Monday, June 20, 2022

[Now Available] Vampire Class

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

This new class booklet presents a 20-level Vampire class for use with Labyrinth Lord, easily adaptable to any other classic style OSR Role-Playing Game.

The Vampire Class booklet includes details and rules on:
  • Becoming a vampire.
  • Vampire hit points and ability scores.
  • Special defenses, resistances, and immunities.
  • Vampire special abilities.
  • Vampire combat, bringing back the blood drain!
  • Vampire weaknesses.
With this class, a player’s character who has been transformed into a vampire no longer need become a non-player character! One can also run an entire campaign with vampire player characters! And of course, it is an excellent source for creating unique vampire enemies.

16-page booklet, 11 pages of content. $2 – CHEAP!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

[Coming Soon] The Heart of Albion, a Hexcrawl Campaign for Castles & Crusades

The Heart of Albion Hexcrawl Campaign Setting
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

The year is 1400 AUC, as the world has fallen into the cold-hearted grasp of Fimbul Winter.
Summer is as autumn, spring is as winter, and winter? Winter is as some cold slice of the Hells. Glaciers are rolling out of the mountains; new lands rise as waters retreat; and the very earth cracks under the weight of the Wrath of Eldisor.
The Great Northern Isle of Skandza has shattered into a thousand isles under the weight of these glaciers, and the survivors struggle to survive amidst the ruins as the Old Gods fight for their survival. Elsewhere, the remnants of the old Tyrrhenian Empire are being swept away by waves of barbarians and savagery…
The peninsular realm of Albion, far in the northwest and forgotten by Tyrrhenia and Skandza alike, is undergoing similar convulsions.
The native Kymrae and Brigantian tribes, Tyrrhenized and free, are threatened by the invasion of the barbaric Reichlanders from the east and the Caledonians from the north.
The native demi-humans and fairies are caught in between, and also drawn into the internecine battles between the various families of the Old Gods of Albion and the Reichlands, and even those from further afield, in their struggles with one another and with the rise of the new faith, the Holy Temple of Law.
And here and there still stand a few settlements and strongholds of Jordvann and Tyrrhenia, where the Jordvanner seek to rebuild civilization and the Tyrrhenians seek to conquer its remnants amongst those dimming points of light.
Follow the development of this classic Hexcrawl Campaign, The Heart of Albion, and explore the history behind the Continental Realms of the current Isle of Eldisor setting.
The development of this new Castles & Crusades setting will be featured on my blog, Adventures in Gaming v2, to edify those who wish to learn how to develop their own campaign settings in the classic Hexcrawl Sandbox fashion.
For fans of Labyrinth Lord, never fear; Castles & Crusades is readily adaptable to Labyrinth Lord (just as Labyrinth Lord is readily adaptable to Castles & Crusades).
Further Labyrinth Lord development of the Isle of Eldisor in the current era will follow the completion of The Heart of Albion, notably the northern half of Eldisor, The Northlands.

Follow developments on these pages!

Sunday, June 12, 2022

[Now Available] The Demon Tower of Valdig Fel

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler
The Demon Tower of Valdig Fel is the first adventure specifically set in the Isle of Eldisor Hexcrawl Campaign Setting. Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, it is easily adapted to any OSR-Style Role-Playing Game.

The Demon Tower of Valdig Fel is an ancient, much-storied flying citadel in the shape of a demon’s head. Since the death of its creator during the Wars of Succession following the Fall of Eldisor, it has passed through the hands of countless villains, who have used the flying tower to raid, pillage, and enslave the peoples of the Ivory Plains and beyond. Terrible tales of wizards, demons, and dragons follow in its wake.
And now it has drifted into a tree-lined ridge near Wulf’s Ferry… right in your own backyard!
What are the inhabitants up to? Are they here to raid or to trade?
What of the rumors of centuries of treasure hidden within?
Are you brave or foolish enough to find out?
The Demon Tower of Valdig Fel is designed for use with Labyrinth Lord and other OSR-Style Role-Playing Games. Designed for use for a party of 4 to 6 adventurers of 5th to 7th level, its dangers can easily be increased or decreased for more powerful or less experienced parties.
24-page booklet, 19 pages of adventure. $3

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

[Now Available] Shortcuts to Adventure #03: Monstrous Reflections

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

Shortcuts to Adventure is a new series of mini-adventures designed to be fit into any dungeon, sewer, or ruined city. Each consists of five to 10 rooms, no more, and has an adventure theme.

