Combining the Best of Old and New School

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been running a first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game for my son and his friends. Scheduling issues for 6 people, four of whom are kids, has been a bit difficult, so we haven’t played as often as we’d like. We’re working on establishing a regular routine, though, so things should smooth out over the summer.

For the first adventure, I wanted to showcase one of the most famous adventure modules ever written for D&D. Yes, I’m using B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. This adventure was packaged with Tom Moldvay’s “Basic D&D” boxed set in 1981, and it was the first adventure ever played by a whole generation of gamers.

However, while B2 is a classic, it’s not perfect. Many people have found that the adventure tends to be pretty deadly and completely unforgiving of mistakes by new players. The tight cluster of beginner dungeons with much deadlier areas means that going in the wrong cave entrance can result in a complete wipe out of a whole party.

In addition, as the adventure proceeds, it can become a bit of a grind. By the time the players are ready to tackle the evil cultists, they may have already lost interest in the caves and moved on to other adventures.

So when I selected B2, I knew I wanted to make some changes, but I also didn’t want to put in a ton of work on this campaign. One of the reasons I chose AD&D as the game to run was that I know it really well and I would be able to run it with a minimum of prep, especially as I don’t get that much free time and I try to spend most of that writing my novels!

That’s where a more modern adventure came to my rescue.

Rescue at Rivenroar (Wizards of the Coast has made a free PDF of the adventure available for download here) was an adventure published in issue #156 of Dungeon Magazine for D&D 4E. In that adventure, a bunch of goblinoids attack a town, steal a bunch of treasured historical items, and kidnap some villagers. The PCs are hired to go rescue the townspeople and retrieve the items.

I think this is a great adventure, and it worked wonderfully when I ran it using D&D 4E. But one of the elements that I didn’t want to push in the kids’ first adventure was a time limit. So I removed the kidnapped villagers and left in the recovery of the historical items. But I also kept the background of the Rescue at Rivenroar adventure—a powerful hobgoblin named Sinruth is trying to build a new hobgoblin army and the raid on the town was just the first step.

So now I had a starting premise and some background for the villains. In my campaign, the goblinoids raided the town, the PCs helped fight them off, and then the town council hired them to track the remaining goblinoids back to their lair and recover the stolen items.

But now, returning to B2, I decided that the module might work better if it was spread out a bit. So instead of having all those lairs within shouting distance of each other, I decided that the hills in that area were riddled with ancient—and abandoned—Dwarven ruins that are now inhabited by these goblinoids. As various tunnels have collapsed or been damaged over time, it has created separate clusters of rooms that could be used as individual lairs.

So I started off in B2 with the cluster of dungeons D, E, and F. Dungeon D is a series of rooms filled with goblins, Dungeon E is just one large room with an ogre, and Dungeon F is filled with hobgoblins. Further on in the hills, I placed Dungeons B and C, which is the main orc lair. Dungon H—the bugbear lair—is in another location in the hills. And Dungeon K is where the main hobgoblin Sinruth and the evil cult that he serves resides, and this is located deep among the hills and is the hardest one to find.

The historical items stolen from the town have been separated out and given to the various tribes of evil humanoids, so that the PCs will need to visit each dungeon in order to recover all the treasures. This will most likely lead them into a final confrontation with Sinruth and the evil cult.

And among the treasure in the final dungeon, the players will find links to a local evil druid who lives in the area (thus giving them a hook to The Sunless Citadel adventure that was published for D&D third edition). Further, since I’ve placed the Temple of Elemental Evil in the region and there is starting to be activity around there, the PCs will find some evidence among the treasure in the final dungeon that the evil cult is also allied to a greater evil temple somewhere in the area. This way, I’m foreshadowing the eventual activity the elemental temples will take, and it gives the players a sense that there’s something bigger going on out there.

So the first adventure is a combination of module B2 (Basic D&D) with Rescue at Rivenroar (D&D 4E) leading to ties with the Temple of Elemental Evil (AD&D 1E) and a hook relating to The Sunless Citadel (D&D 3E).

There are so many good adventures available for the Dungeons & Dragons game, from every edition since the beginning right up until the most recent, that a DM has an immense amount of resources he or she can use to put together the ideal campaign for his or her players.

In this case, the first adventure in my campaign is a great combination of both old and new school, and the kids are having a blast.

Have you used adventures from earlier or later editions in your D&D campaigns? Did you hack them apart and combine elements from different adventures into a new creation? Did you use them whole-cloth and just convert the monster and treasure stats? Tell us about it in the comments.

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