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What are your favourite OSR modules?

A topic by tropical depression created 97 days ago Views: 468 Replies: 4
Viewing posts 1 to 5

I don't typically play OSR games, but I have found nothing more creatively stimulating than listening to the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast and free associating about game design.

What are your favourite OSR modules, and why? What do you look for? How do you run them?

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I think its fame almost precedes it to a point, but Death Frost Doom is a really great module, and playing it with a group that doesn't know it is a really tense and rewarding experience. 

In terms of more recent stuff, Gardens of Ynn is really great, as is almost all of the stuff by Hydra Cooperative. 

While it isn't a module per say, Veins of the Earth is probably the best game book I've ever read. It's really incredible. 

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I second Gardens of Ynn, it embodies exactly the level of game prep I'm usually willing to do, which is basically zero. Dead Planet is probably one of the best designed modules I've seen, and hopefully represents a new standard in usability. 

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There are a few "classics:"

  • Caverns of Thracia
  • Barrowmaze
  • Caves of Chaos
  • Many more that I'm forgetting

Ten Foot Pole is one of the deepest repositories of reviews for OSR stuff (my own "Stjernheim" got absolutely obliterated by the critic, it was great!). Personally I like large toolkits rather than more linear adventures or situations. A lot of Michael Prescott's Trilemma Adventures are fantastic; Ben Milton's Patreon in a similar vein. Skerples' Tomb of the Serpent Kings is a great "starter" OSR adventure that teaches you how to play that style of adventure game.

The way I prefer to run OSR-style modules is more so introduce the characters to a problem with several obvious paths but no obvious solution. In other words, stick them into a chaotic or complex encounter with no "right" answer and let them figure it out. The classic of these are procedurally generated settings with random encounters or inspiration / mashup tables, hex crawls / point crawls, lots of factions, etc. 

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Please, please, please check out Patrick Stuart's  Deep Carbon Observatory

An ancient dam has burst, flooding the valley below. The landscape is a drowned devastation filled with the desperate homeless and the opportunistically predatory; the lake past the dam is drained, and the things it kept drowned are now exposed, and open ... 

I love this adventure, as I love all of Patrick's writings. Its opening is a model for how to run human suffering amid natural disaster in an impactful-but-not-gratuitous way; it has to my estimation  the most interesting / nastiest Rival-Adventurer-NPC-Party in all of D&D-esques; I've not seen a better intro adventure to an Underdark campaign, yet.

Throwing in another vote for Emmy Allen's Garden of Ynn -- an adventure set in an extra-dimensional garden / maze, done via tons and tons and tons of random tables.

Also for Dead Planet, by Sean McCoy, Donn Stroud, and Fiona Geist -- *the* cutting edge in terms of layout and information design for adventures.

I'd cite Jacob Hurst's Hot Springs Island -- another masterclass in information design. A complete hexcrawl bursting with stuff, but a breeze to read and refer to because it is written and laid out to be usable first and foremost.

Luke Gearing's Fever Swamp -- hexcrawl set in a swamp. This is the kind of adventure I want to make when I grow up. Crazy, how much stuff it gets done in, what, two-and-a-half dozen pages?

Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable -- just fucking fun. Underdark adventure. Pulpy goodness, doesn't take itself seriously, full of stuff for players to prod and pick at.