Arcane Game Lore

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The Caves of Chaos – A 5E review




I am currently inducting two new recruits in the world of role-playing. They are twelve and ten years old and they are my sons. When they started expressing interested in playing a role-playing game, I had to decide what I wanted to run them through. Playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was the easy choice. It is not my favorite setting, but it was the first Role-Playing Game (RPG) I played, and it is simple enough for younger players to grasp. I have a large selection of old D&D modules and choosing a module to run them through was a little more difficult. I was tempted to run them through the current content of D&D 5th Edition, but ultimately decided to run them through the most mass produced adventure for D&D.

The Keep on the Borderlands

The Keep on the Borderlands was originally printed in 1979 and included in the D&D basic set and exemplifies your standard dungeon crawl. I vaguely remember going through the adventure as a kid, but aside from the phrase ‘BREE-YARK’, it was rather unremarkable. We just went through and slaughtered everything and counted loot. The keep that the adventure is named after is equally bland and even a merchant and wife you save in the caves are nameless. The adventure also doesn’t explain why all of these goblinoids are living together in these caves, but I think it is understood that it is some sort of loose alliance. The entire adventure is generic enough to drop into any campaign with little work. The keep was eventually added to the world of Mystara and a sequel ‘Return to Keep on the Borderlands’ that was retconned into the world of Greyhawk.

The adventure itself was easily incorporated in our 5th edition game, which the boys decided would be Forgotten Realms. This was easy for me cause I have a cornucopia of Forgotten Reams products from 2nd edition. I ended up placing the keep on the edge of Cormyr near Thunderway. The group was hired by the local War Wizard to investigate rumors goblinoids marshaling in the mountain area. The adventurers didn’t really need a reason, so they were off slaying goblins, kobolds, a Minotaur, etc. If you overlook the fact that, at any point, the goblinoids can marshal, overrun, and kill the players, you find that the game play is relatively smooth. I used the justification that the other goblinoids actually wanted to see each other killed, so they would not come to the aid of another. The monsters are so well known, I found all of them in the 5th edition Monster Manual. This allowed me to do very little work to stat the creatures. None of the encounters were overpowering to the players although there were some close calls where they learned that running is sometimes the better part of valor. The one thing that was not to my liking, was the experience gained from the adventure. The group of 5 players made 4th level by the end of the adventure and I was hoping for no more that 3rd level, preferably 2nd. This is partially my fault for not being terribly familiar with the experience levels or the creatures, but I still found it to be an acceptable outcome.

Other than that, I found that the adventure was very easily adapted into 5th edition, and my boys have one of the early D&D modules under their belt. They already have adventures seeds for the┬áThe Forge of Fury and The Fighter’s Challenge and they have to decide what they want to do next.

Additional Information.
The Keep on the Borderlands
Return to the Keep on the Borderlands

Categorised as: General


  1. dagorym says:

    I wonder if the extra levels gained are a result of the different XP scales between the two editions. When my boys started playing 5e I overheard the son running the game say “You’ve reached 300XP so now you’re level two”. My first thought was “What? That’s awfully fast.” Even if you used the creatures’ XP values from 5e, the numbers of opponents were geared around the higher (1000-2000) XP requirements needed in the older games and so may have been giving out a little bit too much XP.

  2. neoproxy says:

    Probably, I haven’t analyzed the XP levels, but the first 3 levels seem low (0, 300, 900). And then fourth level is 2700 which is a large jump. In third edition it was basically level X 1000 xp to get to the next level. At 20th level it cost 190,000, but in 5th it costs 355,000 so I think they try to get you ramped up quickly to survivability, then level off.

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