There are two series of Basic level modules, the B series, and the BSOLO series:
|B series||B1 - In Search of the Unknown|
|B2 - The Keep on the Borderland|
|B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess|
|B4 - The Lost City|
|B5 - Horror on the Hill|
|B6 - The Veiled Society|
|B7 - Rahasia|
|B8 - Journey to the Rock|
|B9 - Castle Caldwell and Beyond|
|B10 - Night's Dark Terror|
|B11 - King's Festival|
|B12 - Queen's Harvest|
|B1-9 - In Search of Adventure|
|BSOLO series||BSOLO - The Ghost of Lion Castle|
|Layout||Mike Carr, Stephen D. Sullivan|
|Internal Art||David C Sullivan III,
David A Trampier
|Cover Art||1st Ed. David A. Trampier
2nd Ed. Darlen Pekul
|Second Edition||Patrick L Price
Edward G. Sollers
Stephen D. Sullivan
|Format||32 page book & 2 pane cover|
|Party||3-8 characters of levels 1-3|
My copy is the brown covered second edition. I don't know exactly what the changes were between the 1st and 2nd editions, but my guess is that it involves the update of rules between the D&D rule book of 1977 and the Basic D&D rule book of 1981. Note that the original version of this module was bundled with the first Basic Set, which contains the former rule book.
The first thing that strikes you is the excessive lead-in to the adventure. In most modules, the first page would be a brief introduction, but here the author drones on for fives pages, doing nothing but iterate facts about the adventure which will be known if you bother to read the dungeon description, and paraphrasing whole chunks of the Basic rulebook. To be fair, this is supposed to be an "introductory adventure", so maybe this was meant to complement the rulebook's descriptions.
Anyhow, eventually, you get to the meat of the adventure. There is the usual brief background to entice the PCs to the dungeon, as well as the classic list of rumours which make the only reason why the party would every bother going to a tavern. The premise is that the PCs have found a map that leads them to the lair of two lost adventurers called Rogahn and Zelligar. Apart from this, there is no real plot because it is essentially a dungeon bashing adventure with some interesting traps and puzzles, and weird unexplained things just to freak them out. In fact, you never really find out what happened to the two people whose lair your party are invading. But of course, there could always be a sequel where they come back rather pissed off to find adventurers have been around.
The "gimmick" of this adventure is that it only describes the keyed rooms; the DM has to go and stock rooms with monsters and treasure out of lists which look suspiciously as if they have come from an old TSR Monster and Treasure assortment. The actual map is the usual 2 level TSR standard of the time. The top level is all straight lines, with things such as pointless rooms full of doors, just to make the party worried, and enough secret rooms that can be easily spotted by those who have mapped thoroughly. The bottom level is a cavernous level i.e. impossible to map properly. And yes, there is a secret way out of the dungeon.
One thing that has struck me after reading this again is the artwork. Nearly all the internal pictures are meant to be of the same party of adventurers investigating the dungeon, illustrating some of the more bizarre locations in the adventure. It is interesting that the original cover, showing the adventurers in the mushroom room is reproduced in the later inner booklet. The replacement back and front cover pictures aren't half as interesting, even though they are colour rather than monochrome. Actually, my favourite picture is on Pg. 31, illustrating the adventurers (one of whom is actually carrying a 10' pole!) walking through a wooded meadow, and a little pixie is sitting smoking a pipe on the verandah of his tree house. It is quirky pictures such as these which sadly disappeared as TSR became more "professional", and only epic pictures prevailed.
Overall, as an adventure, this is all rather boring. It does have some occasionally eerie bits of mood encounters, but there is no "big bad". You simply arrive, clear out each location, and repeat ad infinitum. There's nothing essentially wrong about this - dungeon bashing is quite fun on occasion - but the fact that all the monsters are dislocated from the adventure means that there is no real story here, although there is nothing stopping you from making one. However, the whole point of a purchased adventure is that this should already be done for you.
Due to the lack of storyline, this adventure is that it could be placed anywhere which is off the beaten track. B1-9 gives this as being in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. X1 has this about 50 miles west of Threshold.
|Released||1st 1980, 2nd 1981|
|Artists||David S. LaForce, Erol Otus|
|Cover Art||Jim Roslof (1st Ed.) and (2nd Ed.)|
Jeff R. Leason
Edward G. Sollers
Stephen D. Sullivan
|Format||32 page book, including 4 pull out pages & 2 pane cover|
|Party||6-9 characters of levels 1-3, including a Magic User and Cleric|
Ok, more nostalgia, since this is the module which was bundled with my first Basic D&D set. I have played this one with a number of players, and it has always been a bit of fun. However, I really cannot understand why this adventure got the whole 25th anniversary treatment, or why people rate it so highly, 'cos it isn't that good. Gygax himself doesn't seem to thing it to be a classic (see below).
