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OD&D DMs Guild Treasures: 5 BECMI Modules That Deserve the Big Book Treatment

There are a number of players, old and new, who have affection for the original Basic and Expert (and more) B/X or BECMI rules and modules. Already, Goodman Games has given both Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread a modern shake, converting the modules into big book versions with 5E conversions and reprints of the originals. This got me thinking about five other modules that could get the same kind of treatment, which could be of some interest to players inside and outside of the BECMI venn diagram.

Goodman Games has also done Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but that is an AD&D module and we are not talking about those here. It should also be noted that B1 In Search of the Unknown is already reprinted in Into the Borderlands. Note: I did not use science or sales as measures, just what I think are the interesting adventures to the modern audience. Also, I may cheat by combining two or more modules.

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B7 Rahasia

I never played this one but the reception seems positive on it. It was written (and re-written) for TSR by Tracy & Laura Hickman. You may recognize the names as the authors of I3 Pharoah and I6 Ravenloft. They also had something to do with a barely remembered property named Dragonlance, you likely never heard about it. Just for being some early work by the Hickamn’s I think Rahasia should be in consideration.

B4 The Lost City

I did play through this one and have run it as well. Right away I was captivated by this module as it is far more than just a huge dungeon crawl. There are politics and factions here and the inverted natures of the dungeon is a lot of fun to play with. I can say The Lost City is a great time to play and to run. Note: As someone reminded me, this module is on the list for conversion.

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X2 Castle Amber

Quirky, weird, and a little French, Château d’Amberville is a fun-house style of adventure that has cosmic horror themes seeded in it. Tom Moldvay wrote this one and it was remade into the Mark of Amber boxed set. Castle Amber is one of those modules folks shake their head when mentioning, but in general it was well received. Some of its inspirations might be tricky to license, if indeed they need to be, and are a touch problematic. But I think those issues could be overcome.

X4-X5: Master of the Desert Nomads & Temple of Death

If you are not sold on these modules by the names alone, I dunno what to tell you. David “Zeb” Cook wrote these two modules about a war in the arid lands of Mystara and the dangerous mastermind behind a rampaging army. As a campaign for more military minded players, these modules would work well. There are many wilderness encounters, which make for a great change of pace.

TestofWarlord.jpg

CM1-CM4: Test of the Warlords, Death’s Ride, Sabre River, Earthshaker!

Are you a fan of MCDM’s Strongholds & Followers or their Kingdom’s & Warfare? It is possible that you were also a fan of the original Companion Rules as well. The adventure CM1 Test of the Warlords was the first Companion level adventure and it lands 15th level characters in Mystara, where the King of Norwold has called the player-characters to serve that kingdom. Success can mean being given lordship over land and people to rule as you will. The other modules continue this theme in the same part of the world. The Pathfinder game has done adventure paths with this theme and I think updating the CM mods to 5E might find a significant audience.

Honorable Mention: B3 Palace of the Silver Princes

While I think this could be a great module to update, I suspect the odd publishing history might work against it. The original release was marred by a controversy over some of the content and an infamous landfill conclusion. The fact that there are two versions would be interesting as whoever was doing could restore both. Would they then update both versions to 5E? Good question.
 
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Sean Hillman

Comments




AriochQ

Adventurer
Unless they have changed the policy, the problem with DM's Guild conversions is that you are not allowed to include the original module. You simply have separate document you need to have alongside the original module with any changes. It would be much easier if they just allowed full integration (The way the GG books do it).

They could probably make a decent amount of money if the hired an established designer to do an official conversion and included it all in a single document. I would buy them.
 




The Glen

Adventurer
B5 Horror on the Hill
B7 Rahasia
B10 Night's Dark Terror
Eye of Traldar
X1 Isle of Dread
X2 Castle Amber
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads
X5 Temple of Death
X9 War Rafts of Leon
X10 Red Arrow Black Shield
CM1 Test of the Warlords
CM2 Death's Ride
CM3 Sabre River

The single best module is X10 Red Arrow Black Shield
RA/BS hasn't aged well since it predates the Gazetteers. Would need some serious revisions.

If i had to nominate one that hasn't been mentioned is Legacy of Blood, a tautly written mystery in the outlands of Darokin where even if you find the villain early doesn't solve all the problems.
 


As the angry Amazon reviews will attest, the Goodman Games OAR books aren't just updates -- they're historical documents that include multiple versions of the original modules, along with essays looking at the works' histories. No one ever said they were going to be BECMI modules, which is how Expedition to the Barrier Peaks got into the mix this last year.

Their criteria seems to be:

1) These are classic adventure modules from TSR's Golden Age. If you've read Art & Arcana, you know that the company professionalized fast and the art, design and layout folks were pros by the time Ravenloft and Dragonlance were coming out. I don't think we'll see anything from that era or later. Module I6, Ravenloft, came out in 1983. So adventures before then, most likely. (The Golden Age of TSR is also Goodman Games' jam generally, as seen in both the 3E Dungeon Crawl Classics modules or in the Dungeon Crawl Classics OSR-ish RPG they now publish. The art style, tone and content are all 1977-1982 era TSR.)

2) They can't have been reprinted elsewhere in the 5E era. Ravenloft has also, of course, been revisited in Curse of Strahd. But a lot of other classic adventures have appeared in Tales from the Yawning Portal and Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Adventures from those collections, like the Giants Trilogy, Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, seem like WotC is unlikely to license them out for conversions and, thus, cannibalization of one of their in-print books. (Which is a shame, since the G series, S1 and S2 match all the rest of Goodmans' apparent criteria.)

