So I played D&D this past weekend for the first time in quite a little while. Recently I've been going through way too much sweating out the details and getting lost in the process with my new megadungeon campaign – to the point that I finally said screw it I just need to get this mofo started and see what happens. This has always been the best route in my experience, but I'm such a perfectionist that I often end up idling in neutral instead of simply flooring the damn thing and letting the wheels of gaming leave a patch of rubber down the middle of adventure avenue.
For many moons my default module for such impromptu starts was typically B2. The trusty Keep on the Borderlands has served me well for a few decades. There was one problem – I just wasn't feeling it this time. I couldn't get my B2 Jones on. So, I went to the old gaming closet and started to look for something else. I passed over X1 and T1 and B4 then happened upon my old pale green monochrome B1: In Search of the Unknown. In years past I never thought particularly highly of B1. Perhaps this is because in hindsight now I believe that it is in fact the module that came in my Holmes box, and not B2 as I may have misremembered. Much like my misconceptions of the Holmes edit, I think I must have similarly dismissed this quite excellent adventure module.
I decided therefore that it was high time to give In Search of the Unknown another look see. Lo and behold upon leafing through the pages I found the crude scribblings of a 12 year old; my own handwriting from '79 or so, from my earliest days of D&D. It looked like I wrote it with a blunt Venus Velvet No. 2 while riding in the back seat of my Dad's Volvo back in the day. Furthermore, it was clear I had completely disregarded the instructions from the module's author, Mike Carr.
Here are some of the entries I found, shared exactly as written 32 years ago:
2 Elves adventuring and will join Party. Grammar was not a strong suit then either.
Gloves of Bending (increases wearer's Bend Bars percent by 60%). This was placed as a foil for the Portcullis Trap above room XIII, and not an indication that I possessed the Players Handbook at the time (although the latter is certainly possible).
If Statue touched it will speak and say “Good Men, would you be so kind as to touch my eyes?” If eyes are touched, toucher must save vs spell or turn to dust. My sadistic ways were becoming evident even at 12 years old. Pity the poor toucher.
Scroll of Diminution under paper weight. Simple Potion to Scroll switcheroo. Sadistic I tell you.
An insane Dwarf is wielding a broken sword. OK. Just go with it I guess.
An Orc will challenge any one member. He is not ordinary, AC 2, HP 15, HD 4. If killed a +1 Sword will appear. Why the Orc is there and why he's willing to duel characters is a mystery, as is the magic sword.
15 Giant Ants guard 3 piles of eggs, they are friends of the bats. Each Ant has 5 GP. Apparently in this game Giant Ants were fairly intelligent and were capable of befriending bats...which also says something about the bats I suppose.
Giant Ant Chief AC 5, HP 20, HD 3. Wears +1 Chain-mail. 500 GP in chest. I can only deduce that the Giant Ants in my 12 year-old mind were more like intelligent bipedal Ant-men, capable of making friends, wearing armor and collecting riches.
Other Monsters included Green Slime, Wights, Giant Ticks, a Gargoyle and even more Giant Ants.
All of the entries I made, other than the obvious “Get-out-of-Jail-Free” Gloves of Bending, were indeed culled from the pages of the D&D Holmes edit. Apparently I had filled in this module during that short period of time in '79 before I had moved on to 1e AD&D.
Well, back to the present: I read the B1 room keys once through, did a random fill of the 56 rooms, changed the player back story and information to fit my needs, and ran B1 for possibly the second time ever. The group did not get particularly far into Quasqueton in this first session, but thus far the game is a success. In fact the first actual room the party entered, aside from the non-room entrance, was the infamous Room of Pools. I never would've guessed that would be the case, but there they were mystified by the pools and terrified of their contents. The party dispatched some Bogloids, Jackals and Thugs*, collected some loot, and headed back to the safety of Generic Town ™ at the end of the day.
After the session I took to reading the rest of the module. Mike Carr's guides and suggestions in particular drove me to write this post. I am going to give B1 some more thorough consideration and continue with thoughts on the module in the near future.
* - Some things never change. 30 years later I am still disregarding the author's instructions.