Monday, February 17, 2020

Subterrane Surveys: Caves of Chaos

This week we're looking at possibly the most-played of all D&D modules, Gary Gygax's Dungeon Module B2: The Keep on The Borderland (1980). Of course, we're not so interested in the Keep as the nearby, humanoid-infested adventure area, the Caves of Chaos. Bear in mind that this was the third adventure-supplement to be included in versions of the Holmes Basic D&D set (previously including the Dungeon Geomorphs, and later Mike Carr's Module B1: In Search of the Unknown). A smart move by Gygax, granted that the Basic D&D set had surprisingly become TSR's top seller (S. Applecline cites an estimate of some 1.5 million copies of module B2 being produced). That said, there is evidence that B2 was originally drafted using OD&D rules for hit dice.

Design: The adventure site here has a markedly different design from Gygax's early Castle Greyhawk or Dungeon Geomorphs mapping style. The map has a lot of negative space (it's not fully-packed with navigable space as are his earlier top-level maps). It has 11 different identified "cave" complexes, each with their own entry point from the central outside ravine. The cave complexes average about 6 keyed areas each (range between 1 and 14). Most are inhabited by a single humanoid type; and most have a secret entrance connecting to one other cave complex.

The stocking in most cases follows a regular pattern; given 6 standard areas, there are usually something like 2 guard rooms, 1 common room, 1 chief's room, and 2 "other" (like a storeroom, banquet area, slave pen, etc.). Usually the chief in each case guards the large treasure cache.

At this point, Gygax seems to have finally abandoned the early ideology that the majority of rooms in a dungeon should be empty of any contents. In fact, none of the 64 keyed entries are entirely empty of contents. Related, he no longer uses duplicated area codes for multiple areas (every space is unique). The vast majority of rooms have monsters in them: 57/64 (89% occupancy rate), very different from his earlier guidelines and dungeons that have only 20% or 33% occupied. (And consider how many more eyes saw this product as exemplary, versus those earlier rules.)


Characters: Under "Notes for the Dungeon Master" on p. 2, Gygax says: "This module has been designed to allow six to nine player characters of first level to play out many adventures, generally working up to second or third level of experience in the process." I think this may mark the first time that, in addition to explicitly stating a standard party size, an adventure also gives an expected progression rate upon completing the module. While 6-9 player characters may seem large by modern standards, consider that it still roughly matches normal convention-game sizes. I'll assume that a group is adventuring with around 8 total PC levels (same as expected for Carr's Module B1).

Monsters: As stated above, most rooms have monsters in them, with 57 total creature encounters in the place. In contrast to earlier adventures (Gygax's Castle Greyhawk, or Mike Carr's B1), the monster numbers here are all fixed specific quantities, not given as ranges. In the table above I've organized statistics for each separate cave complex. Most of the caves have a median encounter strength of 4, 5, or 6 EHD (Equivalent Hit Dice). There are three complexes that have about double that median encounter strength, i.e., 9, 11, or 12 EHD (caves H, J, and K). The module does not identify distinct "levels" to the Caves of Chaos, but we might hypothesize that caves H, J, and K are "2nd level", with the rest all being "1st level". If so, then a group of 8 PCs should generally be able to handle the average threats therein.

But one thing to note is that in many cases the "common area" of a cave complex has a very large number of monsters, presenting an outlier area of possibly extreme danger. For example, the kobold complex (cave A) has a median encounter of EHD 5, but the common chamber (room 6) has 40 adult kobolds all of whom will fight, for a total EHD of 26 by my estimation. Likewise the common rooms for the hobgoblins, bugbears, and gnolls have total EHD of 2 or 3 times the nearby guard rooms; and the evil shrine area has a median EHD of 12 but one area with a veritable army of undead, for a total of EHD 60. Keep in mind that all of these creatures have every reason to spill forth and attack if an alarm is generally raised; and the humanoid common areas would likely have to be entirely filled with bedding from wall to wall to house the indicated numbers. Possibly if PCs fight smart and bottle up the numbers with an organized front line in the narrow passages, then these encounters would be more manageable than the raw numbers indicate.

