Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Keep on the Borderlands: The Original Sandbox!

Greetings fellow Dungeon Crawlers! Looking at, for myself and a great number of you, the TSR module that really sent the D&D craze into the stratosphere.....1979's The Keep on the Borderlands!
   THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS was written/created by THE Dungeon Master himself Gary Gygax! Intended as an introduction for both new DMS & new players alike...
A little background/history for you youngins out there...the Basic/Holmes set of Dungeons and Dragons, starting in 1979, came with the B2 (TKOTB) module...printings 6-11 (1979-1982). B1(In Search of the Unknown) was included in the 4th & 5th printings....the OG 1st-3rd printings had the "Geomorphs" book & the "Monster & treasure Assortment" book...for those so interested in perhaps finding the oldest source material/versions.
  The basic box set, on the strength of the box alone, grabbed a bunch of new players attention. The great cover art by David C. Sutherland III assured that this version practically flew off the shelves in the late 1970's!
I believe that I've seen it written that more than a million of the these box sets with THE KEEP were sold....making TKOTB the best selling D&D module of all time....an amazing number!
     Let's check out the cover. The front cover art, depicting a battle between some adventurers and a band of hobgoblins, is by the underappreciated Jim Roslof.
Jim worked for TSR during the "Golden Age of D&D"....and his work is outstanding!
The back cover has a drawing of the Keep itself...with adventurers heading toward it. The great Erol Otus is the man who created it! 
    I didn't own this module "back in the day"...but my best friend, who had the Holmes Basic Box set, did. A lot has been written about Mr Gygax's TKOTB...great intro module for beginning DMs & players alike. A walled keep complete with some NPC's & housing. A perfect place for a campaign to be based.
The maps of the wilderness were an intro to most of us for "Outdoor adventuring". We were the stereotypical "Dungeon Crawling Murder Hobos" of the 1970's/80's! So the introduction of actually traveling TO a dungeon to kill stuff was novel for its time! Not saying that all of us liked doing that...but it was a 1st! Gary wanted us beginning players to get a taste of a well rounded adventure right out of the gate!
Another great work by Jim Roslof is on the very 1st page...adventurers fighting a fearsome Owlbear!
Later players of AD&D would get a good chuckle out of the halfling fighter brandishing a polearm! Great drawing that is forever burned into the minds eye of a generation of gamers!
Next up is a drawing by Jeff Dee of s shakedown taking place...literally! As a fighter & halfling look on!
Maybe a thief with sticky fingers or a Magic User who overstepped his bounds...
The next drawing goes with the description of the Keep itself...
 This simple work of a fighter on horseback is by David S. LaForce.
     A cool map of the Keep is included...
This was the basic blueprint for many(of our) countless Castles created by Dms & players alike who played TKOTB!
A 2 floor map of the Guild House was included for the Dm...
Mr Gygax encouraged aspiring DMs to thus map out the rest of the buildings in the Keep themselves...to explore and to learn from the Master!
1st "Outdoor"map too! This module had a bunch of "1st" in it!
For those of us too young for "Original Dungeons & Dragons" this was "ground zero"...the place that most of our original campaigns began! I think that just about every single campaign I played in had TKOTB it it somewhere....not as a part of "Greyhawk"...but integrated into our own original setting! 
Gary even had a surprise for the fledgling adventurers who set off across the wilderness: A crazed hermit to battle/encounter!
With a pet Mountain Lion to boot! Great drawing by Erol Otus...seems to be a bit like that Gollum guy we new so well...
Mr Gygax had a bunch of villians/monsters waiting for us newbie adventurers!
"The Cave of the Unknown" was purposefully left blank/unfinished...and the new DM was instructed to devise their own dungeon or setting or his players to explore! Many spots on the map are left nameless so the DM could tailor it to his own "homebrew" campaign!
And then..."The Caves of Chaos"!

Talk about a "Super-Market" of monster! Evil Priest, Orcs, Bugbears, Hobgoblins, Stirges, Gnolls, Skeletons & more undead await...better have your Monster Manual at the ready, Bub!
Great intro module...gave you taste of a bunch of different encounters & scenarios...and, oh yeah, a "Boss" monster...the Minotaur!
Eventhough he's not credited at the end of the module you can see (sig) that this is the work of Bill Willingham! Great looking Minotaur sporting a chainmail shirt! He's even guarding a maze!
Hats off to Gary Gygax on the most widely played product in the RPG cannon! "The Keep on the Borderlands" ushered D&D into the mainstream culture...I can't wait to run this module again for old friends & new alike!
Ps.....just for the "old timers" out there....picked up this T shirt a few years back....you can see in the collar that it was a licensed product....viva Holmes D&D!