Friday, July 20, 2012

B2-T1 Keep of Hommlet: a self-diagnosed T1 obsessor goes off his meds again

Keep THIS!
As mentioned in yesterday's teaser, today we're exploring B2 Keep on the Borderlands and its potential as a link in the Hommlet series.  No, B2 is not based on T1 or the Sample Dungeon or any of that nonsense.  Don't be ridiculous.  But there are some similarities nonetheless.

For some background, a few months ago I posted a deal about some of the more remarkable similarities between T1 Village of Hommlet and the Sample Dungeon in the Dungeon Masters Guide wherein I made the claim that the Sample Dungeon was probably the original dungeon upon which T1 was based.  And though I'd accept that they both were separately crafted from the roots of the same prototype, my money still says that the Sample Dungeon is closer to the original Hommlet campaign than is the published version of T1.

This all started when I was looking around for a sequel to T1 for my current AD&D campaign.  I started eyeballing the Sample Dungeon as a potential source for a T2 Temple of Elemental Evil of my own semi-design.  I liked it initially only for the dungeon's inherent Gygaxian flavor, but as I started reading into it more closely, well, you know the story.

Something similar happened the other night when I started checking out B2 as a potential sequel--T3 if you will--to my semi-homebrewed T2.  Inspired by the stand of tamaracks--a tree unique for being both coniferous and deciduous, and, thus, particularly well suited to cold climates--on the wilderness map of B2.  Obsessive weirdos like me will recall that tamaracks are also present in the vicinities of the moathouse and the Sample Dungeon--indeed, I have it on good authority that the "T "in T1 initially stood for Tamarack. So I thought here's evidence that they're all set in a similar climate, that's a good starting point.  Plus: again with the Gygaxian flavor.

So I'm giving B2 a thorough read-through for probably the first time ever.  In contrast to The V. of H., EGG seems to be going for maximum genericness with the KEEP. NPCs are bereft of names, ability scores, and background of any meaningful sort; these are things that you, the introductory DM, are supposed to come up with on your own.

There is one exception, however: the jovial priest in apartment 7b of the KEEP.  Though he is nameless and statless like the other denizens of the Borderlands, he does have an agenda spelled out.  As you may recall, he is described as being a genial mo' fo', and, along with his two acolytes, would love to help the party on there quest for glory in the ol' Caves.  But don;t turn your back on him for too long because he'll club you senseless at the worst possible moment He's actually "chaotic and evil" and is "in the KEEP to spy and defeat those seeking to gain experience by challenging the monsters in the Caves of Chaos."

So just as in T1 we have evil agents in town who are only too interested in getting in on the party's expedition.  But in contrast to the malevolent traders in Hommlet who project an off-putting aura of d-baggery--only the most desperate of adventuring parties would ever do business with them, much less accept their company into a dungeon--the cleric in the KEEP has a better grasp of tradecraft; he actually has the sense to make himself likeable. Also of note: the dude who hires himself out as a guide in the Sample Dungeon is also up to no good; he's just hoping to steal the Fire Opal with the assistance of the party.

Over at the Caves Of Kaos, there is an imprisoned merchant awaiting his fate--just like the poor merchants in the ogre's pantry in T1--though this time he's to be the entree at a hobgoblin banquet. And just like his compatriots in the moathouse, he too offers a reward for his release, though he's a much more generous chap than the cheap bastards in Lubash's pantry who could only spare meager wad of silver pieces for their saviours. 

Also, there are a couple of fire beetles in adjacent-ish rooms in the minotaur caves, but that's a similarity to the Sample Dungeon, not T1.

And then there's Cave K: The Shrine of Evil Chaos; a cloister of evil clerics and their malevolent little underground chapel in red and black that bears some resemblance to Lareth's malicious little cult. And possibly to the cleric and hobgoblins in the Sample Dungeon as well. Plus, try to convince me that "Shrine of Evil Chaos" is not the Basic-ified version of the phrase "Temple of Elemental Evil"--they're one and the same. 

And again there's the long tunnel to a location off the map near the cleric's quarters, just as in T1--and possibly the Sample Dungeon--though this one is blocked with fallen rubble and is obviously not their personal means of egress.  Though the head cleric's quarters are described as lavishly decorated, much as Lareth's joint is in T1, there are no flaming eyeballs or fire opals or other physical evidence to link this cult to those that inhabited T1 or the Sample Dungeon.  But the place still has the feel of something ominous hiding just barely beneath the surface, awaiting its chance to break out and corrupt and oppress all of humanity.  I wonder what Gygax was reading back in the late 70s that inspired all this cultiness.


grodog said...

Good stuff, Timrod. The similarity of the priest w/acolytes in the Keep to the evil priest with hobgoblins WM from the Sample Dungeon seems, perhaps, worth exploring more?

Any other leads you're planning to follow-up on? Does the length of the collapsed corridor from B2 correspond to the one from the Moathouse dungeon to the one from the Sample Dungeon?


grodog said...

Oh, and what about the levels of Lareth vs. the evil priest from B2?


Timrod said...

B2's escape tunnel is of indeterminate length, though it is suggested that it could, at the DM's discretion, connect to the "Caves of the Unknown" some 600 or 700 yards to the south.

Lareth's tunnel is significantly shorter at 160 yards long, and the existence of such a tunnel in the sample dungeon is purely conjecture. But assuming that it does exist and that it daylights at the clump of upland vegetation some half mile beyond the monastery, that would put it at 800 or 900 yards, closer to the B2 tunnel than the moathouse. Perhaps there's a connection between the Caves of the Unknown and this little islet in the swamp by the monastery?

Timrod said...

That comment got cutoff somehow. I don't mean to imply that the relative length of the potential sample dungeon tunnel makes it more similar to the tunnel in the Cave of Evil Chaos. But the notion that the tunnel in the sample dungeon might be a connection to another, separate labyrinth of tunnels rather than just a means of egress a la Lareth's joint provides an interesting shift in perspective.

I wonder if the Caves of the Unknown were based on anything Gygax may once have developed or if its nominal presence in B2 is the extent of its being.

I'll get to the Lareth/priests connnection a bit later on.

Murph said...

Here's one take on the T1-4/B2 connection. The elemental nodes (T4) run at a much faster temporal pace than Oerth. The temple priests can throw, say, a tribe of humanoids into one the nodes to (a) toughen them up and (b) reproduce quickly from the temporal frame of the outside world. Why negotiate for more armies when you can grow your own?
Having said that, it is not practical to throw all of ones troops into the elemental nodes. Since the temple (Iuz) is not planning an imminent assault on the heartland, he needs other staging areas to keep the troops. hence the caves of chaos.
I alter the priest of chaos to be an elemental priest showing off his prowess for the tribes. Are they impressed that he can bring water to an arid canyon? (Get rid of the fen.) The earth priests can dig some impressive caves? Fire is impressive and useful? Air priests can... I don't know how they could be of practical, everyday use to the denizens.
Likewise, the jovial priest at the keep could be advising, say, the construction of a better well system. I placed the keep on a seacliff. They act as lighthouse and guard the coast from foreign raiders (some slipped through). They are working on an industrial elevator system to more easily access docks below. The priest is the engineering consultant. Air/water can help control the weather and seas; fire/earth can help with the heavy construction.
Think of the political ramifications when someone claims that the priest who has been helping you this last year is an evil spy working to overthrow your country. No, the Temple of Elemental (fill in the blank) is good!