Keep on the Borderlands - Table of Contents


The Dungeon Master's guide and Monster Manual provide the information necessary to understand this game and start play. This module is another tool. It is a scenario or setting which will help you to understand the fine art of being a Dungeon Master as you introduce your group of players to your own fantasy world, your interpretation of the many worlds of DUNGEONS and DRAGONS.

THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS is simply offered for your use as a way to move smoothly and rapidly into your own special continuing adventures or campaigns.

Read the module thoroughly; you will notice that many of the details are left in your hands. This allows you to personalize the scenario, and suit it to what you and your players will find most enjoyable.

This module has been designed to allow 3 to 7 player characters of first level to play out many adventures, gradually working up to fifth level in the process. The group is assumed to have at least one magic-user and one cleric In It. If you have fewer than six players, be sure to arrange for them to get both advice and help in the KEEP. For example, they should have advice from a friendly individual to “stay near the beginning of the ravine area, and enter the lower caves first”, to avoid their getting into immediate trouble with higher level monsters. Likewise, the services of several men-at-arms* must be available to smaller parties, If only two or three player characters are to adventure, be sure to have a non-player character or two go along, as well as a few men-at-arms. In addition, give the player characters a magic dagger or some magic arrows and at least one potion of healing - family bequests to aid them in finding their fame and fortune when they go against Chaos.

The DM should be careful to give the player characters a reasonable chance to survive. If your players tend to be rash and unthinking, it might be better to allow them to have a few men-at-arms accompany them even if the party is large, and they don’t attempt to hire such mercenaries. Hopefully, they will quickly learn that the monsters here will work together and attack intelligently, if able. If this lesson is not learned, all that can be done is to allow the chips to fall where they may. Dead characters cannot be brought back to life here!

Using the KEEP as “home base”, your players should be able to have quite a number of adventures (playing sessions) before they have exhausted all the possibilities of the Caves of Chaos map. Assuming that they have played well, their player characters will certainly have advanced a level or two in experience when the last minion of darkness falls before their might. While your players will have advanced in their understanding and ability, you will likewise have increased your skills as DM. In fact, before they have finished all the adventure areas of this module, it is likely that you will have begun to add your own separate maps to the setting. The KEEP is only a small section of the world. You must build the towns and terrain which surround it. You must shape the societies, create the kingdoms, and populate the countryside with men and monsters. The KEEP is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Within its walls your players will find what is basically a small village with a social order, and will meet opponents of a sort. Outside lies the way to the Caves of Chaos where monsters abound. As you build the campaign setting, you can use this module as a guide. Humankind and its allies have established strongholds - whether fortresses or organized countries - where the players’ characters will base themselves, interact with the society, and occasionally encounter foes of one sort or another. Surrounding these strongholds are lands which may be hostile to the bold adventurers. Perhaps there are areas of wilderness filled with dangerous creatures, or maybe the neighboring area is a land where chaos and evil rule (for wilderness adventures, see DUNGEONS & DRAGONS@ EXPERT SET). There are natural obstacles to consider, such as mountains, marshes, deserts, and seas. There can also be magical barriers, protections, and portals. Anything you can imagine could be part of your world if you so desire. The challenge to your imagination is to make a world which will bring the ultimate in fabulous and fantastic adventure to your players. A world which they may believe in.

Become familiar with this module, then make whatever additions or changes you feel are necessary for your campaign. Once you are satisfied, gather the players together and have them create their characters. This will take some time, so at first, don’t plan on getting much playing done unless there is a lot of time available. After each person has rolled the numbers for his or her characteristics (Strength, Intelligence, etc.), selected a class, and found how much money they has to begin, you should introduce them to the setting by reading the Background section to them. If you wish, feel free to limit the classes your players may choose as suits your setting. You might wish not to have elves or halflings in the KEEP, or you might not want any thieves as beginning characters. It is all up to you as DM to decide the shape of the campaign. Likewise, you can opt to give the player characters a special item of equipment to begin with - possibly mules, a weapon, some trade goods, or virtually anything of small value (within reason).

After you have explained the background, allow your players to begin interacting with their characters. Give them time to wander around the KEEP, learning what is there, finding the limits of their freedom, and meeting the other “inhabitants” of the place. They may quickly establish their base in the Traveler’s Inn, purchase their equipment, and then visit the tavern - where they may gather bits of information for their coming adventures. All of this play, as well as what will come afterwards, requires that the players play the personae (personalities) of the characters that they will have throughout the length of the campaign, much like an actor plays a role in a play.