What about wandering monsters? The text of the module never explicitly says. On the one hand, there is a tear-out rules summary sheet in the center that duplicates the wandering monster lists for levels 1, 2, and 3 (originally as per the Holmes published text, the tables therein created by Gygax; in a later edition the Moldvay B/X tables were inserted instead). We might use the 1st/2nd level classification I suggested above. If so, Gygax's tables in Holmes have an average EHD of 4 at 1st level, and 8 at 2nd level; so they would be only slightly less strong than the set encounter areas. But on the other hand, two of the caves are noted with specific roving guard groups who attack intruders who make a commotion (goblins in cave D, zombies in cave K), so the expectation for wandering monsters is not entirely clear.

Compared to the previous module B1, module B2 is much more densely packed with monsters. B1 had an average EHD of 4 throughout (both levels), and an occupancy rate of only about 32%. In contrast, B2 has median encounters of between 5 and 12 (depending on cave complex), some very highly-populated monster lairs, and an occupancy rate of 89%. In total, B1 will have about 72 EHD of monsters, while B2 has 464 EHD, over 6 times the monster threat. As I've stated before, you can adventure in B1 quite successfully with around 4 total PC levels, but you shouldn't dare try that same thing in B2.

Treasures: Almost all of the areas with monsters also have some kind of treasure; specifically, 49/57 (86% ratio). Gygax is clearly customizing treasures, i.e., not using the book rules, because coin values come in odd values to the units-place, like 76, 139, and 157 (not round 10's, 100's, or 1000's in the various book tables). Moreover, almost every single humanoid is given a small amount of personal treasure, like 1d6 or 2d6 copper, silver, or gold coins. Frankly, this was one of the more frustrating things about analyzing this module, as it took quite a bit of calculator-work on my part to compute expected coinage from all these die-rolls in these scores of areas. In some sense you can understand the gesture of "Gygaxian naturalism" to have many scattered odd-amounts of personal coins, but in many cases the total value is negligible (like 2, 5, or 10gp total in an area), and I think it may detract from the game to have to roll, sum, and document these many weird small numbers.

Note that in OD&D Vol-2, men (and only men) are given this kind of small individual treasure, per the footnote to Treasure Type A (p. 23). In later rules Gygax expanded this to many different types of monsters; the first debut of the idea was when he struck out the old Treasure Types table in the Holmes Basic D&D draft and replaced it with an extended table with various small individual types -- even though none of the monsters in that work used them (see here). This same table was expanded a bit more, and more comprehensively used, in the AD&D Monster Manual. B2 represents the first adventure where this is generally utilized throughout.

In almost every case the chief of a cave complex has a large, significant treasure hidden someplace in their room. I suppose we might argue about whether the small-personal coinage everywhere else should even be counted as a true treasure, but I have done so in the ratio above. Total treasure in the place adds up to 28,657 gp, about 8 times the amount in Greyhawk level 1 or both levels of B1 combined. While that's a much larger total haul of treasure, it's about 60 gp per monster EHD, still very close to the ratio we saw in both of those earlier works (but less than the Gygax-edited Dungeon of Zenopus with a ratio of 100, to say nothing of Holmes' hyper-inflated draft valuation of 500 gp per EHD).

Magic: In addition to every chief having a large treasure, they almost always one or two magic items, as well. (The evil shrine has an even larger proportion of magic.) There are 13 treasures with one or more magic items out of 49 total treasures (27% rate). This is very similar to the ratio in Mike Carr's B1, but less than the earlier Holmes or Greyhawk dungeons (which had rates around 50%).

Experience: As usual I'll ignore wandering monsters (of which there is some ambiguity, above) for this purpose. If we use the Greyhawk-style revised XP awards that appears in Holmes Basic D&D, then total XP from all monsters adds up to about 5,500, and treasures add up to 29,000 or so, for a grand total of about 34,500. The monster: treasure ratio is about 1:5 (16% to 84%). The total is indeed a bit more than enough to promote 8 fighters from 1st to 3rd level, as asserted in the introductory material to the module (see "Characters" above).

