Category: D&D Basic

Adventure Review – B8: Journey to The Rock

The 1984 Basic Game adventure for the Dungeons & Dragons system, Journey to The Rock, is an oddity. Written by Michael Malone, who only has one other design credit (an adventure in Dungeon Magazine #57), the adventure is surprisingly slight, and manages to avoid using dungeons; for the most part, it’s a wilderness adventure.

It should be noted that the original plan for the Basic D&D line was that the Basic adventures would be dungeon-based, with the Expert set introducing the Wilderness rules. This wasn’t always followed, for instance, Keep on the Borderlands has wilderness and town sections, but the focus is on the dungeon. Journey to The Rock is the outlier.

However, once you examine the adventure, you realise that the wilderness is written in a dungeon style. Players are discouraged from leaving the paths, and all the encounters take place along the paths. Thus, the play is kept simple for beginning Dungeon Masters and players. The relevant wilderness rules from the Expert set are reprinted in this adventure.

The adventure feels curiously incomplete. It’s the set-up for a major ongoing campaign, but that campaign is only glimpsed through this adventure. The backstory is fantastic: a city and its people banished to another plane, with only two survivors seeking to bring it back. However, only one of the survivors appears, and the quest is only the first part of what he needs to do to recover the city. There’s so much that never came to fruition. What a strange nonesuch!

Not all of the backstory makes that much sense. The city was banished thousands of years ago, yet why has the survivor who hires the characters not found someone to recover the magical amulet? It’s not like it’s that difficult (the adventure is for a group of level 1-3 characters, after all!) And the very fact of how the amulet is hidden from the person who must recover it is somewhat bizarre. Did the people of Tuma want their city saved or not?

The adventure feels very much like a tournament scenario, which it likely originally was. After the players are recruited, they have three paths to the final encounter, each having fewer than half-a-dozen main encounters, although a set of optional encounters, briefly described, add an additional eight encounters onto each path. Puzzlingly, the optional encounters look like random encounters with a die-roll to determine which to use, but the adventure suggests to run them in order. Use of these optional encounters is likely recommended, as they add much needed-bulk to the adventure.

The final encounter gives the DM the option of prefacing it with a combat encounter if the party isn’t too damaged. This is an interesting move. It shows a shift towards “story-first”, where the players should get to finish the story even if their characters would otherwise be unable to. The final encounter is a role-playing/puzzle scene, where the players can use clues from earlier encounters to help them make the correct choice. (The map is one of the oddest I’ve ever seen… it’s a huge, empty room with a few randomly-placed areas of interest).

Despite the holes in the plot and the lack of encounters, those encounters that do exist are described in some detail and present more interest than just “kill another monster”. I’m very fond of the mad-man who accosts the party with tales of a ship travelling on the land; something that proves to be true a short time later. (The explanation? Gnomes. It all makes sense). The players have a chance to pass through the ruined city of Tuma, which only occasionally exists on this plane, where they can meet some its eldritch defenders. Not every encounter is great, but there are enough good ones to show that the adventure offers something of interest. Above all, the adventure does value players who can think and don’t always meet every danger with sword drawn.

There are seven new monsters described in the adventure. These are used to make the players think, and to provide challenges that can’t be solved just by memorising the rulebook. Although, at this stage, we probably don’t need even more humanoid-type races, they fit much better into the ancient world of lost cities and unknown races that the adventure evokes. It’s not really a Conan adventure, but there are echoes of that setting in its writing.

Is it a neglected gem? Not really. The adventure has enough issues with its writing and construction that, even at my most generous, I can’t quite recommend it that highly. However, neither is it hopeless. This is an adventure that manages to have some inventive encounters and provides some opportunities for the players to use their minds instead of their dice. For that, I commend it: it has managed to engage my interest.

Print-on-Demand versions of classic Dungeons & Dragons titles

Well, this is interesting!

Wizards of the Coast and OneBookShelf have enabled print-on-demand for a initial range of titles on the DMs Guild.