You, however, have a far greater challenge and obligation! You not only must order and create the world, you must also play the part of each and every creature that the player characters encounter. You must be gate soldier and merchant, innkeeper and Orc (MM pg246) oracle and madman as the situation dictates. The role of DM is all-powerful, but it also makes many demands. It is difficult to properly play the village idiot at one moment and the wise man the next, the noble clergyman on one hand and the vile monster on the other. In one role you must be cooperative, in the next uncaring and non-commital, then foolish, then clever, and so on. Be prepared! Whether the first time you play or the next, the players will set forth to find and explore the many Caves of Chaos. You must describe the journey to the place and what the characters see, and allow them to choose how they will go about their adventuring. In such situations, the DM must be a truly disinterested party, giving information as required by questioning and proper action, but neither helping nor hindering the player characters. When the players experience their first encounter with a monster, you must be ready to play the part fully. If the monster is basically unintelligent, you must have it act accordingly. Make the encounter exciting with the proper dramatics of the animal sort - including noises! If the encounter is with an intelligent monster, it is up to the DM to not only provide an exciting description but also to correctly act the part of the monster. Rats, for instance, will swarm chitteringly from their burrows - a wave of liceridden hunger seeking to overrun the adventurers with sheer numbers, but easily driven off squealing with blows and fire. Goblin (MM pg166)s, on the other hand, will skulk and hide in order to ambush and trap the party - fleeing from more powerful foes, but always ready to set a new snare for the unwary character. If all of this seems too difficult, never fear! Just as your players are learning and gaining experience at D&D@ play, so too will you be improving your ability as a DM. The work necessary to become a master at the art is great, far greater than that necessary to be a top player, but the rewards are even greater. You will bring untold enjoyment to many players in your role as DM, and all the while you will have the opportunity to exercise your imagination and creative ability to the fullest. May each of your dungeon adventure episodes always be a wondrous experience!


The use of this module first requires that the DM be familiar with its contents. Therefore, the first step is to completely read through the module, referring to the maps provided to learn the locations of the various features. A second (and third!) reading will be helpful in learning the nature of the monsters, their methods of attack and defense, and the treasures soldiered. Certain buildings of the KEEP will frequently be visited by the adventurers (such as the Travelers Inn, Tavern, and Provisioner). Floor plans are very useful in visualizing these areas. Once you are familiar with the areas described in the module and have drawn whatever additional plans you wish, assist the players in preparing their characters by reading them the section entitled Background. This will set the stage for the game. After the background is given, the players may prepare their characters. Full details are given in the D&D Player's Handbook. A written record of each character should be kept by the players. As an alternative to rolling up new characters, the players may (at the DM’s option) select characters from the NPC* list in this module. Note that the personalities given are for the DM’s use with NPC’s only, and are not required to be used by the players. Before the Players enter the KEEP, the DM may privately give each Player one rumor about the CAVES OF CHAOS. This information may be shared or kept secret, as the players wish. The DM should avoid interfering with their choices whatever the result. Additional information may be gathered in the KEEP itself; use the Rumors Table in the “DM Notes About the Keep” for this purpose, or create your own based on the CAVES. To start an adventure outside the KEEP, the players must decide on an order of march - who will be in the first rank, middle, and at the rear of the party. This should be drawn on a sheet of paper and given to the DM for his or her reference. Any changes in the order (due to injuries, special procedures, etc.) should be noted on the sheet as they occur. In a standard 10’ wide corridor, the most common arrangement is two adventurers, side by side, in each rank. One player in the group should be selected as leader and ‘caller’ for the party; another one or two should take care of necessary mapping. INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS MAY DECIDE ON THEIR ACTIONS, but it is the ‘caller’ who gives the DM the details on the party’s course of action (such as “We’ll head down the eastern corridor.“). The caller should discuss the party’s actions with the players, and inform the DM of the decisions of the group. When a player speaks and indicates that an action is being taken, it has begun - even if the player changes his mind. Use your discretion in these cases, and remember that the DM has the final say in all matters. The players should use graph paper to map the areas being explored. Have them indicate which direction is north, and use compass directions to describe details and direction of travel (“We’ll go west and turn north at the next intersection”). Use the same method to describe areas to them (“You see a corridor which goes about 30’ south and then turns west”). Be sure to keep your descriptions accurate, though you may say such things as ‘about forty feet’, especially in open areas or when describing irregular surfaces. Players will often show you their map and ask “IS this right?” Do not correct their mistakes unless the error would be obvious in the eyes of the adventurers, and remember that, in most cases, maps do not have to be exact. Encourage good mapping skills and an attention to detail, and avoid falling into a rut of continually answering map questions. Exploration of the CAVES OF CHAOS will take more than one game session. When the players want to stop play, they must find an exit and (preferably) return to the KEEP. You may divide treasure and award experience when this occurs. Remember to make adjustments to the areas they visited - the monsters may build new defenses, reoccupy areas that were cleaned out, and so forth. If the adventurers wish to stop exploring for a while and take a rest period (for example, the customary 8 hours rest each night), they should tell the DM exactly where they plan to stay and who is standing soldier. Just as with marching order, it is important that the soldier and sleeping positions be noted on paper, since this may be crucial if and when a monster approaches. During play, make careful notes on the monsters killed, the amount of treasure taken, experience gained, and any other details of interest. It is then a simple matter to compute the totals at the end of a play session. See the section of this module entitled “DIVIDING TREASURE AND COMPUTING EXPERIENCE” for more information.

To begin the first session with a group read or share the BACKGROUND with your players. The BACKGROUND will help your players understand their role in the world and aid in character creation.

START (DM Note: Have each player identify his or her character's name and profession. Have them answer in their own words why they seek entrance to the place. If the answer sounds unnatural, assume the role of the corporal of the watch, and begin to cross-examine the speaker. Now is the time to make the players realize that whatever they say - as speech or relating their actions - will be noted by you, as Dungeon Master, and acted upon accordingly in whatever role is appropriate to the situation. A courteous and full reply might well win a friend amongst the soldiers who might be of aid sometime. Rudeness and discourtesy may, bring suspicion and enemies to trouble the course of things within the otherwise safe base area. When you are satisfied that the scene is played out, have the group enter.)