B1 – In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr

B1 – In Search of the Unknown is one of my top 10 modules to run as a DM. This is the module that I use every single time I DM with an entirely new group of players for the sole purpose to learn how they will play with one another in critical moments, combat scenarios, solvng puzzles, and overcoming other nefarious obstacles. Most important of all though, I use this module because it is by far the simplest one to modify at the merest whim.

I have a 15 module campaign titled Fall from Grace. Within that 15 module campaign, I have inserted many 1st and 2nd edition modules so that the players will have multiple options when it comes to the question on where to go next. If the players go off track, I insert the appropriate module for that area, throw in a few clues as they adventure to get back on track, they earn experience points, find a few minor magical items, and continue on.

So here we go:

THEME: The theme of the module is very simple. Two powerful NPC’s, a fighter and a magic-user constructed a small stronghold on top of a hill. The stronghold consisted of the upper floor on top of the hill and the bottom floors inside the rocky hill. Both NPC’s disliked civilization so not much is really known about the pair except through various random rumors of which the players might learn in a bar. In any case, the greatest story of these two NPC’s is that they pooled their resources, defeated a large invading barbarian army from which the grateful people rewarded them with great amounts of treasure not to include the spoils from their victory over the invading horde. After this great battle, the two best friends retired and used that wealth they obtained to continue work on their stronghold. Well, it did not last long because the two friends decided to deal the barbarian horde a killing blow, pack all their belongings, and leave the stronghold with the majority, if not all, of their henchmen to this distant land of the enemy to never be seen again. There are rumors of a great battle that ensued and possibly the defeat of the two NPC’s since they were never seen again. Curiosity arose from the abandoned stronghold and the many treasures that may lie within but general fear kept many adventurers at bay in the event the unexpexted return of the great fighter and his best friend, the spell slinging magic user.

Note: As you can see, a very simple theme with some other possibilities for the DM to expound upon if need be. Of course, the DM could also simply just scrap the whole theme and make up something else which is good to go.

THE DUNGEON: A very simple dungeon consisting of two floors within the rocky hill. Since the stronghold has been abandoned for a number of years, the structure on top of the hill is pretty much reduced to nothing. The UPPER LEVEL is completely finished with smooth walls and smooth floors all carved from the rock. This speaks much for the workmanship of the dwarves and gnomes who once worked here (Adventure HOOK for players). The LOWER LEVEL is partially complete with the majority being an unworked cavern system.

B1 is a special module whereas it allowed the DM himself/herself to stock the dungeon with monsters, possible treasure, and other mundane items. This practically forced the DM to read the module, place the appropriate monsters, treasures, items, and therefore made him/her very knowledgeble on what the party will encounter and find. To date, i do not know of any other module that utilized this special format. This is the PRIME module for a NEW DM to practice how to make a decent adventure with all those little nuances like placement of traps, treasure, monsters and special areas.

INTRODUCTION to PLAYERS: After character generation, I had all the players in or near a large village of about 1200 people. As they are there buying common adventuring items and whatnot, they eventually will hear rumors about an abandoned stronghold that has been overrun by horrible monsters guarding great riches. I placed the abandoned stronghold a good two weeks or so away from the village so that the players will have some role-playing experiences along the way with an occassional wandering monster and so on. This also allowed the party to earn some experience points.

NOTE: This is why I love a character backstory because I can use tidbits of information to get one or more players involved and give them some reason to go there. In my most recent game, one of the players is playing a dwarven fighter/cleric and that character was looking for a lost relative who may have possibly been working at this stronghold. Well, the father of that player’s character went insane after finding a large jewel(of unknown origin) and the clue to that jewel was known to that dwarf who is rumored to have worked at that stronghold in the employment of the great fighter and magic user… So with that said and known, the players decided to go there and see if they can help their friend plus maybe find some treasure despite the many dangers rumored.

LENGTH OF MODULE: The module has two floors with a total of 56 rooms and/or areas to explore. Some will take a few minutes while others might take up to 30 to 45 minutes. I have DM’ed this module a good 30 to 40 times in the past 26 years and on average, it took 2 days to go through it completely and that was about 5-6 hours each day. It could be completed quicker depending on how the DM stocked the floors with monsters and whatnot.

This is a simple dungeoncrawl module. There were no NPC’s per se except for what the players may have encountered in the village or on the way to the stronghold therefore saving time.