The third Shortcuts to Adventure module is Monstrous Reflections. This one is a doozy. The party finds themselves in an area where they can all too easily get in over their heads. A simple clan of refuge goblins seeks to save their skins by offering up information on their neighbor… a crazy old and very wealthy magic-user. He has a giant crystal, they say, and he stares into it all the time. If taking out the magic-user is so easy, though, why do the goblins have such a look of terror in their eyes?

Designed for a party of 1st to 3rd level adventurers (maybe…), this adventure can easily be adjusted to higher levels by altering the mix and number of monsters present.

Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, this adventure can easily be used with any Old School RPG.

Eight pages, three pages of adventure. $1 – CHEAP!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

How to be the Best Dungeon Master for Dungeons & Dragons -- Part 02: Done-in-One Dungeons

This series will explore the various tips and tricks I have learned over the years on how to be the best Dungeon Master you can be for Dungeons & Dragons -- or best Labyrinth Lord for Labyrinth Lord, or best Castle Keeper for Castles & Crusades, or best Judge for Dungeon Crawl Classics – whatever your favorite flavor of game. But before I can really talk about all that, I want to make sure we are all on the same page as to what, exactly, being a Dungeon Master is all about.

The way this is going to work is, essentially, on each article I am going to go through the various stages of gaming as I did, back when I first started, and build up from there with how that relates to the subject at hand. So, we are going to start with how I started – being the Dungeon Master right out of the box. 

I received the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set for Christmas 1981 (the Moldvay set). I’d had no prior experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, let alone running a Dungeons & Dragons game. But that is where I had to start, as I was the first kid in our group to get the game, and to get the other guys to play, I had to run the thing.

Fortunately, Moldvay Basic was designed to be easily accessible to the young player and the novice Dungeon Master. Holmes Basic, the set that had been released in 1977, was an introductory set designed more for the then-current “youth” market of Dungeons & Dragons players – college students. Moldvay trended its design even younger, to the high-school crowd. I was at the time all of 12 years old and midway through 7th grade, though I had a 12th-grade reading level (or so the tests said).

I’m not going to say reading and understanding Moldvay Dungeons & Dragons was a breeze, but it was fairly easy to comprehend, at least, compared to what I much later read in Holmes and the Original Dungeons & Dragons sets. There were only a few minor issues I had with getting started, mostly due to the various, sometimes confusing rules on variable weapon damage and monster hit dice. But as far as the rules went, things were fine.

It was when it came to actually how to combine it all and run the game that I had issues.

Fortunately, the Basic Set had three things that helped with that.

First, Part 8: Dungeon Master Information, was very carefully designed to literally walk the novice Dungeon Master through the process of creating a dungeon environment wherein their players would adventure. To be honest, I took to this section like a drowning man to a life vest and have never really looked back. It was this section that really first got me started on the path to a “Build it as you Go” Dungeon Master, and I’ve mostly really built upon that foundation. 

More on that later, but suffice to say, the systems provided in Part 8 are the building blocks of everything you need to know about building a dungeon, or, as Moldvay refers to it in the book, creating a “Scenario.” Here are the basics:

A. Choose a Scenario
B. Decide on a Setting
C. Decide on Special Monsters to be Used
D. Draw the Map of the Dungeon
E. Stock the Dungeon
F. Filling in Final Details

Second, there followed an example of dungeon design in the book itself, the classic Haunted Keep scenario, which showed the prospective Dungeon Master how to design a dungeon. It gave the example of one tower and left the other tower for the novice Dungeon Master to design, as well as any subsequent dungeon levels beneath the Haunted Keep. It also provided a Sample Dungeon Expedition and finally, a section on Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art

Some months later I would find much of the same material, expressed in much richer phrasing and with much more embellishment, and in a far more disjointed manner, in the words of Gary Gygax in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1E Dungeon Master Guide. And these words, too, I took to heart and further built upon what I learned from Moldvay Basic and Cook Expert. Bult it was that original combination of Moldvay and later Cook that really got things started.

