2017/06/10

OSR: Tomb of the Serpent Kings Megapost



People keep asking for "beginner" dungeons. Everyone can name "classic" dungeons - Tomb of Horrors, Barrier Peaks, Ravenloft, etc. - but in order for those adventures to make sense, there needs to be some sort of introduction.

It's like all the adventures we have are Bach concertos. People keep writing amazing works of staggering genius, but someone needs to write a book on how to play the piano.

I had the same questions, and since I couldn't find anything satisfactory, I decided to write the kind of dungeon I would have loved to find. I wanted to write the best basic OSR dungeon for beginners that I could, and I also wanted to show the design process.

If you like this dungeon, please share it, tell people about it, print copies and leave them lying around local game stores, or email this post to friends who have "always wanted to try D&D but don't know where to start". The entire thing is and always will be free. 


Goblin Pit by Scrap Princess

Introductory Notes:


The encounters aren't balanced. They don't have difficulty ratings. There are few rewards for fighting.

There might be stuff in this dungeon that you disagree with, especially if you're an experienced GM. That's fine! It's designed to be modular and hackable. Move stuff around. Remove things completely.

Treasure amounts are a balanced around the idea that 200gp is enough to level a single character. By the end of this dungeon, surviving PCs should be level 2 or 3, assuming the usual rates of attrition, loss, and panic. Damage is scaled around PCs having between 4 and 16 hit points. Otherwise, I've tried to make the module as system-less as possible.


The generic OSR introduction I've written here might also be useful.

Tomb of the Serpent Kings v3.0 PDF



And in case you want a version that uses less ink, but is slightly less easy to read.

Tomb of the Serpent Kings v.2.0 PDF

Xiximanter, Scrap Princess



The Original Posts:


Level 1

Level 2
Boss Fight: the Stone Cobra Guardian

Level 3
Boss Fight: the Basilisk


Playthroughs and Reviews:


My group: Session 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10
Throne of Salt: Session 1
GG NO RE: A podcast! Session 1, 2
nthdecree: Session 1

Arnold K: "Hey, this actually seems like it would accomplish its goal of being a teaching dungeon. I like it."

Daniel Davis
:
"Ran this tonight, modded it to fit my setting. Half the group was new to D&D. Worked perfectly as tutorial dungeon."


Ten Foot Pole
:
 Worth reading the full review. 11/22, but based on the barebones and haphazard v.1.0

Gabor Lux:
"Tomb of the Serpent Kings does that thing introductory dungeon crawls should do, but usually don’t: put the fear of God, the wonder of the unknown, and the feeling of well-earned accomplishment into the players’ hearts. It feels like descending into a dark and odd place where a lot of things will try to kill you if you are not careful, but you will be rich and powerful if you pull it off."


Belchions Sammelsurium
:
"From a player’s perspective, the dungeon succeeds. It does offer a fun game without straining the suspension of disbelief to much. One does indeed learn most of the dungeon tropes, and how to properly interact with them."




Translations

(I can't believe I'm able to create a section for this)

German: Die Gruft der Schlangenkonige

Getting The Game Started


Most game books have a section that goes "Here's what a GM is, here's what dice are, and here's an example of play", so I'm not going to write all of that out again.

It's completely fine to introduce the dungeon immediately.


It's also completely fine to say, "For whatever reason, you decide to accept the old man's offer. Every other part of your character's backstory is up to you, but for some reason, you decide to follow the treasure map. What is that reason? Adventure? Debt? Secret cultist orders?"


In my game, the PCs were sent to kill an owlbear. In the course of the fight, the owlbear uncovered the entrance to the tomb.

Other Stuff

Beholder Pie's "Quintessential Dungeon" covers some more OSR tropes, and could easily be bolted onto TotSK.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this! Looks fantastic. I'm writing up my notes right now for a crew that's fairly new to the OSR style of play. Is the implied scale about 5' per "square" on the maps? I might default to 10', in spite of the huge corridors that creates.

    FYI - It looks like the room description for 13 is missing from the PDF.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I used 5' squares, but 10' could also work. It's more or less up to personal taste. There aren't any rooms, traps, or lessons that depend specifically on scale. And I'll be sure to fix page 13 in the v2.0 PDF

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  2. You really need to put a nice cover on this--

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  3. Currently working to convert this into Zweihander. It's not a super lot of work, mostly just changing references from "+2" to "+10" and figuring out how to integrate cursed items into the game's more gradual Chaos Corruption mechanic...

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  4. Just started a 5th ed campaign of this. It's very cool to be taught by a dungeon (as a DM) how to run these kind of OSR adventures. Having played several of the WotC modules, it feels much "tighter" - there's something cool to do in every room, not just "This room contains some bugbears". Though that might just be a testament to the time you put into this.

    Thanks for making this!

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  5. Started a campaign in RuneQuest 2nd Ed. with this as an early adventure and my players and I are absolutely loving it. It's fantastic as a GM seeing the way that players learn from every single room, and given that my players are unused to OSR games it's great to see them really fear a dungeon.

    Thank you so much for making this!

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