OD&D/Basic The Keep on the Borderlands

Tchklinxa's picture
July 14, 2020 - 11:01am

Getting ready to play D&D again old school.

B2 The Keep on the Borderland

Working on The Keep


Human Feudal Kingdom, all inhabitents of Keep at start Human.

Surrounding Environment:

Tamarack Trees specifically mentioned indicating a Colder Northern N. American type climate (Canada, Great Lakes and some US East Coast States). Tamaracks near "fen" which is a very specific type of peat bog environment... research on Tamarcks indicate they like edges of swamps/bogs. More on plants latter but these N. American bogs often include carnivourous plants and poisonous plants. Also orchids.

Fauna listed in B2

Humans (outlaws and crazy people) in wilderness.

Lizardmen: All genders, young and eggs.

Black Widow Spiders: Big Spiders need big eats.

Mountain Lion: Another North American creature.

Magpie "talking": A N. American but also European bird that can learn mimic speach.

Based on the above creatures, my research on Tamarack trees, "Tamarack swamps", I believe real life fuana should include... Bears most likely Black, Moose, deer, racoons and other N. American creatures found in swamps, rivers, and forests of the colder climate indicated. From here fantasy creatures can be determined as well. In addition plant life can be expanded to include some really fun and dangerous real and fantasy plants.

Caves: Typical Cave Community that requires access to Upperworld for food and supplies.


Kobolds: These are the old school yipping small dog-men/lizard kobolds. Both genders and young.

Giant Rats

Orcs: These are the pig colored (not green), pig-men Orcs. All genders and young.

Goblins. All genders and young

Hobgoblins: Again all genders and young.


Owl Bear

Gray Ooze

Bugbear: All ages and genders



Fire Beetles

Gnoll: All ages and both genders.

Human Undead: Zombies & Skeltons



Captured Civilized Folks: 7 Humans both genders, 1 dwarf, 2 elves.

Humans: Chaotic Evil Clergy and friends.

Fauna from published world maps:

Frost Giants: A very optional and problamtic critter. Both Mysteria and World of Grey Hawk place the Keep in Frost Giant Territoy. The problem with that is the Keep is completely unprepared to deal with Frost Giants, many folks have moved it as a result... I am inclinded to think it is on the edge of their territory in a transitional zone and the Humans simply have not encountered Giants yet to know they are in Jutland if using those settings. The Keep was originally never written to be in either settings so it is really DMs call.

I am mostly doing this to get a feel for the enivironment the Keep was imagined to be in and around for descriptive purposes. In addition I am trying to get props ready for play.

I have located several paper mini printouts I can use to start putting the critters together. I also have some plastic and lead figurines in need of touch up painting or repair. I will be pulling them out. 

Notes on the Keep

Keeps official standing Men at Arms tunic color blue.

Military Personel of Keep: 232 if I did my math correct. Might be higher. Includes officers. 30 are Calvarey men. 1 Captain of Watch, 1 Captain of Guard, 1 Sergent of Guard, 3 Corpral (may be a couple more), 1 Baliff, everyone else is a Men at Arms or the Castellan's personal guard.

Castellan: 1

Advisor: 1

Scribes/Clerks: 6

Lackeys: 10

Clergy/Clerics: 1 Curate, 1 Priest, 5 acolytes = 7

Families (probably do support jobs for Keep): 5 such families = 10 adults at least plus kids of various ages, can include adult children as well.

Paid Private Guards: 7

Jewel Merchant: 1 + 1 wife= 2

Smithy: 1 smith, 2 assistants = 3

Provesioner: 1, 1 wife and 2 kids = 4

Trader: 1 + 2 adult sons = 3

Banker: 1

Innkeeper: 1 + Family probably at least 4 people

Tavern: 1 + wife, son, daughter, serving wench, scullion, and pot boy = 7 + customers: 3-5 = around 12

Gulid: 1

So around 304 people in general.

Transient Population: Farmers, tradesmen, merchants, adventurers/wanders... ?

Animals mentioned:

Guard Dogs: 2

Horses: Draft, 4 light riding, 12 heavy and 18 medium war. 30 War horses.


Based on the above:

There should be a shanty type or very very small peasant village nearby of people who can not afford to stay within the Keep, but do supply needs. Farmers imply farms someplace. Possibly a dock on the river. A mill for flour.








 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

jedion357's picture
July 15, 2020 - 5:08am
Have you see the Dungeon Craft videos? Professor Dungeon Master does a grim dark version of KotB. Its an interesting take.

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
July 15, 2020 - 5:26am
In my opinion what KotB needs is a village on the borderlands - that would effectively support the economy of the keep.

and a river gorge like Au Sable Chasm in up state NY- the chasm has walkways some flat stone and some man made along the waters edge with walls 40-60 high rising above you on both sides its a nice tourist attraction that i visited 3 times as a kid. photographs on the web and google earth DONT do it justice. If I was to reimagine the cave of chaos it would be this chasm.

PC's travel to where the water spills out of the chasm and can begin the hike inside along the rough broken walk way finding cave entrances leading to various inhabitants as per the Caves of Chaos. The lower caves are same as in CoC as they are the weaker creatures but the futher up the chasm you go the tougher the inhabitants. 

PCs are always free to walk around and hike further up land and rope into the chasm to bypass the lower sections of the river. and some caves (maybe the orc caves) have entrances/exits out in the wilderness that the PCs could find one way or another. 

Background: the chasm was a dwarf shrine/ mine. They built the walk ways and bridges dredge areas of the river to facilitate boats/ore barges but some evil befell their operation and now the shrine is polluted and given over to evil. 

The river is polluted here as well and is the cause of the villagers getting sick.

The evil forces in the shrine have designs on the village and the castle. 

Note since this was a dwarf shrine and mine there is obvious motivation for dwarf characters to clear the evil or recover treasures of dwarf cultural heritage from the location. 
Also it just begs for a ore cart roller coaster ride ala indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that could be an option for the PCs to excape a great danger with the end of the roller coaster ride being where the ore carts dumped the ore into a barge. 

EDIT: the path inside the chasm will not be a walk in the park- the walkway can be broken requiring a jump across a gap to continue, a bridge may be colapsed. The PCs might be forced to go back for more equipment- ropes and iron spikes etc. 
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!