Compare to using the Original D&D Vol-1 XP awards where we give a higher, flat 100 XP per EHD. Then, given the incredibly large number of monsters herein, we get 46,400 XP from monsters, added to the 29,000 for treasure, for a total of 75,400 XP. This would be a monster: treasure ratio of about 3:2 (62% to 38%), and the total would actually be enough to promote 8 1st level fighters to 4th level, exceeding the expectation on the 2nd page.The overall lesson is that compared to earlier dungeons, the Caves of Chaos are much more densely packed with content; almost every room is veritably bursting with monsters and oodles of treasure.

45 comments:

  1. I think it is good to aim to a higher target level when design a dungeon because (in my experience) players don't clear the dungeon 100%. So most players will not reach 4th level maybe they reach 2nd or 3rd levels.

    On a side note, I always found B2 weird but maybe it is because I'm a modern player (started D&D 3.5 era). The caves are too densely packed for my taste, I cannot see that amount of people who hates each other living so close together. The caves ravine would be war zone and a trench.

    I very much prefer U1 for a beginner adventure.

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    1. I suspect that some sort of enchantment prevents the various factions of chaos from wiping each other out. It's probably centered in the shrine of evil chaos.

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    2. You're not alone in feeling B2 is way too packed. T1 only has about 50% occupancy (7 in 17 keys upper level, 10 in 18 keys lower level), for comparison to another Gygax beginner module, though T1 does have random encounters.

      For another perspective, cave A has about 71 10'x10' squares and contains 40 kobolds and 18 giant rats, so each creature gets about 122 sq.ft. (roughly 11'x11') on average. T1 has about 111 10'x10' squares for its upper level alone (not in the mood to count out the lower level), and the following rosters:

      (upper level)
      6 frogs
      1 huge spider
      9 brigands
      1 giant snake
      13 giant rats
      1 giant tick
      1 giant lizard
      (lower level)
      1 green slime
      12 zombies
      1 ogre
      6 bugbears
      9 gnolls
      1 giant crayfish
      4 ghouls
      18 guardsmen
      3 sergeants
      1 lieutenant
      1 Lareth

      Space per creature is 347 sq.ft. each (upper level only). In fact, putting both populations on the upper level only gives 124 sq.ft. each, still slightly roomier than cave A in B2!

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    3. All the creatures are beholden to the "big bosses" in the temple area, but they still have rivalries (and brushfire conflicts).

      Re XP/treasure stocking, I always operate at the assumption that a party will fail to clear 100% of available loot, but I set loot at the EXACT number needed to advance in level. Why? Two reasons: A) difference can be made up with XP bonuses from prime requisites and B) I don't want to award levels to average PR characters for anything less than exemplary (i.e. "perfect") play.

      Besides, there's always another adventure.
      ; )

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    4. Agreed that: (a) the caves are overstuffed with monsters (great analysis, Ash, thanks for that!), and (b) having more treasure than needed to go up is a good thing (I'd be comfortable with a multiple like double or triple or more, even... clear part of the level and leave stuff behind for later adventurers).

      I'm kind of a bit mystified why Gygax made such a serious about-face compared to prior stocking/occupancy habits. Maybe this was just his idiom for humanoid lairs, and it all got squashed into a smaller space than usual. Maybe he's got difference between campaign vs. one-off games, and this is an example of the latter.

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    5. The warzone effect is also there for clever players to abuse. Intimidate or bribe one tribe to work with you against their enemies, to make it easier to get to their treasure, and then turn around and finish off whatever's left of your "allies".

      A lot of pre-2e modules had these sorts of 'use the module against the module' elements. Take the 'Against the Giants' series, for example; assaulting most of those directly is a recipe for a TPK, but most of them have unhappy slaves just ready to be lead in an uprising.

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    6. All good points.

