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B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)

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Welcome to Christmas in July! In celebration, this digital title has been marked down by up to 40%! For more of Santa's savings, visit our Christmas in July sale page.

This module includes a cover folder with maps and a complete description booklet to form a ready-made scenario for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® Basic Set. It has been specially designed for use by beginning Dungeon Masters so that they may begin play with a minimum of preparations.

Within are many features to aid novice players and Dungeon Masters: legends, history and background information, a list of adventuring characters, tips on how to be an effective Dungeon Master, plus an interesting area for characters to basethemselves in (the Keep) before setting out to explore the Caves of Chaosl

Product History

"B2: The Keep on the Borderlands" (1979), by Gary Gygax, was printed by TSR in December 1979. It was probably TSR's twelfth adventure, and the first one to use a full-color cover, rather than the monochrome covers that had been used for the previous 11 adventures.

Basic Sets. Like its predecessor, "B1: In Search of the Unknown," this adventure was created for use with the first edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977), created by J. Eric Holmes. Once it was printed, "Keep on the Borderlands" immediately replaced "In Search of the Unknown" in the Basic boxed set.

However, "Keep" is much better known as the adventure packaged with the second edition Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981), which was revised and updated by Tom Moldvay. It remained a part of that package throughout its life (1981-1983).

From 1980-1983, Dungeons & Dragons was seeing its most explosive growth, and the Basic Set was the prime entry point to that game. As a result, B2 ended up the most printed D&D module of all time. Much later estimates suggest there might have been 1.5 million copies printed in all, between the two boxed sets and standalone sales.

Introductory Ideas. Like B1, "Keep on the Borderlands" was positioned as an "introductory" module; it provided instructions not just on how to run the campaign contained within, but also on how to run combats and to be an effective GM. However, it varied notably from its predecessor B1 in one area: Where the previous adventure had been a bit of a toolkit - with GMs learning to create dungeons by actually filling in the monsters and treasures - this one was a complete, ready-to-run adventure.

The Caves of Chaos themselves showed off the introductory nature of B2 in another way: They're pretty much a who's who of the humanoids you could meet in Basic D&D, with separate caverns inhabited by kobolds, orcs, goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, and even a minotaur. Gygax later admitted that the result wasn't "ecologically correct," but that wasn't really the point.

Adventuring Tropes. "Keep" is also of historic note because it detailed not just dungeons to explore, like most adventures of the period, but also a home base for the players to use: the eponymous Keep, which spans about 6 pages in the adventure. PCs can interact with the various inhabitants there and thus have plenty of roleplaying opportunity before they ever strike out into the Caves of Chaos.

This would have been a huge innovation for TSR if Gygax hadn't done the same thing just a a few months earlier in "T1: The Village of Hommlet." As it was, these two modules set "home base + nearby adventure point" as a standard adventure design element (though towns would be more frequently used in the future).

There's also a page of wilderness adventuring. Though pretty scant, it was an innovation for the Basic adventures.

Future History. "The Keep on the Borderlands" has been revisited many times, most notably in Wizards of the Coast's Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (1999) for AD&D. In more recent years, the setting made a thematic return as the Chaos Scar, which was spotlighted in D&D Encounters Season 3: Keep on the Borderlands - Season of Serpents (2010-2011) and in Dungeon #171 (October 2009) through Dungeon #197 (December 2011), all for 4e. The adventure may still have a future in D&D too, as it was released as Caves of Chaos at D&D Expo 2012 as a playtest for D&D Next.

About the Creators. Gary Gygax wrote "The Keep on the Borderlands" at the end of his period of greatest adventure productivity, from 1977-1979, shortly after creating "T1: The Village of Hommlet." By this time, actually managing TSR was taking up increasing amounts of his time, which kept Gygax from doing more creative work. He hired Jean Wells and Lawrence Schick to form a Design department in 1979. Going forward, this department would be the main source of TSR's adventures, not Gygax.

About the Product Historian

This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (41)
Discussions (46)
Customer avatar
Michael C April 16, 2023 7:02 am UTC
Ah, TSR back in the days before WotC - miss those days!
Customer avatar
charles B March 10, 2023 2:25 pm UTC
Great p.o.d.
This module, shady dragon, and silver princess
Were my first character 's career before being retired.
Blue and red box! Best D&D version.
Customer avatar
Shane M January 09, 2023 3:02 am UTC
Interesting… this is available as a PoD, but not the basic rules….

Someone needs to be fired!
Customer avatar
Ernie N May 09, 2022 3:22 pm UTC
Please enjoy the 5e Conversion complete with maps I have created for Keep on the Borderlands. Thanks!
Customer avatar
Richard G May 05, 2022 4:14 am UTC
The PDF scan is very poor quality.
Customer avatar
Minrocheem L February 09, 2024 10:32 pm UTC
I'm disappointed I spent money on this. The version I grepped from is so much higher quality and is actually searchable.

The POD is even worse. Everything, save for a few pages, is blurry and unpleasant to read. Huge waste of money.
Customer avatar
Shane P February 18, 2022 12:38 am UTC
My copy looks amazing! Great stuff!
Customer avatar
Iain B September 03, 2021 8:44 pm UTC
Just received my POD. Beautifully put together, with the main map in the original blue shade put in a double-page spread at the back of the book instead of the inside covers, which is much preferred, thank you! Very pleased with the quality.
Customer avatar
Peter B June 11, 2021 10:30 pm UTC
Is there a reason this is yet to be made POD?, plenty demand yet still pdf only
Customer avatar
Paul R July 18, 2021 11:55 pm UTC
Probably because Goodman Games has the rights to sell a physical version of the product.
Customer avatar
Michael K May 20, 2021 8:06 pm UTC
Customer avatar
Iain B April 29, 2021 5:50 pm UTC
PoD please! Why don't you print some of the best classic modules? Crazy.
Customer avatar
Alexander L March 24, 2021 9:28 am UTC
PoD please
Customer avatar
Jeffrey P March 10, 2021 12:57 am UTC
A better quality scan should be made.

The current scan quality is very poor.
Customer avatar
James C February 27, 2021 7:02 am UTC
Customer avatar
Mateusz C February 02, 2021 8:05 pm UTC
Fair warning! It's a scan of an original print - the quality is quite horrible.
Customer avatar
James P December 23, 2020 10:03 pm UTC
PoD option would be great. This is an iconic module.
Customer avatar
Jamey H March 16, 2020 3:55 am UTC
seems like the quality of the pdf is pretty bad, is that why they don't offer POD?
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Product Information
Adamantine seller
Rules Edition(s)
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TSR 9034
File Size:
6.57 MB
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File Last Updated:
August 03, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.