Third and not least, there was the adventure module that was included in the Basic Set – Module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, with the Caves of Chaos

But there’s where things kind of went off the rails for me.

You see, while Moldvay Basic included Keep on the Borderlands, the module was not designed with Moldvay Basic in mind

At all.

It was originally developed whole cloth by Gary Gygax as an introductory adventure to be included in the Holmes Basic set, and Holmes Basic was designed to be used in combination with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

So, with B2, I went from the simple dungeon design system of Moldvay Basic, which revolved around building a small dungeon of perhaps three levels, to this grander (though in retrospect, still very small) miniature “Campaign Setting” that included a home base, a small wilderness, and a “dungeon” that did not at all follow the rules I had just read.

After all, the Caves of Chaos is not a proper dungeon, it is more of an “area with numerous dungeons” – 13 distinct dungeon areas, to be exact. Some of them are connected by secret corridors, but all are still distinct, and there is no “1st Level” of the dungeon, let alone a “2nd Level” or “3rd Level.”

I looked at the module and thought to myself, “OK, what the heck is THIS?”

And so, though I quickly got the Cook Expert Set, I ended up fumbling around with the Caves of Chaos for some time. Then, shortly thereafter, I picked up Module B1: In Search of the Unknown, by Michael Carr. B1, too, had been designed for use with Holmes Basic as an Introductory module, and was replaced in the Holmes run by Module B2, written by Gygax. B1, however, had been written exclusively with dungeon exploration in mind, and not worried about tying it all together with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons style play.

Where B2 provided the novice Dungeon Master with some general advice, B1 was designed to also help the novice Dungeon Master further develop dungeon design skills. Frankly, B1 would have been a better choice for inclusion with the new Moldvay Basic Set, but as the change had been made in the Holmes Set, it continued with the Moldvay Basic Set.

With that all said, I feel that if you want to get some of the best advice on creating dungeon scenarios from the start, you need to pick up the Moldvay Basic Set and module B1: In Search of the Unknown. They are both available in PDF format:
Reading the advice in these two books, primarily in Moldvay Basic, will give you an excellent start on designing the best Done-in-One dungeon adventures you can for Dungeons & Dragons.

To recap, I started out with Moldvay Basic’s “Scenario Design,” plus some advice from In Search of the Unknown, and some confusion from Keep on the Borderlands.

By now you are probably wondering how this all ties in with the idea of the “Done-in-One” or “One-Shot” adventure, right? Well, the above provided the groundwork for my own ability to develop and design dungeons. From there, over the years, I absorbed further advice and accumulated a vast number of resources to use to build these dungeons – from the Dungeon Masters Guide, from the works of Judges Guild, from the works of Midkemia Press, and, as time went on and I accumulated more official TSR modules, used as further samples of dungeon design.

And here now is where the Done-in-One/One-Shot really starts to come into play.

In retrospect, while I never quite grasped the design trends in those adventures, I now understand the design philosophy that stood behind those TSR modules.

Much talked about in more recent years but missed by a generation of players who didn’t get their start in college play in the mid to late 70’s -- but instead in the early 80’s -- was the effect that modules designed for Dungeons & Dragons Convention Tournaments had on the direction of the game, and the play and design philosophy of that whole second generation, not to mention the very game itself.

When TSR first started publishing Dungeons & Dragons, they honestly didn’t quite grasp what they had, or rather, what their market desired. They were almost all old-school wargamers, so had a lot of experience in building their own scenarios or adapting historical scenarios and designing their own war game campaigns. 

This is how the concept of the campaign got started in Dungeons & Dragons – both Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax ran their Dungeons & Dragons games like they had run their war game campaigns previously, as a series of inter-connected battles to fulfill the goals of an overall war. The main differences were that each player played a single character rather than played a side (or portion of a side); the focus was on a “mega-dungeon” and surrounding lands rather than a series of nations; and there was no “end point,” as the game could go on and on and on, with each player bringing in new characters to meet new challenges.

And that was the default assumption, such as it was, that was provided to players in Original Dungeons & Dragons – each Dungeon Master would create a “tentpole” mega-dungeon or series of related dungeons and build out from there.

