "Tell us who hired you, or we’ll put your head on a pole!", TSR West instead produced the final copy where "one of the PCs demands, 'Tell us who hired you!' and another PC shouts, 'GET A POLE!'"

From the back of the box:

You are cordially invited to a masquerade celebrating the engagement of Lady Laina Vandevie to Lord Iajo Moubotka. Lord Gustav Vandevic welcomes you to his manor for an evening's entertainment. The servants are delighted to make your acquaintance - but watch out for the other guests! Intrigues within intrigues are afoot in Vandevicony Manor. When a celebration becomes a night of terror, only the most cunning heroes will survive.

Night of the Vampire is an interactive audio CD adventure with digitally recorded sound tracks. The compact disc features character voices, haunting sound effects, and chilling music that bring the night's events to life! This mystery-adventure is set upon a remote, wooded cliff on the shores of Karameikos, but it could take place in virtually any stormy land, should you decide to spread the terror.

Contents:

Audio CD in jewel case
Full-color poster-size map of the manor 
32-page Adventure Book
4 parchment sheets with clues and missives
For 4 to 6 heroes of levels 1 to 3.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1152532730/night-of-the-vampire-tsr2509-vintage

Mark of Amber by Aaron Allston,  Jeff Grubb,  John D. Rateliff,  Bruce Heard, and Tom Moldvay

A cloaked and hooded man raises a censer, The smoke wafts towards six cloaked figures carrying a coffin. Domed buildings loom behind them and a spectral wizards appears to be towering behind the buildings
Cover art for Mark of Amber

This set was published in 1995. As with most of these, I don't own a copy, and couldn't possibly do a better job of telling you about it than “Allandaros” at Legacy of the Bieth.

 https://lotbieth.blogspot.com/search?q=mark+of+amber

From the back of the box:

√Čtienne d'Ambreville, the most powerful wizard in all Glantri, is missing and presumed dead. There are some who would like to keep that way. Only by entering the dreams of a dying Immortal can player characters discover the truth. Meanwhile, a sinister killer stalks the d'Ambreville family, murdering them one by one. Can the heroes identify the killer and solve the mystery before it's too late? A sequel to the popular adventure Castle Amber (Chateau d'Amberville),this story is set thirty years after the original adventure.

Mark of Amber is an interactive audio CD adventure with digitally recorded sound tracks. The compact disc features sounds your heroes would actually hear as they meet and interact with the d'Ambrevilles, and it includes three instrumental themes as well.

Contents:

Audio CD in jewel case
Poster-size player's map of the chateau
64-page Adventure Book
8 parchment sheets for players and DM
For 2 to 8 heroes of levels 4 to 6.

Savage Baronies by Tim Beach

 

A swashbuckler with a pistol and sword confronts a large creature with dragonfly wigs and oversized claws. An ornate pistol with the stock carved like a dragon is in the front of the image.
Cover art for Savage Baronies

This expansion for Red Steel was published in 1995. This accessory was set in Mystara on the Savage Coast and detailed the nine savage baronies and included an adventure. The CD was billed as a gaming aid that could be used for any adventure. This differed from the previous sets in that the CDs were keyed to the content. This CD contained only thematic music.

Fun fact: the blonde fighter on the cover is author Tim Beach. He says, “The artist, Alan Pollack, gave me a stronger chin, but otherwise, it looks a lot like me (though I wear my hair in a ponytail most of the time now).” Great to know.



From the back of the box:

Daring swashbucklers.
Stout mercenaries.
Rugged gauchos.
Arrogant nobles.
Vile monsters.



The Savage Baronies are home to all these and more! This accessory for the RED STEEL campaign holds a 64-page sourcebook that covers each of the nine Savage Baronies in detail, including the rulers of the lands, the attitudes of their people, and the effects of the Red Curse on those people.

Also included is a 32-page adventure, set in the Savage Baronies and the surrounding lands. The goblinoids of the Yazak Steppes are building another horde! Invasion is imminent, and it's up to the player characters to stop it! Included with the adventure are handouts and pre-generated characters that can be used as PCs or NPCs.

Savage Baronies also contains an audio CD with background music and sound effects to enhance the setting's mood of danger and adventure. The CD is not an audio adventure, but a gaming aid usable in any AD&D game adventure!

In addition, a full-color poster map shows an overview of the Savage Coast.

A Light in the Belfry by William W. Connors & Dori Jean Hein

An image of a manor house as seen through broken and blood splattered glass.
Cover art for A light in the Belfrey
 

Released in 1995 This adventure was one of two audio CD products not set in Mystara. It is set in Ravenloft and introduces the pocket domain of Avonleigh which appears in Ravenloft every now and again. This is also the first adventure featuring Morgoroth.

