OSR: Learning Dungeon, Level 2

This is the second level of my Learning Dungeon. When you first start up Super Mario Bros, the game doesn't give you any instructions. The first level is cunningly designed to teach you the rules: jump on enemies, pick up mushrooms, look for secrets, get coins, avoid pits. There is no tutorial. The game itself is the tutorial.
This dungeon is designed to take a group of non-gamers - even non-video-gamers - and teach them the basics of dungeoneering. The 1st level covered the basics. Some more advanced concepts will be introduced on this level.

More art.

Room (8) is directly below the statue in room (7). It's a 5' wide hallway alcove-like hall that leads to room (9), a hall of statues. Six huge statues of snake-men loom over the hall, glaring at the party. One of the statues can be moved to reveal a secret room (10).

Lessons: The party should have learned, in room (7), that secret passages are sometimes hidden behind statues

Room (10) is a secret guardroom for temple assassins. Now it is empty and dark. The furniture has rotted to fragments. There are two hooked polearms here that are still usable, along with some silver icons.

Lessons: secret rooms contain more treasure.

Room (11) is a large chamber, also ringed with statues. It looks like there was once a pit in the centre of the floor, but water trickling down from the surface, through (7) - (9) has filled it to the brim. The pit is completely full of dark, oily water that smells like licorice. Inside are two mummy fragment (as crawling claws, but with mummy rot and better strength). The mummy fragments will lunge out and attempt to strangle or bludgeon anyone who comes near the pit.

Lessons: there are hidden monsters. Some monsters deal damage and also inflict diseases. It is really hard to hit a monster clinging to your friend's throat.

If the party manages to kill or disable the mummy fragments, they may attempt to dredge or search the pool. This is difficult, but if they manage to succeed, it contains the following items: a very angry and completely insane mummy's head, a heavy gold chain, a silver ring, and possibly a magic utility item of the GMs choice, or a randomly rolled item. Touching the water does not cause mummy rot, but drinking it or getting it into any open wounds does. The silver ring is a ring of eyesight. While wearing it, one of the user's eyes pops out and becomes hard as glass. The eye still sees normally.

Lessons: look for treasure at the bottom of pits and pools. Magic items can solve problems.

Rooms (12) through (16) are tomb chambers. They are sealed with thick stone doors, but the doors can be levered open without too much trouble.

Room (12) contains 3 stone coffins. Two snake-brides remain (as corpses), but the snake-man (Xisor the Green) is missing. He wandered into the pit in room (11) several centuries ago and slowly dissolved. The passage to room (12) contains a pressure plate. Stepping on the plate activates a lighting bolt spell trap, aimed straight down the hallway. The trap only works once. The electrum plate the bolt fires from is valuable. There is also a spell scroll (eye venom, or a random spell) inside Xisor's coffin.

Lessons: sometimes the floor is trapped. Traps are deadly. Approach unknown rooms with caution.

Room (13) is collapsed. The blocks of the ceiling caved in. If the PCs start to excavate the room, they will hear
Sparmuntar (a snake-man mummy wielding a greataxe) on the other side of the blocked passage. He is not very subtle, and will try and strike the moment he can see the head of a living creature. His funeral trinkets are valuable.

Lessons: you can hear some monsters before you see them. Some rooms are best left alone

Room (14) is more primitive than the others, and has cruder paintings and carvings. It contains one stone coffin with the badly mummified remains of Franbinzar, last king of the fortress. His mummification did not go well. Counts as a black pudding. His grave goods are clay copies.

Lessons: oozes live in dungeons. They are difficult to bludgeon, just as the skeletons were difficult to slash. You can use the environment to your advantage (by circling the pit in Room (11), by closing the stone doors on the ooze, by luring the ooze upstairs and hitting it with the hammer trap, etc.)

Room (15) has a wooden door, not a stone one. It contains three beds, some rotten shelves, a silver and emerald snake-god icon, and possibly one minor magical item (that is most likely cursed). This room was used by the priests of the upper tomb. The scrolls scattered around the room record the ravings of the trapped mummies.

Lessons: valuables take unconventional forms. The ravings might be worth quite a bit if translated... or sold to the credulous.

Room (16) is an unfinished tomb. It might make a nice bolthole in an emergency, or a place to stash supplies.

Lessons: some rooms are empty.

Room (17) contains eighteen clay statues of snake-men warriors. Their swords are rusty. One might have a bow with magic arrows. All the statues are hollow, but contain nothing. The statue in the far south corner of the room sits over a secret passage to the Basilisk Hall (covered in the next post).

Lessons: some rooms look more threatening than they are. Keep looking under statues for secret passages.

The hallway (18) is protected by a very ornate stone door. It descends downwards into darkness. There is a faint wind. The third stair is trapped. If any weight is put on it, the stairs tip to become a smooth stone ramp. The bottom of the ramp has spikes. The trap resets 5 rounds after it is activated. The ramp is easy to slide down if you know it's there.

Lessons: the floor is trapped. Traps can move you and not just harm you.

Room (19) is a large arena-like room entirely covered with shields from the tribes defeated by the snake-men. Some shields are rotten, but some are still useable. In the centre of the room, the Stone Cobra Gurdian waits. Behind it is a narrow path along a bottomless chasm.

The Stone Cobra Guardian has a writeup here.


  1. I ran this for a couple new-to-rpg friends as a one-shot opening dungeon last night and it turned out pretty well.(Play report here, if you care)

    Great work on this - it's a good teaching tool for DMs as well.

    1. I definitely care! That's great!

      Any comments on specific rooms, items, traps, etc? And is the "skeleton king" the one from Room 6, or did things get moved around?

    2. Yep, it was the one in room 6. As for specific comments, everything flowed one thing to the next very cleanly. Most of the hiccups in running it were either from new players or a slightly rusty DM.

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

    1. Excellent! That's great to hear.