31 July 2012

Review: B1-9 In Search of Adventure

There has been a lot of talk about "megadungeons" in the OSR community this past year. From Stonehell, Barrowmaze and Dwimmermount to those many creations that the public never will see, dungeon crawling is often the primary setting for D&D. So it isn't surprising that players want to continuing delving into the deepening mysteries of chthonic chaos. TSR understood this urge and tried to address this desire with, as has been noted before me, modules like B4: The Lost City. But I think that an overlooked gem in this vein is In Search of Adventure(ISOA), which is part clip show and part mega-adventure.

For those that missed it, ISOA was published in what Grognardia would call the Silver Age of role playing (1987). I certainly was not playing much at all by that time, being drawn into the fantasy world of rock and roll (which is like LARPing, but with no dice). However, this publication caught my eye since it seemed to package all of the B-series modules into one cheap package.

And cheap is the operative word. The paper is extremely light weight and easily torn. It is perfect bound, so that it does not lie up particularly well. The maps appear at the end of the manuscript on perforated paper for easy tear up, I mean, out. So the production value is pretty low, at least by my lights. Sure, the manuscript was typeset according to the "modern" standards of TSR in late 80s (i.e. boxed texts, gray background sections, garamond-ish font). I favored the crazier layouts of the late seventies, which used font faces like Souvenir and Futura to great effect.

Note that all nine modules (B1-B9) are not presented in their entirety. Key encounters were extracted from each and presented as isolated nuggets of adventure woven together with a broad adventure flow chart that suggests a few ways a DM can seamlessly move his party from one venue to the next.

Again, the analog of this product to a TV clip show is a close one.

I want to give the talented Jeff Grubb props for making a solid attempt to make the reader forget that all this material is a rehash. His prefatory remarks introduce the land of Karameikos and the major location of Threshold in a way that is more brief that Gazetteer 1 and more detailed than the Expert rulebook. For this alone, I would recommend this product to those who want to run an adventure in Karameikos over the gazetteer.

After the introduction, each module is presented in its own section with enough setup information for the DM to run it. At the end of each module section is a few paragraph that details the fallout of the previous adventure and sets up a connector to the next adventure.

There are a few new illustrations. The manuscript is densely committed to text. Illustrations cost money and cause page bloat. They also really help to set the atmosphere for the players. The cover does present a trio of fierce, warpainted hobgoblins, which is very welcome. That picture alone piques my interest in creating a hobgoblin-centric adventure!

I have never run a party through an entire adventure flow, but I would like to. The adventures in this product (it's not module, is it?) really do help bring Threshold to life and will help to springboard the party into further adventures in Mystara.

Get this module if you really want to explore Threshold and bring it to life.

However, if you are interested in running the individual adventures in a standalone fashion, B1-9 is likely to disappoint.