B1- In Search of the Unknown

This was the first pre-written adventure that I ever ran. It was back in around ’90, and making a special guest appearance were some older kids I knew, who also roleplayed, but with whom I’d never played. We used AD&D 1st Ed, because one of my friends’ parents had played 10 or so years before and pooled all their books in one place, so we had access to pretty much the complete 1st Ed library. We also had access to the core 2nd Ed books, but they seemed too complex, without any benefit, so we didn’t use them.

We played, I think, on a Sunday afternoon after Sunday School, though it may possibly have been a Saturday morning after Cricket. I’m hazy on the specifics, but those were the occasions I DMed. We otherwise used to “play” advanced Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf solo adventures at lunchtimes, with a Basic D&D game that someone else ran on Friday afternoons as a “clubs” thing. I’m a bit mystified as to how it worked out that way, but it did.

I actually don’t remember many details about what happened, or the layout of the dungeon. I couldn’t even swear as to which players were there exactly, from the ill-formed kind of nebula of potential gamers I knew at the time.

What I do remember, even as the DM, was a sense of unpredictable adventure at that stage it was totally unclear to me how the game would unfold, what exactly would happen. The unknowns were very much unknown, as the concept of preparing in advance had occurred to me only in the loosest sense: I was very much exploring the dungeon alongside the players.

Actually, more profoundly, I wasn’t even sure what the possibilities were. Not merely whether they’d win a fight, or whether there would be 6 goblins or only 2. The actual events that might happen, the things that might be found – I just had no idea. Anything, anything at all, seemed entirely possible if not actually, in fact, likely. Very likely.

In some ways, I think that’s probably the most important thing about fantasy gaming. It’s not really swords, or monsters, or Wizards, or Ancient Treasurers, or Pirates, or any of those very important and interesting thing. It’s the search for the unknown, for the undiscovered, for that boundless sense of impossible wonder and delight. An impossible wonder and delight, it might be wistfully added, which was never quite as marvellous to experience as we remember, and as ephemeral as a mayfly, but nevertheless, this is the idea at the heart of the whole fantastic enterprise. Every time I sit down at the table to be a hero again, I want to save the world, of course I do – but more importantly, I want to be awed and astonished; and inspired.

In some senses, the whole exercise now is truly as well as literally chasing the dragon – the ultimate symbol of imaginative power.

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4 Responses to B1- In Search of the Unknown

  1. drbunnyhops says:

    I played for several years in a runequest game where we used to roll for the GM at the start of each session and any time the GM flagged. The storylines swooped through time and space and parallel dimensions, but somehow maintained an overall arc with recurring villains who grew more awesome as we did, and a holy book called the Chronicles of Nigel. We were epic. In the endgame we ascended to demigodhood.

    We played another similar game afterwards that was also awesome, but I was never as passionate about Dilithium the Dwarf, as I was about Ultrazoid the Nebuliser, the mightiest centaur ever to hail from Derek’s Island and the most inconvenient character ever to be lowered over a cliff or wedged in a tunnel!

  2. mr_orgue says:

    Curiously enough, B1 is the only published RPG adventure I can think of that really gets at this core: “It’s the search for the unknown, for the undiscovered, for that boundless sense of impossible wonder and delight.”

    I wasn’t at all fond of this as a kid. It was the first RPG I ever played, and I loved that experience, but when I had my own copy not long after I was never moved to GM it except heavily, heavily modified. I rediscovered it recently and ran it at Kapcon a few years ago. It was a revelation.

    Which is a longwinded way of saying: nice post. And nice way to start.

    • B1 was my introduction to RPGing as we bought it along with the rulebook.. To my young brain the set up made a lot of sense though I am still not sure why. I remember looking it more than any other module (I don’t think I ever played B2 until much later).

  3. Exploration is one of the most important aspects of old school D&D which has been lost to the more recent editions and modern RPGing. It’s actually harder to recreate that feeling as it is also part of how old school D&D was set up with it’s location based story set ups with wide open spaces. These things are considered not that important today when up against the likes of setting consistency, drama, conflict and character. It’s a shame.

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