The World of Ark

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Keep on the Borderlands: In New Places

the Caves of Chaos

Who hasn't played in the "The Keep on the Borderlands" module eh? Well, I'm sure some haven't; but now you may!

I've always loved the simplicity of this module; and while I've mentioned it in a previous article, I really think it deserves even more attention now. It is designed to show a group of players (DM included) just how to run a Dungeon Crawl in a simple manner: a) a base of operations to rest, trade and gain allies, b) a wilderness to explore that can be changed at the DMs desire to always present adventure, and c) a dungeon to explore and conquer!

The Caves of Chaos contained in The Keep on the Borderlands module aren't a complex series of death dealing trap filled warrens; but instead offer a chaotic patchwork of humanoids to combat and defeat in a slow systematic way that allows player and Dungeon Master (DM) alike to take it slow and easy without too much pressure. The humanoids are just enough at each other's throats that they won't immediately seek aid from the others nearby to repel the party, but cohesive enough that they present as primarily non-hostile to each other and thus easy to explain their proximity to each other.

Now, if you are already playing in a game (like most are) it becomes a little harder to place Ye Ol' Caves in your own game...but I'm here to help! It doesn't matter where the campaign is taking place, the Keep on the Borderlands is easy to set up and run with!

Are you playing in The Forgotten Realms? The Castellan of the Keep becomes perhaps an official of Cormyr, the Keep becoming Castle Krag.

Are you playing in Greyhawk? The Keep has already been placed there "officially" but you can still put it where you like. Me, I placed it originally north of Celene and south of Verbobonc in the Kron Hills. In my "Glittering Isles of Greyhawk" campaign though, the place will be in the High Freeholds south of the Gnome Vale of Bellor.

Are you playing in Harn (a favorite of mine!)? Well, the Keep can become the Keep of Getha in the Kingdom of Kaldor; with the Castellan becoming the Baron of Getha instead. A special note here: the various humanoids simply become mercenary Gargun, all females become males, and ignore the children of the humanoids all together. The other monsters are simple translations then. An additional Note: if you plan to use the Keep in Harn, remember to change the map a bit of the Keep itself. Round towers are not common at all within Harn, only the Dwarves have mastered that technique of building. Replace the round towers with square towers and you are all done. That is unless you want the place to have been built by a Dwarven Engineer? Me, I replaced all but one tower with square towers, making only the tower near the bank round...and its inhabitant being a Dwarf who remains on as chief engineer to the Baron. A small twist, but something to add flavor.

Are you playing in Mystara? The Keep on the Borderlands easily fits in the north of Karameikos; but can just as easily be placed in North-East Darokin too. I prefer north of Selenica so that it is still near at hand to Karameikos, my favorite realm there.

No matter the world you decide to venture into, the Keep on the Borderlands is something you should seriously consider if you are new to the Fantasy Role-Playing game experience. It doesn't matter which rules system you are using, the material is what matters; not the crunch. Numbers can be replaced easily enough; but when you are pressed for ideas or want to try something that is tried and supported highly by the gaming populace, you won't regret using this material.

I usually just post ideas here, but I would LOVE a discussion with anyone willing to share where and how they have used this awesome material!


  1. I've always felt in GH it should be in the north. Most of the Flanaess was the Kingdom of Aerdy at one time or another so the northern marches which is present day Iuz, Bandit Kingdoms, Nomad land would be the borderlands. The keep thus could be on the fringe of many nations, thats what makes the classic module so good.

    1. If it were in Tenha it would fit nicely for sure. It could even work in Ratik. I have seen it worked well in Bissel in one game I played in. The Keep was to the west skirting the mountains there, worked really well.