[Review] Tomb of the Serpent King

Skerples recently released his free introductory adventure “Tomb Of The Serpent King”, a system independent tutorial dungeon. His idea was to write a dungeon that acts as tutorial for many of the tropes and bases of OSR style gaming. I ran it last weekends with a group of experienced roleplayers with low to medium dungeon experience. In my opinion Skerples succeeds, despite several flaws.

Background and Theme

As the name suggests, the module offers an ancient serpent-man graveyard to explore. It does not contain any extraordinaire ideas, but solidly executed dungeon-design. The included monsters follow a theme, influence the dungeon around them, and have a reason to be there. The author achieves all that without turning it into a bland one critter hacking exercise.

My main peeve are the traps, which spring rather suddenly—in those cases, I would prefer some more hints that danger is ahead.

Also, I would have wished for more bizarre contents in the lich’s labratory for the players to interact with.

Layout and Illustration

The layout is a two column layout directly out of the world’s most favoured text processor. Pictures and map look nice, but they are not particularly useful. The picture just offer some eye-candy without highlighting parts of the module. The map is solid as well, but does not offer any information in regard to the thematic areas or contents as described in the dungeon.

Organization

The module is badly organized. For example, there is one room that includes a treasure and a trap. To reach the treasure, one has to pass the trap. Nonetheless, the treasure is described first, the trap only afterwards. For each dungeon section, the GM has to juggle between two chapters: room descriptions, and the Quick Reference (plus, the thematic area overview in several cases, also the monster section).

Conclusion

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.

From a GM’s perspective, the dungeon requires much more attention than its plain vanilla content warrants. The adventure completely fails in its attempt to teach how to organize a dungeon to make it easily accessible during play.

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