3) They also were huge at the time. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, everyone played Keep on the Borderlands and many of them also played In Search of the Unknown. Isle of Dread was likewise played by nearly everyone -- whether they played D&D or AD&D, which was mostly a line in TSR's mind. And when Expedition to the Barrier Peaks came out, it was all anyone I knew was talking about -- it excited the imagination, especially for younger players who hadn't been aware of the Temple of the Frog in Blackmoor or the science-fiction/fantasy hybrids that the TSR creators loved. (In contrast, Rahasia is barely remembered. The few people who played it liked it, but it didn't make any real splash. If Hickman hadn't later created Ravenloft, it would be just a footnote.)

4) It has room for expansion. The Lost City, the Isle of Dread, multiple levels of the starship in the Barrier Peaks, most of the contents of Quasqueton, all the NPCs in the titular Keep on the Borderlands, were meant to be filled in by the DM. A lot of the stuff on your list doesn't have room for expansion.

5) They're interesting historically. There were sometimes significant changes between printings, whether they were art or other content. They merit OAR's historical record approach, in other words, rather than just being updates.

Of the adventures they or WotC haven't reprinted, here's what I think the short list for Goodman Games would be, based on the above criteria:

1) B3: Palace of the Silver Princess. This thing is mired in controversy, with massively different versions published initially and later on. From a historical record standpoint, this adventure probably merits it the most from any in TSR's golden age.

2) X2: Castle Amber. This was a complete 180 after the Isle of Dread, featuring the highest magic setting to date (the residents of Castle Amber are all high level magic-users and their put-upon servants and family), multiple planes of existence, oodles of new and incredibly quirky monsters and more. Goodman Games isn't scared of licenses, as a look at their website will show. They would likely be able to iron out any such issues easily. As large as the areas of Castle Amber are, there's also plenty of areas for them to expand in their 5E version. In theory, this could also include the 2E AD&D boxed set, which means the two historical versions would be very distinct.

Update: Castle Amber will be OAR 5, and is scheduled to be released in September 2020.

3) I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City. Only lightly sketched out, even by the standards of the era, this adventure introduced a ton of iconic monsters, including the Yuan-Ti and the aboleth, while also having player characters hack their way through the jungle to the titular city. By today's standards, it's fairly underwritten, but very evocative. Tons that Goodman, particularly with their pulp-loving pool of writers and artists, for dig their teeth into.

I don't think most of the rest are likely to get the OAR treatment. They're either not notable enough, or would be cumbersome to reprint (the entire four-part Slavers series or the four modules remaining in the GDQ series).

If Goodman does more of these, I'd bet on B3 and X2 being the next two, and I1 a (much) longer shot.

Historically, they've announced OAR adaptations in April and August, I believe, so we should hear about the fifth one, if there is one, later this spring.
 
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Of the BECMI adventures that haven't been touched, Palace of the Silver Princess definitely springs to mind. It's legend has only grown in the ensuing years, arguably greater than the impact of the adventure itself.

1) B3: Palace of the Silver Princess. This thing is mired in controversy, with massively different versions published initially and later on. From a historical record standpoint, this adventure probably merits it the most from any in TSR's golden age.
 

Hurin88

Explorer
Excellent choices!

I remember playing Sabre River when it first came out, and loving it.

Master of the Desert Nomads is one of my all-time favorites. So much so, in fact, that I did a quick conversion of it into 5e a couple of years ago and ran a group through it. I wasn't as much a fan of the sequel (Temple of Death), but Master is definitely worth a conversion.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
This list is solid gold. I'd love to see an entire campaign setting based on CM1: Test of the Warlords--it was the first "campaign" I ever ran, way back in the late 80s.

I agree with several others already, that the entire "Master of the Desert Nomads" series (X4, X5, and X10) needs its own hardcover adventure path.
 

Zaukrie

Adventurer
B10 and Rahasia for sure. Interestingly, or not, I can find few reviews of OAR 3 anywhere. Has no one been buying these?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Goodman Games needs to get busy :). I bought their 3 conversions already, but haven't had a chance to do anything with them. I will most likely buy any other conversions that they do.
Speaking of Goodman Games: did they ever release a statement over the Judges Guild fallout? I've got my eye on their "Isle of Dread" re-release, because it is my favorite BECM (okay, B/X) module ever written. I would like to know their stance.
 



This list is solid gold. I'd love to see an entire campaign setting based on CM1: Test of the Warlords--it was the first "campaign" I ever ran, way back in the late 80s.

I agree with several others already, that the entire "Master of the Desert Nomads" series (X4, X5, and X10) needs its own hardcover adventure path.
Maybe there's contradictory evidence out there, but all the evidence I've seen is that the later X series modules and the Companion, Masters and Immortals adventures sold way less than what Goodman has published so far. I don't think they'll touch these, since they don't have the warchest to absorb too many duds.

I think the Desert Nomads adventures would be more likely to be part of a WotC hardcover compilation, but even then, I think they'd be less likely than the Desert of Desolation series (Pharoah, Oasis of the White Palm and the Lost Tomb of Martek). Tonally, they're pretty different, so without some reskinning to make them more pharaonic, I wouldn't count on these getting a reboot. The Desert of Desolation series was much more popular, both as individual modules I3, I4 and I5 and as a compilation, and have the added benefit of being written by the Hickmans, who would still be a draw today.
 

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