Monday, December 7, 2009

RttKotB review

Subject: [GREYTALK] RttKotB review
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 22:41:50 EDT
From: "Nathan E. Irving>"
Reply-To: The GREYtalk Discussion List

OK, I didn't want to comment on Return to the Keep on the Borderlands until I'd read it. Here goes.

Overall - 9 out of 10. I think this is a great adventure.

Canon Greyhawk - 2 out of 10. In my recollection, the World of Greyhawk was mentioned five times. One reference to the Sea of Dust, one to the Yeomanry, one to Wee Jas, one to St. Cuthbert, and one to the Lendore Isles. These were far outnumbered by references to Nergal, Erishkigal, Hispis, Apep, Cathos City, etc., etc..

Adventure Hooks & Opportunities (for adventuring above & beyond the scope of the module) - 8 out of 10. Far better than Star Cairns or Crypt of Lyzandred, equal to or slightly better than Doomgrinder.

OK, explanations. It seems as though this adventure was first written for Mystara -- logical, since B2 was a basic D&D adventure, and the basic D&D world became Mystara. This would explain the bhut (a monster), the D'Amberville, and the inclusion of Cathos City (which is purportedly a location in/on Mystara). Conversion to the World of Greyhawk was unquestionably haphazard and poorly done. I'm not sure if this is originally an editing failure or authorial failure, but it certainly should've been
caught by the editor (Duane Maxwell, if people are curious).

The first section of RttKotB is devoted to the Keep on the Borderlands (actually Kendall Keep). My biggest issue with this section, and the history of the Keep, is that the author seems to have confused the "lordless land" of the Yeomanry with a lawless land. Despite that, this is a great "rest & regroup" area for a party of characters. Every NPC is detailed and named (and unlike other listmembers, I had no problem with the names). Most have some kind of background hook or secret that could lead to further adventures for a party of characters that becomes well acquainted with them.

The second section is a rough overview of the wilderness surrounding the Keep, and a number of encounters a wandering band of PCs could have thereabouts. My main problem with this section is carried over from the original module, and that's the close confines of the "wilderness". Many of the encounters are within a mile and a half of the Keep. Having grown up "in the country", I know from experience that a kid can easily cover a mile and a half just for fun, let alone what a ground a serious hunter or scout could cover. the current scale of the map is 1" = 500 yrds; I think 1" = 1 mile is more realistic.

The encounters are varied in nature and tone. Several are potentially fatal to entire parties, others are exercises in roleplaying (and could result in allies for the PCs). The Shy Tower is particularly...interesting. :-)

Finally, the Caves. They've undergone a number of changes in the 20+ years since the original adventure. I won't go into details, but I do believe the adventure hangs together well. While none (or almost none) of the monsters exist in a vacuum, they aren't particularly inclined to come to each other's aid, either, allowing adventurerers to tackle one cave without involving the rest of them. One of the greatest features of this adventure is Rateliff's detailing of the consequences of a party's actions -- if the creatures of Cave X are wiped out, those of Cave Y move in, splitting their forces and affecting the inhabitants of Cave Z.

This is NOT an adventure the PCs can simply walk into and expect to walk out of. Numerous opportunities exist for the death of one or more party members, but none are unreasonable, and nearly all are avoidable with foresight, planning, and quick reactions. The deadliest encounters are mostly confined to one area, allowing PCs the opportunity to run away.

More later...

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