Friday, October 10, 2008


The Keep on the Borderlands was written after the Village of Hommlett, after the D series. Those modules weren't masterpieces, but they sure as heck had far more depth and coherence than this disaster of a gaming product. RPG's had crawled past the point where this module was considered acceptable. Yet, the marketing geniuses at TSR decided to bundle this baby in with the 1981 D&D Basic book. They decided that their target audience was so desperate for anything new that they could just print so much garbage and the dimwitted gamers would buy it all.
I'd never seen this review before. Granted, it's nearly 10 years old. Goodness knows I'd hate to be held accountable for every brain spasm that found its way into print with my byline on it, especially if said spasms occurred almost a decade ago. Still, it's nevertheless a bit shocking to read such a snarkily dismissive review of a classic module such as this.

Addendum: It's been suggested that the original review was a joke. The review does carry the tag "Comedy," so it's possible and I sincerely hope it is. If anyone can shed light on this topic, I'd appreciate it.


  1. I'm pretty sure this was written by Mearls as a joke, commenting on the somewhat snarky nature of some reviews. There's been some debate about it.

  2. If it's a joke, that's good then. I certainly hope it's a joke.

  3. This doesn't mean it was a joke, necessarily, but I'm pretty sure that Mearls has spoken positively of the Keep elsewhere.

  4. I challenged Mearls about this in March of 2007. I don't remember everything he said, and it seems now lost both to ENworld and Google (I get a result, but the cache doesn't show up).

    I don't recall it being discussed in terms of a joke. I think that maybe his opinion about it changed over time. At least, that's the impression I came away with... and I definitely came away thinking that Mearls would be worth listening to in the future.

    Sorry I'm so fuzzy on the details. I don't know if he has done a 180 on his view of it or not... I certainly allow for people to reverse themselves to whatever degree in light of new discoveries or realizations.

  5. As I said, I certainly wouldn't want to be held to something I'd written nearly 10 years ago, so I don't think it necessarily says anything about Mike Mearls in 2008. A lot depends on whether he'd disavow what he'd written or qualify it in some way or whether he'd say he stood by what he wrote.

  6. If it's genuine, it's a good example of RPG.Net in its default mode.

    If it's fake, it's a very convincing sendup of such and kudos to the author.

  7. I got this from Jeff when I posted the link this morning in the Paizo forum discussing James' blog.

    - Windjammer

  8. Wouldn't be the first time a joke went clear over my head.

  9. Sort of reminds me of Lev Lafayette's reviews on RPGnet, who's known for being, well, uncharitable, to old D&D products:

    With that in mind, I'd like to think it was a joke, or that Mearls has come around in the past decade.

  10. Cable hook ups?

    Come on... thats obviously comedy.

    Its just a parody of the reviews. This guy (like his writing or not) is trying to say that one of most universally appreciated adventures could even get stabbed there. The parody gets a little lost in trying to visualize that but its still obviously a parody.

  11. Wouldn't be the first time a joke went clear over my head.

    Nor mine. Humor often doesn't translate well in written form, particularly years after it was written, so it may be that, in context, this thing makes perfect sense and it may include lots of sly references to then-contemporary jokes and commentary. If so, it's hard to tell.

  12. With that in mind, I'd like to think it was a joke, or that Mearls has come around in the past decade.

    Now that the possibility has been raised, it seems most likely that it was intended as a joke of some kind. Like you, I certainly hope that's the case.

  13. I would presume it is a joke or he has changed his view. The name of his blog is "The Keep on the Gaming Lands" and his Sept 30th blog talks about Borderlands-style adventures.

  14. The irony is that the review of KotB directly led to my current career.

    Anyway, at the time the review was a combination of parody, with some serious points embedded therein.

    I still think that the idea of KotB is stronger than the specific implementation of the module, but the module is rightfully considered a classic.

    - Mearls


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