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AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn (Basic)

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The Shady Dragon Inn is a set of pre-generated characters for use with the Dungeons & Dragons game. This player's aid comes in two parts: each character appears first in a section devoted to his or her character class. They appear again in the second section as members of a party. As a DM or as a player, you may use either or both sections; over a hundred characters await you!

Each character has a brief biography that will help you to create backgrounds for PCs or NPCs as needed. Also included is a rough physical description, and a list of items owned by each character.

The Shady Dragon Inn also contains the D&D statistics for those special characters who are presented by figures in the D&D and AD&D toy line, and provides a tavern setting from which players may start adventures or gather party members.

Product History

AC1: "The Shady Dragon Inn" (1983), by Carl Smith, is the first Game Accessory for the Basic D&D Game. It was published in 1983.

Beginning D&D's (AC)cessories. 1983 saw the rebirth of Basic D&D with Frank Mentzer's D&D Basic Set (1983) and D&D Expert Set (1983). To supplement the new game, TSR also kicked off a line of Basic D&D "AC"cessories (1983-1987).

By 1983, Accessories were already an old tradition for D&D. The first of note was probably The Character Archaic (1975), a character sheet produced by Wee Warriors. However, TSR quickly got into the act with Dungeon Geomorphs (1976-1977, 1981), Monster & Treasure Assortments (1977-1978, 1981), a Dungeon Masters Screen (1979), and of course character record sheets of their own. Surprisingly, none of these early accessories were marked with a module code; the "AC" line for Basic D&D was the first, though TSR would soon follow-up with a "REF" line (1985-1988) for AD&D.

Rather than kicking off their "AC" line with generic character sheets or DM screens, TSR decided to begin the line with something a different: a book of NPCs. This was similar to another classic TSR accessory, The Rogues Gallery (1980). Both books were filled with stats for somewhat generic NPCs, supplemented by a few more fully-featured characters toward the end — characters that also happened to tie into another D&D product line.

The Product Tie-In. In 1982 toy and video game company LJN beat out toy manufacturer Mego for the rights to produce AD&D figures. In 1983, they would produce series 1 of their action figures, most of them at the popular 3.75" size, with a few instead at the 5" Battle Masters scale. This series included: Elkhorn the Good Dwarf Fighter, Kelek the Evil Sorcerer, Mercion the Good Cleric Female, Melf the Good Fighter Mage Elf (also released as Peralay), Northlord the Great Barbarian, Ogre King the Evil Ogre Leader, Ringlerun the Good Wizard, Skylla Evil Magic User, Strongheart the Good Paladin, Warduke the Evil Fighter, Young Male Titan the Good Titan, and Zarak the Evil Half-Orc Asssassin. LJN also produced three mounts (Strongheart's bronze dragon, Strongheart's destrier, and Warduke's nightmare) and two monsters (a dragonne and a hook horror).

Several of the fleshed-out NPCs in "The Shady Dragon Inn" come from this series, including Elkhorn, Mercion, Paralay, Ringlerun, Skylla, Strongarm, Warduke, and Zarak. Four more NPCs in "The Shady Dragon Inn" never appeared as toys, but probably indicate what could have been: Figgen the Halfling, Fox Fingers the Thief, Raven the Cleric, and Zargash the Cleric. 

These licensed figures, crossing between "The Shady Dragon Inn" and LJN's toy line, are an important innovation because they represent both the first iconic characters and the first product identity for the D&D game.

The Tactical Map. "The Shady Dragon Inn" contains one other notable innovation: a 25mm scale battle map, showing the floor plans of the Shady Dragon Inn. Though miniatures had always been a part of the D&D game, this was a rare nod to their importance in the '80s, when tactical play was much less central to the D&D game.

Future History. "The Shady Dragon Inn" in The Polyhedron #16 (1983) includes a bit more info on the inn, including stats for its proprietors.

The iconic heroes of "The Shady Dragon Inn" would also make a few later appearances, though D&D games were inconsistent about where their home was.

  • XL1: "Quest for the Hearstone" (1984) features the Heartstone quest that is described in some of the character descriptions here. That adventures places the heroes (and presumably the Inn) in the Kingdom of Ghyr — an otherwise unknown land.
  • X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield" (1985) instead depicts some of these icons as rulers of the Kingdom of Ierendi, though later sources suggested it was 200 years in the future.
  • Finally, Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993), a side-scrolling video game for the CPSII (and later the Sega Saturn) places the inn (and presumably the iconics) in the town of Darokin.

Meanwhile, this wouldn't be the last "AC" product to focus on tactical play. A few later "AC" supplements beginning with AC3: "3-D Dragon Tiles Featuring The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina" (1983) would feature "3-D Dragon Tiles", which took the innovative battle map of this adventure to the next level.

About the Creators. Smith was an editor at TSR in the early '80s, where he also wrote AC1: "The Shady Dragon Inn" (1983) and N2: "The Forest Oracle" (1984). Afterward he moved on to the newly founded Pacesetter.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (7)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Julien R August 05, 2018 12:42 am UTC
Is this thing full of typos or is Eric The Honest's alignment "4" as the preview shows?
Customer avatar
Dustin N January 07, 2023 5:45 pm UTC
The OCR is pretty bad. Later in the document it shows Eric The Honest's alignment as Lawful. Page 31 under "Low Level Mixed Party".
Customer avatar
Christopher V May 27, 2018 12:01 pm UTC
Shouldn't the history section include the fact that Warduke, Strongheart, and Kelek appeared in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon?
Customer avatar
Becky S March 22, 2018 6:31 am UTC
I have this one in book format! I've used this as a starting point for 90% of my campaigns; by making the Inn stuck in a shifting plane (you never know where you'll go, but somehow you end up where you're needed.) So well known is this Inn, that I've now use it with my kids and most of the characters from the module. Great to have if you want a good solid Inn to work off of.
Customer avatar
John N October 04, 2017 2:31 am UTC
While a great reprint via POD the way the map is done just doesn't work. It's added into the book in several pages, but the way the book in done you can't lay it flat to photocopy it for use. So if anyone is interested in both the print book and using the map I would suggest buying POD + PDF and printing off the map pages on your computer.
Customer avatar
Rachael S April 26, 2021 7:50 pm UTC
Take the printable floor maps and have them printed online like at or something.
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Product Information
Platinum seller
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9100
File Size:
13.87 MB
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File Last Updated:
January 04, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on January 05, 2016.