      One thing I would totally do if I would run B2 is to set the caves further apart so that each entrance would be at least like a hundred or so feet apart. The lairs themselves could be packed and small but at least the orcs cannot complain about noisy neighbors.

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    7. Early modules are written to DM fill the gaps with your own logic and consistence. Much better than 100 pages carved in stone.

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    8. I'm so down with that. (And really worked to make my written stuff more minimalist over time.)

      The sample 3 dungeon rooms in the 1E AD&D DMG are actually a really bad model for verbosity in this regard.

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    9. B2 is densely packed, but in my opinion it's a barracks kinda situation. All told per a count I did there were 334 combatants at the Caves of Chaos.

      As far as them living together--My rationale was that the evil cleric's blood magic drew them, that they were rejects and overpopulation from monster tribes further out in the wilds, and they did NOT get along. From my campaign notes:

      "Generally speaking the various tribes do not support each other, with the exception of the orcs who realize the benefits of cooperation--at least the leaders do. Per the humanoid racial preferences table (P.106 DMG), the following relationships are in play:

      Orc Tribes cooperate with each other, Tolerate the Goblins at D, has Goodwill toward the Ogre, is Neutral to the Hobgoblins at F, Dislikes the Bugbears at H and is Neutral to the Gnolls at J...(and so on in that vein)"

      My conclusion was that given the way the tribes live in desultory tension, and their aversion to being out in daylight, the PCs could deal with the tribes in detail, provided they made no blatant and open challenge to the whole complex.

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    10. Nice! The issue of the light is important (and I scale up the effects to greater severity in my house rules.) Important to only go in the day; and the inverse of my "sack the keep" wargame where the monsters must attack at night to have a chance at escalading.

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  2. Precisely because the Caves of Chaos are so packed with monsters, it really wouldn't make sense to use wandering monsters. What would happen, for instance, to some berserkers wandering through the hobgoblins' cave? The hobgoblins would immediately fight them. In every room the berserkers entered, they'd encounter a fight. Wandering monsters make sense only when there are a lot of empty rooms.

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    1. That's a pretty good interpretation. That would make a lot of sense to play that way. (Maybe given some sensory checks for nearby guards to keep time-pressure on.)

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  3. @ Delta:

    Thanks for the write-up. It confirms my own experiences with B2...specifically that it is extremely tough for groups that are too few in number (and even an 8-man group will be slaughtered in the right/wrong circumstances). Those kobolds are pretty deadly.

    I suppose, though, that this is appropriate: your small band of intrepid adventurers is attempting to assault a dug in fortress of monsters...the slightest misstep can rain dozens (if not hundreds) of hostiles down on your heads. Smart play is essential...unless you're bringing enough mercenaries to lay siege to the caverns (and absorb the consequent casualties).

    However, I'm not sure that makes for a good introductory adventure.

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    1. Thanks for saying that!

      I think I agree. The likely play style in the caves creates some bad/cartoonish habits as an introductory adventure (i.e., the novice DM is likely to hand-wave how close monsters should support each other).

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    2. I ran it that what the Caves was, was a mini society of humanoids drawn by the blood magic call of the evil cleric--and they have their affinities and antipathies to keep them from cooperating. The party was also pretty cagey about running away and not pressing their luck.

      I also ran it that the monsters lived as my understanding of lots of monsters, not liking the sunlight and posting their security INSIDE their lair entrances, rather than outside. So, it could be possible that a tribe would be slaughtered and another tribe wouldn't know for a while. My B2's evil cleric was up top doing blood magic and generally not really leading so much as communing with evil and sending out the vibe to try and draw more monsters.

      So there's all kinds of rationalizing that can be brought to play...

      I agree about the Kobolds. Interestingly, the party I ran through it never found the Kobold cave entrance, and the Kobolds bagged out once they saw that the jig was up, heading off map for new hunting grounds.

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    3. I like that emphasis on daylight as a reason tribes won't support other tribes in most fights. However, my point above was cringing at a novice DM not having two adjacent rooms within the same tribe supporting each other, say.