Like B1, this was originally released for use with the original Basic D&D rules, and modified when the revised rules were released in 1981. Also like B1, the first 5 pages simply reiterate material from the rulebook, whose only value could be that an alternative explanation of the might help out people who don't understand them. After this, there is a page of slightly purple (but deliberately unspecific) prose telling you that your adventurers are journeying to Keep on the Borderlands of the title. Next there are six pages which describe the keep in a manner not particularly different from a dungeon. It does seem fairly pointless giving stats for all the keep's inhabitants, since the only use would be if the party wanted to slaughter the keep's inhabitants. In fact, what it ought to do is to give the characters names and personalities. The only interesting characters are the secretly evil priest and acolytes who will stab the party in the back at the first opportunity.
Eventually, the characters will discover that the hotbed of monsters in the local area is the Caves of Chaos, situated ... somewhere. Surprisingly, there doesn't appear to be anyone who actually knows where they are located. Therefore, unusually for Basic i.e. dungeon adventures, there is a brief wilderness section (the map is on the same separate sheet as the map of the keep), which gives you four keyed encounters with overly conservative movement rates. You could spend days traversing this map to get all the encounters, or the caves for that matter.
When the adventurers find the ravine that contains the entrances to the Caves of Chaos, we are now halfway through the adventure booklet. The entire folder cover (a brilliant TSR idea, in my opinion) shows the ravine area, with contour lines showing the slope. There is only one "level" as such, however the concept is that cave mouths at the bottom of the ravine contain the entrances to caves with low level adventure sites (geddit?), and cave mouths at the top of the ravine contain the entrances to high level adventure sites. In fact, the whole area is effectively a monster condominium - there are tribes of Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins and Bugbears all living in perfect harmony and cooperation. After slaughtering them, the adventurers can then progress to clearing out the lair of a few one-off powerful creatures, and finally the Shrine of Evil Chaos (a great name), which is all evil clerics and undead. There is even a secret escape route for the evil priest leading to an inevitable sequel adventure in the Caves of the Unknown (wow).
As an adventure, this is ok, but distinctly lacking. Whilst it does seem to have a goal (clear out the evil menace) and there appears to have a beginning of characterisation and monsters working together that B1 didn't have, it doesn't have much of the weird charm of that adventure. Again, it is one of those adventures which you will have to work on a bit before playing (I created a whole load of extra wilderness encounters because players got really bored searching for the bloody dungeon). The keep itself is not too bad an idea, but as the module suggests, you will have to flesh out the maps and characters to get the best out of this.
This adventure could be placed anywhere near mountains on the eastern border of any country. However, B1-9 places this on the northeast border of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.
"Keep on the Borderland was a module where I said 'I'm not trying to get any realism or verisimilitude going here; I'm going for pure whimsy fantasy action, and you're going to be kept amused every minute.' I still get emails from people saying 'yeah, that was great.'"
"Keep on the Borderlands I just made up out of whole cloth, though. Brian said that we needed a new adventure module for the Basic set, something with a little more action, and a little broader and so forth. So I just sat down and wrote that in three weeks."
|Design||Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells|
Stephen D. Sullivan
|Cover Art||David S. LaForce|
|Format||32 page book, and 2 pane cover|
|Party||6-10 characters of levels 1-3, including an Elf or Magic User with a Sleep spell|
This is the first module I ever bought, and so it too has nostalgic feelings for me. But many other people might remember for its supposed "controversial" status - something which I only found out about a year or so ago. To summarise, the original "orange" edition was written entirely by Jean Wells, and had both a number of structural flaws, and more pertinently, illustrations which were considered to not be of a family oriented nature. The original print run was pulped, and then the module was sent to Tom Moldvay for revision. The revision was markedly different from the original, which is probably why Tom Moldvay gets first credit. I only know all this because I found an excellent page on the Wizard of the Coast site which you can find here. And this is particularly great because you can download the original version as an Adobe Acrobat file! This module was obviously written around the time of X1 - The Isle of Dread, since in the original, there is a map which clearly locates the adventure in the north-west of the Principalities of Glantri. No such location information exists in the generally released version.
The introduction mentions that there are two versions of the Basic D&D rules, the blue book, and the red book. Indeed, due to the differences, the combat sequence and the variable weapon damage table are reiterated on one page. A couple of monsters have to be explained for those who have the earlier book.
In general, this module is a whole level beyond that of B1 or B2. There is an interesting plot, an interesting but not too lethal dungeon, and you get to beat a bad guy who has a vestiges of a personality. Another good thing for new players is that there is actually three different ways to free the Silver Princess of the title. The whole layout is far cleaner than previous efforts. The font is far nicer than the one that TSR were using up to then, and someone comes up with the brilliant innovation of having boxed text to read to the adventurers when they first arrive at a location. TSR never look back from here.
