When you insert this module into your campaign, do so without alerting the players. That is, they will not see a white rabbit and a rabbit hole anywhere, nor will they discover a looking glass to pass through. I have tried these methods, and they put players on guard immediately. Conceal this module within the body of your game material. At a convenient point—for you, not for the party—have them fall into a pit or have a passageway suddenly become a perpendicular shaft. Then have them descend, ever so slowly, into the “front door” of Dungeonland.Published in 1983, Dungeonland, like so many of the modules written by Gary Gygax in the last few years of his time at TSR, is a throwback, an atavism, a reminder of the early days of the hobby. I'm not sure one can necessarily draw any conclusions about Gary's opinions on the state of the game he helped created almost a decade earlier, but I think it's interesting to note that, just as the Hickman Revolution was building up a head of steam, the Dungeon Master was producing not one but several modules that ran counter to the adventure design principles in vogue at the time.
Dungeonland -- an obvious pun on "Wonderland" -- sits on the faultlines of a couple bugaboos of gaming and, like many similar modules, one's reaction to it is a good indication of how in tune one is with the pulse of the early hobby. First and foremost, module EX1 is a classic "funhouse" module. It has no rhyme or reason; there is no grand explanation for how or why Dungeonland exists, except that Gary Gygax felt, as have many other old school referees, that Lewis Carroll's imaginary world serves as a great inspiration for a whimsical, if deadly, adventure. Second, Dungeonland is clearly meant to challenge the player, not his character. Throughout the module, there are many places where the standard rules of D&D don't apply, leaving the characters without recourse to their usual bag of tricks. The only way to overcome such circumstances is for the player to be clever, using his wits and his knowledge of Carroll's tales to assist him. It's an adventure that actually invites players to engage in the heinous sin of "meta-gaming," because, many times, it's the best chance one's character has of surviving. In short, Dungeonland is a module that mocks "immersion" and adds a much-needed layer of nuance to one's understanding of what naturalism is and is not.
I've noted before that I have never been a huge fan of funhouse dungeons, but I've always liked Dungeonland (and its sequel, The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror). Perhaps it's because, as a child, I found the stories of Alice's adventures simultaneously awesome and terrifying. Wonderland truly is a wonder -- an alien landscape following its own bizarre "rules" and shot through with a darkness that, even as a kid, I found strangely compelling, even as I was horrified by it. I don't have to imagine why Gary Gygax found the idea of throwing his players into a D&D-ified version of the same to be such a grand jest. Likewise, fan of the Harold Shea stories that he was, I imagine it seemed perfectly reasonable to him that there existed a dimension parallel to Greyhawk that was based on a twisted version of Lewis Carroll's creations. Couple that with the opportunity to engage in painful punnery and gallow's humor and suddenly the whole venture seems to have been tailor-made for Gary's unique talents.
I have a hard time imagining a module like Dungeonland being written today, at least outside the old school movement. Indeed, even within the old school community, there are probably lots of people who would look askance at it. EX1 is a concatenation of opposites: at once light-hearted and deadly, literary and low-brow, and, above all, supremely challenging. Run in the spirit in which it was written, players will be hard pressed to come out of this adventure with their characters intact. An adventure like this was already a museum piece in 1983, at the close of the Golden Age. How much more of a curiosity would it be regarded 25 years later? There is no story to Dungeonland -- except the story of a book most gamers have probably never read -- and no attempt to provide anything more than a dangeous romp that players can, if they succeed, take pride in having beaten. I can still tell you many stories of my own players' adventures in Dungeonland, right down to how some of their characters died, which is a pretty good indication of how memorable Dungeonland is. How many modules published in its wake, no matter how finely crafted, can say the same?