This is fantastic news for people who want hard copies of those older products. However, it does come with a few caveats…

The main thing to consider is that those products won’t be printed exactly like the original printing. A single softcover or hardcover book? That’s easy. Poster maps? Urgh. Not so good. Detachable cover? Well, only if the glue isn’t that good…

I’d be surprised if the maps for old adventures (like Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure) were printed on the inside of the cover rather than on separate pages in the book as well.

The notes for the Hollow World Campaign Setting indicate that instead of 3 books and four maps, “this print edition combines the Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook, Player’s Book, and Adventure Book, plus the maps, into a single softcover tome.”

So, if you want the books in their original format, you’re probably still better off trying to find second-hand copies. However, if the format doesn’t matter so much to you – especially for the original hardcovers and adventures – this is going to be pretty good.

My experience with the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion is that the printing is going to be good, though not to the level of the standard line of non-POD books from Wizards.

The initial list of offerings:

  • Den of Thieves (2E adventure)
  • WG5: Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (1E adventure)
  • Hollow World Campaign Setting (D&D Basic)
  • I10: Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill (1E adventure)
  • SJS1: Goblin’s Return (2E adventure)
  • AC1: The Shady Dragon Inn (D&D Basic accessory)
  • Beyond the Prism Pentad (2E adventure)
  • Dragonlance Adventures (1E hardcover supplement)
  • Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast (D&D Next adventure)
  • X2: Castle Amber (D&D Basic adventure)
  • L1: The Secret of Bone Hill (1E adventure)
  • Draconomicon (3E hardcover accessory)
  • Uncaged: Faces of Sigil (2E accessory)

OSR Adventure Review: The Mad God’s Jest

The Mad God’s Jest is an adventure by Shane Ward for four players of 6th level. It uses the Labyrinth Lord system, a retroclone of the B/X line of D&D, which makes it suitable for using with most 2E-and-earlier games. To use it with later editions would take more fiddling around with the statistics and mechanics.

The adventure begins with the party kidnapped by Captain Sherborne, a pirate captain who needs their skills to find the boots of “Sex Goddess”, for which he’ll happily pay them 500 gold pieces each. The actual adventure finds the party exploring the Caverns of the Mad God, a set of branching caverns with 21 encounter areas in all.

The adventure is extremely whimsical. The encounter names give it away: “Hot Tub Party!” “Self-Inflicted Torture Chamber”, “Snakes in a dungeon”. As I’m appreciative of whimsy, I found many of the encounters very amusing. The torture chamber has cultists who have locked themselves inside the torture devices. Another cave contains a manticore feeding cultists a strange soup, and yelling at them when they spit it out. It’s all very strange.

This does make sense given the framing device – everything is a jest of a mad god. Is it real? Possibly not – although the rewards (treasure and experience points) are real. It’s the sort of thing that you can use to properly perplex your players.

The encounters aren’t developed that much, and fleshing them out is in the hands of the DM. The dungeon is full of monsters. Many aren’t that threatening, but the cumulative effect of many encounters, especially without the ability to rest, make the adventure more dangerous than it might first appear. There are a few tricks that work very well in the context of this adventure: it’s not all hack’n’slash!

The adventure would read better with fewer apostrophes and more semicolons, but generally the writing and editing is quite good. (I’d use “PCs” rather than “PC’s”; “GPs” rather than “GP’s”.)

The map is excellent; the black-and-white artwork is likewise very good.

It’s a fun adventure and one that has enough interesting encounters to be worth investigating. The high art of adventure design? No, but it works well as a whimsical interlude.

Adventure Review – B7: Rahasia

Rahasia was originally written and self-published by Tracy and Laura Hickman in 1979. Tracy took the adventure with him when he joined TSR, and it was published for the RPGA network in 1982, as RPGA1 Rahasia. A follow-up adventure, RPGA2 Black Opal Eye, also appeared that year. Finally, both parts were published together for the D&D Basic line in 1984 as B7: Rahasia. The hook – a strong feature in any Hickman adventure – sees the players asked by the most beautiful elven maiden, Rahasia, to rescue her father and her betrothed from a temple that has been taken over by evil forces.

