Gygax on B2

This is a compilation of quotes from Gary Gygax about his module B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1979)

March 1980
"In addition, Design is working on a number of modules for D&D - and I recently finished a new one for the Basic Set, as sales demand that we change the module every six or so months." (The Dragon #35, pg 13, From the Sorcerer’s Scroll column titled “What’s ahead for TSR?")

October 1984
"There has to be a reason for everything. There has to be a reason for the place being there. Who lives there, and how does he live there. There has to be a reason for the PCs to risk their lives to have an adventure at that place. Keep on the Borderlands, for example, is a place devised detailed and meticulously, at which several creatures fight for their survival." (Drache #3, An Interview with Gary Gygax, translated from German and transcribed in an Acaeum forum post)

March 2001
Q: "Was the Keep on the Borderlands originally in the World of Greyhawk and if so where did you place it in your campaign?
A: "KotB was not set on Oerth, it was just a free-form locale that any DM could fit into his campaign world. Likely it would be okay on the border of the Pomarj, though." (email to Gene Weigel, quoted in Dragonsfoot forum post in 2003)

September 2003
"Keep on the Borderlands was a module where I said ‘I’m not trying to get any realism or verisimilitude going here; I’m going for pure whimsy fantasy action, and you’re going to be kept amused every minute.’ I still get emails from people saying ‘yeah, that was great' ... Keep on the Borderlands I just made up out of whole cloth, though [rather than developing it from a game]
. Brian [Blume] said that we needed a new adventure module for the Basic set, something with a little more action, and a little broader and so forth. So I just sat down and wrote that in three weeks." (interview with Computer Games Magazine, as reprinted here)


"The B2 module was written to introduce newbies to the wonders of D&D adventuring. It is not "ecologically correct," but it is fun and entertaining, packed full of new and different challenges. Just between you and me, it makes as much sense as most things in the D&D game such as massive flying dragons that breathe various deadly things. Those who swallow the camel of the entire concept, then strain at gnats of particular monster or situation seem to be be losing much of the basis for playing. However, that sort of thing happens as one becomes familiar with the fanciful and begin to qualify the experience by comparison to reality. As you note, modules for more experienced players have more rationalization for setting and encounters.

The short answer is, if you enjoy DMing the KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS, then why not use it? If the players question anything, make up something on the spot to answer the challenge." (EN World forum post)

- What were the inspirations for B2? The caves in the House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson?
"The inspiration for the module was to provide new DMs with material that would amuse and challenge their players. The material I included came from my imagination, that certainly stimulated by many a fantastic tale including House on the Borderland"
(Pied Piper Publishing forum post)

[Note: I think he was saying he had read HotB but it was not an influence on KotB any more than other fantastic literature he had read. A later quote also confirms he had read HotB: "I might have mentioned The Night Land, or House on the Borderland, in one of my rambling columns. Both were rather...different sorts of fantasy offerings, rather in the vein of Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows." (EN World forum post, 4/7/07)]


"When I wrote B2 I aimed at providing an exciting scenario for as wide a range of DMs and players as I possibly could. That you and your friends enjoyed it as much after 20 odd years time between adventuring in the module means that the mark I aimed at was hit well.

As for the lower case g's on the map, my recollection was that all three indicated guard posts. I do not have the module before me, so I could be in error...but I don't think so.
" (EN World forum post)

[The map actually has four lowercase letter g's - at locations B8, C16, D21 and K59. The first three are described as guard locations in the entry for the corresponding room, and the fourth is room 59g, which is the anteroom of the evil priest, with zombie guards]

"It took about a week to write B2." (EN World forum post)

2/17/05 - in response to a question about whether it is possible to place B2 on the Yggsburgh Wilderness Map
"Yes, but the best way to decide your question is for you to look at the map that is furnished, and also consider the suggestion of adding territory around its verges to expand the playing area. I believe those modules would best be located to the east (KotB) and northwest (CoC) in an extension of the hills." (EN World forum post)

4/22/05 - in response to a question about the order of modules for an "All Gygax, all the time campaign".
"Keep on the Borderlands, Village of Hommlet, Temple of Elemental Evil, Dungeonland, Land beyond the Magic Mirror, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, Hall of the Fire Giant King, Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, Tomb of Horrors, Descent to the Depths of the Earth, Shrine of the Kuo-toa, Vault of the Drow, Isle of the Ape, Necropolis (final portion)." (Dragonsfoot forum post).

