For D&D fans of a certain age, the Keep on the Borderlands holds a special place in our hearts. For many of us, this was our first adventure, either to play in or run. It was included in the Basic D&D boxed sets for years and was designed by Gary Gygax for new DMs.
The ethos at the time was to give new DMs just enough framework to show them how it was done and then nudge them into creating their own worlds and campaigns. Greyhawk was still Gygax’s private campaign, not published until 1980, and the assumption was that every DM would build their own world and campaigns. A companion adventure to Keep on the Bordlerlands, B1: In Search of the Unknown had large sections of the map left blank for the DM to populate with monsters and treasures before it could be run.
Keep on the Borderlands is more complete than that; the keep itself, as well as a nearby cavern complex called the Cave of Chaos, are fleshed out with fully-stated inhabitants and treasures, as well as a web of relationships and conflicts that could easily metastasize into full-blown warfare. But there are lots of little details left for the DM to fill in themselves. For instance, nobody, from the inhabitants of the keep to the orc chieftains in the tunnels, has a name. This allows the DM to fit the Keep anywhere in their own setting easily. You can color the perceptions of the players just by choosing evocative names. What the blacksmith’s shop looks like and the blades he forges transform if we name him Bjorn Ericson, or Gareth of Silverwood, or Ardeth ibn Arash, or Jack Pumpkinhead. The module doesn’t even assume what the players will do; we’re given full stats and treasure for the inhabitants of the keep as well as the dungeon, allowing the DM to roll with things if the players decide to join forces with the monsters, or become cat-burglars.
For those curious about the keep and the Caves of Chaos, or who want to recreate the excitement of those long-ago adventures, Goodman Games has you covered with their massive tome, Into the Borderlands. If your interest is historical, you’ll absolutely want this thick volume that includes not only digitally restored version of In Search of the Unknown, complete with all the original art and maps, but also multiple printings of B2: Keep on the Bordlerlands which include different stats for some of the monsters as well as different interior art.
If, on the other hand, you’re less interested in nostalgia and more interested in getting a group together to plunder the Caves of Chaos and the Caverns of Quasqueton with the latest version of D&D, you’ll still want to pick up Into the Borderlands as it includes a complete conversion to 5th Edition for both B1 and B2. So whether you want to dive into a bit of D&D history, or run some classic adventures that have stood the test of time, ask the good folks at your local Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy® about securing your copy of this massive hard-cover tome today.