The ultimate foe in the adventure are a trio of witches that were trapped in statues long ago. An evil cleric, the Rahib, has freed two of the witches, and those witches now possess the bodies of a pair of elven maidens. The third and most powerful witch wants Rahasia for her host, and has captured Rahasia’s loved ones in an attempt to lure the elf maid to the temple. The players will discover that many of their foes have been charmed by the witches, including the priests and acolytes of the temple. This makes a lot of the encounters more challenging than they may initially appear, assuming the party are trying to preserve the lives of the innocent. They are Lawful, aren’t they?

In Rahasia, we have the first version of the “most beautiful elven maiden” who would find her fullest expression in Laurana of Hickman’s Dragonlance series. Her description as “most beautiful” seems quite unfamiliar in most modern tales, but is one that draws upon fairy tales and mythology. Helen of Troy isn’t just any woman, she’s the most beautiful woman in the world; this love of epic mythology comes across in many of the Hickmans’ works.

The elven temple (corresponding to the part published in RPGA1) describes the areas very well, and presents a large number of foes to overcome, as well as a few tricks, traps and some role-playing to provide variation. Many of the monsters are the elven acolytes, the Siswa. The adventure suggests that the DM should encourage the players to think of ways around the Siswa without killing them; remember, this adventure was released for Basic D&D when knocking monsters out was not a standard option in combat, so that’s actually quite challenging.

In the temple, the players will be able to defeat the Rahib, find Rahasia’s father (now slain and a haunt), rescue her betrothed (who will join the party to aid them), and meet a wise reptile who can tell them the secret of the witches and guide them to the next stage of their quest: the ruined tower of Elyas, the wizard who originally imprisoned the witches.

Elyas’s tower is easily found from the temple – a tunnel runs right to it, something that may seem like coincidence, but in fact the temple was built to honour his memory by the elves. The tower has a higher percentage of tricks than the temple, and they’re extremely inventive. I particularly like a trap that turns treasure-hunters into statues made of precious metal (no save!), and then deposits them in a hallway as a warning to intruders. It’s quite likely one of the player characters will be caught by this, but – thankfully – the transformation is reversed if the players finish the quest. And the transformations of all the NPC adventurers who had previously been caught by it, which could be very entertaining in the hands of a fiendish Dungeon Master.

There’s also the statue that needs wine poured into its mouth to open doorways further into the complex; different bottles of wine can be found around the tower, each of which opens different doors. I wonder how many parties became stuck because they drank the wine rather than using it with the statue?

The ultimate aim of the party is to gain the Black Opal Eye, the artefact that can defeat the witches, from where it is stored, take it to be purified, and finally use it to defeat the witches and free the elven maidens they’ve possessed. This feels a lot like one of the things you’ll now see in computer-game quests, although it’s far more likely sourced from fantasy tales (as there basically weren’t any computer RPGs when the adventure was originally written!)

Rahasia is a big adventure, with over 100 areas described in the text (a mere 32 pages). By the time the authors are describing Elyas’s tower, the text displays all the inventiveness typical of their best work. A few of their common tropes, such as the teleporter maze and the crypt of interesting inscriptions, occur here, but there’s a lot to delight players who like killing monsters and solving puzzles. I’m once again awed by how much material there is in this 32-page adventure; very few modern adventures have this compactness of detail. The original intention was for the adventure to be played in a single evening; this may have been true of the original publication, but not of this version!

A few touches are quite interesting; for instance, the random encounter tables for Elyas’s Tower has an entry for encountering the Rahib, in case the party did not defeat him in the first part of the adventure. And an unlucky group might find one of their charismatic females possessed by the lead witch!

The personalities of the Rahib and the witches are not that well defined. The witches are certainly vain (the lead witch doesn’t want to possess just anyone, but instead the “most beautiful elven maiden”), and they argue with each other when not threatened; however, that’s about it. The rest is left up to the DM to fill in.

Rahasia herself, after she gives the players the quest, doesn’t appear again in the adventure, although the DM is free to use her as he or she wishes.

Ultimately, what you have here is a strong mythic plot-hook, combined with an inventive dungeon. What’s not to like?

