I spent some more time thinking about what dungeon to run for my intro game. A lot of folks rightly point out that many of the old modules are simply way too big for a single session game. I was leaning towards the Keep at Koralgesh because I’ve run it before and quite like it, plus if I ran it with the expectation of only really playing the first level (there are 4 total levels) I think that would fit. I also kind of liked the idea of hinting at how much more there was to players, as an extra hook for them to leave wanting more.
The problem with that is the first level of Koralgesh is perhaps not the most exciting part, nor does it have much of a consistent theme or feeling to it. I would definitely have to inject some kind of goal in there for the players to target, and make sure they realized that going up the stairs might not be a great idea.
I considered writing my own adventure, and toyed with the idea of a dungeon escape so I could start players with very little and then equip them as we go. I still kind of like that idea. I also liked Dan’s suggestion of using an OPDC winner. My personal favorite these days is Citadel of the Severed Hand from 2013, which I’ve run for 4th level parties at conventions in the past. I think it would not be difficult to scale it back for 1st level players.
Then I remembered Dyson’s Delve, an odd mini-mega-dungeon by my favorite map maker, Dyson Logos. What do I mean by mini-mega-dungeon? Well, stylistically it’s very much like a mega-dungeon. It’s very deep (10 levels), has lots of different groups with different threads of adventure going on. It gets progressively harder the deeper you go. The mini part is the size of each level – about a dozen rooms each. In fact, Dyson calculates that this adventure played completely would take a party from level 1 to 5, with about two levels of the dungeon per player experience level.
I actually used some pieces of this in my campaign. The first level has some nice stuff in it, and I could easily create a goal for the players that’s achievable on the first level. If they wander to the second, it’s not the end of the world, but I would make sure to inform the group that the dungeon is “very deep, and gets more difficult the deeper you go.” I like that that introduces the players to the concept of a very large world, and gives them hints at what’s to come.
I think this is the winner for me. I will modify it a bit to have a nice juicy goal right on the first level, write up a little paragraph of intro text and maybe a rumors table, and send them on their way. I’ve also managed to coerce a group here at my office into helping me test the thing. I asked for players that either “never played, haven’t played in a long time, or are otherwise good at pretending to not know the difference between a d6 and a d4.” I actually got a good pool of players and am now scheduling my first test run.
More info to come…