For a very long time, I knew from B2 « Keep on the borderlands » only the French published version. Only a few years ago, I discovered there was several versions of the same and more recently even, I learned some illustrations did existed only in the French version, thanks probably to Bruce Heard double nationality. So, I wasn’t aware of the first “pink cover” version. Still examining what could be learned from this fabulous module, I had a closer look on this cover. No doubt the creatures fighting adventurers are hobgoblins, as they’re depicted in AD&D Monster Manual.
The samurai armour is a feature of AD&D hobgoblin which is unique. Nothing else in their description in MM or any other rulebook suggest they could link with eastern Asian cultures -and the fact they have 60% chances to have carnivorous apes as guards, and 20% of living in village defended by catapults, neither their listed weapons or depicted weapons is specifically tied to ancient Japan. But... why not, after all? I suggest to take it as such: Borderlands Hobgoblins have a ancient Japanese-style culture. Just replace the chief by a daimyo or a shogun and the picture suddenly make sense. It give them a special cultural flavour and a nice switch in the campaign.
So... if hobgoblins are Japanese, what are other humanoids in the caves of chaos? Even if Kotb wasn’t designed for AD&D, it seems we could follow MM pictures to give us a few clues about it. Kobolds (p. 57) scimitar, despite not being listed among their weapons, leads toward oriental culture, and the style of columns behind suggest it could be
(to be continued...)