The fact is that, in many ways, there’s just too much dungeon in the final product. It doesn’t excite me as much as the one in Pharaoh, which feels a lot tighter and a little more varied, with each section displaying a different approach. Exploring room after room takes away from the core threat of the adventure: the return of the witches and the Rahib.

Despite these niggles, Rahasia does stand as a superior adventure. As with many dungeons of this era, it works best with a DM who makes the adventure dynamic, with the foes reacting to the players’ movements and actions. Keeping the Rahib and the witches locked in their keyed locations robs it of a lot of potential interest; make them move, make them alive!

Ultimately, Rahasia is an adventure that takes a dungeon setting and tries to do a little more with it. It isn’t as successful or as memorable as Pharaoh or Ravenloft, the truly great adventures from Tracy and Laura Hickman, but it’s still one that is worth investigating.

A Short History of Monster Stat Blocks

Including monster statistics – stat blocks – in adventures is a challenge. The earliest adventures – the Giant adventures by Gary Gygax – listed the name of the monster and its hit points and nothing else. It’s a little hard to tell if this was an aesthetic choice or one born from the fact that the rules were still somewhat in flux (the AD&D Monster Manual was out, but the adventures had been written for original D&D). The advantage of this format is that the text isn’t interrupted by a lot of extraneous text. This makes the adventure easier to read and prepare, but more difficult to run. An even shorter variant leaves out the hit points – this is the way that Wizards does it in their current adventures, with (potentially) the full monster descriptions appearing in the back of the book or in the Monster Manual.

Hill Giant stats from G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, the first (official) AD&D adventure module, published in 1979.

There’s another article that will look at how the choice of formats affects adventure layout, usability and readability, but for now I’m going to look at the major variations of D&D stat blocks through the ages.

During AD&D and Basic D&D, stat blocks typically included enough details that you could run the monster without referring to the rulebook, except in the case of special abilities. This was simpler because of how Hit Dice worked: attacks and saves were directly tied to the monster’s Hit Dice or Level, and DMs would typically refer to the DM Screen.

NPC stats and those of monsters with special abilities might get a little longer, but you’d rarely get a full description of a special ability; instead just a reminder that it existed. You’d have to look up the monster in the rulebook for a full description.

Pit Viper stats from B4: The Lost City, published in 1982.

Undead Scribe stats from Die Vecna Die! published in 2000.

Between these two stat blocks, not all that much has changed. The late 2E block is slightly more complete, including Intelligence and Size, but you can see the similarities. The late-2E form of the stat block was then used as the basis for the 3E block. However, 3E had more statistics.

This meant that the stat block got longer. A lot longer. The advantage of this stat-block was its completeness. Compared to what came later, it also wasn’t so space-hungry, but it still wasn’t that short. As an aside, having to include Saving Throw modifiers, Skills and Ability Scores really does add a lot of text to each stat block.

Mercykiller Soldiers, from Lord of the Iron Fortress, published in 2001. This is actually one of the shorter stat-blocks in this adventure!

Although the 3E stat block was longer than that of AD&D, it was fairly compressed and hard to read in play. Thus, during the 3.5E years, Paizo and Wizards developed a clearer version of the stat block. Which was incredibly space-hungry, but did split up the stats so that it was a lot easier to find relevant information.

One of the bigger problems of these stat-blocks is that they’d often include a lot of information that wasn’t actually needed during play. Do I need to know the monster has a “Keen Sight” ability that adds 4 to its Perception skill checks? Not when that’s already included in Perception! But 3E was the era of tinkering with monsters according to the rules, so Paizo tended to include a lot of detail. As I recall, the end boss Kyuss in the Age of Worms campaign took two-and-a-half pages to cover. Yes, that’s just a little too much space for my liking.

The format saw some adjustment from product to product. Here’s an example of a late-3.5E stat block from Wizards. You’ll note that it now divides the stats into various sections: basic information, defensive information, offensive options, and then attributes, feats and skills. This format made it much easier to find various abilities, at the cost of slightly more space.

Kundarak Blockguards, from Eyes of the Lich Queen, published in 2007.

