Saturday, May 21, 2016

Meditations On The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module & Some Free OSR Resourcs For Old School Campaigns

Earlier today I got a chance to reach deep into my bag of old school gaming tricks and look into B2 The Keep on The Borderland for Basic Dungeons and Dragons. I started looking into the structure and ideas behind this classic Basic Dungeons and Dragons adventure. The module is a micro cosm of everything that makes D&D incredibly nasty and fun to play by turns. It has bits and pieces of lots of elements that go into making a successful D&D game. So tonight I came across a nice solid set of resources that can add that little extra dimension to your old school campaigns.

I'm fascinated by the structure, composition, and uses that dungeon masters and players have put B2 Keep On The Borderland. After doing some research on the Zenopus Archives  I came across several resources that are particularly useful for an upcoming game of Holmes D&D. Here's what I came up with.

  • There are several distinct differences between the Moldvay and Holmes Basic Sets of Dungeons And Dragons Keep On The Borderland. Many of these are here -  List of changes between Holmes and Moldvay versions (compiled by Acaeum member brute).
  •  B2 also has the distinction of being the only stand-alone module published by TSR which included Dexterity (DX) scores in the monster stats in accord with the rules for initiative in the Holmes Basic rulebook. The Holmes Basic rulebook does not include monster dexterity scores, but instructs that if the DM "does not know the dexterity of an attacking monster he rolls it on the spot" (pg 20). By including DX scores in the monster stats, B2 can speed up the flow of the game. These can also be used to extrapolate typical monster dexterity scores. The only other TSR scenario with DX scores is the Chapel of Silence published in Dragon.
  • An interesting series of posts related to The Borderlands on the Wizard in a bottle blog (snorri of OD&D74):
    Hexmap - Geography - Bugbears & Catnip - Agriculture - Archaeology - Burials - Congregations - Eight Variants of Caves of Chaos
There are a number of reasons why B2 Keep on the Borderland is one of the most recognized and beloved adventures ever. Many of the reasons why are because of not only the nostalgia attached to the adventure but because of the flexibility that B2 brings to the table. Its easy to see the DYI aspect of B2 for example here are two remixes of the maps to Keep on The Borderland 

B2 Wilderness Map re-imagined in hexes - by isomage.

Thoughts on adding the 1E DMG Sample Dungeon to B2 with an annotated Map showing a possible location for the "seldom used road" leading to the ruined monastery.

This trip down memory lane is all for campaign preparation and B2 is great for dropping right into the back end of an existing campaign setting. This means that the adventure came be used as a spring board for all kinds of adventures in, around, and even in the underworld surrounding the keep and its environs. This is because the Keep is meant as a base for PC's to use.

Here are ten reasons why the Keep on The Borderland is an incredibly useful and even relevant today in gaming:
  1. This is one of the most common adventures that gamers the world over have started with and played. It has both iconic and instantly recognizable elements that still appeal to both gamers and DM. There's a design aesthetic that works so well in B2. 
  2. There are a few twists and turns that make B2 useful for a wide variety of campaign and old school styles.
  3. B2 is hackable, its structure makes customization easily and reskining a snap for the experienced DM. 
  4.  The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure has a flexible plot, and a well written backstory that can be dropped into any campaign world. This means that a DM could with little effort expand adventure elements of B2 whole cloth into far great campaign nuggets. 
  5. There is something very classically pulp about the module that harkens back to the Appendix N elements of sword and sorcery literature 
  6. Evil sleeps nearby in this adventure its very close to the keep and its environs;many of the classic D&D monsters are in evidence including many of the iconic humanoid races and deep monsters. 
  7. Everything here is geared as a campaign jump off point and the keep is meant as the central adventure location. This makes using B2 a snap. 
  8. There is something very Saturday mantinee about B2. The rise of evil, cults of dark forces, evil magicks and more monsters make The Keep on The Borderland  on of the easiest adventures to adapt to retroclone systems. I've used it for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and others such Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea both events quite successfully. 
  9. There are lots and lots of resources on the net for B2 and the options for expansion, adaption, and DM DYI mean lots and lots of module utility
  10.  The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module  is a classic of the old school adventure modules with a ton of uses and is a great introduction to the hobby. 

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