Keep on the Borderlands - your experiences?

When I started with D&D, I got one the Holmes sets that came with B1; consequently, I didn't run B2 at all for a long time, although I did play through it. (When I played, I was the only PC: a Fighter with a bunch of mercenary hirelings. I did fine until I was killed by the minotaur.) I got a copy of B2, at some point, but it was never my go-to module for new players; I always used B1 or U1 for that.

Consequently, my first run of B2 was after years of experience playing D&D (starting with Holmes and then moving into AD&D). I had moved and started a new group, which ended up using the Mentzer BECMI boxed sets, rather than AD&D. I kicked off the campaign with some homebrew adventures, and eventually inserted B2 into the mix (by that time the PCs were around 2nd-3rd level).

I found B2 very easy to tweak and adapt to my needs. It's generic enough that any DM worth his salt should be able to insert campaign and plot-elements with ease. My players really enjoyed the caves. They didn't 'clear' them, but they did bring down the temple.

Later, I also ran B2 for a solo PC (a 9th level magic user and her henchmen). That was fun, too.

Recently, I started running B1 for my eldest son and some of his cousins. I've placed it at the "Cave of the Unknown" location on the B2 wilderness map. When they finish B1, I'll probably drop some hints that might lead them to B2. We'll see how it goes.

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rossik said:
new guy's question:

wheres the keep located (set)?

According to the information found in the Vaults of Pandius, it is Castellan Keep located in the Altan Tepes Mountains, Karameikos. There are some continuity problems with the map of the area surrounding the keep within the module where it does not seem to conform to the terrain of the Altan Tepes around Castellan...but I am sure that with a bit of "hand wavium" that can be fixed (per Vaults of Pandius,


First Post
Ah, yes. The Keep on the Borderlands.

We ran it in fifth grade... around 1992 or so? I already knew the rules for AD&D, but for some reason, we used original D&D rules (I think because I bought the D&D Boxed set, and wanted to use it).

It was really one of the first published adventures I ran, with a steady group (before that, I was one of those "read the books, and play in GM and one player games" DMs). We weren't huge - I think there was me, and three players.

Can't remember the group, of course, but I think it was something like Thief, Dwarf, and Cleric. The Thief loved to steal (who doesn't?), the Dwarf didn't know what he was doing (who did?) and the Cleric liked to be a jerk (they always are).

We changed the names of the Caves of Chaos, especially the "Temple of Chaotic Evil" or something like that. We also really developed the keep, because all my 2e books told me that's what DM's did. There was a lot of role-playing that shouldn't have happened (my favourite was trying to have a theological conversation with the cleric, in character. Man that was LAME).

PCs got hurt, quite a bit. So many great scenes. I think it was the swarms of monster that hurt the most, though - big hitters like the ogre and minotaur weren't much of a threat, compared to a large number of orcs and goblins that would just whittle away your hit points.

We added some 2e rules in there, though - namely the "hovering at death's door" rule, so no one died at 0 hp. And I think critical hits and fumbles were added in, as well. Probably a few spells, too.

Later, we ran it again, but heavily modified, and I got a chance to play. I was a fighter, who, at first level, had one hit point. I've never played such a paranoid character in my life (since even 1 hp of damage, and he'd die!). By the time I hit 2nd level, I had a full suit of plate mail, and a bow. No close-range weapons. And I didn't shoot if it looked like they'd shoot back (I hid). When I hit 2nd level, I was ready to kick butt, and rolled for HP... and got another 1. By the time my cowardly fighter was 3rd level, he had 4 hit points, and 1d4 neurotic complexes. Fun character. I think he got killed by a goblin dagger.

And then I got to make Griffin, the coolest Halfling ever. Still my favourite character.

Yeah, the Keep is awesome. I want to run it again, using Labyrinth Lord. It'll be a blast.

This was my first 1e game. We had a blast. I played a 1/2 elf ranger / cleric named Karri Mourningdew whom was somewhat psychotic. Lots of orc and goblin ears gathered.

We never finished either. We moved on as 3.0 came out.

(began gaming with 2.0 then went back to 1.0 then to 3.0 adn 3.5)

I tried to run a 3.5 version with my kids as I remembered it but we never finished that either.


As for the Location question, put it wherever you want, but in Greyhawk, some ideas are:

-- Bissel, a borderland realm. I put it here, on the edge of the Yatil Mountains, along a trade road running towards the Vale of Highfolk.