"But of course I DMed it a few times just to check my design assumptions. B2 was done in a very short time at the urging of Brian Blume who wanted to replace the D&D Basic Set's module B1, so I obliged." (post on the gygax-games yahoo group)

Sure, but after more than 30 years time has passed since I did that, I can't recall anything of note. Consider how many RPGs I have DMed since that time, do! One thing I can recall is that the party was totally fooled by the guard (orc?) pretending to be one of the severed heads, so they were spotted and took some beating from that little bit of carelessness." (post on the gygax-games yahoo group)

[This refers to "Area g" at the start of Cave B in the Caves of Chaos]

"Sure, if you are playing OAD&D rules the Village of Hommlet is the best place to begin [for a group of players new to Greyhawk], although B2 is also fine if you do a bit of conversion" (Dragonsfoot forum post)

2/12/07 - in response to the nature of the humanoid tribes in B2
"The JRRT treatment of orcs sort of hatching from inexplicable cocoons seemed quite too fantastic to me. Of course there are special monsters created my magic of some sort, and in the Lejendary Adventure game I have androids created in vats by an alien race. However, it seems quite reasonable to me that most monsters breed as do animals and humans. I have some females fight as do males, others at a lesser capacity, some non-combatant. Immature members of the species might fight at half value, or be non-combatant, or a mix of the two. Having tribal organization for most humanoid monsters makes adventure scenarios more colorful and believable, IMO."

(EN World forum post)

2/20/07 - in response to whether the wight in the Caves of Chaos would attack if turned but then pursued down a tunnel to a closed door
"The wight is fleeing to escape the cleric. If it is still fleeing thus and can pass through the door, it will do so. If it can not, then it will turn and attack the cleric." (EN World forum post)

"Many DMs contacted TSR stating that their adventure material was lacking, asking that we publish modules that they could use. Of course we had to have a beginner's module for the D&D Basic Set..." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

Frank Menzter on B2:

3/30/05 - description of his editorial work on B2, including adding the Chapel (Area 17) to the Keep:
"The introductory adventure "In Search of the Unknown" was contained within each and every D&D set, but this august work was slated for replacement by an a broader one containing a base of operations, with adventure potential oozing from every nearby cave. This Gygaxian endeavor, the aforementioned "Keep on the Borderlands", did arrive on my 'humble editor's desk by mere chance -- perhaps no other dared to risk the thunderous voice and furrowed brow of the company's near-mythic President, should errors be made -- and I was strictly admonished to correct blatant spelling errors only, with no development or rewriting allowed. And that I did, adequately I trust, but in the course of this simple task one glaring omission became obvious; the Keep contained multiple clerics but no chapel for their work. After considering the matter, especially the hectic schedule being kept by the Boss during this turbulent era, I took it upon myself to write up a suggested Chapel (if one must point out problems a solution should be included, if only as a shield usable in self-defense) and sent it over via interoffice mail. When my actions were revealed to my comrades, they started making preparations for a farewell party, sure that I would be fricasseed by my temerity. It startled everyone that Gary's prompt response was so placid -- "Yup, I left that out, this is fine, run it" -- and thereafter I was treated with an extra milligram (no more) of respect, just for surviving the affair." (EN World forum post in Gary's Q&A thread)

"Mike's B1 and Gary's B2 were outstanding starter modules and there was no need to replace them" (Dragonsfoot forum post)

"Gary wrote B2 as a replacement for B1; he decided that the starter module shouldn't be stocked by novice DMs." (Dragonsfoot forum post).

1/12/10 - in response to a question about who drew the Wilderness Map in B2
"iirc that was Dave Sutherland, as Diesel was too new to be assigned to a Gygax." (Dragonsfoot forum post)

Eldritch Enterprises blog post about his work on B2

Holmes on B2 (and B1)

August 1981
"A few comments on the other components in the new Basic Set. First, there's the module, The Keep on the Borderlands. This is, in my opinion, the best thing Gygax has written for us yet. It contains all kind of hints for the DM and the players. There's enough stuff on the map to keep a low-level party busy adventuring for weeks. Truly a bargain." (pg 17, "Basic D&D Points of View", DRAGON #52)

November 1981
"An excellent example of what the DM is striving for is Gygax's Dungeon Module B2, The Keep on the Borderlands, sold separately by TSR. This beginners' game contains the maps, room descriptions and even the combat tables needed to play the game, plus a variety of hints and advice to the DM. The module is designed to play with the Basic Dungeons and Dragons book and is the best of its type yet produced." (pg 89 of FANTASY ROLE PLAYING GAMES)

"Introductory modules are: In Search of the Unknown and The Keep on the Borderlands previously mentioned. Both contain not only the maps of the areas and dungeon but a lot of helpful advice for the DM. If a gaming group can agree to have only the referee see the module, so that the surprise is not spoiled by somebody buying and reading the Dungeon in advance, these are an excellent introduction to the game. Both are intended to play with these rules in the Basic Dungeons and Dragons game. In Search of the Unknown comes packaged with the basic set." (pg 92 of FANTASY ROLE PLAYING GAMES)

Note: The above quotes make it sound like Holmes himself wasn't aware that B2 had been bundled with the Holmes Basic Set. But the FRPG book also has a picture of the Holmes set with B2. Perhaps he wrote this sentence before early 1980 when B2 replaced B1 in the Holmes set. The book was probably written well in advance of its publishing date.

This list is also posted for discussion/comments at OD&D Discussion, Dragonsfoot and Knight & Knaves Alehouse"