B2 Keep on the Borderlands

by Gary Gygax
B2 is perhaps the most well known of all D&D modules, and the second of only two stand-alone modules published by TSR for the Holmes Basic Set. It was designed by Gygax specifically to replace B1 In Search of the Unknown as the introductory module included in the Basic Set. It contains extensive advice for new DMs, rules clarifications and additions, a detailed home base for the PCs (The Keep), a "dungeon" (the Caves of Chaos), a brief wilderness (see the map to the right), and even room for expansion (the undescribed Cave of the Unknown). It was successful enough in this role that a revised version continued to be included in the Moldvay Basic Set.

"There probably have been more copies of B2 printed than any other role-playing scenario" - Heroic Worlds by Lawrence Shick, 1991 (pg 135).

"The total print run for B2 is easily in excess of a million and a half units" - "Looking Back" by Ryan Dancey in The Story of TSR, 1999 (pg 27).

Gygax (and Mentzer and Holmes) on B2

B2 also has the distinction of being the only stand-alone module published by TSR which included Dexterity (DX) scores in the monster stats in accord with the rules for initiative in the Holmes Basic rulebook. The Holmes Basic rulebook does not include monster dexterity scores, but instructs that if the DM "does not know the dexterity of an attacking monster he rolls it on the spot" (pg 20). By including DX scores in the monster stats, B2 can speed up the flow of the game. These can also be used to extrapolate typical monster dexterity scores. The only other TSR scenario with DX scores is the Chapel of Silence published in Dragon.

1st print - Wizard Logo; front cover mentions AD&D
Jim Roslof - front cover, owlbear battle title page illustration (as ROSLOF) -
Erol Otus (EO) - back cover, four interior illustrations (as EO)
David S. Laforce - two thematically linked interior illustrations, page 7 (as DSL); map (shown to the right)

2nd print - Wizard Logo; front cover does not mention AD&D
Two pictures were added in place of the section on using the module with AD&D
Dave Trampier - intertwined snakes (page 5); see the Cryptic Archivist for details
David C. Sutherland III - dragon (page 6). This piece was used earlier for a Dragon magazine ad; it was removed from the revision of B2 for B/X but then placed in the revision of B1 for B1.

Printing History at the Acaeum

List of changes between Holmes and Moldvay versions
(compiled by Acaeum member brute).

The following text appears in the 1st print that was removed for the 2nd print:

While originally designed to be played with BASIC D&D, the situations and places used in KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS may also be used by players of ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS.

To use with AD&D, the DM will find no difficulty in using the maps or room descriptions of the Keep and the Caves of Chaos. He or she may wish to expand or ignore the wilderness map and perhaps substitute personalized ideas for those listed. It will be necessary to alter some of the information on the characters found in the Keep to be consistent with AD&D. Likewise, the monsters found in the Caves of Chaos should be converted to AD&D (hit dice, alignment, damage, etc.). For experienced players it may be useful to include some more challenging monsters and more tricks and traps.

As the party increases in level, care should be taken to see that they do not rule or take over the Keep. This may be done by having the main characters of the Keep increase in level and magic items to remain above the average of the party. If the party is 6th level on average, the Castellan should be 9th or 10th level. Alternately, if the DM wishes to use this area for future low-level play, he or she may encourage the players to travel elsewhere in search of adventure.

The iconic wilderness map from B2 by David S. LaForce (aka DSL or Diesel) showing the locations of The Keep, the Caves of Chaos and the Cave of the Unknown, and four outdoor encounters.

This map was one of the first wilderness maps that TSR included in a D&D module, and is unusual in using a grid instead of a hex map.

The back cover of the module featured a picture of The Keep by Erol Otus. See here for a scan of this picture, as well as a similar castle illustration by Otus from Polyhedron #1.
Subpages (1): Gygax on B2