And many did, as witness the records from campaigns such as the Rythlondar Chronicles, the Arduin Campaign, and similar classic campaigns – and entire alternate versions of Dungeons & Dragons that grew alongside them -- from the early days of Dungeons & Dragons.

But alongside this grew a whole other, different style of Dungeons & Dragons play – the Tournament scene. TSR and local game groups would run Dungeons & Dragons tournaments at local and regional game conventions. Each tournament would consist of one to four rounds; and advancement from round to round required the player and/or party to earn a certain number of points from performing certain specific actions during the adventure. Each game during a round would be run using the exact same adventure for each party of players, to evaluate them all equally.

Most Dungeons & Dragons Tournament rounds ran for 4 hours or thereabouts, and so the party had to, ideally, be able to complete the adventure within that time frame. Thus, each adventure designed for each round had to be a relatively short, self-contained adventure; no open-ended mega-dungeons, no wild and wooly sandbox wildernesses, as were so common in everyday play back in the day.

The Tournament adventures were essentially an entirely new sort of dungeon – the direct ancestor of the concept of the “Done-in-One” or “One-Shot” dungeon design.

Meanwhile, as TSR produced the Little Brown Book expansions, choosing to concentrate on rules, other companies, such as Wee Warriors, Judges Guild, and various others, discovered there was a market for pre-made adventures. Not wanting to lose out in that game space, TSR decided to publish their own modules. As they were already short-handed, they decided to primarily use what they already had at hand – the adventures from the Dungeons & Dragons Tournaments they had run at Gen Con, Origins, and other conventions.

Of the 33 Modules release by TSR from 1978 to 1982, 15 of them were originally Tournament modules, including 4 of the 8 modules released in 1978 and 5 of the 9 modules released in 1979 and 1980 (10 of the 17 modules released in those three years were written by Gary Gygax, and half of those were his Tournament modules).

This also tied into the emphasis of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons -- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the creation of which, among other goals, was to properly standardize the game so that every Dungeon Master and every player, wherever they originated from, would all be playing the exact same rules when they went to a convention and played in an Official TSR Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament. Tournaments were going to be a BIG thing for TSR; they even founded the Role-Playing Gamers Association (RPGA) to run their tournament system…

Suffice to say, when new players such as myself went out to find official TSR modules to run or to use as inspirational material, we found mostly Tournament Modules. That, or modules that were, for the most part, designed around the same kind of philosophy, as they had to fit the same format (16 to 32 pages) and, in the case of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules, had an even further emphasis on the Tournament style of play.

Thus, rather than emphasize the classic “Tentpole-Mega-Dungeon-Sandbox-Campaign” style of play that was original to the game, these modules reinforced the new style – short, sweet, to the point adventures that could be run in a single evening – or even a 4-hour event slot at a convention tournament.

And this design philosophy became the core design philosophy for many players and designers to this day. The “Daystar Revolution” of “Story Game” design introduced with Tracy and Laura Hickman’s Ravenloft and Desert of Desolation series, followed by the Dragonlance series in 1984, did little to change this emphasis. It merely transformed it from a single Done-in-One to a series of related Done-in-Ones on a “Story Path.” 

Over time, this further mutated to the “Adventure Path” style game, which now dominates in both Dungeons & Dragons 5E and Pathfinder 2E. The core difference here is that each “module” contains a subset of “Done-in-Ones” rather than a single “Done-in-One,” and all those “Done-in-Ones” are tied to the story within the single module, which are tied to a macro-story known as a “Campaign,” which is not really the same thing as a classic “Campaign.”

Suffice to say, the Done-in-One still dominates adventure game design to this day. There are exceptions but Done-in-One is the rule. Often, each Done-in-One today is designed to be done in two hours to better enable play at local game shops as part of “Adventure League” style play and the new timeframe of player availability (thus being a feature, not a bug).

We now have the broad background of who, what, where, and why Done-in-Ones are the core design element of most modern adventure design. Let’s move on to the "how" of Done-in-One design.

