People keep asking for "beginner" dungeons. Everyone can name "classic" dungeons - Tomb of Horrors, Barrier Peaks, Temple of Elemental Evil, 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|
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. Chris McDowall has an introduction for his system here. And of course, there's Principia Apochrypha. Finally, here's a massive post on how to start playing old-school D&D for free.
Tomb of the Serpent Kings v4.0 PDFThere's also an at-cost print on demand version. If you want to hack, remix, or edit the dungeon there's an Affinity Publisher file available here. Maps and art files are here.
Tomb of the Serpent Kings v3.0 PDF
Tomb of the Serpent Kings v.2.0 PDF
|Xiximanter, Scrap Princess|
The Original Posts:Level 1
Boss Fight: the Stone Cobra Guardian
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
Lawful Neutral: Session 1,2
Slugs and Silver: Session 1, 2, 3, 4,
Asher (Podcast): Session 1, 2
The Things We Do for XP: Session 1, advice.
Iron and Ink: Session 1,
Swords of Mass Destruction: Report and advice.
Spikepit RPG (podcast): After-action report and advice.
Espharel: Session 1, 2, 3,
Trophy Gold (youtube live play): Playlist
Camping With Owlbears: Session 1, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5,
Sachagoat: Basilisk notes
Remely Farr: Session 1
Benign Brown Beast: Report and advice.
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."
Todd Talks About (video): "It's a very nice touch. I wish more dungeons would give me a localized map like this."
Fear of a Black Dragon: "I think this whole endeavour just seems kind of noble. Just look at the intro. And it helps that it's pretty well executed."
(I can't believe I'm able to create a section for this)
German (loose translation, see comment section): Die Gruft der Schlangenkonige
Spanish: La Tumba de los Reyes Serpiente (At Cost Print on Demand)
French: La Tombe des Rois Serpents
Italian: La Tomba dei Re Serpenti
Russian: Гробница змеиных королей
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 StuffBeholder Pie's "Quintessential Dungeon" covers some more OSR tropes, and could easily be bolted onto TotSK.
Osrsimulacrum has a compilation post of introductory OSR adventures, in case you're looking for alternatives or other perspectives.
RPGCrawl has created a digital version of this dungeon.
UberNietzscheStache has created a player-facing map for online games. Dehumanizer has created a fancy battlemap. Rfkannen has created some more maps. IndyJoe has created a Worldographer map.