The actual dungeon is two levels - the first one is mostly tunnels with the occasional natural cave thrown in for variety, and the second is the actual palace above. The monster choice is feasible: they are either underground denizens, or they are minions of evil who have been attracted by the evil influence surrounding the palace. I also like the fact that the wandering monsters table has lengthy descriptions of why the monsters are to be found on that particular level.
One strange innovation, never repeated in a group module, is to have what they call here a "programmed adventure" section for the first few rooms, which is effectively the DM reading Fighting Fantasy style numbered paragraphs to the players, giving them options. I suppose that this is to give starting players the general gist of things that you would do in a dungeon based adventure. My brother found this very useful when he started playing. He eventually learnt that you could do other actions in this game...
I think that the original placement NW of Glantri is far more interesting that the latter day "official" placement in the inevitable Grand Duchy of Karameikos. There are only so many "hidden kingdoms" that you can place in a country (c.f. B10 - Night's Dark Terror)
Stephen D Sullivan
|Cover Art||Stephen D Sullivan|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||6-10 characters of levels 1-3|
At last a Basic adventure which is not "introductory", and possibly because of that, at last the first excellent Basic module - good plot, great artwork. This is a pyramid adventure, and I really love it to death.
The adventure starts with the PCs travelling through a desert: a sandstorm appears, and they get very lost. They have run out of food and water when they discover some ruins in the middle of the desert, and the top of a pyramid buried in the sand. Luckily, after a few monster encounters, the PCs will discover that there are people who will be willing to help them, as long as the PCs agree to join them. It turns out that the pyramid is the last surviving surface relic of the lost civilisation of Cynidecia, most of which has descended into madness. The only sane Cynidecians are three factions trying to save their civilisation.
The main dungeon consists of five tiers of the pyramid. The first three tiers comprise level one, and the next two are levels two and three respectively. To encompass this, there are three panels in the cover, each showing the next level. The back of the last panel is a bit wasted - it simply reiterates the contents of the equipment packs to be used with the pre-rolled characters. Setting aside the Cynidecians for the moment, the actual dungeon encounters are really good, and give a nice Egyptian type flavour. It won't be too surprising that there are undead in the tombs level, but sadly no Mummies because this is a Basic adventure. The tomb traps are pretty classic too: really Raiders of the Lost Ark stuff.
However, the third level is not necessarily the end of the adventure. The module was designed to be expanded in two ways. The first expansion is fairly obvious - adding levels below the existing pyramid. There are two pull-out sheets which describe five more tiers - whose outlines are mirror images of the first five tiers. However, although the rooms in these levels are keyed, there is a simple one line description, and then the monster and treasure for each room. In a kind of inversion of B1 - In Search of the Unknown, you are supposed to write a full description of the room, and how the monster and treasure fits into the encounter. It seems that the adventurers should be at least third level before going down to the lower levels, because these are not Basic encounters, requiring monsters and treasures found in the Expert Rules. Unfortunately, there appears to be no logical reason behind the placing of the monsters and treasures (unlike the rest of the module), and it seems that all except the last encounter were placed randomly. This causes many mind-boggling situations, such as: how does a blue dragon get into a room which is essentially 30' by 30'. My only explanation for all of this is that some of these creatures have been summoned and enchanted in these rooms as deliberate guardians, not for the treasure, but the end of game baddy, Zargon.
The other expansion is a lot better, although it will require a hell of a lot more work. A diagram on one of the pull out pages shows a perspective and cross-section diagram of the city of Cynidecia (the Lost City of the title), in an enormous cave, thousands of feet below the pyramid. The text only describes the locations on this diagram in the most brief way possible, and sketches some adventure ideas. I have to admit that I never got around to this part, but it seems like an interesting undertaking. The long term goal of this expansion is to permanently kill Zargon (he grows back from his horn), to restore the Cynidecians to sanity, and to finally escape from the deserts. Judging by the number of things you can do in the underground empire, the characters could be 7th level before they finally escape.
Having said that, I can imagine that many players would want to get out of the claustrophobic world of the pyramid (mine very much did). Being stuck in the pyramid means that the PCs' choices are somewhat limited. It is essential that they should join the factions who have branch offices near the top of the pyramid to even survive another day. Longer term, the only way that Magic Users will be able to gain new spells is by joining the Magi of Usamigaras, and if you require your players to have training to go up levels, trainers will have to be found within these three factions. Another problem is that by joining the faction, the characters are effectively joining religious organisations, which may have problems for Clerics. Exactly how you deal with this depends on whether you consider that Clerics get their spells from Gods or via their alignment (see 3rd edition Basic Players Book for more details). Maybe a DM could have the Cynidecians respect their choice of deity, but still help them (even the factions are not actively pursuing open warfare).