Let’s look back at that design outline provided in Moldvay Basic:

A. Choose a Scenario
B. Decide on a Setting
C. Decide on Special Monsters to be Used
D. Draw the Map of the Dungeon
E. Stock the Dungeon
F. Filling in Final Details

Now let’s break that down:

A. Choose a Scenario
The “scenario” is, in this outline, the MacGuffin, the device that serves a as a trigger for the plot – in the case of a dungeon module, the “Why in the Hells are we going into this gods-forsaken place to begin with?” that every character asks themselves before going into the dungeon. Moldvay gives a list of 10 suggestions; I have included some relevant TSR Modules in parenthesis after each:

1. Exploring the Unknown (B1, B2, B4, C1, C2, D1, I1, S1, S2, S3, S4, T1, X1)
2. Investigating a Chaotic Outpost (A1, A2, B2, C1, D1, G1, G2, G3, S2, S3, T1)
3. Recovering Ruins (B1, B3, C2, I1, S1, T1, X2)
4. Destroying an Ancient Evil (A4, B2, B3, C2, D3, I2, N1, S1, S2, S4)
5. Visiting a Lost Shrine (C1, D2, WG4)
6. Fulfilling a Quest (D1, D2, D3, G1, G2, G3, S2)
7. Escaping from Enemies (B4, N1, X3)
8. Rescuing Prisoners (A1, A2, A3, B3, S2, X2)
9. Using a Magic Portal (EX1, EX2, Q1, X2)
10. Finding a Lost Race (B4, D2, D3, X1)

You can see that many of these modules hit two or more of these possible scenarios. From this we can realize Rule #1 of Done-in-Ones:

Rule #1: There should be multiple reasons for the adventurers to be exploring the dungeon, this way every player’s character has a chance to get something out of the adventure.

B. Decide on a Setting
Here you decide where the MacGuffin is set. This will give you a general idea of what your map is going to look like and the kind of monsters, non-monster challenges, and specific kinds of treasures that will be most likely found therein. Again, many official TSR modules riff off of two or more of these setting ideas. 

As an exercise, you should refer to the list of modules at the end of this article and, if you do not own them yourself, refer to the list of classic TSR modules on Wikipedia. Read each module or go to each module description and see if you can find therein which combination of settings each module uses. This will give you a grounding in the classical Done-in-One style settings, which usually evoke a grounded concept of adventure setting common in myth, legend, and literature. 

1. Castle or Tower 
2. Caves or Cavern 
3. Abandoned Mine 
4. Crypt or Tomb
5. Ancient Temple
6. Stronghold or Town

The setting needs to be evocative – it is not just background or flavor text the setting is part of the adventure. If you have any experience with those modules, you will innately sense the importance of those locations and where they were as much as what and who were there. You might not remember the treasures you won in the Tomb of Horrors, but you remember the Green Devil Face! You might not remember exactly what monsters you slew, but you will never forget Castle Ravenloft

The Where is just as important as the Why. That brings us to Rule #2 of Done-in-Ones:

Rule #2: Don’t sell the adventure setting short! The setting of an adventure is as much a part of the adventure as the reason for being there and the monsters and treasure to be found.

C. Decide on Special Monsters to be Used
Now you know the Why of the adventure and the Where of the adventure, you can figure out the Who of the adventure – as in Who the player characters are going to encounter and interact with, for better and for worse. Plus, of course, any Special Treasure they might have with them.

Note that the Why and Where do not have to drive the Who – after all, dungeons do not necessarily need to make sense. But these major, significant monsters are going to be the primary encounters in the dungeon – whether or not they are necessarily the deadliest or more numerous, they must somehow be the most interesting, even if they are just orcs or apes. Here are some samples of the Special Monsters from classic dungeons:

A1: The Aspis insect-men
A2: The weird Boggles
A3: The NPCs
A4: The Myconids
B2: The Minotaur and the Evil Clerics
B3: Loads of new monsters
B4: The Cynidiceans
D1: Lots of strange creatures
D2: Kuo-Toa
D3: Drow
G1: Hill Giants
G2: Frost Giants
G3: Fire Giants
And so forth…

The G-Series especially made Giants SPECIAL. They were no longer just random encounters in an underworld or wilderness; they had entire societies and personalities. A3 and B4 focused on strange and interesting non-player characters, both as enemies and potential allies. B3 and D1 introduced the players to what were probably wholly new and strange monsters to their experience. This all brings us to Rule #3 of Done-in-Ones:

Rule #3: Make the core monsters Special. This does not mean tough or difficult or even numerous; make them unusual and memorable.

