Advanced Search

Marco Volo: Departure (2e)
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

Marco Volo: Departure (2e)

Selected Option:
Watermarked PDF
Softcover, Premium Color Book
Watermarked PDF + Softcover, Premium Color Book

Marco Volo: Departure is the first volume of the Marco Volo trilogy, designed for four to eight player characters of levels 6 to 8. This free-wheeling adventure begins with an intrigue-laden journey from Waterdeep to Shadowdale. The party is thrown into the company of one Marcus Wands (also known as "Marco Volo"), a bothersome but likeable little rogue. In his guise of Marco, he gains unintentional help from the party members, leading only to their own arrest. To remedy that predicament, the characters are strong-armed into carrying an important letter to Shadowdale, and taking along Marcus as their "guide."

Of course, things are nowhere near as simple as they seem.

There's this little matter of the Dragonking's Eye, a powerful artifact from another plane. Naively, Marcus thought he could steal the thing and pin the theft on Volothamp Geddarm, the roguish author of many popular books about cities in the Realms. The notorious mage-assassin Felibarr Blacklance has been hired to hunt for the thief, and he is a man grimly determined to earn his fee.

Then, there's the business about this letter that's on its way to Shadowdale. It is accompanied by a rare enchanted item that wizards and fortune hunters want to obtain at all costs.

A series of adventures ensues that takes the adventurers from Waterdeep to the Way Inn, by which time they will doubtless suspect there is more to Marco Volo than meets the eye. Amid the brawls and mistaken identities, the wild rides and the glowering villains, the characters never have a chance to slow down or catch their collective breath. What results is a light-hearted, picaresque adventure in the manner ofDumas and Sabatini, and a good time is had by all!

(Except the bad guys, of course. They're never happy with how things are turning out...)

Product History

"Marco Volo: Departure" (1994), by Anthony Pryor, is the first in a trilogy of Forgotten Realms adventures. It was published in May 1994.

Origins (I): The Realms Adventures. With the advent of AD&D second edition (1989), TSR began experimenting with the publication of trilogies of adventures rather than the stand-alone modules that had been AD&D's bread and butter in the '70s and '80s. For the Forgotten Realms this resulted in the "FRE" Avatar trilogy (1989) and the "FRA" Empires trilogy (1990). After that, Realms adventure trilogies were put on hold for a few years, while TSR instead published six standalone adventures through three(!) adventure codes: two "FA" adventures (1990-1991), three "FRQ" adventures (1992-1993), and one "FRM" adventure (1993).

But in 1994, TSR decided to give adventure trilogies another shot. The standalone adventures began to fade (and would disappear entirely by 1996) and instead annual trilogies of adventures appeared for the Forgotten Realms. The first of these was the "Marco Volo" series. Two more would appear in 1995 and 1996. However, there was one notable change between the older trilogies of 1989 and 1990 and the newer ones of the mid '90s. Where before the adventure trilogies had been Realms-shaking Events, now they were smaller stories (and the last wouldn't even be a connected adventure).

Origins (II): Sources. Pryor set out to write a very different sort of adventure: one with much more modern sensibilities than the classic medieval-based adventures of D&D. This shows in his inspirations, which he lists in "Departure" as Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) and Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950). Pryor specifically suggests reading Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844) or "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1875-1950), which is the later part of The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Yen Years Later (1847), as well as Sabatini's Scaramouche (1921) "to get in the mood". He also suggests one modern take on these books: Steven Brust's Dumas-inspired The Phoenix Guards (1991), as well as his related Vlad Taltos books (1983-Present). The late period of the Dumas and Sabatini novels and the romantic and adventuresome theming of all these influences suggests how different Pryor's take on D&D adventuring was — but it was one that was entirely appropriate for the cultured and sophisticated parts of the Realms.

Genre Tropes: Humor. Pryor also focuses on creating an adventure that's "light-hearted" — again showing the influence of Dumas and Sabatini. But he was perhaps wary of the poor regard for certain adventures of the late '80s and early '90s that had been entirely satirical. So Pryor promises that the adventure will "never [be] farcical or slapstick".

Adventure Tropes. "Departure" is an episodic adventure of the sort that was common at TSR in the '90s. That means that players are guided from scene to scene with little agency. In fact it uses one of the worst tropes of the '90s, "captured", where the players are set to become prisoners no matter what they do. The whole adventure series received some notable criticism in Dragon magazine's forums column for this structure.

However, once the adventure moves onto the open road, the railroading feels less heavy-handed. That's because the adventure becomes picaresque; if encounters happen in a specific order at specific times on the road, it makes sense, because that's the linear nature of the road.

Exploring the Realms. The first three sections of "Departure" are all set in Waterdeep giving some details on a few individual locales as well general politics. This supplements material in Volo's Guide to Waterdeep (1992) and in City of Splendors (1994), which appeared a few months later.

Afterward, "Departure" moves down the road through Daggerford to Way Inn, across the the popular setting of the Sword Coast. This is Way Inn's only major adventure appearance, though it'd recur a few months later in Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast (1994).

NPCs of Note. The name Marco Volo evokes the name of "Marco Polo", probably purposefully so. But he's not a serious explorer, though he'll make a major journey over the course of these adventure. His real name is Marcus Wands, and he's a member of the noble Wands of Waterdeep.

Marco Volo is trying to frame Volothamp Geddarm, the author of the Volo Guides, for a crime. Ironically, this purposeful in-world confusion created by Marco Volo's pseudonym has also created confusion for readers, many of whom think that Marco Volo is actually the author of the Volo Guides. He's not. And that's not even his name.

Artifacts of Note. The crime in question was Marcus' theft of an artifact known as the Dragonking's Eye. It's hidden in the Spiderhaunt Woods, which means that players will have to wait two adventures to actually meet it.

About the Creators. Pryor had been writing for TSR since 1991, but 1994 was his most prolific year, with contributions to Elminster's Ecologies (1994) and solo authorship of the three Marco Volo adventures as well as Elves of Evermeet (1994).

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 (0)
Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Anthony P June 07, 2017 6:13 am UTC
Hi from Anthony Pryor, the module's original author!! These were fun to write, and I'm delighted to see them available as PoD. Mr. Appelcline's overviews are great, and his criticisms are entirely fair (yes, I DID railroad and had PCs watch while NPCs fought, but I hope you'll play these anyway)!
Narrow Results
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!
 Recent History

Product Information
Copper seller
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9444
File Size:
15.91 MB
Scanned image
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
October 31, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on November 01, 2016.