Home » Wizards of the Coast » B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic) » Publisher Hub
Advanced Search >

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)

Selected Option:
Watermarked PDF
Softcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight)
Watermarked PDF + Softcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight)

This module includes a cover folder with maps and a complete description booklet to form a ready-made scenario for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® Basic Set. It has been specially designed for use by beginning Dungeon Masters so that they may begin play with a minimum of preparations.

Within are many features to aid novice players and Dungeon Masters: legends, history and background information, a list of adventuring characters, tips on how to be an effective Dungeon Master, plus an interesting area for characters to basethemselves in (the Keep) before setting out to explore the Caves of Chaosl

Product History

"B2: The Keep on the Borderlands" (1979), by Gary Gygax, was printed by TSR in December 1979. It was probably TSR's twelfth adventure, and the first one to use a full-color cover, rather than the monochrome covers that had been used for the previous 11 adventures.

Basic Sets. Like its predecessor, "B1: In Search of the Unknown," this adventure was created for use with the first edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977), created by J. Eric Holmes. Once it was printed, "Keep on the Borderlands" immediately replaced "In Search of the Unknown" in the Basic boxed set.

However, "Keep" is much better known as the adventure packaged with the second edition Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981), which was revised and updated by Tom Moldvay. It remained a part of that package throughout its life (1981-1983).

From 1980-1983, Dungeons & Dragons was seeing its most explosive growth, and the Basic Set was the prime entry point to that game. As a result, B2 ended up the most printed D&D module of all time. Much later estimates suggest there might have been 1.5 million copies printed in all, between the two boxed sets and standalone sales.

Introductory Ideas. Like B1, "Keep on the Borderlands" was positioned as an "introductory" module; it provided instructions not just on how to run the campaign contained within, but also on how to run combats and to be an effective GM. However, it varied notably from its predecessor B1 in one area: Where the previous adventure had been a bit of a toolkit - with GMs learning to create dungeons by actually filling in the monsters and treasures - this one was a complete, ready-to-run adventure.

The Caves of Chaos themselves showed off the introductory nature of B2 in another way: They're pretty much a who's who of the humanoids you could meet in Basic D&D, with separate caverns inhabited by kobolds, orcs, goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, and even a minotaur. Gygax later admitted that the result wasn't "ecologically correct," but that wasn't really the point.

Adventuring Tropes. "Keep" is also of historic note because it detailed not just dungeons to explore, like most adventures of the period, but also a home base for the players to use: the eponymous Keep, which spans about 6 pages in the adventure. PCs can interact with the various inhabitants there and thus have plenty of roleplaying opportunity before they ever strike out into the Caves of Chaos.

This would have been a huge innovation for TSR if Gygax hadn't done the same thing just a a few months earlier in "T1: The Village of Hommlet." As it was, these two modules set "home base + nearby adventure point" as a standard adventure design element (though towns would be more frequently used in the future).

There's also a page of wilderness adventuring. Though pretty scant, it was an innovation for the Basic adventures.

Future History. "The Keep on the Borderlands" has been revisited many times, most notably in Wizards of the Coast's Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (1999) for AD&D. In more recent years, the setting made a thematic return as the Chaos Scar, which was spotlighted in D&D Encounters Season 3: Keep on the Borderlands - Season of Serpents (2010-2011) and in Dungeon #171 (October 2009) through Dungeon #197 (December 2011), all for 4e. The adventure may still have a future in D&D too, as it was released as Caves of Chaos at D&D Expo 2012 as a playtest for D&D Next.

About the Creators. Gary Gygax wrote "The Keep on the Borderlands" at the end of his period of greatest adventure productivity, from 1977-1979, shortly after creating "T1: The Village of Hommlet." By this time, actually managing TSR was taking up increasing amounts of his time, which kept Gygax from doing more creative work. He hired Jean Wells and Lawrence Schick to form a Design department in 1979. Going forward, this department would be the main source of TSR's adventures, not Gygax.

