B2: The Keep on the Borderlands
It really is too late to warn you about this one, isn't it?
Better late than never.
The Keep on the Borderlands (KotB) literally serves as exhibit A in the great case against Dungeons and Dragons. Rife with crimes against logic, coherence and good roleplaying, a reviewer can only look at this product the same way that a traffic cop looks at a ten car pile-up: with an eye on how this happened and who's to blame.
First, let's point out what makes this module so endearingly bad:
Picture if you will, a keep. A keep on the borderlands. Not a normal keep, is our keep on the borderlands, for you see, not a single inhabitant of this keep has a name. Nope, no Bills, Bobs, Biffs or Bilbos in this keep. He's the priest, I'm a level 1 guard, and the man in charge is the castellan. What the heck? The only logical conclusion is that the keep is some sort of dictatorial fascist outpost straight out of 1984, dedicated to subverting the individual's identity into the greater whole of the keep.
The Keep: 1 Good Taste: 0
Even the monsters get the shaft. The dungeon itself is a testament to the depths of chaos and evil possible by those who are, indeed, chaotic evil. The dungeon is obviously the result of a real estate scam. A bunch of humanoid tribes bought stakes in a coop/condo sort of dungeon. They went looking for a home with a nice view of the swamp and easy access to civilization for the odd hack n' loot run. What they got was the Caves of Chaos Anarcho-Socialist dungeon subdivision. The "dungeon" is really just a bunch of different caves, all within a few feet of each other. The more powerful creatures could afford caves with a view, so they have the caves that are higher up the hillside. There's a shunned cave (didn't have a cable hookup) and not a single commode in the place (I bethca the hucksters that pawned this place off to our fearless walking experience points promised them REALLY low water and sewer charges.) What's great though is that, despite their natural animosity, the monsters found enough of a common ground in their mutually miserable existance to not eradicate each other, instead opting to wait for a band of slackjawed adventurers to do that for them.
The Keep: 2 Good Taste: 0
But wait, there's one more part: the little outside/exploratory map. We get a lizard man lair, a bandit lair, a giant spider, and even an insane hermit. I mean, you gotta be crazy if living alone with a wooden bowl and a pet panther somehow makes you a fourth level murderous psychotic thief.
The Keep: 3 Good Taste: 0
Put this one in the books as a shutout.
So just what the heck is the point?
Think about it for a second. The Keep on the Borderlands was written after the Village of Hommlett, after the D series. Those modules weren't masterpieces, but they sure as heck had far more depth and coherence than this disaster of a gaming product. RPG's had crawled past the point where this module was considered acceptable. Yet, the marketing geniuses at TSR decided to bundle this baby in with the 1981 D&D Basic book. They decided that their target audience was so desperate for anything new that they could just print so much garbage and the dimwitted gamers would buy it all.
The accused: whoever was making this kind of decision at TSR.
How many people picked up the D&D basic set, fiddled with it for a bit, and then dropped it altogether because they didn't know anything better then the Keep was out there?
Think about it.
Style: 3 (Average)