Another thing that will require some working on is to explain exactly what the three factions are doing at the top of the pyramid. It makes sense that the Brotherhood of Gorm might be trying to commune with their god, since he is a storm deity. The Magi of Usamigaras need to be near to the sky, since their holy days are signified by the positions of the stars. And the Warrior Maidens of Madarua need to know about the changing seasons, which only make sense if you have some connection to the outside world. But this can't be the whole story, otherwise why are the actual leaders of the three factions to be found in these rooms, away from their bases of operation? My explanation is that they are actively waiting for visitors - maybe the PCs themselves. Maybe all the factions have prophecies in which outsiders help to free the Cynidecians from Zargon and their dream state. Or maybe the gods Gorm, Usamigaras and Madarua have informed their followers of the PCs immanent arrival, in which case the reactions of the factions might be more friendly; alternatively, the factions might be not entirely sure that the message was entirely true, which would fit in with the reactions given in the module.
This is a dungeon adventure desperately trying to be a campaign module. Luckily, it succeeds as a dungeon module; but unfortunately, to really get the most out of the adventure, you really need to do a hell of a lot of work. Nevertheless, this adventure should be praised as attempting to encourage role-playing as well as the obvious dungeon-bashing possibilities, although this really doesn't pay-off unless you put some work into expanding the underground city and associated catacombs. If you overlook the slightly contrived set-up, it is a fun adventure with epic possibilities.
If you are going to place this adventure in the "Known World", then I would take B1-9 In Search of Adventure's idea of having it set in the Emirates of Ylaruam. At the back of GAZ2 - The Emirates of Ylaruam, it is suggested that this is set somewhere east of Parsa, which seems to correspond with that module. In this case, the Kingdom of Cynidecia is a offshoot of the Nithian Empire, who separated from them when they split over the Magian fire cult, and instead honoured Gorm, Madarua, and Usamigaras. The many monsters who inhabit the pyramid can be said to have come from the catacombs that GAZ2 mentions, via the city of Cynidecia (I never thought that Goblins would have wandered over the desert and accidentally found the pyramid). I would also have Cynidecia fall before AC 500, otherwise Al-Kalim would have had something to say about this.
|Assistant Editor||Tom Kilpin|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Interior Artist||Jim Holloway|
|Cover Art||Jim Roslof|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||5-10 characters of levels 1-3|
At first look, this module is reminiscent of B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands. The adventurers start out at a fortified outpost on the border of civilisation, hear about a dungeon, wander over a contoured wilderness map, finally find the dungeon, and clear it out. They even find out about a proposed attack on the fort by the baddies. But this is a lot better than the former adventure. For a start, the wilderness adventure is actually quite fun. You can wander around aimlessly through the undergrowth if you want, but the hill of the title has a whole load of paths which will on the whole take the PCs to most of the adventure sites.
But I must first note one thing in the module. Supposedly, the river which must be traversed to get to the hill is one mile wide! I originally said that this was "somewhat ludicrous". However, I have had feedback from a reader, Christopher Tichenor, who rightly points out that there are a few precedents, such as the Mississippi / Missouri confluence near St. Louis. However, this isn't a common feature away from the coast - the Mississippi is the biggest river on the continent. Not explained is how exactly hundreds of Hobgoblins manage to invade Guido's Fort. Maybe Hobgoblins also have excellent swimming abilities. If I was running this again, I would probably have a hidden cache of boats somewhere near the edge of the river. Take the river into account when placing the adventure in your campaign world. If you want to locate this away from the ocean, and this isn't meant to be a particularly big river, I suggest that you change the river to a lake, which would be consistent with the rest of the module.
The three pane cover of this module shows the surface of the eponymous hill, and a ground level map of a ruined monastery. The outdoors quite sensibly. For instance, at certain locations, you will be able to see other adventure locations through the trees, or from a high elevation point. There is a nice volcanic theme to the whole adventure. There are geysers and vents all over the hill's surface. When the Hobgoblins' lair is eventually found, the dungeon beneath the hill has many hot water ponds and lava flows just to make it fun for the players.
You can have great fun making the players sweat in this adventure. Finding the Hobgoblin King is not the end. A very nasty trap on the way back to the surface will fling the adventurers into two more levels of dungeons, which are pretty hard, especially as the only way out is past a pretty nasty enemy for Basic level characters.
One encounter I still can't reconcile is the two sweet old ladies with the dimensionally transcendent house who are actually pretty strong Magic-Users to boot. Why they chose this neck of the woods, and how they survive the swarming humanoids isn't explained. Perhaps they like a ready supply of monster parts. and the monsters are scared of their magic?
