B4: The Lost Keep

A doubly-rigged election and the earth-shattering leavings of a Wurm.

B4: The Lost Keep

This is the fourth part of my play reports and reflections running Barkeep on the Borderlands in Electric Bastionland. Here there be spoiler-dragons. If you need to catch up:


  • Father Pastry Cream: Pie Smuggler and Jovial Priest
  • Marlarke Hatiarti (the Great): Repressed Psychic and Guild Criminal
  • Rigella: Star Blessed and Parliamentary Candidate
  • Skitterex (AKA Skittles): a Black Dragon
  • The Heir (of a shyness that is criminally vulgar)


The night before, the museum was raided and artefacts dumped in the river, and a bunch of wild pigs painted the colours of the city watch were running rampant. Day four of the Raves was "Day of the Minotaur," Halloween for monsters it seems, but the party was far more interested in muddling with the day's parliamentary election. Some pre-drinks rumour mongering determined the day's votes would be transport from the river south of the palace by ferry to the east to be counted by 'voluntold' students at the Ship of Thesis. They randomly wake in the Brutal Legion and get caught up in a stone-throwing fight between the geriatric barbarians, and determine to try and rig the vote to be a dead-tie.

For unclear reasons to all involved, the plan congealed as handing out the fake 'secret pub' tickets and inviting everyone to raid the ferry as a 'bar on the river.' After inviting the angry old men, and a couple perilously close to tying a knot, they went to Our Lady of the Sacred Speakeasy. Out the front, Father Pastry pays a modest fee for an oil on canvas, and convinces himself it will age in his stead (the purveyor was frustratingly cryptic on direct questioning). Rigella got hot, heavy, and nigh-exanguinated on the dance floor with a consensuous vampire who lead the party downstairs to the secret cult meeting before the gold and ruby-eyed idol statue. They try to fit in speaking cryptic rubbish, but the they let the mask slip, and the cultists turn on them with obsidian ritual daggers. Marlarke starts prying the gemstone eyes out while "Skittles" does what he does best, and breathed acidfire to topple the statue and crush some cultists (and break it into a countless number of gold nuggets). A merciless battle ensues, as Marlarke scrobbles about beneath the arcing swings of the fracas, claiming the two precious ruby eyes.

Cleaning up the gold and leaving the pile of bodies, the party pat themselves on the back for a job poorly done, and set off to Rathskeller's to make an unusual trade. On the way they are accosted by a lumbering giant in a trenchoat, who the Heir hopes to claim a toenail from, but they then accuse them of just being a pile of kobolds at the very moment they reveal themselves by bearing their little dog-person hairy foot. They are then offered the sacks of gold to provide catering for the upcoming argy-bargy-party and are delighted to help, so close up their establishment and all roll out with their kegs.

Travelling up the river to find the vessel, they find it crossing under a bridge, and rappel and air-balloon down to pirate it. They find four guards and a mislaid painted pig, and easily commandeer it and pull to shore to let aboard the throng of partygoers. They then set off down the river, riding low, with guards amassing on the shoreline preparing to shut this reckless operation down - the only rule of Bar-keep-club is license your venue. They then run aground on a pile of the museum-treasures-to-river-trash dumped in overnight.

Heir: "I throw the universe pearl at the obstruction..."

Space and time explode, implode, then produce a small eructation as they find themselves in seemingly the same environment but floating again as not just the blockage but all signs of civilisation and development are gone. They observe the remote sights of a small keep and a ravine in a hill side, and deduce that they have travelled back in time to what started it all: B2 Keep on the Borderlands. They also open the chest of votes to discover it was already a hung ballot (which I rolled for at start of session, and had to poker face my way through the whole time as they were fannying about to rig it to be the very same outcome).


  • Several of the players and I turned up to the session clearly a bit 'out of sorts,' and this always poses the challenge of whether cracking on is better than changing tack. I tried checking in with people and ensured everyone wanted to play (rather than just hang out - always an option!), and I am glad we did, because again by the end of our 2 hours and change session, we were once again grinning like stuffed clowns. That's 4 / 4 banger sessions for this module, and how many thumbs up I'll give it after raiding the family burial ground.
  • I've unintentionally adopted a mixed play style between adventure game (NSR/POSR) and Apocalypse World, evidenced by the last GM move of the session - the time-shift back to the original module B2. I was given a golden opportunity and everyone turned to look at me to see what happened next - boom. Keep even your campaign frame in crosshairs.
  • Where to from here though? I quickly polled players on options: 1) play on in B2, or 2) wand wave getting back to 'their timeline,' or 3) wrap it up on a high note. Number 2 was discounted out of hand by all, and we ended up agreeing to keep playing these characters even as we might shift the game system to try something else out and better fit the scenario. My biggest uncertainty is how I'm going to 'punch up' that hoary old cave-crawl, as none of us has any nostalgia for it, and I know that played straight (and coming off the back of four sessions of unrelenting shenanigans) it could land flatter than Salar de Uyuni.

Do you have advice or experience running B2: Keep on the Borderlands in a style with more exploration and faction-play, and less featureless rooms of whacking off-white 'barbarians at the gates'? Please let me know!