The 4E stat block took the late 3.5E stat block as a base, and slimmed it down. The biggest change was in the nature of attack powers in this edition. A monster having a +5 bonus to hit and dealing 1d8+2 damage was unusual – most attack powers were far more complicated. So, they consequently took up more space on the page. On the other hand, the 4E designers didn’t want long stat-blocks, so monsters just weren’t as complicated.

Another major design consideration in 4E was that they wanted to have as few references to other books as possible. If you examine the 3.5E block above, you’ll see Combat Gear, Feats and Special Abilities that aren’t explained. This changed drastically in 4E monster design, and especially as 4E monsters didn’t use spells as we understand them. Instead their abilities were included in full; there wasn’t the option of just listing “magic missile.” This reaction is entirely understandable, as it was getting harder and harder to “just run” 3.5E stat blocks, but the simplification probably went a bit too far – some spell-casting monsters really lost versatility as a result.

Draconic Wraith Souleater, from P3: Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress, published in 2009. I may have chosen a Shawn Merwin adventure not entirely at random, although it’s not his strongest.

Another, more subtle change of this edition was that there was no difference between a 4E stat block and a 4E monster manual entry. This was a very significant change: the Monster Manual entry was now a stat-block, and is something that 5E uses as well.

5E monster design restored spells (and a central spell list) to monsters, allowing more variety, and the Monster Manual monster entries draw very clearly on the late 3.5E and 4E versions of the stat block. Of course, Wizards doesn’t actually provide these stats in-line in the adventure! Instead, a line will reference 5 goblins, with the monster reference being drawn out in bold text; you’d then go either to the appendix or the Monster Manual to find out the stat blocks. No hit points are given (unlike G1), mainly because of the standardized hit points for most monsters.

So, in theory we have a stat block that takes up a moderate amount of space on the page and is pretty clear to read, but most Wizards’ adventures don’t use in-line stat blocks.

The Merfolk stat-block from the D&D Basic Rules – it’s one of the shorter blocks, in fact!

However, just because official 5E products do one thing doesn’t mean that third-party publishers need to do the same. We’ve seen a lot of various versions of shortened stat-blocks (the better to have on the page), as well as publishers having stats in the back of the book. Necromancer Games spent quite a bit of time debating the issue after its first Quests of Doom adventure compilation – and yes, I had some input here – so the Quests of Doom 2 book uses a stat-block which is a hybrid of AD&D and early 3E versions: most of the information you’ll need is in the stat-block, with reminders of more complicated abilities, although you’ll need to look at the full monster entry to see what those do. The stat blocks appear in the encounter descriptions.

– the Necromancer Games format

When I’m writing adventures for my home game (yes, I do have a game that isn’t a D&D Adventurers League game!), I tend to use a shortened stat-block in the text. Here’s a couple of stat block from the last session I ran:

Grotesque Golem: AC 11, hp 120, 2 slams +6 (2d10+6 plus weakness DC 16), magic resistance, golem immunities, immune non-magic weapons, Str +6, Con +5. CR 5.

Horrible Machine: AC 18, hp 170, blade +7 (3d10+5), resists weapons.

I tend to assume any ability score not listed is +0 (even if it isn’t, if it is close I like saving space). Or make something up on the spot… the Horrible Machine would require a longer block if I was intending the adventure to be published!

The purpose of including a monster stat-block in the text is to simplify the job of the DM: they can run the encounter without needing to reference an appendix or another book. However, it has implications on how the adventure is written, which I’ll deal with that in a future article.

Meanwhile, in Pathfinder-land, they use a combination of monster references (for common monsters) and in-line stat-blocks for unique monsters, with their stat-block format being a variation of the late-3.5E format they developed. There’s not just one way of doing things!

Designing a Basic Dungeon

One of the main tasks of a Dungeon Master in D&D is providing opportunities to adventure for your players. The process to create adventures can be very simple or very involved, depending on how much work you want to put into it.

It’s really important to note that most published adventures contain far more information than you’d ever need for your game. I may have only a handful of words to describe a room and its contents. “Orc statue, turns into stone golem when touched” is a fine description for your own game, but the requirements of a published adventure are far more – and that simple description would result in two or three paragraphs of description in an published adventure!