This CD has a narrator to help the DM out with descriptions and background information on the adventure, but does not have the character voices.

In line with the original Ravenloft, this set comes with a fine isometric map drawn by David C. Sutherland III.

This box includes:

A Light in the Belfry (32-page book w/cover)
Audio CD w/jewel case 
Track Index (single page)
Fold-out map

From the back of the box:

“The only thing more fragile than glass is a lover’s heart.”

—A Vistani Proverb

Decades ago, the fair land of Avonleigh was guarded by an order of paladins known as the Circle. One stormy night, a wizard named Morgoroth came to seek refuge with them.

But, all was not as it seemed! Morogoroth was no mere wizard; he was a necromancer on the run from a knightly brotherhood that had vowed to see him destroyed! When fate revealed his past, he betrayed the Circle and fled.

Can your heroes complete the crusade that destroyed the Circle? Can they learn the secrets of Morgoroth’s power before the necromancer destroys them? Accept the quest if you dare….

A Light in the Belfry is the first RAVENLOFT adventure to feature an Interactive Audio CD. As players explore Morgoroth’s dread-filled manor, they will actually hear the lamentations of tortured spirits, the clash of swords and the thunderous roar of magic. With almost 100 tracks of dialogue, sound effects, and mood music, TSR’s Interactive Audio CD Adventures add a new dimension to the horror of Ravenloft.

A Player's Primer to the Outlands by Jeff Grubb and Colin McComb.

 

A metal skull with a green reflection on the lower half floats in front of a peculiar stone wall.
Cover art for A Player's Primer to the Outlands        

 

Published in 1995 this accessory is an introduction to Planescape. The CD is imagined as a mimir, a metallic skull that answers questions about the planes. An example of a mimir is Mort from the Planescape: Torment computer game. Each answer is a separate track. This was the only other CD adventure not set in Mystara.

The tracks on the CD are here: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLydzr8y0bmx7g5cuVKmVVmnUEcmMGudZB

From the back of the box:

You've never seen a skull like this one, cutter - it's made of a silvery metal, with rainbow hues cascading over its shiny surface. Local bashers call it a mimir. Toss it into the air, and ask it questions: What is Ecstasy? Do fiends patrol the Outlands? The floating skull slicks softly, scouring its enchanted vaults for the answers. Then its bone-box opens, driven by ancient pistons, and it begins to speak....

A PLANESCAPE accessory for player characters of all levels, the Player's Primer provides a look at the Outlands, which surround the great city of Sigil - the gateway to all the Outer Planes. In this box, a cutter'll find:
• An audio compact disc that represents the mimir, a new magical item offering a strange and thrilling tour of the Outlands. More than 40 CD tracks allow players to hear what their characters would hear when consulting this handy (and some say dangerous) oracle.
• A 32-page guide to the most important sites and features of the Outlands.
• A full-color poster map of the Outlands with never-before-seen maps of gate towns.

 

Glantri Kingdom of Magic By Monte Cook and Bruce Heard 

 

Cover Art for Glantri Kindom of Magic

 

Published in 1995, this set is both adventure and setting details. It contains a lot of the information from

GAZ3: "The Principalities of Glantri updated to reflect the information in the Creature Crucible accessory PC4: Night Howlers. It introduced The Progeny, a new race, and the classes Glantrian wizard and Glantrian military wizard.

The CD for this adventure also includes the amusing voices of the players. Calling each others characters by class rather than name.

From the back of the box:

New ways of wizardry - yours to command!

There's something unique about a land where wizards rule. Marvels abound. Glamour tantalizes. Dangers await, cloaked in illusion. Whether a hero chooses to wield magic or steel, conjuring up adventure becomes an easy walk through the rolling hills of Nouvelle Averoigne - or one of the other dozen principalities that make up this remarkable land. And when the world's most powerful wizards are also its craftiest princes, nothing is ever quite as it seems!

Cast the magic of Glantri over your games! Inside this box you'll find:

An audio CD role-playing aid with realistic sound effects and character voices for your game sessions.

"The Test of Darkness", a 32-page adventure that takes the heroes from the fabulous great School of Magic to unknown perils.

The 128-page "Grimoire", your visitors guide to this sorcerous land, featuring beautiful color art plus all-new wizard kits and spells.

Full-color poster-sized maps of the realm and its capital, Glantri City.
10 player handouts, including adventure maps, illustrations, and props.
6 sheets of additional mini-adventures for the Dungeon Master.
8 full-color hero cards.

A trip to Glantri opens doors to works of wonder like the enchanting canals of the capital city, the Seven Secret Crafts of Magic, a mysterious force known as the Radiance, and lands where werewolves can be one's neighbors - and rulers!

I hope that you enjoyed seeing these unusual box sets as much as I enjoyed researching them.

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