About the Product Historian

This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

 Customers who bought this title also purchased
Reviews (27)
Discussions (14)
Customer avatar
Michael C March 21, 2018 2:55 pm UTC
This looks to be the Fourth printing, which is great for B/X (Moldvay/Cook+Marsh).

Any chance of including the version of the First or Second printing for Holmes Basic? The B1 PDF now includes both earlier and later version, so there is a precedent for this request.

B1 now
Customer avatar
Michael C March 21, 2018 2:56 pm UTC
Also, please add a Holmes Basic PDF for sale.
Customer avatar
Chad K March 17, 2018 10:09 pm UTC
Have the problems been fixed? Id like a print copy, but I want it to be good quality.
Customer avatar
Julien R January 31, 2018 9:22 pm UTC
I got a notification today that the files were updated and wow, am I ever glad I bought this one over a year ago, the scan was much better. On one of the two files the text is horribly rendered (especially bad on wandering monsters table where the Doppelganger and Driver Ant entries overlap one another) and on the other, the wilderness and reference table pages are missing entirely... I don't understand how these updates to a product can become so much worst. The version I bought back in 2016 was lovely.
Customer avatar
March 17, 2018 4:57 pm UTC
May I ask: As of March 17, 2018 have they uploaded new versions that are (a) complete in terms of maps and pages and (b) of a good scan quality? Tempted to pick this up so that I have a digital copy to read when I travel but if it's still having problems I'll pass. Thank you.
Customer avatar
Ricky R January 31, 2018 8:26 pm UTC
Sigh, this is at least the second time where the updated version of the pdf is worst than the previous version, (first time was for the Fiend Folio). Maps of Wilderness Area and Keep and 2 other pages are missing (P. 12-15). At least the full front and back cover are seen now and is sharper. Previous version had the Caves of Chaos map as one full map and it was a bit sharper. Really it should be possible to combine the best scans from various sources into one product, instead of giving us scans that may improve one thing but then isn't up to snuff on other parts that where better in a previous scan.
Customer avatar
Xalorous E January 31, 2018 7:50 pm UTC
Shannon, you should update the description to include the fact that this module was one of the ones included in Tales from the Yawning Portal, and that the module is updated for 5e there.
Customer avatar
Josh M March 20, 2018 2:56 pm UTC
This module, B2: Keep on the Borderlands, is not in Tales of the Yawning Portal.
Customer avatar
Todd B October 11, 2017 4:30 pm UTC
Does anyone have a suggestion for printing the two pages of Caves of Chaos maps? The PDF scan has those as light blue on white. When I print it on my black and white printer, the lines are way too faint to read.
Customer avatar
Oliver K April 29, 2017 5:01 pm UTC
This seems to be missing several of the maps. I only see one PDF available as download, so this must be it. But no map of the Keep or the wilderness...

Customer avatar
Zia M May 03, 2017 5:57 pm UTC
As of 5/3/17, there are two pdf files showing for download. DDB_B2_TheKeepontheBorderlands.pdf is the complete one, just redownloaded it just now to confirm. KeepOnTheBorderlands.pdf is the newer file and for some reason is the one missing a few pages. If you're only seeing 1 file for download, you may want to email support.
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 03, 2017 8:19 pm UTC
Hello, Zia.

Thanks for checking, but both on this page and in my library I only see one file - the incomplete one.