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    4. Oh I missed that and totally agree Delta. I followed the advice from Gygax on P. 104-105 of the 1e DMG on Monsters and Organization, and I made a battle plan for each of the tribes. For example this is what I wrote up for the Gnolls:

      The entrance to the gnoll den is a small natural cave, into the back of which is carved a worked tunnel. Because of the recent intrusions into the Caves of Chaos by the adventurers, these gnolls have increased their vigilance. Unless magical means are resorted to, the guards within the upper chamber will not be taken by surprise. Two ferocious wolves are posted within the cave entrance and will set up a growling at the first whiff of intruders. The pack will respond as follows:

      Round 1: Six gnolls will set defense at position * (just inside the entrance to the first 30x30 room, room 46). The three in the front rank will fight with battle axe and shield, the three in the second rank will fight with spear. A seventh gnoll will run to rooms 47 and 49 to alert the rest of the den, then to room 50 to warn the pack leader.

      Round 3: Five gnolls from room 47 will finish their preparations for battle and begin moving to room 46.

      Round 5: The seventeen gnolls in room 49 will begin moving to room 46. The five gnolls from room 47 will arrive at room 46 and join in the defense.

      ...

      Round 12: The gnoll leader and five gnolls will arrive at room 46 to either join in the defense or flee back into the den if all seems lost. The gnoll leader's sons will set a watch at * (close to the leader's chamber) and will return to room 50 to spike the door and attempt escape up the chimney if adventurers approach.

      By doing this beforehand, I was able to avoid slowing down the action, and portray what I thought was a realistic response to a forcible entry on the players' parts. Preparation is key in my opinion.

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    5. Oh, that's great, love that advance prep. Major kudos!

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  4. I've always had a love/hate relationship with B2's Caves of Chaos. The layout with its multiple entrances, hidden connections between caves, diversity of caverns vs. worked rooms, etc. is lovely. I like the idea of having several factions instead of just one dungeon population unified against the PCs. I like that it includes brief notes on tactics and strategy without burying the DM in worthless minutia for every keyed room (as, say, The Sunless Citadel tended to do). I like that it showed more variety in encounter difficulty, including stuff that the players probably wouldn't be able to fight head on (certainly not without losses, at least).

    On the other hand, I dislike that the Caves were a monster menagerie with no space to breathe. I dislike the copious magic items, to the point where things that would later be called wondrous items were being used for mundane tasks (e.g. the rope of climbing that's just used to hold a sack shut in cave C). I dislike the trend of concentrating treasure hoards with the cave leaders since it goads players to push on to offset sunk costs instead of tempting their greed.

    Overall, I think the high difficulty of trying to just fight your way through it helps to encourage creative thinking and to keep it from during into a pure combat slog. I prefer to do that with more room variety than constant chambers of 6-10 not-humans, but as long as the monsters don't just sit around waiting for the PCs to show up in each room, B2's approach is also fun. I'd say it's better than B1, so regardless of the commercial factors at play within TSR, changing to B2 as the module in the Basic boxed sets was a good move.

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    1. Great observations, I'd be very inclined to agree with all of that. It's probably more readable than B1 with its much shorter descriptions. But the sheer density of monsters almost forces a novice DM into cartoonishly ignoring how monsters that close would cooperate to defend each other (within a cave).

      The one thing I'll highlight is the magic rate of about 25% is actually down from Holmes/Greyhawk of 50%. I'm actually coming around to 25% being a pretty sweet spot (also matches most of the Monster & Treasure Assortment). However, in the context of treasure being overstuffed in every room, you're right in total this may produce what looks like too much.

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    2. Yes, even if only for sheer volume of text, B2 was much easier to read on the spot. You're right that a novice DM would likely overlook having monsters cooperate. B2 was something I came to in later years rather than something I started with, so I probably overlook how much that could skew the experience.

