Tower of the Stargazer and B1:In Search of the Unknown are two of my favorite introductory modules. The main reason is their focus on exploration; in particular, they feature extensive possibilities for the players to interact and play with an unfamiliar environment or mysterious items (e.g. the Laboratory and the pool room in B1; the "Workshop" and Workshop/Telescope areas in TotS). Furthermore, they seem to evoke a sense of wonder in the PCs through the bizarre and the weird, and I find them particularly suited as introductory modules.

My question is: how can I design and introductory adventure similar to Tower of the Stargazer and B1:In Search of the Unknown in these respects?

"Heavily based on exploration and interaction with the environment" is perhaps a bit vague as a descriptor; I suggest the following criteria to better explain what I mean.

  • Players can or must interact with the environment, where interaction happens in a "descriptive" way (ie. the interaction should not be resolved in a abstract way, with a single roll). Example: a trap with which the players must interact intelligently, and that is not simply discovered and disarmed with a dice roll
  • Players are confronted with mysterious/bizarre effects, items or features of the environment. They can acquire knowledge about the effects/items/features through experimentation and trial-and-error, eliciting a variety of effects. Example: a shelf full of potion with bizarre effects, which can be discovered by tasting them. The Organ in the Chapel in Death Frost Doom (the players can play it, with various effects depending on what is played).
  • The aforementioned features are prominent and should represent a significant component of the adventure.

I have an OSR gameplay in mind, and I'm interested in designing an adventure that would be suitable as introductory module for beginner players.

If possible, examples to illustrate your points taken from published adventures are welcome.




It sounds like what you are asking for is an adventure with highly descriptive puzzles. I have not played a table top game that focuses on that, but it isn't out of the realm of the possibility. You can easily draw inspiration from numerous puzzle video games that exist out there.

One of the oldest I played was Myst where it focused heavily on world based puzzles. You are in scenic worlds with puzzles that span the entirety of it. You can borrow puzzles and inspiration from games like those (Myst #, Riven, the Witness, Braid, etc.) Though they aren't role-playing games, you can gain a lot of valuable ideas from games like these.

Keep in mind that puzzles are a dangerous proposition when running a game. If they are too easy, the players will crush it. If they are too hard, they will get frustrated and give up. Be sure to build in a way to brute force a puzzle.

To address your thoughts on something like the rack of potions where you have to try them out to see what happens with each. I'd recommend looking at adventure video games (good ones preferably). There is interesting content to be found there for the experimental discovery. Like Legend of Kyrandia had a segment to it devoted to making potions of colored objects you found throughout the game.

Another important trick to employ is to make the areas dependent on each other. Give the players good reason to revisit a place and maybe see it in a different light.

As for descriptive and wondrous settings, I would recommend describing each area with as many of the senses as you can. A cold dark room isn't as nearly interesting as a cold, dark room that smells of ash and your boots stick to the floor due to an unknown ichor.

Though these aren't ideas from example modules, I hope it is helpful never the less.

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