Still appreciate the effort. :)
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 04, 2017 8:38 am UTC
I first contacted DriveThruRPG customer support (no avail, maybe not the right place to start) and now the publisher contact for WotC. Let's see if this gets cleaned up with a better upload or an additional file.
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 09, 2017 9:36 pm UTC
The Wizards uploaded a new version rectifying the missing pages. :)
Customer avatar
Jacob C April 26, 2017 12:02 am UTC
Any chance we can get a better description on what was actually changed in the most recent 4/25 update? I can't seem to tell other than there is now an additional file labeled "KeepOnTheBorderlands" and a new naming convention on the original pdf that was included with my purchase. It seems the new pdf does not contain new information. In fact, it appears to be missing a couple maps that were included with the original file. Am I mistaken?
Customer avatar
Zia M April 26, 2017 4:55 pm UTC
I did a side by side, and it's definitely a rescan, the original wasn't bad at all though, so there wasn't any improvement there. The new file splits the Caves of Chaos map from the interior cover over 2 pages where it was on one bigger page before. Finally, the new scan is missing 4 pages (The wilderness map, the keep map and the 2 quick reference pages of material from the Basic Set) which would make the module difficult to play. Thankfully the original file is still included and was complete to begin with. I know Keep on the Borderlands was reprinted a lot, so this might be representative of a different printing, but otherwise, stick with the original file. The original scan was a good one to start with and is still part of the download.
Customer avatar
Jacob C April 27, 2017 3:19 am UTC
Appreciate the reply Zia! That was my assumption as well. Thanks for confirming!
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 04, 2017 8:39 am UTC
You might not see the original file depending on your date of purchase. At least I don't.

The currently available newest upload (the 4/25 update) is definitely lacking four pages as mentioned by Zia M.
Customer avatar
Jacob C May 05, 2017 3:42 am UTC
I can't fathom why this change would have been made, if perhaps it's not a mistake. I would definitely try to contact WoTC and have them dig into this. If this is the case for all future purchases of this module, I would not recommend it without those pages included. Good luck!
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 05, 2017 7:33 am UTC
It is a mistake, I'd say. The scan is faithful to the actual book contents and well made. The missing pages were apparently two sheets that could be separated out and may have already been in that particular copy.

I contacted Wizards of the Coast support and they came back to me that they contacted somebody who will look into it. Let's wait. :)
Customer avatar
Oliver K May 09, 2017 9:36 pm UTC
The Wizards uploaded a new version rectifying the missing pages. :)
Customer avatar
Jay M November 17, 2016 12:04 am UTC is the direct link for the 5e conversion guide for B2 The Keep on the Borderlands.
Customer avatar
Jay M November 16, 2016 7:12 pm UTC
If you want to run this module with 5e rules don't forget to pick up your classic modules today conversion guide. A full list of current 5e conversion guides are listed at
Customer avatar
Leichtdog B October 24, 2014 8:16 pm UTC
I found out that its meant for 6-9 player characters of first level. The group is assumed to have at least one magic-user and one cleric in it.
Customer avatar
Leichtdog B October 20, 2014 9:15 pm UTC
How many players is this module meant for?
Customer avatar
Craig S August 23, 2014 4:17 pm UTC
Is this really missing maps? Is it incomplete?
Customer avatar
Paul J August 11, 2014 6:32 pm UTC
I remember this coming along in the red box, half a lifetime ago! The future history should probably mention Frandor's Keep for Hackmaster 5th ed., it seems to me a direct descendant of Keep on the Borderlands.
 Quick Find
Browse Categories
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!
See our Quickstart Guide for information on how to get started.

Having Problems?
  • FAQ - our Frequently Asked Questions page.
  • Device Help - assistance for viewing your purchases on a tablet device.
  • Contact us if none of these answer your questions.

Affiliate System - Click here for information about how you can get money by referring people to Flames Rising PDF Store!

Our Latest Newsletter
Product Reviews
Privacy Policy
How to Sell on Flames Rising PDF Store
Convention Support Program

RSS Feed New Product RSS Feed
Product Information
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9034
File Size:
9.21 MB
Scanned image
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF
Adobe DRM-protected PDF
These eBooks are protected by Adobe's Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. To use them, you must activate your Adobe Reader software. Click here for more details.

Watermarked PDF

These eBooks are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the document containing your name and the order number of your eBook purchase.

Warning: If any books bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked book:

File Last Updated:
January 31, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.