Not specified - but as I say above, it should be near a big lake, or near an estuary.
|Editor||Anne C. Gray|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Cover Artist||Steve Chappell|
|Interior Artist||Jim Roslof|
|Paper Sculpture||Dennis Kauth|
|Format||16 page book + 16 pages of cut outs, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||Characters of Level 1-3|
This adventure is different from all the previous Basic adventures. For a start, it is entirely based in a city - in this case, Specularum, the capital city of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos from the Expert Rules. There are a few underground travails, but most of it involves PCs pushing themselves through crowds and talking to local potentates. They are dragged into a war between three important families: the Vorloi, the Radu and the Torenescu. These characters are revisited in GAZ1 - The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, although they are presented slightly differently from this adventure. And running this adventure will have big repercussions on the politics of Specularum.
Because this is not a dungeon adventure, it is imperative for the players to role-play, and they will have to learn how to do a bit of detective work. Spontaneously attacking people will not go down well here. To provide a bit of flavour, there are paragraphs of text indicating the conversations that the leaders of the Veiled Society have been episodes of the adventure. The role-playing aspect is fun, but the downside of this adventure is that it is essentially linear. Regardless of the players' actions, the same basic events will occur. That is not to say that they are not free to do whatever they want. But I remember having to give loads of SUBTLE HINTS just to finish the damn thing (to be fair, the players weren't very used to that kind of adventure). It is just as well that it isn't that much of a problem whether the Veiled Society are defeated at the end of the adventure. In fact, you could say that GAZ1 would be more useful if they aren't. Despite the linearity, you are still required to do a lot of work to use this adventure, mostly preparing yourself for all the unexpected things which your players will inevitably do.
For the first (but not last - see GAZ1) time, we have a map of Specularum, although this city is not described as being in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Unfortunately, there are no keyed encounters on this map, and only two market places and the Duke's stronghold are actually indicated. There is a bit of overview information on the city, and you are supposed to wing it. In fact, none of the locations where the encounters take place are located on the map, which makes it feel a little redundant. It would have been nicer if the town could have been expanded, maybe in a separate town book.
My main complaint with this adventure is the very strange dungeon part. The PCs are supposed to investigate strange goings on under a woman's house, and they
discover a small network of tunnels, which appear to be being dug by human slaves with Hobgoblins and Kobolds lending a hand. Presumably this is being done for the
benefit of the Veiled Society. The map does not show the doors in area 5, and the ladder in area 2. It would have been nice if they could have mentioned
that the PCs are supposed to start at area 5; in any case, there are no floor plans of any of the houses accessible from the tunnel system.
There is also a mistake in the "The Actual Events" paragraph of the Investigation chapter: "Lucia Fortunato" should be "Lucia Vorloi".
Supporting this city adventure are a number of what the designer calls "paper sculptures" of a number of houses and a couple of city walls. These can be used to
visualise certain encounters in the module. Unfortunately, I found these to be somewhat fragile, so I demolished them, and stuck them to the inside of cornflakes
packets, cutting around the edges of the paper, then reglued them. These have now lasted for about 18 years in a box. Every so often, I get them out for other city adventures - they
are extremely robust and useful.
There are also a number of cardboard stand-up figures to be cut out of the third panel of the module, which are useful to supplement miniatures.
Only one place will do - Specularum in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.
|Author||Tracy and Laura Hickman|
|Developer/Editor||Curtis Smith (Ed.)|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Maps||Diesel and D.C. Sutherland III|
|Interior Artists||Jeff Easley, Tim Truman|
|Cover Artist||Jeff Easley|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||5-8 characters of level 2-3 (although cover says 1-3)|
It's not a happy time for eponymous Rahasia. Two elven maidens were recently captured by a character called the Rahib, who has somehow managed to charm all the elves in the nearby temple. Her father and husband to be went to investigate, but have not returned. Only the PCs can help her now! Not surprisingly, there is a darker evil at work, awoken by the Rahib's investigations.
And to make it more interesting, there are Arabic elves! Well, at least if you are to go by the names of many of the characters. For instance, Siswa means pupil and Rahib is a prayer leader. This doesn't really fit into any of the contemporary or later continuity of other D&D products, probably because this whole module is a retrospective editing together of two modules, Rahasia and Black Opal Eye, both published the previous year. They were written by the famous Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame), and his wife. Presumably this was a cheap way to get more Basic modules on the release schedule, since the originals were only available via the Role Playing Gamers Association.
The adventure encourages the PCs to be a lot sneakier than normal in their attempts to solve the problem, The temple's inhabitants have been charmed, and killing them would not make Rahasia nor her fellow Elves very happy. And they are going to have to be careful, because the adventure makes great use of teleporting portals that make it difficult to map the temple. There are also a number of cunning puzzles to tax their minds. This is definitely not a hack and slash dungeon, and role-playing is the operative word.
