KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS (Mania.com)

By:James T. Voelpel
Review Date: Monday, April 08, 2002

For almost every DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS player, there was a single adventure that brought us into the world of role-playing games, that being the classic "Keep on the Borderlands." The now defunct TSR's original adventure was included in the old Basic box set way back in the late 1970s, and helped introduce players into a world of powerful wizards and heroic warriors. For many this was a strange new world, a game that could not only use strategy but the players' imaginations. To just play one of these fantastic characters was not enough - you had to become one. It was a game with no real winners or losers. Now DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS' current torchbearer, Wizards of the Coast, brings us a mass-market paperback based on this quintessential module by veteran media tie-in writer Ru Emerson, the author of twenty novels such as the Nedaq trilogy, the Night-Threads series, a few Xena books (writing as Roberta Cray) and another D&D classic module tie-in, AGAINST THE GIANTS.

This novel follows the female sell-sword Eddis, a woman who has just finished a job protecting an incoming caravan to the aforementioned keep. She just wishes to relax and await new opportunities when the chance for a real payoff opens up. Bandits have been raiding the local towns, cutting off trade routes and threatening its extinction. Together with the adventurer Jerdren, a group of caravan mercenaries and town guardsmen, they set off to eradicate the bandits and collect a hefty reward. What starts out as a simple adventure quickly escalates into a full-scale campaign against kobolds, orcs, and the dreaded undead.

With KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS, what you see is what you get, and what you get is pulp fantasy. That being said, it is decent pulp fantasy, with Emerson giving us a steady flow of adventure and conflict, monsters and magic. The characters are somewhat one-dimensional, but more fleshed out than what this genre is used to. In keeping with the Wizards of the Coast "Greyhawk" series, the book feels more like an adventure module than a novel. For fans of this type of writing, this is what they want - less talk more magic. KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS delivers what it promises - action and adventure, with better than average character development and motivation. Sure, this isn't Tolkien or even Eddings, but if this type of fantasy is your forte, give it a chance. Besides, it reminds us of those heady early role-playing days with nothing but our dice and a +1 sword strapped to our back.


Mania Grade: C+
Author: Ru Emerson
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $6.99