D. Draw the Map of the Dungeon
Now that you know the Why, Where, and Who, you can get started on the thing that brings them all together – the dungeon map. Now, this is where things are going to be different depending on which edition and variation you play. 

“Classic” dungeon maps, for OD&D to AD&D 2E and most clones, often have larger dungeons with many empty rooms; even the Done-in-Ones often had empty rooms, or spare rooms, and so forth. 

“Modern” dungeon maps, for 3E through 5E, the number of rooms in a dungeon is often equal to the number of encounters of monsters, traps, specials, treasures, and/or a combination of the four. 

If you are designing a “Modern” dungeon with very few rooms, go to E below first, to determine what other monsters, traps, specials, and treasures you want in the dungeon, then come back here.

Next you must decide on how big you want your dungeon. In a Done-in-One dungeon, you don’t need a large number of rooms, but in a Classic game you still want some red herring rooms and empty rooms to cause concern and for potential random encounters. 

The basic rule of thumb for a Classic style map is to determine how many groups of the Special Monsters you want, then multiply that by three to four to determine the size of the dungeon. Many of those rooms will be stocked, randomly or by design, in the next section with monsters, traps, specials, and treasure.

For a Modern style map, similarly you must first determine how many groups of the Special Monsters you want; you start with that many rooms. Add rooms for the other monsters, traps, specials, and treasures you add from step E. Then you then probably want only one additional room for every three or four rooms you have already accounted for, and likely, you will combine them with other existing rooms for “suites.”

You then combine the Why, Where, and Who to design the dungeon map in a fashion that will be conducive to play. Done-in-Ones need to be relatively tight and focused, but still need some dead-ends, switchbacks, and wide-open spaces, which should be designed based on the Where of the dungeon. Even in a narrow mine, make sure there is plenty of space to get around; if you make the locations too narrow, with any bottlenecks, you can slow down combats, and even in Classic style games, too many combats can take up too much time. But you also don’t want to go Jaquaysing the dungeon so much that the party gets lost or off track. You have to walk that careful balance between a linear railroad and a non-linear Jaquays-style open dungeon.

This is not easy. You will fail often. You have to learn by experience just how much space to use in a Done-in-One. It often varies based on your players game style. Don’t let failures stop you. This is how you will learn. Party didn’t get to the end of the dungeon in five hours? Cut out a few rooms next time or tighten up the encounters. Party breezed through the dungeon in two hours? Add a few rooms, add a few monsters, add a special puzzle or statue. Design, fail, learn, repeat. This leads us to Rule #4 of Done-in-Ones:

Rule #4: The design of a dungeon in a Done-in-One is a fine balance between the Linear and the Non-Linear. You will have to learn to walk that line. Do not be afraid to fail.

E. Stock the Dungeon
This is the heart of dungeon design – the What to add to the dungeon to make it about more than just the MacGuffin and the Special Monsters. This is where you must remember that even a Done-in-One dungeon is more than just a simple linear adventure in more than just physical dungeon design. This is where you fit in the B Story, the C Story, the D story, and so forth. Moldvay provides a series of tables and suggestions for generating the following random items:

Monsters – 2 in 6 rooms should have a Monster, and 4 in 6 of those should have some Treasure.
Traps – 1 in 6 rooms should have a Trap, and 3 in 6 of those should have some Treasure.
Specials – 1 in 6 rooms should have a Special item or location.
Treasures – 2 in 6 rooms should be Empty, and 2 in 6 of those should have some Treasure.

Of course, these are all designed around the Classic style of play. As mentioned in D, above, Modern games require fewer rooms, especially empty rooms, and much less treasure (insert sad whomp-whomp sound here).

You can plan these all out, especially if you have a very strong theme for your dungeon, but I’ve found it is often more fun to let the dice decide. Most editions and systems have random tables appropriate to the levels for monsters and treasures, and at least guidance if not random tables for traps and specials. Make sure not to overload the rooms – just as with keeping a balance in dungeon design between Linear and Non-Linear, you need to maintain a careful balance in numbers of monsters and traps and their danger versus expected party power. 

