Wednesday, November 27, 2019

an interview from 1999

So, while doing some more sorting, I came across an interview I did back in 1999 which I had completely forgotten about. It was printed in a little digest-sized newsletter, SENSE OF WONDER, published by B. Dalton's (back when there were still B. Daltons') in their June/July 1999 issue.  It's focused on my contribution to the TSR Silver Anniversary series, RETURN TO THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLAND.

The issue also has a feature marking the fifteenth anniversary of DRAGONLANCE and, better yet, a full-page Tolkien piece, interviewing my friends Wayne Hammond & Cristina Scull, whose newest work at that time was ROVERANDOM (their edition of FARMER GILES OF HAM still being forthcoming at the time).

This Silver Anniversary interview is the sort of thing I'd have mention in my blog, except that this piece predates by blog by a good seven or eight years. So I've decided on the principle of better late than never to give it here.

Return to the Keep on the Borderlands--An Interview with John D. Rateliff

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS with a return to the setting of the adventure that was named one of the "Best Classic Adventures of All Time" in a recent gamer poll. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS co-creator E. Gary Gygax's original Keep on the Borderlands adventure, first published in 1981, introduced hundreds of thousands of gamers to the hobby. Now, in honor of the Silver Anniversary of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, talented game dsigner John D. Rateliff has crafted Return to the Keep on the Borderlands ($12.95, on sale June), a sequel to this classic adventure, updated for use with the AD&D game. This is your chance to challenge the evil powers that still lurk in the fabled Caves of Chaos . . . and soon will rise to threaten the unsuspecting residents of the isolated outpost of the Keep on the Borderlands. Here's what John D. Rateliff has to say about the Silver Anniversary of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and the adventure that awaits in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands:

John D. Rateliff: It's been twenty-five years since Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax invented DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, the first fantasy roleplaying game. We're celebrating that milestone with the Silver Anniversary series featuring re-releases, remakes, and reprints of classic adventures, updated and augmented with additional new material. There's also a big boxed set coming out this summer with facsimiles of some long out-of-print adventures. It's exciting to get these player favorites back in print again, some for the first time in over a decade.

I was drawn to D&D by my love of fantasy literature, especially the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. I actually have a Ph.D. in fantasy! I was in graduate school (at Bill Clinton's alma mater) when I first discovered D&D at a local hobby store in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I've been playing ever since.

Professionally, I've been working in the roleplaying industry since 1991. I've edited or designed (written) about three dozen adventures, rulebooks, supplements, and boxed sets. I've been pretty heavily involved in the whole Silver Anniversary line -- writing one product, editing another, and play-testing a third, and I've also played a role in the general trend over the past few years for TSR to get back to its roots.

When I got lucky enough to get the assignment to design Return to the Keep on the Borderlands. I was eager for the chance. Years ago I played the original Gygax adventure three times --once as a player and twice as a DM, with different groups.  That's not unusual: Keep on the Borderlands was originally designed to introduce gamers to the system. It certainly did a great job of that --more people have played Keep on the Borderlands than any other roleplaying adventure ever.

My favorite thing about the original adventure was the interaction of the different races in the Caves of Chaos. In those twelve interconnected caves, Gygax presented an interesting pecking order between the goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, and so forth --explaining who kowtowed to whom and why. That sense of how things fit together went a long way to create a fantasy "ecology" and suggested a larger world beyond that original current adventure.

My creation is a sequel to Gygax's original adventure, and his work is my primary source. I focused, first and foremost, on updating his setting and thinking of what might have happened to these places and people in the course of the time that has passed in the world of the game. And, of course, I drew a lot on characters and situations from my own campaigns -- things that were fun for me and the people I played with.

In Return to the Keep on the Borderland, it's been twenty years since heroes cleaned out the Caves of Chaos and made the area safe to live again. However, nature abhors a vacuum, and the caves now have new inhabitants  just as nasty as the old ones.  Currently, the Keep is down to a skeleton garrison, unable to prevent bandits from ambushing travelers or to stop folks from disappearing. Luckily, new adventurers are being drawn to the area by rumors that the cave are once again filled with monsters and treasures. It's becoming a kind of tradition that this is the place where would-be heroes first come to try their luck, just like the famous adventurers of a generation ago. Enter the player characters . . . 

In addition to a rousing adventure, John D. Rateliff's Return to the Keep on the Borderlands includes a special section of advice for beginning Dungeon Masters, detailed descriptions of the Keep and its inhabitants, wilderness encounters with a wide range of classic AD&D monsters, plus room-by-room descriptions of every chamber within the Caves of Chaos. It's time to Return to the Keep on the Borderlands

P. S. : I have to give points to the writer of this little piece, whoever it was, for getting my name right, complete with middle initial.

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