OSR: Assorted Playtesting Tales

Here are a few stories from games that didn't make it as full play reports. A fair bit of testing goes on in the background; not all of it is interesting.

Andrew Mar

Published Modules

Problem Solved
In a test of The Mysterious Menagerie of Doctor Orville Boros, a PCs found a giant tardigrade blocking the only exit. They rummaged through their inventories before realizing they had a flask of universal solvent. The tardigrade dutifully melted into slime, and as it did, the PCs remembered why they'd looted and carefully protected that flask. It was a vital component (in fact, the only component) in their plan to open the exit door and escape.
Exit Through The Gift Shop
In another test of MMoDOB, a PC insisted on looting at least one copy of every useless item from the gift shop, filling up their entire inventory. They were very pleased with their selection until, festooned with squeaking alligator dolls, they ran into the giant and very agitated alligator mother.
Gnome on the Range
The PCs cunningly Kidnapped the Archpriest by a) de-aging him with a spell, b) knocking him out, c) swapping his clothes, and d) carting him out in a wheelbarrow. The first 3 steps were sensible; the fourth resulted in a multi-story chase. In the end, the Archpriest was hauled out bodily by the two surviving PCs, leaving a dead gnome behind.

Gnomes, in the GLOG, are invisible when their eyes are closed, they are standing still, and they are holding their breath. The player argued that a dead gnome met all 3 conditions, creating an invisible tripping hazard (and unusual smell) in the fortress for months.

Skeleton Shrapnel
In an early test of Tomb of the Serpent Kings, the party evaded the hammer trap and reset it "in case we need it". The skeletons in the next room proved a tempting target. The PCs fled; the first PC through the door set off the hammer trap. The next PC ducked and evaded; the third PC did not, and neither did the skeletons. All ended up in a mangled heap on the far side of the room.

Acorns of Doom
Magical Murder Mansion contains three magical acorns that sprout into trees when placed in soil and sunlight. In various tests, they were:

  • used as a weapon (acorn + boot full of soil = tree gun).
  • fed to the Mole Dragon (no effect).
  • used to boost the power of an Elf Wizard.
  • buried with a PC, resulting in a sudden exhumation and cries of "Ents! Ents in the garden!"

The Riddle
In MMM, there's an illusory demon that asks a particularly stupid riddle. One PC couldn't wait to hear it, and shouted "a man!" (The default answer to all riddles.) The rest of the group wisely dived for cover as the intrepid riddle-solver received a 6d6 firebolt to the face and took... 9 damage. Scorched but undeterred, the PC said "not a man then", and promptly caught a second fatal bolt.

The Regeneration Chamber
The penultimate room of MMM contains a regeneration tank. In one test, the PCs had diligently checked every room, but with the prospect of the end in sight, decided to skip one door (to the post-session consternation of one player, who'd lost a battle-scarred one-shot PC to the Death Ray).

In another test, a PC worked out what the chamber was for, but instead of chucking in a fragment of a dead ally or a random corpse, threw in an entire jar of assorted teeth (looted elsewhere in the dungeon). The resulting amalgamated monstrosity cheerfully demolished the mansion as the PCs fled.

Magical Industrial Revolutions
Things the players invented:

  • The mobile newspaper (reporting on the spot, printing within minutes, delivery via spells). "Stop the presses" is easier said than done when you're driving a three-ton iron monstrosity that can reach the tremendous speed of 10 miles an hour.
  • The rotating gatling wand (six wands on a spinning stick). Hold down your thumb and pray.
  • Illegal afterlife insurance. Die, and we'll revive your corpse to find your murderer or make any last-minute edits to your will.
  • Dick Crazy, Private Eye Tyrant. Just a name, no further elaboration (sadly).
  • Ray of fog to frogs.

Nikola Matkovic

Misc Games

Fail Hydra
After a difficult fight and several PC and hireling casualties, the party finally took down a hideous regenerating Hydra. Only two PCs survived. One, unwounded but very tired, decided to eat the Hydra's heart... then exploded. Whoops.

The lone gore-splattered and shocked survivor spent the next few hours carefully relaying loot to the dungeon exit, leveled up significantly, hired a new crew, and went back in... this time, leading from the back.

The Perfectly Normal Horse
The PCs put a magic obedience-inducing saddle on a mimic horse, then rode it around. The horse happily squeezed into places a normal horse couldn't possibly fit, requiring some very hasty explanations to visitors and allies. It also tried to eat children when not directly observed.
One Way To Evade A Blockade
In a Star Wars game, a force-sensitive but untrained (and very un-Jedi-like) PC heard the ghostly voice of their mentor saying "Use the Force. Let go." She obediently, and with suitable reverence, closed her eyes.... and let go of the ship's controls. The panic that resulted, and the nearly disastrous crash, was probably not what the mentor intended.

That PC also mastered a form of lightsaber combat known as "I don't know how to use this thing and that should scare you as much as it scares me."


  1. Good session writeups are one of my favorite things to read, and yours are some of the best. I hope there'll be more whenever you get a regular campaign back :)

  2. These are all excellent and I can't possibly pick a favorite.

  3. As I wipe off the coffee spewed on my keyboard... please warn us next time not to eat or drink when reading something like this!

    Man, how I love Stupid PC Tricks! Pure comedy gold!!!!!

  4. The Perfectly Normal Horse reminds me of Balthazar, the mighty steed of a knightly character who got steadily more and more bizarre and mutated as the campaign progressed, eventually winding up eating a flock of terrified goblins one by one.

    1. Huzzah! That's a high quality horse right there.