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B1-9: In Search of Adventure by Stephanie…
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B1-9: In Search of Adventure is a supermodule that is supposed to be a compilation of the first nine modules in the “B” series: B1: In Search of the Unknown, B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, B3: Palace of the Silver Princess, B4: The Lost City, B5: Horror on the Hill, B6: The Veiled Society, B7: Rahasia, B8: Journey to the Rock, and B9: Castle Caldwell and Beyond. The adventures are presented for use with the Dungeons & Dragons rule set. No matter their original location, all the adventures are moved by this compilation to the Grand Duchy of Krameikos in the Mystara campaign setting, although that doesn’t particularly affect the adventures. Although TSR produced several excellent supermodules, this is not one of them. The adventures that make up the supermodule weren’t intended for use as a coherent whole. As a result, while some effort is made to link these adventures together, the result is a confusing mess.

Calling this a compilation of the B-series modules is something of a stretch. Although the book claims to encompass B1 through B9, many of the adventures have been cut down, some to the point of being almost unrecognizable. In Search of the Unknown is particularly truncated: even though it is referenced in the text as a possible adventure location, the only element from the B1 module that is provided is the maps. None of the text of the actual B1 adventure is included (which makes the maps somewhat less than useful). The Lost City is also seriously trimmed, with the entire Lost City itself excised from the adventure leaving only the pyramid portion of the adventure intact (robbing the adventure of what made it interesting). Other modules were cut to a lesser extent. The number of choices for getting to the ultimate goal in Journey to the Rock is reduced from three to one, making the adventure a single track railroad. The Keep in The Keep on the Borderlands is removed, as is the outdoor portion of the adventure leaving only the bland dungeon populated by masses of homogenous humanoids. The outdoor portion of Horror on the Hill is also excised (leaving no actual “Hill” in the adventure) also leaving a dungeon populated by a fairly bland collection of opponents. Finally, Castle Caldwell and Beyond is chopped up, with one section dropped and the remaining sections spread throughout the presented adventure paths.

The overall structure of the supermodule consists of three separate “paths” of adventure, each consisting of three to four adventures and linking “interludes”. With one exception (Palace of the Silver Princess, which can be dropped into any of the three paths at the DM’s option), the three paths are more or less mutually exclusive. The PCs can, if they wish return to their starting point (the town of Threshold) and pick up the hooks for one of the other adventure paths, but there are no other ways provided to link the adventures within the paths to those in the other paths. This is not a particular surprise, however, as the adventures within each path are only loosely linked together as it is. There is, for example, little reason given for Journey to the Rock to follow Castle Caldwell, or for Horror on the Hill to follow The Keep on the Borderlands.

One of the weaknesses of this collection is that all of the adventures were originally intended to low-level beginning characters. As a result, it is quite possible (even likely) that by the time the characters have worked their way through the first or second adventure on a particular path, they will have accumulated enough experience that the remaining adventures on that path will simply be too easy, requiring the DM to increase the opposition to provide a challenge for the players. This, of course, obviates much of the reason for using a pre-published series of adventures which is a considerable weakness for the collection.

Even with all of these structural problems, the collection could be saved if it consisted of a group of strong adventures. Unfortunately, the B series of adventures chosen for this collection are very uneven in quality. The adventures drawn from Caldwell’s Castle and Beyond (Caldwell’s Castle, The Great Escape, and Elwyn’s Sanctuary) are particularly weak. Truncated as they are, The Keep on the Borderlands and Horror on the Hill are fairly bland and uninteresting. One major wasted opportunity in this series is that the Keep is not detailed and used as a starting point for the PCs, instead the vaguely described town of Threshold is used. Journey to the Rock is fairly uninteresting as well, and a railroad to boot. The Lost City, lacking the actual lost city, is not particularly noteworthy. This leaves only Palace of the Silver Princess, Rahasia, and The Veiled Society to carry the collection, and while they are all quite good, they can’t do much more than make up for the relatively bland and uninspiring remainder.

The first adventure path starts with Caldwell’s Castle. The PCs are asked to clear monsters out of a castle on behalf of Clifton Caldwell, a hapless merchant who purchased the structure. Unfortunately, the adventure is not very well-designed, being mostly a grab bag of random monsters leading to a lower level in which the monsters exhibit a sort of strange solidarity: even though they have no reason to work together the inhabitants of the lower level of Caldwell’s Castle will not show the PCs the exit even if the alternative is their own death. The password for getting into the lower level is also a horrible pun. The Hall of the Rock is a fairly canalized adventure that is focused on recovering a MacGuffin for an NPC – the text even says that the DM should make life difficult for PCs who have the temerity to stray from the pre-assigned path. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the PCs succeed or fail at their mission, which is moderately annoying. The Great Escape requires that the DM arrange for the PCs to be captured (always a dicey proposition), and for the characters to make their escape. While an interesting premise in theory, the fortress they are held in is occupied by a boringly homogenous collection of mercenaries, with the only element of interest being the various implements the PCs could use as improvised weaponry.