GAME CONVENTION POSSIBILITIES I have designed many a gaming convention module and B1 would not be appropriate for such an event because of the length of time it would take to complete it. Generally, all tournament modules I have played in or developed were 4 hours in length. However, after reading and looking into it, it is possible that it can be used but scoring would be based on how far the group as a whole completed the adventure, find certain items, kill a set amount of monsters, bypass traps, and so on. It is impossible only in the fact of trying to go through the entire module, for example, the POOL ROOM(the room with many pools) will be a big time killer in a convention.

EXTRAS: I am certain that many of you probably already own this module so I just wanted to mention a few of the extras contained within its pages. As I stated earlier, this module was primarily designed for beginning DM’s and players alike. The last few pages of the module has some interesting ideas such as the use of retaines/npc’s that could accompany the player characters with a small chart to determine randomly their personality. That opens the door to a fledgling DM and give him/her different roles to play if DM’s decide to use NPCS. There will also be 4 pages dedicated to the classes, races, items possessed, spells, names, and stats of these NPCS. The Player Background Sheet I did not use because I had my own campaign and I wanted the players to learn for themselves instead of just giving it to them for free.

I would suggest not using some of the NPC names because they are just lame such as PRESTO the elven magic user, EGGO of the Holy Brotherhood, LEFTO the halfling, and certainly not THE MYSTICAL ONE. LOL

BOXED TEXT: I am a big fan of boxed text. This module does not have boxed text therefore it might be a bit of a task for NEW DM’s. I am a firm believer that if you DM a module with no boxed text, you best read it, reread it again, and take notes otherwise you will read something your not supposed to. I prefer boxed texts because it made it simpler to run the encounter or describe to the players what is in a room. Please TAKE NOTE of my conversion of this module to 3.0/3.5. It is in boxed text. In any event, if you want to DM this module, please read the descriptions of the rooms and their contents beforehand.

MONSTER GENERATION: Monster generation is very simple. There are a few places in the dungeon where it is very obvious on what kind of monster is there, others are not so apparent. The module was designed for player characters of 1-3 levels therefore I used a variety of monsters utilizing the tables contained in the module and I even added some that were not mentioned to ensure no one would have prior knowledge about B1.

For example, inside the SUPPLY ROOM: Room #11, among the contents of this room are a stack of stone blocks 6″ x 6″ x 12″. I told the players after they started to search the room, that on top of the pile of stones blocks is a large block of discolored stone. The block was 6′ x 6′. Unknown to them, i decided to place a dormant GELATINOUS CUBE in this dungeon. It had not eaten in a while so it layed there dormant until contact with warm flesh enabled it to wake up and attck the first player which in this case was the thief. LOL That is the kind of surprises I like to throw at gamers from time to time…;D

TRAPS: There are a few traps in the module. Some are easy to find, others not quite so. One particular trap is extremely deadly in the fact it will require the characters to utilize hacksaws (found in the dungeon) or physical strength to break through. In one particualr case, if the DM was utilizing the BASIC rules for D&D, the author of the module made it plain and clear that if the players tried their Bend Bars/Lift Gates and FAILED, that was their only attempt. If all players failed and they had no hacksaws, the party was doomed to starvation. Rule of thumb, you find tools, take them because you never know when you will need them….LOL

SUMMARY: This is basically a dungeoncrawl and hack and slash module with very little motivation to really go there. I used a player’s backstory to motivate the players to investigating this place and find new information to move the story along. Again, I use this module solely for the purpose of meeting a new gaming group and seeing how they gel as a group. If they are terrible players with personal conflicts, the group comes to an end otherwise those players who are not fitting the bill are asked not to come back. it is a simple but very fun module to play for those who just want to kill monsters and explore an abandoned dungeon. I recommend this module to any FLEDGLING DM and players. Also, this would not be a bad module for younger kids to try and run with assistance of course from someone with more experience under the belt.

8 thoughts on “B1 – In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr

  1. Is there any much big difference between the colorized version and the monochrome 1st edition of this module, do you know? Great review though. I think I learned some DM tips from it.

  2. Thank you for the question and the answer is yes, there are some subtle differences and it is really just in the layout of the module. Overall though, the module has been relatively unchanged as far as content is concerned. Some of the noticeable are the areas to fill in the monsters by the DM hosting the game and the darkness of the maps whereas one is lighter blue and the other is a darker blue.

    Great module for beginner DM’s and beginner players… Enjoy!!!!!

    1. There was no written write up, it was mostly done on the fly, for prep, just take the creatures and find them in 3.5 and swap them. For traps and other things, find something close or replace them with values for 3.5 rules that seems close.

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