Legions of older roleplayers cut their teeth on a little boxed set of rules with the words Basic Set
on the cover. The adventure inside most of those boxes was Keep on the Borderlands
and for many, it was their very first fantasy adventure. For that reason, it is the source of much nostalgia and many fond memories for a whole generation of gamers. Into the Wilds treads this hallowed ground.
Like Keep, Into the Wilds is an adventure setting that describes a frontier outpost and a nearby dungeon complex. However, it is not just a rehash of the original adventure or a parody of it like Hackmaster’s Little Keep on the Borderlands. It is more correct to say that Into the Wilds was ‘inspired’ by the original. The frontier keep and nearby dungeon complex are original creations and I did not come across any rehashed ideas from the old adventure (unless I missed them – I am approaching 40 after all).
The print version of Into the Wilds is 64 pages, but I bought mine as a PDF from RPGnow. It printed out crisply, but the PDF does lack bookmarks. The cover painting is by Jim Rosloff, an artist that worked on many classic TSR releases. The interior art captures the classic module feel perfectly and I thought it was a step up from that in some of the other Dungeon Crawl Classics that I own. The maps are nice, but only the Wilds area map includes a scale, which is a glitch that I hope will be corrected. There are also six nice player handouts and a couple of illustrations to help the DM visualize the adventure area.
Wildsgate is the name of the frontier keep that the PCs will use as a home base for their adventures. It is a walled fortress consisting of about a dozen buildings and a motley collection of NPCs that we have come to expect in an FRP adventure. There is the eye patch-wearing dwarven smith, the suspicious moneylender and two inns, one nice and one naughty. Cliches abound, but the author does a journeyman job with the material. And unlike the old Keep on the Borderlands, Wildsgate’s NPCs actually have names.
The nearby dungeon complex is set in a area of hills known as the goblin spires. More correctly, there are actually four separate small dungeon complexes that lie basically next to one another. This appears to be a nod to the Caves of Chaos dungeon from Keep which consisted of several separate cave complexes on one map, each dominated by a different type of humanoid. The dungeons here are a goblin lair, a village filled with cannibals, and an ancient dwarven complex divided into two sections. The mini-dungeons are important because they provide breakpoints that allow low-level parties to make multiple short forays and return to Wildsgate in between for rest and recuperation.
The author does an admiral job of wringing some originality out of ye olde dungeon filled with low level monsters. There are some classic set pieces like rickety goblin foot bridges, dwarven mine elevators, water traps and even an old-fashioned key puzzle. Tweaks to the monsters like goblins mounted on giant bats also keep things interesting.
All in all, Into the Wilds is an original take on a classic adventure. At its core it is ‘just’ another dungeon, but I applaud Mr. Stroh for creating a classic, but not hackneyed adventure. It should provide several nights off dungeon crawling and hopefully some good memories for a new generation of adventurers.