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Sunday, 29 September 2019

B2 Series: B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland

The reputation of B2 Keep on the Borderlands and its influence on fantasy roleplaying is such that publishers keep returning to it. TSR, Inc. of course published the original as well as including it in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, which is where many gamers encountered it. The publisher would also revisit it with Return to the Keep on the Borderlands for its twenty-fifth anniversary, and the module would serve as the basis for Keep on the Borderlands, part of Wizards of the Coast’s ‘Encounters Program’ for Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition. Yet until the advent of Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and then 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, it would be other publishers who would revisit B2 Keep on the BorderlandsKenzer & Company visited it not once, but twice. First with B2 Little Keep on the Borderlands: An Introductory Module for Characters Level 1–4 in 2002, and then again in 2009 with Frandor’s Keep: An immersive setting for adventure. Another publisher to revisit B2 Keep on the Borderlands was Chris Gonnerman, with the scenario, JN1 The Chaotic Caves, written for the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Much B1 In Search of the Unknown, few publishers have explored what happened next after B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The exception is Pacesetter Games & Simulations. For B1 In Search of the Unknown, it has published two sequels, first B0.5 Secrets of the Unknown and then B1 Legacy of the Unknown. Similarly, it has also published a pair of sequels to B2 Keep on the BorderlandsB2 Beyond the Caves of Chaos and B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland.

In the classic set-up of B2 Keep on the Borderlands, the various Demi-Human races being marshalled at the Caves of Chaos by the evil priests of the Shrine of Evil Chaos, ready to strike at the nearby Keep and bring disorder and destruction that one step closer to the frontiers of civilisation. Except of course, the player characters intervene, making a name for themselves as they discover the Caves of Chaos, strike at the various tribes one-by-one, and ultimately disrupt the plans of the evil priests. So the evil priests and the Bugbears, Gnolls, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, and Orcs never get to attack the Keep, but in B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland, somebody else does!

Designed for eight characters of Second to Third Levels, B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland is written for use 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. Just sixteen pages in length, it comes as a 6.65 MB PDF with a full-colour cover, and comes with everything needed to run the adventure.

B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland is a direct sequel to B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The player characters are resting at the Keep after their forays in the Caves of Chaos and their ultimate victory when a blizzard strikes and the Keep is enveloped in snow. Everyone is sheltering from the weather when disaster strikes and part of the wall of the Keep shatters. Fortunately, a quartet of Dwarven stonesmiths are staying at the Keep and can repair the wall, but the stone has to be quarried. For that, the stonesmiths and labourers will require guards, which is where the player characters come in. The castellan of the Keep hires them to escort the Dwarven stonesmiths and the labourers and so make the very cold and snowy trip to the quarry. Of course, the quarry is occupied, and here the player characters may find clues to the fact that something is going on. Fortunately, their charges will be able to cut the stones necessary and so everyone can return to the Keep. Yet even as the repairs are affected, the Keep comes under attack and the player characters are forced into helping defend some very frosty attacks on the frontier fort. If they are successful, then they may be able to track the villain of the piece back to his lair.

Physically, B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland is well presented. The writing is good and if the cartography is somewhat rough, the cover is excellent. The map simply plugs into the wilderness map in B2 Keep on the Borderlands, but much like the scenario, is easily relocated to the castle and wilderness setting of the Dungeon Master’s choosing.

B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland is a short and punchy scenario. It throws the player characters into perilous situation after perilous situation and allows the Dungeon Master to make the weather a danger as much as the enemy threats to the Keep. It also very nicely put the evil threat to the Keep and its inhabitants on the front foot, making it much more active—a very welcome change from the original B2 Keep on the Borderlands. If the Dungeon Master was looking for good sequel to B2 Keep on the Borderlands, then B2.5 Blizzard on the Borderland is highly recommended.

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