Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In Search of the Unknown / Keep on the Borderlands as the 1979 Campaign

I have been going over old notes for the past few months, re-reading some monsters I created back in the day, and wondering which ones might be good for the Basic Bestiary.  One, in particular, jumped back out at me, the Schreckengeist, which lead down a rabbit hole of notes I had collected on the adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown

The 1979 Campaign

This got me thinking about an entire campaign, or even mini-campaign, that includes B1 but also B2 Keep on the Borderlands.  These two adventures are designed to work with each other.  To do a campaign though I would need a slightly larger (but not much larger) sandbox/hex crawl.

A while back Eric Fabiaschi posted an idea on using Judges Guild 'Wilderlands of High Fantasy' & Gary Gygax's B2 'Keep on the Borderlands' As Old School Campaign.  There are links to a discussion on the Piazza and a map for "The Borderlands" for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Additionally, Zenopus Archives (home to all things Holmes) talked about the Warlocks & Warriors wilderness map as a hex crawl.

These have a lot of merits, to be honest, and that along with my ideas of a "1979 Campaign" have morphed into something "new" and interesting. 

Looking back over my post The Enduring Appeal of Holmes Basic & B1 I can't help but think there is something here worth exploring.  

The 1979 Campaign

The idea behind this is a campaign, likely only using Holmes Basic (so levels 1 to 3), the AD&D Monster Manual, and B1 In Search of the Unknown to create a hex crawl style adventure campaign.  At least that is the start. Over time the characters (strictly Holmes Basic ones) would move on and out to the Keep and the Caves of Chaos.

D&D 1979

The idea is to be 100% old school, though I am free to grab newer materials that expand on these areas the core will be D&D circa '79.

I suppose I could be accused of trying to chase some sort of high or feeling from my youth. And that would...not be entirely wrong. But in truth, there is no way I can recapture the feeling of 1979 any easier than I can recapture the feeling of yesterday's lunch. What I can do is try to set up something that helps me recall how it all was.

This would obviously be some sort of limited-run experiment. Holmes tops out at 3rd level.  

My current debate with myself is whether or not to include module T1 The Village of Hommlet.

There are plenty of good reasons to add it.

  1. It was released in 1979 (August 16–19, 1979 at Gen Con XII)
  2. It is a great introductory module for first-level characters.
  3. It was written by Gary so there is a certain veneer of authenticity about it.

The only reason I would not use it is because it is so deeply tied to the Temple of Elemental Evil notion. It is the starting point of the TAGDQ series for AD&D.  All the other adventures I am considering are pure Basic D&D.  While I am considering other adventures, they all tie into the B1/B2 areas of exploration.  T1 is a little different.

The Adventures

Supplemental Adventure Material

I could take all of this and put into my three-ring binder format. Hell. There is even enough room for Holmes basic in this!

If, and that is a big IF, it goes well I would even consider moving on and up. Either via Blueholme rules or take the B/X - OSE route.  In truth though I would rather keep this one light and tight as it were. Levels 1 to 3 with the goal of exploring the local wilderness (hex crawl style) and clearing out the local caves.

I also can't help but think of my Traveller Envy and the three board games I have covered here also released in 1979; Wizard's QuestMagic Realm, and Demons.  While my original goal was to mine these for ideas for my War of the Witch Queens, there is no reason why I can't also use them here.  

Wizard Quest has the players explore a wilderness area until they have collected enough treasure. In Demons the players are searching for treasure with the aid of various demons while avoiding local authorities. In Magic Realm...well I have not been able to play that one.  BUT I could incorporate the background as the past for this area. A bunch of wizards had a mighty battle here and the land is full of strange creatures and even stranger treasure.  All these wizards bringing in their bound creatures would also explain why the Caves are so full of them and so much magical treasure around. Maybe even Zelligar is the last of these great wizards.  It would also allow me to bring in weaker demons and devils from the monster manual. Though not too strong, these are only 1st to 3rd level characters.

It certainly would get me into the mood for all things 1979. Plus what is more 1979/early 80s for me than Traveller Envy? 

If I was really clever I'd collect the names of characters from people playing in 1979 and have them be some of the "named NPCs" for the background.

How about it? Were you playing in 1979? If so drop your character's name and class below!

Notes / References


Vampire Rabbit said...

This book combined them together too, but I like using the Pacesetter Games modules with them. https://amzn.to/3zzYxse

Vampire Rabbit said...

This book combined them together too, but I like the idea of using the Pacesetter Games supplemental modules too.

John B. McCarthy said...

Back in the day the first dungeon I ran was B1: In Search of the Unknown (first for a couple of fellow students at my high school, and then for my first gaming group), and after clearing out most of Quasqueton, my group moved on to tackle T1 at the Gatehouse. One thing to keep in mind regarding the 'admissibility' of T1 was that it remained unconnected to the Temple of Elemental Evil (other than in the lore) for six years after it was published. My gaming group played completely through T1 years before we knew what if anything would 'come next'; so for a player in 1979 and up till the mid-'80s, Hommlet and the Gatehouse exist in complete isolation from the ToE (and when ToE finally came out it wasn't anything my group had imagined in the intervening years).

B2 was the first adventure I experienced as a player, being run just after I'd DMed B1, T1, and a homebrew dungeon.

Initially I gamed with a combination of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual (which were my first ever RPG purchases, bought on the same day), and added in the PHB and DMG when they became available (I didn't have them when I ran most of B1, but given that one of my players had a paladin and a monk in T1, I certainly had at least the PHB by that point). Despite my starting with Holmes Basic, one of my players in '79 had a copy of the PHB months before I did, and many of our characters were designed with that.

Early characters I DMed in B1 and T1:
Gaphilgar the Mighty - Half-elf Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User
Moloch - Half-Orc Fighter
Chort - Human Monk

AngryBob said...

Back in '79 (I was seven years old!) I played a Magic User named Archibald. No last name, lol. I got the name because I wanted to be an archmage someday and "Archibald the Archmage" sounded awesome at the time.

h1 said...

I'm actually researching a very similar thing, just with Moldvay version of DnD and more I research, more I drop on Gygax ideas and concepts, more I stay with Anderson and Moldvay's Known World to keep it simple, yet role-playing focused.

Deep One said...

Geoffrey McKinney has published an adventure named Mike's World that expands the wilderness map of B2 on dtrpg.

Unknown said...

I was playing in '79, but no recollection of my characters' names, as for classes, I know my first was a thief that was killed by a sprung dagger trap.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I'll check out Mike's World!

James Mishler said...

I cannot more highly recommend Geoffrey McKinney's Mike's World.

I've run a LabLord campaign using the setting and it works just great!

Mike's Dungeon is of course the Cave of the Unknown.

I place Quasqueton in the hills South of the lizard man marsh, in fact, the bandits in the hills are unknowingly camping in the ruins of the tower and have no idea what is beneath their feet!

And the ruined castle in the next map over I'd the Castle of the Mad Archmage.

In addition to all the great adventures on all the maps, there's plenty of room to place other modules, ladies, and bits and bobs as you wish.

Very old school!

Badmike said...

B2.5 Caves of the Unknown by Charley Phipps, Thom Wilson and Mike Badolato takes the heretofore undeveloped Caves of the Unknown area near the Caves of Chaos and does it up in glorious blue map B/X style.