Once the temple has been investigated, and the Rahib either dead or having fled, it turns out that the temple was built into a mountain which was actually dropped on top of a wizard's tower. It is this tower where the showdown between the PCs and the dark evil that the Rahib uncovered. This part of the adventure is essentially a dungeon with many tricks and traps, and a select few very powerful adversaries. Luckily, if the players have been paying attention to a series of cryptic messages, it is actually quite easy to defeat the enemy, which is just as well, because one of the PCs could become the unwilling host of a powerful enemy spellcaster.
This adventure is well worth playing. But quite a bit of preparation is required to play this, because some of the puzzles are quite complicated, even from the DM's point of view.
B1-9 locates this in an "Elven Wood" somewhere NE of Threshold, along the Duke's Road. The problem with that location is that it is miles away from any of the real Elven woods described by GAZ1 and B10. I would suggest that this is located on the other side of the mountains, in the Republic of Darokin. Maybe these Elves follow Al-Kalim? In any case, the Rahib has definitely got to come from the Emirates of Ylaruam!
|Editor||Edward G. Sollers|
|Graphic Design||Ruth Hoyer|
|Maps||David S. "Diesel" LaForce|
|Interior Artist||Doug Watson|
|Cover Artist||Larry Elmore|
|Format||32 page book, and 2 pane cover|
|Party||6-8 characters of levels 1-3|
I have heard that this adventure was originally a tournament adventure, and this may be the reason why it is so strange. The adventure is essentially linear, although after the third encounter, the players have an option of taking one of three different paths. One path is considerably easier than the other two. Each path has its own chapter in the book, so effectively a third of the module will be unplayed at the end of the game. All three paths rejoin at the end, ending in both a fairly hard monster opponent, and a test of their wisdom and morals.
I get the feeling of being slightly short changed in this adventure. Since all the encounters are on the paths, and the text says that you should encourage the players to keep on the paths, 90% of the map is effectively pointless, made worse by the players and DMs maps being virtually the same. The final encounter is the silliest. A whole panel is devoted to a gigantic rectangular room, of which only the top two rows of squares and the centre squares actually having anything of interest.
Annoyingly, the module reprints a whole load of rules for Wilderness expeditions from the Expert Rules. There is also a "Additional Adventures" section which talks about expanding the area. To be fair, there are a few wilderness encounters which are quite interesting, such as the Dwarven riverboat, and the Crone of Chaos attack. But these don't really make up for an essentially dull adventure.
The module actually gives two locations for this - in the North West of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos or North of Lake Amsorak in the Republic of Darokin. The problem with these suggestions are that the presence of many of these encounters will make a big change in the background of these areas.
|Author||Harry W. Nichols|
|Editor||Michael S. Dobson|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Interior Artist||Doug Watson|
|Cover Artist||Clyde Caldwell|
|Format||32 page book, and 2 pane cover|
|Party||4-8 characters of level 1-3|
It wouldn't be surprising if the name of the module was indirectly named after the cover artist, Clyde Caldwell. Unfortunately, this module doesn't live up to the high standard of the cover art.
Instead of being a single adventure, this is in fact a compilation of five short adventures; only the first two adventures are connected. I get the feeling of being slightly short changed here. The maps seem ridiculously large and lacking in detail. Instead of the normal use of the separable module cover, where the maps are placed on the inside of the cover, the design team has decided to place monster statistics there. If you want to use the maps, you have to constantly flick backwards and forwards between the keyed room descriptions, or photocopy them.
The actual adventures are pretty pedestrian - and short. But the good thing about the format is that you can slip the adventures into an existing campaign, and that they could probably each be played in a single session. For completists only.
|Authors||Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris & Phil Gallagher|
|Production||Phil Gallagher & TSR UK Design Team|
|Cartography & Design||Geoff Wingate|
|Proofreading||Carole Morris, Mike Brunton|
|Interior Artist||Helen Bedford|
|Cover Artist||Brian Williams|
|Format||64 page book (including 8 page pull out) + internal and external covers + A3 fold out double sided map + Battle System counters|
|Party||5-8 characters of levels 2-4|
What can I say? Other than this is the best Basic module ever, and that is not just patriotic pride talking. Yes, this is one of the modules from the classic UK design team, who also brought you X8 - Drums on Fire Mountain, CM6 - Where Chaos Reigns, the AC9 - Creature Catalogue, and a whole load of AD&D modules, including the "U" and "UK" series. This module has it all - brilliant storyline, fantastic artwork, amazing attention to detail, and good value for money (the map and counters are very reusable).
This module is where most of the source material for the Grand Duchy of Karameikos gazetteer comes from. A map derived from the 1 hex = 6 miles scale map of the Grand Duchy from the 2nd Edition Expert Rulebook is included on the inner cover, being at scale 1 hex = 3 miles. This is pretty useful if you are to make any further products based in the area. Unfortunately, as I explain, the map here is incompatible with the 1 hex = 8 mile map found in GAZ1. But unlike most of TSR's D&D products, the design of this module is completely consistent with everything that has already been revealed. If you compare the Expert and B10 maps, you can see that all the hints on the former map have been followed, for instance they really have placed Elven villages in areas that just had "Elves" written in them; likewise Goblins. In fact it looks as if their imaginations were inspired by place names such as "The Lost Valley". Too often does TSR just conveniently rewrite their own game world histories just because they can't be bothered to keep continuity.