      While I'm not as extreme about it as some people, I prefer rare magic items that are each special to a steady trickle of mathemagical equipment upgrades, so pretty much any TSR module is going to make me complain about too much magic :). Consumables like potions or wands don't bother me as long as they have few enough uses for players to think about it (part of why I absolutely HATE the self-recharging items in 5E), but I think permanent equipment should never just affect math. T1's moathouse is one of the few dungeons where I like the magic item quantity (though I prefer to throw out Lareth's phylactery of action), though that module still has far too much magic in the village for my tastes.

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    3. I can see that motivation, even if I may lean towards slightly higher magic propensities than that these days. Partly I'm correcting from my recent campaign where I clearly set them too low (following the Vol-3 table of 5% chance per level 1 encounter). The party was clearly magic-starved and I started kicking myself for not using all these interesting whazoos available in the game.

      I'll also say that on the DM's side of screen, I actually really like flat bonus items that can be compiled into NPC stat blocks and not think about them too much (incl. computer-generated stat blocks for stock bandit groups and the like).

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    4. If you treat Caves of Chaos as a living situation, it works well. Situation, Move, Countermove, and so on. In my run of it, the Main Cleric is gathering up these rejects from monster tribes (that's my rationale) to stage an attack on the Keep. They don't get along. But when one of the tribes gets slaughtered, they shape right up and start organizing--a bit late however, which reflects a weakness of Chaos, right?

      Anyway, my point is that running any module as written ends up being weird. What happens when a party decides to bag out for a week after cleaning out the Goblins? These sorts of DM decisions between sessions really forks out the possible outcomes and brings it all to life.

      For example, in my run of it, the evil cleric started raising the dead monsters, and posting them as guards. Just stuff like that.

      As far as the magic items, I tried to have the monsters use them, but yes agree, Gygax wrote a Monty Hall dungeon. It's entirely up to the DM to modulate that. It's not hard to strip magic items from PCs or change the items.

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  5. I like to run B2 as a micro-sandbox of sorts. In fact I just ran it that way again over the weekend. Take a 5-mile hex, divide into 0.2-mile hexes as per Judges Guild, put The Keep in the center and sprinkle the monster lairs around. Mix in the existing B2 wilderness encounters and anything else you feel like. (Of course you need to adjust the lairs a little and you lose some of the "secret" connections between lairs. But for many of those you can find "alternate" approaches. Also note that 625 hexes versus roughly 15 encounter areas makes for a somewhat tedious search unless you give out hints to the players.)

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    1. I like to put the Keep on the eastern edge of David Bezio's "The Phoenix Barony", in the Gloomwood right above the Goblin River.

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    2. That's nice! Sounds like it's a halfway common approach to split up the caves into more distant separate lairs. I'm thinking that may be a better approximation for what Gygax's Castle Greyhawk idiom looked like in the first place, as a megadungeon underworld with lots of empty spaces.

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  6. I think it's important to remember that Gygax whipped up B2 after he had already written the G series. Each of the Caves of Chaos is a mini-stronghold, requiring a special-ops style of play, as opposed to the dungeon exploration of old.

    While some complain about the density of the caves, I think it works in the context of an orc vs. goblinoid standoff. All of the humanoids are held in a state of uneasy truce, by the power of the Shrine.

    I had a great time running B2 using the Holmes rules. That same group went on to eventually tackle the giants, and the lessons learned in B2 served them in good stead.

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    1. Great point -- the model is indeed very similar to the G1-3 structure.

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  7. Since there are a few threads talking about splitting up the caves, a general reply: my point of concern with that is losing the tight, interconnected map. Nothing wrong with the approach if you want a bunch of small, self-contained, mostly linear caves, and you could do a lot worse than grabbing a B2 cave for a random monster lair in a wilderness encounter, but I feel like that approach takes away much of what's special to me about B2. The way the adventure goes changes a lot based on which caves the party explores and whether they find the secret doors. I doubt any two groups took the exact same approach, and the experience at the table plays out differently based on that. I also love that the caves have several factions that don't get along naturally and can't necessarily rely on each other. If the orcs decide to stop anyone from giving aid when the PCs make a ruckus wirh the kobolds because of a great reaction roll and then move into cave A before the party's next excursion, that's very different from the orcs not helping because they're 500 feet away.