The easiest type of adventure to design and run is a dungeon adventure: mainly because they contain a limited number of locations and it is obvious how a party might progress from one encounter to the next. The guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for creating dungeons are really, really good, but if you want to start with something simpler, here’s a quick method of designing an old-school dungeon for your players.

Step 1: Create a goal for the players.

Why are the characters entering the dungeon? There are lots of suitable reasons, but here are a couple you could use:

  • The characters are hired to recover an item or person in the dungeon.
  • The characters are hired to kill an enemy in the dungeon.

There’s nothing wrong with the characters entering the dungeon “just because it’s there”, but it’s nice to have a goal!

Step 2: Draw a dungeon map

I use graph paper ruled 5 mm on a side to draw the map, locating an entrance and several rooms connected by corridors or doors. Typically I use the scale of one square on the map = 10 feet; this allows the standard corridor to be 10 feet wide, enough for characters to move down two by two. I very rarely use 5-foot wide corridors, because they can be very frustrating to characters, but 20-foot wide corridors can lead to some interesting tactical situations.

Here are suggested symbols to use on a map from the 1981 Basic Rules:

Step 3: Stock special rooms

You should design the final (goal) room of the adventure yourself, placing monsters, traps, tricks and treasure in it to create a memorable final encounter. You may have other areas that you know what you want in them. Design them as well. Typically, a map uses numbers to indicate interesting areas, with separate textual notes on what the numbers mean.

Use the guidelines either the DMG or the Basic Rules for the DM to choose monsters that make the danger (challenge) level interesting: not too hard or too easy.

Step 4: Stock remaining rooms

Although you can design every room individually, it’s also fine to roll dice and use them to suggest encounters to you. The following method was first presented in the original D&D (although it’s had a couple of slight modifications). The DMG gives a more detailed version of this…

Roll 1d6 to determine the basic contents of a room: 1-2 Empty, 3 Trap, 4 Trick, 5-6 Monster. Then roll a d6 again to see if treasure is present. On a 6, there is treasure. On a 5, there is treasure only if there is a monster, on a 1-4, there is no treasure.

Empty rooms may still have furnishings, libraries, strange wells and the like, but they have nothing that actively challenges the party.

Trap rooms contain a trap of some sort. Some traps include:

(1) Concealed Pit Trap (Perception DC 15 to find) – characters stepping on must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall 10-20 feet, taking 1d6 damage for each 10 feet fallen.

(2) Poison Gas – the room is filled with poison gas (which may be detectable or not…) Characters entering must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 hour and take 1d4 poison damage for every minute they spend in the poison.

(3) Ceiling Block Falls – some trigger (Perception DC 15 to find) will cause a large block of stone to fall on the triggering character. DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid or take 1d10 bludgeoning damage.

(4) Flash of Light – characters that can see the source must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be blinded for 1 minute; they may make the saving throw again at the end of each of their turns to regain their sight. (This can be fun when combined with a nearby monster…)

Trick rooms contain something that doesn’t directly harm the characters, but may confuse or intrigue them. For instance,

(1) One-way Door – the door can’t be opened from the far side. (Generally, you couple this with another door which allows further progression into the dungeon, but makes return hard or dangerous).

(2) False Door – the door appears real (Perception DC 20 to realise it’s fake), but doesn’t open

(3) Talking Statue – or doorknob, or altar… something inanimate that engages the characters in conversation, either good or ill.

(4) Illusionary Feature – a wall, door, statue which isn’t really there. Put a monster behind an illusionary wall and it can surprise the characters!

(5) Teleporter – characters touching an item are teleported to another location; great for getting characters lost…

(6) Reverse Gravity – in this room, the ceiling is actually the floor…

Monster rooms contain a monster. Roll a monster group from the following tables or select one based on your group’s capabilities.

Rooms with Treasure should have an amount commensurate with the level of your party. There are tables in the DMG, or you can use the basic ones below.

