11 January 2018

Update on 'Into the Borderlands'

As I mentioned several months ago here, Goodman Games is publishing a version of the classic Basic Dungeons and Dragons modules B1 (“In Search of the Unknown”) and B2 (“The Keep on the Borderlands”), with 5e D&D stats included, as well as some new optional material. I have a deep fondness for those modules, as they were the first ones I ever used decades ago when learning how to play RPGs. And even after all of these years, B2 remains (in my judgement) a solid—and, with a creative DM and good players, a very entertaining—mini-campaign setting.

Here is an update on the main features of the product, entitled Into the Borderlands:
The current layout weighs in at 368 pages. We still need to add a few things and anticipate it will close out at around 380 pages. Wow, that’s a big book! The hardcover includes the following:
  • Restored scans of two complete printings of the original B1: In Search of the Unknown. Specifically, the second and sixth printings, one featuring the original monochrome cover and the other featuring the later color cover by Darlene.
  • Three complete monster and treasure assortments for stocking the dungeons of In Search of the Unknown (which are “un-stocked” in the original 1E edition).
  • Restored scans of two complete printings of the original B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. Specifically the second and fourth printings. These are distinguished the change in monster stats between the two printings (Dexterity scores were included in early printings). The later printing also features six interior illustrations that were not present in earlier printings.
  • A complete, “pure” 5E conversion of In Search of the Unknown, including tables for stocking it with creatures.
  • A separate chapter with a few new encounters for the Caverns of Quasqueton, all inspired by references in the original work.
  • A complete, “pure” 5E conversion of The Keep on the Borderlands.
  • A separate chapter with a few new encounters for The Keep on the Borderlands, all inspired by references in the original work.
  • Appendices with 5E stats for newly introduced monsters, hirelings and followers, and magic items.
  • A chapter of introductions and testimonials.
Um, okay. I'm still looking forward to this… But 380 pages?!? That seems ridiculous.

Specifically, including scans of 2 printings for both modules strikes me as excessive. Personally, I'd prefer a straight-up 5e conversion, with some optional supplementary material, as I already own multiple copies of the originals. Nonetheless, I can understand including one scan of B1 and B2 within the product. Two scans, though, just seems excessive, especially given how minor the changes are between the printings.

Despite this gripe, though, the only real question for me is whether to get the print version or just the PDF…

[Above are a couple of illustrations from B2 by the amazing Erol Otus: a colour view of the keep (from the back cover of the module) and the dangerous Hermit.]


  1. I ran Keep on the Borderlands as my first outing as DM for 5th edition. I found that it ran reasonably well just using the the module as-written and just using the corresponding 5e monster stats.

    1. Right. (In fact, I've translated some of my old MERP stuff to 5e-based Adventures in Middle-earth without too many difficulties.) So a 'translation' is hardly necessary. The appeal (for me) is (a) a shiny 'new' printing with some new stuff in it, and (b) the translation work pre-done.

  2. I still have my original copy of the module in with the Basic boxed set. It really is a great piece of work. I agree though - all these extras pushing out the page count and, no doubt, the price. It's symptomatic of the Kickstarter age: everything has to be BIGGER! MORE OF IT! SUPER QUALITY ART! TONS OF EXTRAS!

    Do all these things add real value? They add a lot of gloss and a lot of cost, but do they improve on the originals? Or do they simply satisfy nostalgia, and the 'collector-cravings' for a something shiny that sits on the shelf and is admired?

    I think I'll stick with the old pink module and it's wrap around maps. And use it with Classic Fantasy... :)

    1. I would enjoy going through B2 with Classic Fantasy!

  3. Is that about a 600% increase in length over the originals? I don't quite understand the point.

  4. The product seems to be a combination of (a) collectors' item (the essays, the scans of multiple printings) and (b) game aid (the 5e conversion, the new material).

    I'd prefer that there were two separate products, one for the collectors (like the AD&D reprints that WotC did a couple of years ago) and one for the gamers (like the Judges Guild modules that GG did for 3e a decade ago).

    But I guess there's a market for this kind of thing. (As I said in the post, I'm tempted to get the whole thing myself, even though I already own multiple copies of B1 and B2. But the price will be important in my final decision.)

  5. Back then I had time to read 380, now I have time to read 22 pages


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.