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B1 – In Search of the Unknown

Basic Dungeons and Dragons

  • Publisher: TSR
  • Rules: Dungeons & Dragons BECMI
  • Developer: Mike Carr
0e-adv-b1 In Search of the Unknown Adventure
0e-adv-b1 D&D BECMI B1 In Search of the Unknown

This is the core of the adventure of In Search of the Unknown is used in the Mystery in Radlebb Woods.

Module B1: “In Search of the Unknown,” forms a complete adventure for use with Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. It is especially designed as an instructional aid for beginning Dungeon Masters and players, specifically created to enable new Dungeon Masters to initiate play with a minimum of preparation.

In addition to descriptive and situational material, this module also includes special informational sections giving background history and legends; listings of possible monsters and treasures, and how to place them; a list of adventuring characters; tips on various aspects of play for the Dungeon Master; and helpful advice for starting players.

Product History

B1: “In Search of the Unknown,” by Mike Carr, was originally released in November 1978 with a monochrome yellow cover. At the time, it was probably TSR’s eighth adventure. It was also the first TSR adventure by someone other than Gary Gygax. However, its place in history as the first introductory adventure is much more important.

This adventure module was later revised and rereleased in additional editions in 1980 and 1981, eventually adopting TSR’s full-color trade dress.

An Introductory Offer. The story of “Search” begins with the first Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977), which was a reorganization of the rules from the original 3-book Dungeons & Dragons (1974) and Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) produced by J. Eric Holmes. Following the publication of the Basic Set, TSR was looking for better introductory material to support it.

Enter TSR Games & Rule Editor Mike Carr, who saw the need for an introductory adventure that really taught GMs how to create and stock a dungeon. He offered to write such a product for TSR, who accepted. “In Search of the Unknown” was thus an introductory module for the introductory rule set – making it the ultimate introduction to the game.

An Introduction Inclusion. B1 was immediately packaged as part of the Basic Set – replacing geomorphs and monsters & treasure assortments, which had required GMs to be more comfortable creating dungeons on their own. It appeared as a part of the Holmes Basic Set from late 1978 through the end of 1979, at which time is was replaced by the better-known “B2: The Keep on the Borderlands” (1980).

An Introductory Adventure. The actual adventure leads off with advice about running adventures, but its introductory nature goes beyond that. Designer Mike Carr purposefully included a number of features that he thought players should expect in dungeons, like one-way secret doors, magic mouths, teleport doors, and more. Today, B1 is thus a great example of of the tropes of very early D&D dungeon design, but polished and detailed much better than the typical dungeons of the ’70s.

The adventure features one other element of historical note: The rooms don’t actually list what monsters and treasures they contain. Instead, GMs were expected to fill in those details themselves from lists at the end of the book. This design decision may have been intended to keep players on their toes (as there was concern in those early days that players might read modules they were going to play), or it may have been another lesson in how to create a dungeon. Regardless, the decision wouldn’t be repeated again, with the exception of the recalled adventure “B3: Palace of the Silver Princess” (1981).

Basic or Advanced? When B1 was released, Basic D&D was not yet its own rule system, but rather an introductory set of rules that was intended to lead players on to the original D&D game or the AD&D game. The closeness of the Basic and Advanced lines in those days is revealed in B1’s earliest printings, by the inclusion of a short section that explains how to convert the adventure to AD&D. That section was removed by the time the third printing appeared in 1979, and was the last attempt to overlap the two lines.

Afterward, the lines diverged with the release of the second-edition Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981) by Tom Moldvay, which was by the time of its release considered its own game. That new Basic Set was also the impetus for the printing of the full-color covered edition of “In Search of the Unknown” in 1981.

About the Creators. Mike Carr was able to offer a uniquely introductory vision of D&D because he was only lightly involved with the game – his main interest being historical wargames, including his own Fight in the Skies (1966) / Dawn Patrol (1982). Though he edited later D&D adventures, B1 was Carr’s only D&D writing; however, he later co-authored some Top Secret scenarios.

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 shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

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  • 2020-12-17 – Updated title from B1 to 0e-adv-b1 to help organise.
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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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