Saturday, January 7, 2017

B2: In The Foot Steps Of Others or Another Commentary of B2 Keep On The Borderlands

 I was rereading Robert Howard's Beyond The Black River last night for Crom knows how many times. "It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan fighting the savage Hyborian Picts in the unsettled lands beyond the infamous Black River.",according to Wiki break down. But the story really put me into the feel of B2, a bastion of civilization set against a degenerate race of descendants who have been pushed beyond the Black River itself. Of course someone's already thought about this for OD&D & I can see why. The set up is great for B2The thing about Robert Howard's Beyond The Black River is that it almost has a  Last of the Mohicans feel to it or better Congrad's Heart of Darkness. This ties into the feel that,'There are places that adventurers shouldn't go.' I've done several meditations blog posts & notes about the Keep.

But now its got me thinking about In Search of the Unknown as a possible almost Aliens style location or nega dungeon after Keep of The Borderlands is done. Something went horribly wrong inside the castle & its secrets are waiting. Because of the nature of this classic module both are easily customized into a sword & sorcery style mode & easily interconnected. But is there more going on here? Could the castle of In Search Of The Borderland be harboring some Lovecraftian secret before the beginning of time within its walls?

If we look to both the original B2 Keep On the Borderlands adventure & B1 In Search of The Unknown, the answer to my quiry is right within the plot of 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." Could both Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, have stumbled upon to secret and arcane knowledge that they're rivals feared? Knowledge that might give them a dangerous advantage against others?
I have this dream of layer upon layer of various civilizations that have risen and fallen in the Ancient & Accursed Terra, with various folks building upon the remains of one fallen race after another. Picking up secrets, knowledge, etc. from the remains. Thusla Doom from the Eighty Two Conan film is a good example of this sort of a character or possible NPC influence for an old school game. A friend back in the Eighties used such an NPC  character as the power behind the throne and rise of the evil elemental religion in wilderness around the Caves of Chaos.

Another way that this might work is to have the Keep be a former bastion of civilization that belonged to the enemies of Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, but its long since fallen as they have passed into eternity leaving weaker and lesser men to fill in their  shoes. Here's where the adventurers come in.

Another way that I've also recently used these two modules is to have them be the remains of outposts that once belonged to the Elves of Dark Albion. There are several reasons for this:

  1. The Elves of Dark Albion are perfect ancient enemies of mankind & can easily slip in to take the place of the Drow of Temple of Elemental Evil. They've got the trappings & cults to do so. 
  2. The various humanoid races are an infection of Chaos on the face of humanity in B1 & B2 more in keeping with the themes of both Moorcock & bits of Robert Howard's writings once again there's that cult element within the pulpy bits of these modules. 
  3. There's something iconic about these modules and its a lot easier to get into the sword & sorcery mind set that these lay down. 
  4. The themes of adventure locations on the edge of chaos & wilderness play on certain themes found through out sword and sorcery. Its quite easy to do a point crawl through such locations and drop in your own ruins to connect in with these locations to later bring in Temple of Elemental Evil. 
  5. There's a lot of flavor in these two and they can be modified to work with so many OSR materials currently on the market. They're classic for a reason and so easy to use across the board for a DM. 
  6. There's so much potential to plug into the various old school adventures that came before & after B1 & B2. They're easy to drag & drop into a sword & sorcery  pseudo European setting. 
  7. This module is one that can easily be added in as a point of safety for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and is infact one of my go to adventures when starting a new game. 
  8. Keep is easily reworked into a post apocalyptic adventure setting location and one that I've used with Gamma World more times then I can count.
There's something about the wilderness of a a sword & sorcery setting like Howard's Beyond The Black River that fits Keep On The Borderland. Beyond the strangeness of the adventure there's a thousand ways of adding in the keep as a safe haven against the horrors that seem to lay just beyond its walls.

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