The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

All You Need To Know About B1

The module B1 has a special place in my heart; I received it along with the Basic Set for my 11th birthday. Because I have so many wonderful memories of it, I feel great pain in telling you that B1 isn’t worth the paper its printed on.

B1 was originally promoted as a special introductory module; early editions of the Basic Set shipped with B1 before B2 (The Keep on the Borderlands) became the standard. But not only is B1 not a good module, it is an atrocious introduction.

B1 had the stock-your-own “feature”, which is another way of saying it isn’t really a module at all. B1 is basically a map and some rough notes – no monsters, no boxed text and definitely no useful hints for a beginning DM (there are a couple of pages with advice for DMs, but the topics covered aren’t even on the radar for most novice DMs).

Worst of all, it doesn’t even succeed at being an annotated map. The map is absolutely chaotic and seems completely impractical and unbelievable as a “home and stronghold” for a pair of adventurers.

The entire main floor is basically one huge attempt to screw over the party’s mapper. Every trick you can imagine to mess up a mapper are in here: one way doors, curvy hallways, identical rooms, teleportation traps, magical disorientation, spiral hallways, door mazes . . . did I mention this complex was built to be someone’s home?

I am sure someone will argue that all the absurdity on the main floor was Rogahn and Zelligar’s (the characters from the background information who originally built the complex) way of keeping unwanted guests out. But how can you seriously believe these two wanted to keep people out of their house when they didn’t put a door on the place? Why have all these traps and tricks buried deep in the complex while the entrance hallway has nothing other than alcoves that laugh at people?

So if your players are insane, the most determined group in the world or (as was the case for my group many years ago) if you don’t have any other adventures to play, then maybe, at some point, they’ll see the lower level. The notes state that the lower level was unfinished; I am not sure if this was an in game statement or the author’s own dilemma. The lower level consists of rough caverns which are so simple, they might have been drawn in a matter of minutes.

So to sum up, the upper level map is a meta game mind f–k, the lower level is simple beyond belief, the module has no monsters, no boxed text, a misplaced backstory, and the DM’s introduction sections are of limited usefulness.

If you are a collector or have a sentimental attachment to this module, then it can be worthwhile to own, but if you are looking for some old school action get any other B series module module before this one. Conversely if you want to learn to DM using the Basic game, get the red box set and run the intro adventure in the Dungeons Masters Guide.

See my other B-Series reviews.


September 17, 2010 - Posted by | B-Series, Dungeons and Dragons, Review, RPGs | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. B3 and B4 got a lot of rotation in my day, as well as the A series for “the advanced game”. I think some of the old adventures were not necessarily user friendly, particularly if you were more on the younger side like I was. I still find some of the modules confusing when I leaf through them. it is funny as it would never fly in today’s climate and market

    Comment by middleagedm | September 18, 2010 | Reply

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