As we march through Tales of the Five Editions Week, we come to 2nd Edition and this absolutely classic module – Curse of the Azure Bonds. Not only was this one of the most compelling, non-dungeon-drive adventure experiences in D&D, it started out as a great novel by Jeff Grubb and wound up as one of the best D&D computer games of its time. Jeff and my friend, George MacDonald (of Champions fame) wrote this masterpiece.
Day breaks, and the crowing of a distant rooster wakes you from an all-too-short sleep. Another day for adventure, you think as you arise – but then you stop short. You, and all of your companions, have an elaborate blue tattoo covering most of your sword arm!
And there is more to these marks than a drunken prank. As you try to find out the source and meaning of your new adornment, you are drawn further and further into danger and mystery. Will you become a pawn in somebody else’s power game, or will you fight for your freedom and individuality?
Curse of the Azure Bonds is an adventure set in the Forgotten Realms game word for the AD&D 2nd Edition game. It is based on the best-selling novel, Azure Bonds, by Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak.
(Excerpts from the Product History)
FRC2: Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989), by Jeff Grubb and George MacDonald, was the second and final adventure in a series adapting the SSI gold box computer games to AD&D. It was published in April 1989.
Act I: The Novel. Curse of the Azure Bonds started out as a novel, Azure Bonds (1988). Jeff Grubb came up with the idea of an amnesiac swordswoman, Alias, seeking her origins while she fought against the azure bonds that sometimes controlled her. In order to tell this story, Grubb outlined a novel that mixed swords & sorcery with mystery. He then pitched it to his wife, Kate Novak, and she agreed to come on as a co-author – although in the process one of the characters swapped sex, with the bard Oliver becoming Olive.
Azure Bonds was scheduled as the fourth Forgotten Realms novel, following Douglas Niles’ Darkwalker on Mooshae (1987), which had originally been written for an epic TSR UK campaign that was cancelled; R.A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard (1988), which had been sent to TSR as a semi-unsolicited submission; and Ed Greenwood’s Spellfire (1988), which he wrote after completing his work on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987). Grubb figures that TSR liked having him as their fourth author, because it would be easy to cancel the book if the Forgotten Realms line didn’t do well. Fortunately, it did well – quite well – so the Azure Bonds novel was published in October 1988.
Act II: The Computer Game. Meanwhile, TSR had licensed SSI to produce AD&D computer games. The first of them was Pool of Radiance (1988). SSI’s George MacDonald then joined with Jeff Grubb to write the plot for the second computer game. They opted to use Azure Bonds as its basis because the plot focusing on mystery and discovery would make for a good computer game. Rather than directly adapt the book, Grubb and MacDonald created a sequel to Azure Bonds. The resulting Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989) computer game was set after Azure Bonds and featured the player characters wakening with magical bonds just like those that had once controlled Alias. As the PCs investigate, they discover that a New Alliance is trying to use the magic of the bonds.
The Curse of the Azure Bonds computer game was also a sequel to the Pool of Radiance computer game; thus Tyranthraxus – the adversary from Pool – is one of the members of the New Alliance.
Act III: The AD&D Adventure. TSR opted to adapt the Curse of the Azure Bonds computer game as an AD&D adventure, just as they had with Pool of Radiance. Grubb and MacDonald wrote most of the adventure book, but the deadline was very tight, so other TSR staffers chipped in, including Tracy Hickman, Kate Novak, James Lowder, and Steve Perrin. Grubb says that he found the work on the Curse of the Azure Bonds adventure for AD&D tough, as it was literally the third time he’d written the same material, for a different medium each time. Of course doing so gave him insight into the advantages and disadvantages of the fiction, computer game, and RPG mediums.
Amusingly, Grubb would return to the characters from Azure Bonds in a fourth medium when he used the characters of Alias and her companion Dragonbait in issues #2-4 of his Forgotten Realms comic (Oct – Dec 1989).