The adventure begins in Kelven (first noted in the 2nd Ed. Expert Rules, but still not described) with the PCs being given the task of delivering wild horses to a homestead to the east. Naturally, things don't go as planned, and it turns out that the homestead is under siege by Goblins. The players then have to stage a classic "Seven Samurai" type affair to save the homesteaders. This siege was played out using one side of the map and a number of counters, and it was one of the highlights of the game when I played it.
This is only the beginning: there are numerous twists and turns as the organisation behind the attacks, the Iron Ring, is revealed, as are their reasons for the
attack. It turns out that the Iron Ring are trying to discover the way to the Lost Valley of Hutaaka, where they think there will be an abundance of booty.
Of course, when the PCs get there, it turns out that the civilisation isn't quite as dead as they had thought.
The ending, if they make it there, is brilliant. The authors have obviously been reading their H.P. Lovecraft, since it has an ancient evil reawakened, storming through the foul smelling slime of its lair to destroy all in its wake. Read "At the Mountains of Madness" if you want the original story.
One nice touch is that a calendar has been provided with the adventure, showing the weather for the next four months, which certainly saves having to roll lots of dice This can have a bearing on the game as much as travelling and combat is concerned. This, and a lot of other game aids with the module are eminently reusable, for instance, the Karameikos map. It would be well worth photocopying this, and adding the locations which appear in later publications, such as GAZ1, B11, B12, DDA3 and DDA4.
Contradicting myself above, I have found one discrepancy with the Expert Rulebook - that of the town of Threshold, which is conveniently between Kelven and the Lost Valley. The map of Threshold seems to have been completely redrawn, and it appears to be half the size of the original town! Then again, since only 500 people live in this town, according to both this module and the Expert Rulebook, this may have been a deliberate change. And anyway, the description here is a lot more atmospheric.
There's absolutely no other place, other than the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. It adds a great number of sites to Northern Karameikos, expands on the description of Threshold given in the later Expert Rulebook, and maps the entire Lost Valley.
|Interior Artist||Valerie Valusek|
|Cover Artist||Clyde Caldwell|
|Format||32 page book, and 2 pane cover|
|Party||4 or more characters of level 1|
Three years after B10 comes an "introductory module". Presumably at this point TSR realised that there were no new adventures available for low level characters. As well as level, this is "introductory" in that it is designed for starting DMs and players, not unlike module B2 - The Keep on the Borderland, though this has better production standards. It is a short adventure (no more than 30 keyed rooms split over two levels); the rest of the space is taken up with four pages of ready to play characters, another four containing player handouts reprinting essential tables, seven pages essentially rehashing chunks of the Basic rulebooks, and a page summarising information about the Grand Duchy of Karameikos found in its gazetteer. A 1 hex = 24 miles scale map centering on the Grand Duchy is printed on the back inside cover for not a lot of effect.
I really can't comment on whether the introductory information is useful, since this doesn't really apply to me. To be fair, reading paraphrased rules can often help towards understanding. The adventure itself is a cleanly designed dungeon adventure, but is nothing particularly special. Part one involves rescuing a local cleric, and part two involves defeating the evil cleric who kidnapped him in the first place.
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, with two new locations: the town of Stallanford, and some Orc caves.
|Interior Artist||Karl Waller|
|Cover Artists||John and Laura Lakey|
|Typographers||Agelika Lokotz, Kathleen C. MacDonald|
|Pages||32 page book, and 2 pane cover|
|Party||5-7 players of levels 1-2|
Like B11, this is also labelled as an introductory adventure, and is its direct sequel. This time, there is a lot more content - there being two separate adventures. Like B11, this has a pull-out section - 4 pages this time, containing pre-rolled character and a map which is as featureless as the previous one.
This adventure is better than the previous one. It concentrates a lot more on character interaction rather than dungeon bashing. The first adventure involves retrieving a sword and tiara(!) from a wizard's basement. But it seems that others are already looking for them - the easy way. Whilst looking for these items, clues to an attack by the villainess of the piece are given. Naturally, the PCs are sent to defeat the villainess on the eve of her attack on the town of Penhaligon, requiring them to infiltrate her not so large fortress of evil.
This adventure feels more integrated into the Grand Duchy than the previous adventure, expanding on the information given in GAZ1, and adding a few new characters. Indeed, at the end of this adventure, they will be on good terms with at least two movers and shakers of the land.