Unlike “real-world style” “non-balanced” Campaign Adventures (more on that another day), Done-in-Ones really need to be designed around the Monster Points, XPL, HDE, CL, EL, or whatever level of monster-versus-party balance is inherent in the system. Which brings us to Rule #5 of Done-in-Ones:
Rule #5: The additional threats in Monsters, Traps, and Specials in a Done-in-One must be balanced out not only with the reward of Treasure and the completion of the MacGuffin, but they must also be balanced out with the expected number and levels of the player-character party. Like designing the physical dungeon, this is a process that can only be learned through trial and error. Do not be afraid to fail!

F. Filling in Final Details
I’m going to end this with a quote directly from Moldvay:

Once the rooms have been stocked, the DM can fill in details about the corridors (such as traps or regular patrols of monsters). The DM should also "stock" the dungeon with some normal items, smells, sounds, and so forth. Inhabited and empty rooms could be given whatever normal furnishings would be common in the dungeon. The DM should be careful not to use too much nor too little detail; some detail will help the players imagine the areas that they are exploring, but too much detail is often just boring.

-- Tom Moldvay, Basic Dungeons & Dragons, p. B52 

Remember that you are designing a Done-in-One, not a mega-dungeon, not a masterpiece – simply a dungeon adventure that can be played in one session of about two to four hours. Don’t make it all too much, but also, don’t make it all too little.
As a Dungeon Master, you will know you have a well-designed Done-in-One adventure when you have designed enough of them, run enough of them, and re-designed enough of them, such that your players more often have a lot of fun than not. We’ll follow this not with a rule, but with an aphorism…

Aphorism #1: You will be the best Dungeon Master at designing and running Done-in-One Dungeons & Dragons adventures when your players tell you that you are the best Dungeon Master.

Follow these design steps, and you will be well on your way to being the best Dungeon Master you can be when designing and running Done-in-One adventures in Dungeons & Dragons.

For some further great advice on creating Done-in-One adventures and running them at conventions, thus returning full circle to the origins of the Done-in-One, check out this article by Tim Snider on Savage Afterworld.

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Next Monday: Part 3: Sandbox Campaigns Part 1

Sunday, June 5, 2022

[Now Available] Fairies Fair and Foul Volume #01

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

The Fairies Fair and Foul series transforms the list of fairies from Michael Denham’s famous tracts into a series of creatures fit for encounters in Labyrinth Lord and other Old School RPGs.

The fairies included herein are not necessarily based on myths and legends, taking merely inspiration from the name and possibly inspiration from myths and legends. Some are created from whole cloth, much as many of the names of fairies in the Denham Tracts most likely were. 

Rest assured, they will challenge your players with new and interesting encounters!

This first volume includes seven new types of fairies:

The Alholde Fairy – A household fairy who only the rich and powerful can afford.

The Fairy Apparition – A creature literally born of fairy nightmares!

The Banshee Fairy – Wicked fairies all too… keen… on avenging themselves on all other life!

The Barguest Fairy – A greedy beast of a fairy who toys with his enemies like a cat does a mouse…

The Black Dog Fairy – Guardians at the crossroads between the Fairy and Mortal worlds.

The Black Bug Fairy – Mortals should be careful when they wish upon a star, as they never know who might be listening

The Bloody Bones Fairy – These traitorous fairies have lost their heads… but a little setback like that would never stop them. Just don’t lose your head when you encounter them…

Seven new fairies – Mostly wicked and foul, in this run. Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, easily adaptable to any Old School RPG.

10 pages, 7 pages of fairies, $1 – CHEAP!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

[Now Available] Shortcuts to Adventure #02: The Lost Gnome Mine

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

Shortcuts to Adventure is a new series of mini-adventures designed to be fit into any dungeon, sewer, or ruined city. Each consists of five to 10 rooms, no more, and has an adventure theme.

The second Shortcut to Adventure module is The Lost Gnome Mine. Here long ago a clan of gnomes discovered a huge and beautiful black diamond. So magnificent was it, they began to worship it. Then, strange and terrible things happened, and the gnomes disappeared. But it is said that the huge black diamond, worth a king’s ransom, remains to be found…

Designed for a party of 1st to 3rd level adventurers, this adventure can easily be adjusted to higher levels by altering the mix and number of monsters present.

Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, this adventure can easily be used with any Old School RPG.

Eight pages, three pages of adventure. $1 – CHEAP!