The second path starts with Elwyn’s Sanctuary, a linear adventure in which the PCs wander through a adventure complex that is drawn as though it were a maze, but is really just a single long tunnel. The adventure text makes something of a big deal that the PCs don’t discover the actual gender of Elwyn until late in the adventure, but this doesn’t seem to make any difference to the adventure. The goal is to recover a religious artifact consecrated to a particular Immortal stolen by Elwyn in service of another Immortal. Unfortunately, the adventure doesn’t give the DM anything useful for making this rivalry useful as a larger campaign element, despite the somewhat obvious possibilities. The PCs are then expected to go to the Caves of Chaos and confront the priests of the evil temple who are vaguely supposed to be allied to Elwyn, although the weakness of The Keep on the Borderlands are made apparent as the completely generic nature of the adventure doesn’t provide any traction for this link. Of course, Jeff Grubb (in his capacity as overall designer) doesn’t add anything to make this link particularly strong either. The path then leads to the Hobgoblin King portion of Horror on the Hill, once again with no real link between the adventures.

The third path starts with Rahasia, presented in its complete original form. This is probably the best adventure in the entire collection – presenting the PCs with interesting challenges (like fighting enemies who are possessing the bodies of innocent bystanders), a magical school complete with a confusing teleportation maze, and a well-thought out group of villains. The path then leads to The Lost City, which is odd, since Rahasia takes place in a lush elven forest, and The Lost City is located in the middle of the trackless desert. The interlude following The Lost City even uses something of a deus ex machina to move the PCs from the middle of the desert to the last stop on the adventure path.

The final two adventures appear in all three paths. Palace of the Silver Princess is a drop in adventure that can take place at any point in any adventure path. The PCs are teleported away by an Immortal to deal with the evil that has overtaken the titular palace. When they are transported they are healed, rested, and resupplied by the magic of the Immortal, and the DM is told to use this as a means of rescuing a group of PCs that has gotten in trouble in another adventure (making this literally a deus ex machina). Once again, we are provided with two rival Immortals in the adventure, but their dispute isn’t integrated with the other adventures in the book, despite the obvious possibilities of linking this with the opposing Immortals in Elwyn’s Sanctuary, the unnamed foes of Law in Journey to the Rock, the cabal of witches in Rahasia, or the evil priests in The Caves of Chaos. This is not to mention the variety of other ways that this dispute could be linked to most of the other adventures. A decent DM could draw such links, but once again, the fact that they have not been made as part of the text of the supermodule seems to defeat the purpose of using pre-published materials. The last module, The Veiled Society, is the ultimate adventure in all three of the adventure paths and is a pretty good adventure consisting of intrigue and investigation into the doings of a sinister gang (and the PCs can take either side in the conflict too). Once again, however, there is little that links this adventure with those that occur before it. Although the adventure concerns a plot to gain influence over the Grand Duke of Karameikos and force him to serve the whims of the Veiled Society, the organization doesn’t appear in any previous adventures – despite the fact that as a secret and shadowy organization they would have made a great group of ongoing villains to tie together some of the other parts of the series (and no attempt is made to link the Society with the evil Baron von Hendriks, who pops up a few times as the evil ruler of Black Eagle Barony, and would have served as an excellent overall villain, but is yet one more missed opportunity). Once again, this lack of interaction between the adventures is a glaring weakness in this collection.

This collection might be worth while if one was looking to get one or more of the eight adventures that are included in this supermodule (In Search of the Unknown doesn’t count, as it isn’t really included in this collection), but as a potential adventure path, it is simply too weak to be useful as a whole. Even its usefulness as a method of acquiring the component modules is somewhat limited by the fact that several of the modules are quite simply annoyingly incomplete. The adventures that are included in their entirety are good enough to make this collection into something other than a complete waste of time, but only if there is simply no other way to acquire them. In the end, this supermodule is simply average, bringing little to the table over and above the individual modules themselves, and in some cases, bringing significantly less. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Jun 4, 2009 |
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