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, including Kavorquians house (in Penhaligon), and Ilyana's Keep (in the Black Peak Mountains).
|Design Coordinator||Jeff Grub|
|Cover Artist||Keith Parkinson|
|Text Keylining||Stephanie Tabat|
|Map Keylining||Dennis Kauf|
|Format||160 page square spined book, with numerous tear out pages|
|Party||5-8 characters of levels 1-3|
At the time of release, most of the earlier B modules had gone out of print, and the release of GAZ1 was suggesting that all these adventures were meant to be set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. This new "supermodule" reprinted most of this material in a single volume, similar to the ones already compiling the 'S' series (Realms of Terror), and the 'A' series (Scourge of the Slaver Lords) for AD&D. Like those modules, this is a single square bound paperback; however, unlike those compilations, instead of having a map booklet contained within a folder on the back cover, it has a number of perforated pages containing player hand-outs and maps; an inferior solution.
I have already reviewed all the B series from 1 to 9, but there is more ... and less than the sum of the modules. A lot of the modules have been truncated. In fact, B1 is represented solely by the maps of the upper and lower dungeon levels. B2 is just the Caves of Chaos, with no wilderness encounters nor the keep described. B3 is mostly intact, although the setting is located in magic pocket universe, only slightly connected to the Grand Duchy. B4 has the complete dungeon adventure, but none of the unfinished lower levels and city campaign material is included. B5 doesn't include the hill's surface - just the ruined monastery and the dungeon levels; unfortunately, this makes a mockery of the rumours table. B6 is complete, but obviously doesn't include the stand ups and paper sculptures. B7 is complete. B8 is very attenuated, with only the western trail being included. Finally, B9 is missing one of its constituent adventures (The Abduction of Princess Sylvia).
However, some material has been added. There is a summary of relevant information from GAZ1 and the Expert Rulebook. The module starts the PCs in Threshold, and there is a table of rumours, some of which lead to adventures, and some of which are just useful for later adventures. Depending on which rumour they follow up, there is a possibility of three different adventure paths on offer. The nice thing about this is that it really does give the PCs a choice, and you don't have to shepherd them to the next adventure location. Once the PCs are embarked on a particular path, they find links at the end of each adventure which take them to the next. Some links are more tenuous than others, and there isn't enough Karameikos-specific material to make it feel as if they really were set in the Grand Duchy. They could have actually marked the location and routes on the map reprinted from GAZ1, but they don't, and the descriptions of the journeys are fairly ambiguous. However in the end, all the paths lead to Specularum, finishing with the Veiled Society. And of course, being in Specularum, this makes the X1 - The Isle of Dread the next obvious adventure.
|Author||Merle M. Rasmussen|
|Graphic Designer||Elizabeth Riedel|
|Interior Artist||Bob Marus|
|Cover Artist||Bob Marus|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||1 Magic User or Elf of levels 1-3|
Why is this called "Lion Castle", you may wonder. Well, duh, because it is shaped like a lion ... Yes, the owner obviously had fun when he had the architect around.
On the good side, this is a solo adventure which, thank goodness, doesn't require an invisible ink pen to play. However, I don't remember being particularly excited when playing this. As solo titles, XSOLO - Lathan's Gold and CM5 - The Mystery of the Snow Pearls are far more interesting adventures. The module gives 6 pre-rolled characters, but there is nothing saying that you can't use a character from an existing campaign. Assuming that your character makes it (and you wouldn't lie about that, would you?), your character gains a whole level, gratis.
The introduction starts in an inn at the village of Sarsdell, where you hear of Lion Castle, the home of "Sargon the Sorcerer" (which incidentally is actually a magician character from old DC comics). You then set off on an eight day wilderness trip into the Ethengar Khanates. This seems a strange location: you would have thought that the author could have set it somewhere more appropriate, such as the Principalities of Glantri, but never mind. Like most other solo adventures, the adventure involves you reading numbered paragraphs within the booklet, which then give you further choices. Since this is a D&D game, there is also the added fun of the wandering monster chart. In fact, this is the only way that you encounter monsters, whether by rolling every other turn, or being told to roll at a particular paragraph. The majority of the adventure involves you finding items tied to a particular room, or being caught in traps. After much exploration, and filling in of the unfinished maps inside the cover, you will eventually meet the eponymous ghost ... and that's it.
One interesting twist on the usual formula is that the adventure is essentially dynamic. As you pick up items fixed to specific areas, you are supposed to cross them out of the booklet. If you get killed, then a mention of your mortal remains are written into the margin next to the paragraph where you met your match. Then the "log book" is magically sent back to the inn where you started. Supposedly, there is a pact on with locals and passers-by for the next of their number to finish what you started. If, as the next PC, you find the body of a former companion, you are allowed to plunder his corpse!
Somewhere in the Ethengar Khanates.
All material in this document is copyright Mark Bertenshaw. None of this can be reproduced in any manner without the express permission of the author.