Thursday, June 2, 2022

[Now Available] Shortcuts to Adventure #01: Shrine of the Slime God

By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler

Shortcuts to Adventures is a new series of mini-adventures designed to be fit into any dungeon, sewer, or ruined city. Each consists of five to 10 rooms, no more, and has an adventure theme.

The first Shortcut to Adventure is the Shrine of the Slime-God. Here horrible Chaotic and Evil priests and cultists come to worship the Demon-Prince of Slime. Here they store their treasures when they return home and hide in obscurity among their Lawful, Goodly neighbors… but they do not leave these treasures unguarded!

Designed for a party of 4th to 6th level adventurers, this adventure can easily be adjusted to higher or lower levels by altering the mix and number of monsters present.

Designed for use with Labyrinth Lord, this adventure can easily be used with any Old School RPG.

Eight pages, three pages of adventure. $1 – CHEAP!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Isle of Eldisor: A Realm of Crawling Chaos

The Isle of Eldisor comes across in most ways as an Epic High Fantasy campaign setting, but, in truth, it has more than a dash of Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror lurking beneath the surface. Literally – beneath the surface of the land and sea.

Thus, if you are running an Eldisor campaign you should check out Goblinoid Games’ Realms of Crawling Chaos, a guide to using Lovecraftian elements in your Labyrinth Lord or OSR RPG campaigns.

If you are running Eldisor using 5E, then I would suggest checking out Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5E. It is an amazing, in-depth, and novel treatment of the Mythos for use with 5E by a past-master of the Mythos Horror RPG genre.

First and most prominently, of course, are the Morlocks, which are not Lovecraftian per se, being an invention of H. G. Wells, though even then they have more than a touch of body horror and cosmic horror about them. In Eldisor, they are a full-blown Lovecraftian fusion, as they worship the Old Ones, notably Abhoth, Atlach-Nacha, and Tsathoggua. They are the bogeymen who haunt the nightmares of the Tribesmen and the colonists. Orcs and goblins are monstrous, but Morlocks? These are monsters that are supposedly men…

Then there are the Cavemen, which would on the surface seem to be normal, everyday Neanderthals. However, many of the Cavemen clans are corrupted by Chaos, and for all intents and purposes these should be treated as Voormis… Dreadful Secret: true Voormis are found on Eldisor, in the Northlands. More on that some other time… But if you want to give a corrupted clan a bit of a boost, check out the options available via various Mythos magics and abilities. The Subhuman race from Crawling Chaos is a possible player character race for extended OSR Eldisor campaigns.

Then there are those that dwell beneath the surface of the deep waters… the Deep Ones. These monstrous fish-folk are ever at their age-old schemes to try to take over the surface world for the greater glory of Cthulhu, Father Dagon, and Mother Hydra. Fortunately, they are mostly limited to the waters and coasts of the Twilight Ocean, though they continually seek to make inroads into the waters and coasts of the Merrow Sea. There are minor hamlets of Sea-Bloods scattered across both coasts, with all the dangers and potential treasures they offer. The Sea-Blood race from Crawling Chaos is a possible player character race for extended OSR Eldisor campaigns.

Note: For the Deep Ones, if you do not have a proper source for their game stats, you can use Sahuagin in their place, or if using official 5E, you can use Kuo-Toa.

There are other Mythos elements at work in Eldisor. Humans are hardly the only ones corruptible by the Old Ones and their minions. Giants, dragons, trolls, ogres, orcs, and goblins can all be corrupted by True Chaos. Such creatures should possess strange, unusual, and terrifying powers. If using Realms of Crawling Chaos, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5E, or another Mythos source, you should also feel free to add in more proper Mythos creatures, though do so lightly, if you wish to maintain the High Fantasy veneer on the setting.

And then there are the Cults, which bring corruption on a societal as well as individual basis. Rare among the Continentals, these cults are de rigueur among the Morlocks, far too common among the Cavemen, Gray Folk, and Trolls, and only moderately less so among the Tribesmen and Kruski. Such cults often disguise themselves as cults of the King of Hell, much as the cults of the King of Hell disguise themselves as the cults of other gods. Only at the last are they revealed to be far more than a mere Hell-bound cult, providing the players a glimpse into the cosmic horror of the Realms of Crawling Chaos…