    Again, nothing wrong with spacing out the caves; just giving my thoughts on what you lose by doing so. If you want a bunch of small dungeons, go for it.

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    1. That's a very strong point.

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    2. How about just increasing the scale of the maps...doubling or tripling the distance (and giving the denizens a little more elbow room). You can also expand the scale of the wilderness, so it's not just an afternoon walk from the keep to Monster Central.
      ; )

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    3. Certainly. Taking the map as 20x20 squares instead of 10x10 is easy enough to add space without losing the benefits of B2's map. I was replying to the idea in a few comments above about spreading the caves out as separate places.

      I never minded the caves being about 2 miles from the keep. It feels close enough to not bog down players with logistics but far enough that neither settlement could mobilize in large numbers without the other having a chance to see it and respond. Come to think of it, now you've got me wondering which should win in a direct clash between them.

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    4. I've actually played this out as a Book of War game previously. A full-on monster rush of the Keep at night is a fairly even match.

      https://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2012/07/siege-on-borderlands.html

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    5. Okay, I take that back... I'm reminded that I boosted the monster numbers by a factor of ×6. So I guess the Keep is pretty safe given the standard situation.

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    6. Which, of course, is why the Caves have agents in the Keep, trying to undermine its defenses.

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    7. Ah, great to see you thought of that already! Did you try the reverse scenario (keep's forces attacking the caves)? I'm not sure how much weighting your Book of War gives for fortifications and terrain, but the monsters also have a pretty strong choke point if the keep's forces are forced to approach through the valley. You'd have to give the humanoids more ranged weapons, of course, and needing 6x numbers to threaten the keep doesn't make it sound promising for them to hold in any case.

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    8. JB: Nice. :-)

      Ash: Good question, I haven't played out the reverse. Of course, I kind of _hope_ the caves can hold off an attack like that (and thus a small group of foolhardy freebooters are required to make headway).

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  8. By the way...great discussion on Wandering DMs Sunday...sorry I missed the livecast.

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    1. Thanks for saying that! We planned it last-minute, but that said I really enjoyed the chance to dig into the XP issue. :-D

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  9. I ran B2 for my family a couple of years ago. Like I do, I did some rather deep analysis of the module to satisfy my several curiosities.

    Gygax was being quite generous with treasure in B2--obviously the DM and the Players interact to determine how hard that treasure is to get. "Never give a sucker an even break," Gygax says. There is over 206,000 GP of treasure value in all of B2.

    When I took stock of the creatures and rolled for treasure my dice rolls only yielded just shy of 39,000 GP value for all of the monster lairs, and then it's hard to figure for the shrine of evil chaos but suffice to say, "Those who survive will be rich!" as the DMG comment on how to run the spell Augury says. There's some odd treasure in there, for example the amulets that the zombies wear in the shrine--useless to characters but of GREAT INTEREST to the Curate, who rewarded them with a writ of credit for church services in return for handing over a bag of amulets that the church then could either destroy or hold onto against the greatest of evil days.

    My family's characters, splitting the EXP between five PCs, plus one NPC and two of henchmen, ended the journey at just having made 4th level, most of them.

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    1. Clarification: 206,000GP of treasure value according to AD&D 1st edition DMG magic item values. I converted B2 to run in an AD&D campaign.

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    2. Thanks for that clarification, just what I was about to ask. :-)

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  10. An interesting things about monster XP that I happened to notice in the BECMI Rules Cyclopedia:

    "When the characters achieve a major goal, award them experience equal to the XP Value of monsters defeated in reaching that goal."

    It's dressed up as some kind of story award, but essentially what I'm reading this as a delayed doubling of all printed monster values as long as you don't give up completely and try to find a different/easier cave or dungeon. Not as high as an immediate 100 XP per HD, but significant nonetheless.

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    1. Interesting! I must have read that at some point but didn't recall it.

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