You are not bound slavishly to the dice rolls; you can move things around or just choose elements that seem right to you, so that the dungeon feels right to you.

Sample Random Monster Tables (by Dungeon or Character Level)

These tables are designed around four characters of the listed level; change numbers of monsters encounter up or down depending on your group’s size.

Die roll
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
2 1 Animated Armor 1d2 Death Dogs 1 Basilisk
3 2d6 Bats 1d4 Blink Dogs 1 Doppleganger
4 1d2 Black Bears 1d2 Bugbears 1 Hell Hound
5 1d4 Zombies 1d3 Cockatrices 1 Minotaur
6 1d4 Flying Swords 2d4 Zombies 1d2 Gargoyles
7 1 Ghoul 1d2 Ghouls 1d4 Ghouls
8 1d4 Skeletons 1d2 Giant Spiders 1d4 Giant Spiders
9 1d4 Goblins 2d8 Giant Rats 2d4 Gnolls
10 1d8 Giant Fire Beetles 1d4 Gnolls 3d6 Goblins
11 2d4 Kobolds 2d4 Goblins 1d4 Bugbears
12 1d8 Giant Rats 1d4 Orcs 2d6 Hobgoblins
13 1d4 Giant Centipedes 1d4 Hobgoblins 2d4 Orcs
14 1d4 Giant Wolf Spiders 2d8 Kobolds 1d3 Dire Wolves
15 1 Giant Spider 1d8 Giant Wolf Spiders 1 Mummy
16 1d4 Giant Lizards 1 Ochre Jelly 1 Manticore
17 1d8 Poisonous Snakes 1 Ogre 1 Owlbear
18 1d4 Giant Bats 1 Grick 1 Phase Spider
19 2d4 Stirges 1d4 Apes 1 Wight
20 1 Cockatrice 1 Nothic 1 Werewolf

Sample Random Treasure Tables (for level 0-4 challenges)

Type Silver Gold Gems Magic Item
Unguarded 1d6 * 10 2d6 (50%) 1d4 x10 gp (10%) 1 item (2%)
Trapped 1d6 * 100 2d6 * 10 (50%) 1d4 x 50 gp (10%) 1 item (2%)
Monsters 1d6 * 100 3d6 * 10 (50%) 1d4 x 50 gp (20%) 1 item (5%)

Random Magic Items

2d6 Magic Item
2 Headband of Intellect
3 Magic Weapon +1
4 Goggles of Night
5 Spell scroll – level 2 spell
6 Spell scroll – cantrip
7 Potion of Healing
8 Spell scroll – level 1 spell
9 Spell scroll – level 3 spell
10 Gloves of Swimming and Climbing
11 Bag of Holding
12 Gauntlets of Ogre Power

All monsters and magic items can be found in the D&D Basic Rules.

OSR Adventure Review: The Tomb of Gardag the Strange

The Tomb of Gardag the Strange is a short adventure written for the Labyrinth Lord system (a variant of the 1981 Basic & Expert D&D set edited by Tom Moldvay and Dave Cook). The adventure contains seven first-level pregenerated characters, so I presume that it’s a first-level adventure.

The adventurers are hired to discover the remains of an assassin from the tomb of the warlord he assassinated. It’s a small dungeon of 24 areas, populated by a number of monsters, tricks and traps, in a very old-school manner. Despite its simplicity, the actual contents of the dungeon are interesting and will prove for some entertaining play. The biggest balance issue is likely the inclusion of both a wight and wraith; have the party got weapons that can hurt them? If not, they may be in trouble!

One of the best features of the product is a table of 12 henchmen; each is given interesting background and personality traits. The map of the dungeon, which is hand-drawn, looks fantastic. Unfortunately, the formatting of the adventure occasionally leaves something to be desired; the monster stats are not always presented identically, and I’m not a fan of placing rules material in italics. The small amount of art in the product is effectively used.

Although not a tremendously ambitious adventure, The Tomb of Gardag the Strange contains some very nice touches and I find it quite charming. It might be a little too deadly for a novice party, especially if they have delusions of their own invincibility, but, nevertheless, it’s worth having a look at.