-- The Yeomanry
-- Ratik, Bone March, or the North Province
-- In the hills around the Vast Swamp
-- In Veluna, near the Vesve or Verbobonc
-- In Furyondy, near the Veng River border


First Post
rossik said:
new guy's question:

wheres the keep located (set)?
wiki say that its on mystara, but also say in greyhawk

blackmoor discution apart, i always thought that mystara and the know world were different things from greyhawk

is blackmoor, greyhawk and mystara all in the same soup?
The Keep on the Borderlands was originally written with none of the established D&D settings in mind, AFAIK. The only setting mentioned in the module is 'The Realm'.

Given that it was written by Gygax, I'd say that most likely it was written with Greyhawk in mind, but there are no references. The general idea of a 'keep on the edge of civilization on the frontier' can easily be placed but there isn't an obvious choice. However, later on (I believe either in or soon after the publication of the Larry Holmes Red Box basic set in 1983) it was retrofitted into the Known World (later Mystara), which was the default setting for the Basic/Expert D&D, the system for which B2 KotB was written. It was set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, in the Alten Tepe Mountains in the NW of the Kingdom. It fits there rather obliquely, but the info in the original module is so vague its not a big problem.

However, to further confuse matters, the Silver Anniversary Return to the Keep on the Borderlands was published in the late 90s as a 2e module set in Greyhawk, to some extent. By that I mean that there was a suggested location for the keeyp in Greyhawk (SE Yeomanry) and Greyhawk gods were inserted into the adventure (the original adventure mentioned none).


I have had this module since 1982. Never played through it or ran it until last year. I always wanted to. I have read this module more times than I can count. Always with nostalgia.

In the last year and half I have went through and found all the modules I loved and read but never DM'ed or played in and decided to run them using Castles and Crusades.

B2 was a blast. For the players and myself as a DM. I made a good story for the character on why they where their and tied all the encounters into a memorable experience. Their battle with the two Orc tribes was extremely hairy. With luck, they survived.

I want to run it again!! and Again!!


First Post
In my early days, we used very few modules, so I never got to go through this or most of the other classics. However, I had just started a 2nd Ed campaign and one of the players had requested the module because it was a classic he remembered. The group had a blast rampaging through the caves.

Ultimately, I felt the need to add some twists to the whole thing. By the time the party had finished the caves (which took quite some time), the plot I had going on in the keep itself finally came to fruition. (Needless to say, no one in the party had payed any attention to the clues.) The evil cult in the caves had used a Helm of Evil (or some other alignment shifting device) to convert a bunch of the top people in the keep. The rest of the people were turned into zombies to serve the evil cult. (Including the party's henchman, who was not only a zombie, but someone had painted a bullseye on his chest just to upset the party.)

The party ended up having to assault the keep and wade through all the zombies and skeletons. This resulted in a rogue who had one of the funniest multi-monster kills I've ever seen. He got a large group of skeletons chasing him up some stairs on onto a roof. He then ran and jumped off the roof, landing near the party. The skeletons, blowing their Int check, followed him. He survived with a tumbling landing, but only one of the skeletons did.

In the end, the party had to basically sack the keep. The party's paladin was thrown off a roof by a large demon. The NPC cleric died something gruesome. Their other surviving NPC lost an arm. I'm pretty sure at least one of the PCs died as well. The keep was left partially on fire. There was a huge pile of copper coins at the main gate because the party decided they were too heavy to be worth carrying around.

One the way out, some bandits attacked the party. (I don't remember if they were in the module.) The PCs were talking to dark and crazy after what they'd been through, the actually scared the bandits off.

The player who originally requested the module (and provided me with his copy to use) still brings up that adventure from time to time nearly a decade later. It was one of the most memorable parts of that campaign.

Oh, and the kobolds, they got away clean. The party made two assaults on their tunnels, and never got past the first T intersection in either assault. (My kobolds are nasty trap makers.) After wiping out all the other monsters, the party asked the kobolds to leave peacefully. :)


First Post
I recently DMed a one-shot using the OD&D rules and B2. The players (and I) had an awesome time -- partially because of the cool OD&D rules and partly because of the cool module.

They managed to clean out cave B with minimal casualties. There was only one death, and that was caused by friendly fire. Bloody elves shooting into melee. :]

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