Saturday, November 21, 2015

Retro Review & Commentary On The OD&D Adventure Module B1 In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr For Your Old School Campaigns

Its seven am in the morning on a Saturday, and I've been walking down memory lane with some of the Original Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons modules I've been writing and reviewing. This particular adventure I've used numerous times, stocking and restocking it over the years,creating variation after variation. B1 In Search of the Unknown has been run for OD&D, AD&D 1st edition,  Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Labyrinth Lord, and most recently for Crimson Dragon Slayer, and Dungeon Crawl Classics. Because of the very nature of B1, you as the dungeon master are the person that stocks it with both monsters and treasure. I've had more PC's die in this complex on both sides of the screen then possibly any other module because of the way its stocked.

Wiki can throw in some of the facts of the adventure; It was written by game designer Mike Carr and was first published in 1979 by TSR, Inc. The module details a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown are adventurers that my players have come to fear, hate, and beyond reason have never encountered them. They've wandered across the planes causing more evil and misery then anyone has a right to. The plot hook of these two bastards is pretty well known to those who've run B1;
"Many years ago two wealthy adventurers, Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, built a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. From this base, they conducted their affairs away from the prying eyes of civilization. While of questionable ethical standing, the two drove back a barbarian invasion and gained the support of locals. Eventually, they gathered their own army and went on an expedition against said enemies, where they met their demise."

The rooms of the complex have become iconic almost to the point where this image is a rite of passage among D&D players. The layout of rooms and simple yet effective idea of letting the dungeon master stock the rooms with monsters and treasure is both brilliant and teaches the basics of designing dungeon crawls. I mean what can one really say about In Search of the Unknown? It's a classic dungeon crawl in every sense of the word. All of the basics are laid bare for the DM to exploit and create the place from the ground up. A word on the traps of this module, they are actually quite deadly and numerous times I've seen players who think they know each and every niche and cranny of  the estate, buildings, dungeon, and caverns of In Search of the Unknown die. This seems to happen often and repeatedly through the years.

There are times when classic modules are classic for a reason, here its because this module introduces all of the concepts of the dungeon crawl into a microcosm for the DM to exploit to the fullest and its a damn fun module to play around with. More on this later, the interior of the place hints at exactly what sort of folks that Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown were. We get to know them through the fighters & magician's laboratories, rooms, places of study and the kitchen and all of the hundred & one details that go into In Search of the Unknown.

Also magic pools are very cool but very dangerous!  But the time of Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown is past and now its up to your party to raid the hell out of the grounds of B1. One thing that always appealed to me was the fact that the various bits and pieces of Zelligar the Unknown's occult activities and research were always a bit shady, and downright Lovecraftian. A fact that I've personally exploited numerous times, making the estates and grounds of B1 multidimensional and very dangerous. So is B1 still dangerous and horrid to players? I actually think so, in fact more so because played right and players never seem to recognize the place.Its almost as if they have blind spot when it comes to B1 as an adventure.
Another fact I love is the monsters of B1, troglodytes are so great to inflict on PC's. They're a low level monster that can do a bit of damage to a party.

Recently I came across this thread on Dragon's Foot, here.  

I especially liked the 1 Crypt Dragon HD 6 HP 18 AC 2 WORM BREATH (stream of maggots that will skeletonize opponents killed by breath), & the 2-7 Blue Dogs HD 1-1 AC 6 FEAR (vicious dogs with blue fur, blue skin, and human faces). All very Realms of Chaos and echoes something I've said about B1, this module lends itself to so many styles of old school campaigns
Do I think that B1 is worth running? Of course it is folks. But hold on, we're not done yet.

Doing Bad Things With
B1 In Search Of  The Unknown

I've never quite been satisfied to let a good adventure location lie. So over the years I run the B1 In Search of the Unknown with many other campaigns and games. Examples include turning the entire adventure location into an amusement park style haunted attraction from the 40's for Weird Adventures.  A weird survival horror location for Call of Cthulhu in the Dreamlands at the edge of the demon lands. The same location was used in Stormbringer as a crossover point for characters. B1 has also been the headquarters for a number of thieves gangs and even a super villain in Marvel Super Heroes from the TSR era. I've hollowed out the place and used it for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea as a location abandoned because of the Green Death. I've used it as point of dimensional travel with Arduin and run it in full tilt gonzo module. My most recent incarnation of the place was with Crimson Dragon Slayer  as the head quarters for an inter dimensional slaver ring.

My latest instance of using it has been the place as the headquarters for a group of Narcosa drug smugglers and chaos worshipers but there's more on that version much later.

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