Sunday, April 11, 2021

B2: The Borderlands

Module B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands" includes a section for "Adventures Outside the Keep" together with a map of the surrounding area (cartography is uncredited, but was by David S. LaForce (aka DSL, or "Diesel", who was also responsible for the map of the Keep).

Wilderness Map from module B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands".  Scale: one square = 100 yards.

A few observations regarding the wilderness map:

According to the module "The normal movement rate is 1 square per hour searching, 3 walking.  Walking in the fens is at the rate of 1 square per hour.  Walking is done in the forest at 2 squares per hour."  Since a "league" originally referred to the distance a person could walk in one hour, and an English league is 3 miles, one would expect a scale of one square = 1 mile.

However, since the scale on the map is given as one square = 100 yards, and there are 1760 yards in a mile, the movement rate should probably be increased to 18 squares per hour searching, 54 walking (for an unarmored, unencumbered man).  A fully armored man would be one-third slower, and a fully armored man, heavily loaded, two-thirds slower.*

*see movement outdoors, as given the AD&D 1e Players Handbook, page 102

The height of the contour lines is unclear.*  They indicate 25 foot increments on the map of the Caves of Chaos, which is drawn at a scale of one square = 10 feet.  However, since the scale for the wilderness map is drawn at a scale of one square = 100 yards, the lowest contour line on the wilderness map corresponds to the 100 foot contour line on the map of the Caves of Chaos.

*Random Wizard posted a 3D rendering of the wilderness map

Finally, (and because the question comes up), the river flows from left to right (west to east), as indicated by the smaller tributaries, joining the main flow.

Wilderness Map from module B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands", divided into six sections (each containing at least one point of interest).

The last time I ran module B2, I divided the map into six sections and only handed my players the section containing the Keep.  I then asked them if they wanted to go north into the forest, east along the road, or south across the river.  I added the appropriate section, based on their choice, and continued adding sections from there.

For those of you desiring to approach the wilderness outside the Keep as a hexcrawl, Snorri posted a Borderlands hexmap over at his blog "A Wizard in a Bottle", back in 2010.*  (Also worth checking out are his posts regarding Borderlands cultural anthropology and geography and Borderlands agriculture).

*see also this version of the wilderness map, in Hexographer

Additional Encounters:

You may also wish to expand on the other encounter areas, designing camps, lairs or lost ruins to permit more adventuring.

The Keep on the Borderlands

Dyson Logos expanded the fens to the southeast of the Keep, back in 2018.  He included a map of the interior of the Mound of the Lizard Men, as well as some new areas.

He also expanded the encounter with the Mad Hermit, back in 2014, including a map of the hollow tree, as well as some new magic items.

The module makes no mention of wandering monsters, although a table can be drawn up, based on the inhabitants of the Caves of Chaos.

Updated Versions:

The wilderness map was updated in AD&D 2e's "Return to the Keep on the Borderlands" (1999) by John Rateliff, with events taking place twenty years after events in the original module.

Rateliff provides several pages of new encounters, as well as wandering monster tables for the Road, Wood, and Swamp areas.  Some notable new ones include "The Bee Man" and a group of pilgrims (preaching "The Second Coming of the Great Prophet Quonzar").

Goodman Games' OAR#1 "Into the Borderlands" (2018) includes an entire chapter devoted to adventures outside the Keep, which draws upon module B2 as well as Rateliff's adventure.


On a final note, including mention of the weather is a great way to add some realism to the wilderness.  There is a simple but serviceable table in Chainmail:

Table for determining the weather, from Chainmail (pg. 21-22).

For those desiring something more complex, see the article "Weather in the Wilderness" in The Dragon #15 (June, 1978).


  1. I did a hillshade and 3d view of the b2 map a few years ago.

    1. Amazing work - love the shadows, particularly the shadow cast by the keep (at sunset, I presume!)

      I would love to see a fully rendered 3D reconstruction of the wilderness map, that one could wander through.

  2. The shadows are at the standard angle for hillshades, which coincidentally is not an angle that is ever possible in the northern hemisphere; I forget what the exact angle is, but studies have shown that is what most people find most 'natural'. In making a hillshade it is possible to set different angles for the light source but it usually looks kinda weird.

    I guess I could have done a flyby video for the 3d rendering at the time, but I don't think I have the original files anymore because it was just a test to see if the elevation spline worked how I wanted.

    1. Very cool, nevertheless.

      It's a landscape that's burned into our collective consciousness!

  3. I think the outside movement for this was based on the Dungeon Movement, not Wilderness Movement. 100 yards in one hour of searching is equivalent to 300 feet per hour, which is equivalent to typical Dungeon Movement at 60 feet per turn for five turns (resting one turn in six). So Gary was treating the Outdoor Environment of the Keep as a Dungeon, not a Wilderness.

    1. The math certainly checks out, but my gosh, I think it's equally plausible that Gary originally planned for the scale on the wilderness map to be 1 mile per square, and just never changed the movement rate in the text.

      From experience having played out the wilderness exploration phase of B2, it's much more fun for the players to be able to cover a lot of ground.

      Otherwise, they're going to be camping within sight of the Keep, which is something both inadvisable and unnecessary...