First published in 1979 as an introductory adventure for the first Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set that had appeared the year before, B1 In Search of the Unknown set out to provide an adventure that could be run by the novice Dungeon Master and played by novice roleplayers, both just setting out on their first foray into the world of dungeoneering. Thus it is designed to challenge Dungeon Master and players alike and to be instructive for both, but it is not designed to be particularly deadly as a dungeon for experienced players might be. Yet where in the decades since its original publication B2 Keep on the Borderlands has been visited and revisited, from Return to the Keep on the Borderlands to the Keep on the Borderlands series for the Encounters Program for Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, the fact is that B1 In Search of the Unknown has been all but ignored by both TSR, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast. Instead it has been third party publishers who have revisited the first entry in the ‘B’ series. Most notably and recently, of course, by Goodman Games with Original Adventures Reincarnated #1: Into the Borderlands, which covered both B1 In Search of the Unknown and B2 Keep on the Borderlands, but before that though, in 2002, Kenzer & Company published B1 Quest for the Unknown. What few publishers have done though, is visit the aftermath of either B1 In Search of the Unknown or B2 Keep on the Borderlands, though it could easily be argued that Kenzer & Company’s B2 Little Keep on the Borderlands is a sequel to B1 Quest for the Unknown. The exception though, is Pacesetter Games & Simulations.
Published in 2015, B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown is a sequel of sorts designed to be run prior to B1 Legacy of the Unknown, from the same publisher. The latter specifically explores what happened the two men who constructed Quasqueton as their home, Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, and why they did not return home. According to B1 In Search of the Unknown, they left for the north on a great quest, but were never heard from again, leaving their home under what turned out to be poor supervision. The Dungeon Master will probably need to provide the clues needed in the form of a map and Zelligar the Unknown’s journal, which will point the player characters to the destination as detailed in B1 Legacy of the Unknown.
Both B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown and B1 Legacy of the Unknown are designed to be run with the ‘First Edition’ game rules of your choice. So of course, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition, but more recently, OSRIC, short for Old School Reference and Index Compilation and Advanced Labyrinth Lord. B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown is designed to be played by eight characters of First and Second Levels and presents a small encounter which takes place after the events of B1 In Search of the Unknown. The player characters are expected to have returned from their sojourn inside Quasqueton and been hailed heroes for their exploits. News of their doings brings out an old soldier who regales them with what happened at the great battle which won Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown their fame and garnered them riches enough to construct Quasqueton. He will also tell the player characters of how he saw some barbarians escape the battle and disappear behind a waterfall. He assumed that they drowned, but did they?
If the player characters decide to explore the waterfall, they will find an underwater tunnel which leads into a small complex of caves. Inside, they will find some artefacts from Shard, the ruined city where Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown headed some thirty years ago, including one which will provide them with the means to get to the centre of the city as detailed B1 Legacy of the Unknown. This will require some experimentation upon the part of the player characters, but if successful, the player characters will also know where Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown. The other major location provides some hints as to why the two decided to go there, but no more than that. It also foreshadows what happened to Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, though that will only become apparent if the player characters get to the finale of B1 Legacy of the Unknown.
What B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown is designed to do is bridge the gap between B1 In Search of the Unknown and B1 Legacy of the Unknown and whilst it does that, it really is only a corollary. It provides further Experience Points to ensure that the player characters get from First Level to Second Level, and therefore sufficiently capable to play through B1 Legacy of the Unknown. It also hints at where Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown have gone and possibly why…? And yet…
What B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown completely fails to do is provide motive for the player characters. First it fails to provide motive—other than simple curiosity—for the player characters to go and look behind the waterfall. How about the old soldier not only seeing the barbarians going behind the waterfall, but Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown following them and returning with some of the artefacts to be found in the caves? Second, it fails to provide a motive for the player characters to follow the path that Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown took thirty years ago. No map, no journal, both of which are mentioned, but not given in B1 Legacy of the Unknown. This is just so frustrating and disappointing.
Physically, B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown is a 2.83 MB, eight page, full colour PDF. It is reasonably well written, the cover is okay, and the map is serviceable. In addition to the six locations described, the mini-supplement includes a new spell, six new magic items—one of which will be important in B1 Legacy of the Unknown, and two new monsters. Of these, just the one magic item plays an important in B1 Legacy of the Unknown, but the others can be added to a Dungeon Master’s without any difficulty.
B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown hints at some of the secrets of Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown and that is fine. It provides further Experience Points for the player characters and that is fine. It fails to provide motivation or hook for the player characters and that is not fine. Ultimately, B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown fails to bridge the gap between B1 In Search of the Unknown and B1 Legacy of the Unknown because it still leaves unnecessary work for the Dungeon Master to do, and that provide a hook or a motivation for her player characters.