TSR was always a target for criticism. The industry juggernaut that turned DUNGEONS & DRAGONS into a synonym for roleplaying was rightly criticized for its boneheaded business decisions, and its treatment of the rest of the roleplaying community as the enemy in some kind of twisted, scorched-earth warfare. On the other hand - and this can't be denied, even by TSR's staunchest critics - the company came out with some really cool stuff. Case in point: HOLLOW WORLD.
ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was the magnet for many roleplayers, but there was once a sizeable audience for TSR's descriptor-less DUNGEONS & DRAGONS line. This game was really more of a linked series of boxed games that began with the "basic" set, moved on to the "expert" set, and so on. These versions of D&D shared more in common than they had differences, but there are still those who swear that the boxed D&D was better than its hardbound counterpart. They may have been right.
DUNGEONS & DUNGEONS (not ADVANCED) had a setting all its own: Mystara, AKA The Known World. It was an extraordinarily detailed world for the period, with enough information published in gazetteers and adventures to keep games going for years, if not decades. But TSR took the Known World just a bit farther by delving...inside. The Known World was hollow, and the first of several outstanding products was the appropriately-titled HOLLOW WORLD, a boxed set now re-released in PDF format.
HOLLOW WORLD is a setting that will drive players and DMs alike wild with its possibilities. Part LAND OF THE LOST, part Edgar Rice Burroughs's Pellucidar, HOLLOW WORLD is crammed with opportunities for high adventure. The PDF is 264 pages long, and includes detailed setting information, dozens of NPCs, full-color maps, and more downright cool elements than in any three other campaign settings. HOLLOW WORLD has it all: yellow-skinned, horsemen orcs, pirates, tribal lizard men, Roman- and Egyptian-imperial analogs, dragon-riding elves...the list goes on and on. And what's more is that it all works together.
HOLLOW WORLD is a treasure trove for d20 gamers willing to put the minimal amount of work into converting old D&D stat blocks to Third Edition. Designer Aaron Allston has pretty much moved on to the better-paying world of original fiction, but wrote some terrific roleplaying material in his day. HOLLOW WORLD is his masterpiece. The setting takes all the best elements of the fantastic adventure fiction of the '30s and '40s (dinosaurs, savage men, lost empires) and marries them to the tropes of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (elves, dwarves, Vance-style magic). It doesn't seem like it ought to make any sense, but it does.
Even divorced from the Known World and run on its own, HOLLOW WORLD is well worth the investment. Almost any kind of adventure can be laid in this setting, and the peculiar, inside-out nature of the world gives fantasy gaming a fantastic feel once again. HOLLOW WORLD is a must-buy.