Thursday, May 19, 2016

B2 or Not B2?

I have some friends up in That London. I have known them for years; we all met at university and we stayed quite close even after my life went wonky for about a decade. They are good friends and I always have a space on their floor when I visit.

They live in one of the trendy parts of the glittering capital, but they are also a bit geeky, and as geek culture has become a bit trendy in recent years, it was perhaps inevitable that they would get sucked into gaming somehow. It was board games that got them; of course they have Cards Against Humanity, but they also have Settlers of Catan and Small World, and the mighty King of Tokyo, because everyone should own a copy of King of Tokyo.

I've been to Draughts with them a couple of times and taken the opportunity to push other games on them; it's only a matter of time before one of them gets Lords of Waterdeep. I feel no shame; games are great.

Now and then they've asked about role-playing games, and the subject came up again the other day as we tried to play Dark Souls over Google Hangouts. Don't ask.

One of my friends grew up reading Dragonlance novels but had never played Dungeons and Dragons; another -- her husband -- loves Baldur's Gate and Dark Souls and knows that these games are based on a common source; the third -- his childhood best friend -- has been playing Fiasco with another group of friends, but I don't think they are aware of the larger family tree of which that game is a branch.

They are all three primed and ready, even if they don't know it. Dragonlance Friend even has a copy of Labyrinth Lord that I bought for her a few years ago alongside Dragons of Despair; in hindsight not one of my better gift ideas.

One day soon, then, I will run a role-playing game for them. It will probably be some form of D&D, because it seems appropriate to start at the beginning -- although a big part of me wants to run Call of Cthulhu and "The Haunting" -- and if so, it will probably be Lamentations of the Flame Princess, because it's my favourite simple version of the game.

Ah, but what do I run for them? I do love LotFP, but I think I should start them with something more traditional, rather than Kult in the seventeenth century. You can't get more traditional than Keep on the Borderlands, but I'm after something that can be played to a decent conclusion in one afternoon or evening. I also know that lots of player-character deaths is traditional, but I'm also after something that they have a reasonable chance of completing without getting disgruntled. I want them to come back for more!

This is where my own experience isn't useful. I started with Shadowrun and Call of Cthulhu, and played almost everything other than D&D -- and Vampire; to this day I have not played any proper White Wolf games -- so I don't have the background to know what's a good adventure for beginners.

It's over to you, internet. Is there a good starting D&Dish adventure out there, one I can unleash on absolute beginners, albeit beginners with some familiarity with the general idea of role-playing games?


  1. I would recommend A Murder At Flaxton from White Dwarf. It would work well with Lamentations rather than AD&D. B2 is too old skool I think these days. Flaxton combines elements of roleplaying, investigation, combat and intrigue.

  2. What about just the moathouse part of T1: Village of Hommlet? I've used that section (and the links to future villainy) in many other game systems, including Elric/Stormbringer and a version of Cthulhu Dark Ages.

    1. That's a possibility. I've heard great things about the moathouse but I've never played the adventure. Thanks Matt!

  3. Not sure about what adventure to use (preferably something deadly), but do you think they'd enjoy a DCC-style funnel? Working with multiple character skeletons can be a good way to not have to get bogged down in rules minutiae AND provides a buffer (and good stories) when characters die.

  4. Take B2 (or anything else location based you like, really), have two or three plot hooks you think your players might like and send them exploring. The missions you offer should be short and manageable in one evening, have NSCs interact rather than fight (maybe a bonus on reaction rolls in the caves?) and you should be good to go. Check out the One Page Dungeon contest entries for alternate locations and I would definitely prefer Stonehell to B2, as it's easy to use, full of great ideas and impressive to explore (with a good chance that they want to come back to see more of it). Anyway, my two cents :)

  5. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree with Jens D. The Keep on the Borderlands + Stonehell Dungeon has been working brilliantly for me for years now. A first session could involve exploring Stonehell's old gatehouse, which is fairly small but has a variety of interesting things within.
    Another, unrelated option is Simon J. Bull's Secrets of the Old City - it's pretty easy to come up with hooks for this little location-based adventure. You can find it here: