Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is The Keep On The Borderlands

This is probably my all-time favourite module. I remember getting it as part of my red box B/X Basic set, and I remember reading the hell out of it. Oddly enough, although it served as a major inspiration, I didn’t actually play it for years. It’s kind of perverse just how many squandered role-playing opportunities I had in my youth, although in my defence, I did get to play most of the classic AD&D modules (except the one I always WANTED to play, Tomb of Horrors). In any event, the Keep on the Borderlands is still the gold standard of modules, by which I judge all other modules as well as the things I create myself. I think the best thing about the Keep wasn’t necessarily even the dungeon itself, but just the possibilities that the keep itself presented. I think the best example of what this module could be actually came out of something pretty dismal – the TSR line of Greyhawk novels. These were the ones that came out much later, based on iconic modules like The Keep On The Borderlands, Against The Giants, White Plume Mountain and others. I managed to get my hands on a few of these novels, and found most of them to be… disappointing. (Actually, let me qualify that… they were AWFUL. I only managed to read Keep, Against The Giants, and…. I think I read parts of White Plume?). However, the Keep book actually had SOME redeeming qualities. Namely, it did a good job of covering what adventures around the keep could be, what with detailing the encounters with bandits and lizard folk living around the keep, as well as the interaction between the castellan and the party in getting them to explore the caves. Although I was left ultimately unsatisfied by the book, I at least see what its possibilities were.

Even today, every time I start a new campaign, I always find a place to drop the Keep into it. It *is* the ultimate dungeon for me, and it’s so easy to go in and out of with all those entrances, unlike a megadungeon, where backtracking your way out would be difficult at best. I also like all the built-in intrigue that the module has. One thing I was NOT fond of, however, was the Return to the Keep on the B orderlands. Trust WOTC to screw something awesome up. Although I did like some of the little touches (like the Cynidicean NPC), ultimately, they took some great, and made it crappy. Although I have stolen some ideas from that module, I tend to only use it along with an article I found somewhere (Canonfire?) called “Fixing the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands”. It’s the only thing that can make it palatable.

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