This is a short dungeon for Old School Essentials (OSE) written by Cameron Shanton for levels 1-3 characters. It will work with any Old School Renaissance (OSR) system.
Disclosure: Author provided the module to us for free.
Find the dungeon here on his itch.io as well as other work that he is doing.
Its a 2 floor – 11 room dungeon at 8 pages long.
Description by the author:
The Laboratory of Ord is an old-school adventure designed to be easily dropped into existing campaigns. The adventure module is aimed at groups of player levels 1 – 3, and provides modest standard and magical loot as a reward for it’s difficulty.
The dungeon consists of two floors, with 11 rooms for adventurers to explore. The Laboratory of Ord has within it a self-contained mystery for players to piece together and solve, centered around the maddened sorcerer Thorngage Ord. Rumors of mass disappearances have plagued the local countryside, and many believe that Ord is to blame
I love small dungeons / short adventures. They drop in nicely into existing campaigns in between longer adventures. I like this one as its only 11 rooms and very straightforward to read through and prep for. Mega-dungeons tend to be a bit overwhelming to commit to.
The Adventure – without revealing too many spoilers in this part, the adventure is well suited for lower level characters (as it recommends). There are enough standard treasure and magical treasure to make it worthwhile for low level characters to go exploring it. It also provides enough items to help you keep moving along and not get stuck. It has some Frankenstein type elements with a mad scientist – ahem, sorcerer named Ord. I may change it to a necromancer for my Hyperborea campaign, but I get OSE doesn’t have a necromancer class.
Monster encounters will give players achievable combat (for level 1-3) sprinkled in with some tougher bosses in key places. There will be tough fights that you can beat (by being creative and not rolling 1’s), and then tougher fights that will make it more challenging (and a oh, crap moment what do we do now). There is also a bonus new magic item as well that the players will certainly want to try out as it has some surprising effects.
As its 11 rooms, you should be able to finish this in 1 session (2-3 hrs). I plan to drop it into my current Hyperborea campaign. Will post post adventure report addendum to this review.
Maps – nice and big and not overly complicated. (ie. no winding corridors, unclear connections from room to room). I got crappy eyes so appreciate a nice big map that I can see on 1 page. (vs. zooming in and out constantly) I also hate trying to figure out how floors or areas connect. ie. via secret doors or other methods. This map was easy to figure out how everything connected together. The map is the first thing I usually check out when opening a new adventure.
Random tables – love random tables to mix up what monsters show up and what loot you find. It makes certain parts of the module replayable without repeating itself.
Layout – very clear with headers, italics, bold text, spacing. Makes reading each encounter area very easy as you get the key points across quickly. ie. what’s in the room: treasures, monsters, traps., where are the doors, etc.
I also hate adventures where its paragraph upon paragraph of blocks of text that is hard to decipher. (I get it – you have space limitations for printed hard copies of zines and modules)
New Custom Stuff
There is at least 1 new magical item (maybe 2 – I haven’t found a reference to the second one in any of the books that I have or online). This new magic item will be described in the spoilers in future article after we play the module. I like the concept of it, and I guarantee the players will get a kick out of it.
There isn’t as much built in role-playing opportunities in this adventure as it is a short one. (vs. larger dungeons where you may have different factions) There is opportunity to create some interactions with the villagers on the outside before going into the dungeon as well as bumping into some of the villagers below ground in the actual dungeon. You could also interact with Ord himself which could make for some interesting twists in the adventure. I may throw in some lost villagers trying to find their way out to add more of a role playing element to this adventure.
Encounters / Investigation
There is a mystery to be solved. There are traps. There are random encounters and monsters. Players will have to find things to be able to move on in the adventure and escape certain death. Its a short 11 room dungeon with enough mystery to keep the adventure interesting.
Monsters / Combat
Monsters are appropriate for low level adventurers. It will be challenging, but survivable early on. There will be some tougher boss type monsters to fight as you progress through the dungeon, and players will need to use their smarts to survive. Killing everything you see (though can be fun) is not the way to solving every adventure. As its a low level adventure (level 1-3), I will probably beef up some of the monsters / encounters / bosses as my Hyperborea party is at level 5-6.
Forthcoming stuff: Author is publishing a series of 1 hr dungeons and 1 pager adventures for OSE which I am looking forward to checking out. You can find his work on his itch.io and blog referenced at beginning of this article.