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Mike Carr (1) (1951–)

Forfatter af Robbers and Robots (Endless Quest, No 9)

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Image credit: Randy Stewart, 2007

Værker af Mike Carr

Associated Works

Advanced Dungeon & Dragons Monster Manual (1977) — Forord, nogle udgaver1,027 eksemplarer
Endless Quest Books (1983) — Bidragyder — 1 eksemplar

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B1: In Search of the Unknown is one of the early introductory adventures for the Dungeons & Dragons game. It is also something of a failed experiment in module design. And it is also randomly wacky and bizarre to the point that it is almost nonsensical.

The basic form of the adventure is simple. Rogahn, a powerful warrior, and Zelligar, a mighty wizard, built a fabled hidden stronghold to live in. They later journeyed into the barbarian lands and apparently were killed or simply disappeared. The PCs, having acquired a map that reportedly shows the location of their now presumably abandoned stronghold, are to break in searching for treasure. No motivation for this act of larceny is provided - presumably the lure of potential treasure should be enough to spur the PCs into action. Of course, the text of the adventure is careful to point out that while Rogahn and Zelligar apparently spent much of their time secluded in their mountain hideaway, emerging only to defeat barbarian hordes (and presumably other threats) earning them the gratitude of (and rewards from) wealthy merchants, they were bad guys in some undefined way, so stealing their stuff is probably okay. There's no real way for the PCs to find out that Rogahn and Zelligar are supposed to have been bad guys, so that is kind of moot.

The stronghold itself is a two-level underground complex with a bizarre layout. The complex is full of traps, teleporting rooms, magical single use pools of water, twisty passages, dead end corridors, secret doors, and of course, living quarters. One wonders why, in a place where someone presumably intends to live, the inhabitants would litter their living space with confusing architecture and deadly traps. Doubly perplexing is the fact that such apparently defensive measures are in the complex situated further away from the entrance than the living areas. Apparently the architect thought it would be a good idea to confuse and endanger intruders after they got finished ransacking the places where the actual inhabitants were supposed to be living.

Chock full of pit traps, portcullis traps, teleportation traps, magic rocks, magic pools of water, one-way secret doors, winding passageways, oddly shaped rooms (presumably so each level can fill up an entire square piece of graph paper), and other bizarre and randomly placed hazards, the layout presented simply makes no sense except as a location to adventure. Only the most halfhearted effort is made to give the impression that the complex is a dwelling that has decayed from neglect into a den of adventure. To make it make any sense, one must assume that Rogahn and Zelligar intended for adventurers to wander about their abandoned home from the start.

But this level of randomness is only the beginning. The "innovation" of this adventure module (which never caught on, for pretty apparent reasons) is that neither the monsters nor treasures are placed in locations. Instead, a roster of potential encounters and potential rewards is given for the DM to use to fill out this element of the adventure. In the end, this merely adds one more entirely random element to the adventure, and since the various monsters and treasures have to be capable of being placed almost anywhere in the complex, lends a somewhat generic feel to the result while also contributing the "open a door, find a random monster" effect that seems to have cropped up in a lot of dungeons made during this time frame.

One can see the idea behind letting the individual DM place the monsters and treasure - as this was intended as an introductory module, having the DM place encounters and rewards in a pregenerated location is sort of a halfway step to a DM designing his own adventures. Unfortunately, the example provided in In Search of the Unknown is so poorly laid out that I think this would prove to be more of a hindrance than a help on the path to becoming an effective scenario designer.

As usual with many of the early TSR adventures, the booklet also incorporates some DM advice, a number of pregenerated characters to use as PCs (for those who don't want to bother making up their own) or NPCs to serve as hirelings or retainers. The book also has tips for players, although they are positioned at the back of the book where it is probably unlikely they would see them. As was common in many adventures in this period, there is a table of rumors for the players, which range from the useless (the name of the complex is Quasqueton) to the mildly interesting (the complex has two levels). Several false rumors are also given, many of which, if true, would probably have made the adventure more interesting.

In the end, this was an interesting experiment that failed due to poor execution. As with B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, an experienced DM could probably transform the framework given in the module into something interesting and fun, but a new DM will probably end up with his players' wondering why they ended up in a complex designed by an insane person.
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StormRaven | Apr 28, 2009 |

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