Dungeon Music

So I was thinking about what the right mood music is for dungeon-crawling. Heavy, moody, and most importantly weird. Not just old, but a certain kind of old. So not-too-arbitrarily, 1979 is the cutoff.

Thin Lizzy and Blue Öyster Cult are for town and roleplay-heavy sessions, down low but telling you to go be bad guys. Led Zep, Rush, and Hawkwind for travel and exploration of weird places. Slam on the Sabbath, Priest, Rainbow, UFO, and Uriah Heep for the actual dungeon full of madness.

I know some people prefer more ambient like Midnight Syndicate or Unquiet Void, and I’ve tried that, but it’s too mellow for anything but very quiet investigation like Call of Cthulhu. Others are into death metal, which does fit better, but makes a large population of players angry and upset. And both are pretty rare before the ’90s.

Back in the day, owning everything was hard, and flipping vinyl or a mixtape was a hassle. But now you can make a streaming music playlist and just hit play. I suggest not shuffling songs, though, these are albums meant to be listened straight thru.

  • Black Sabbath
    • Black Sabbath (1970)
    • Paranoid (1970)
    • Master of Reality (1971)
    • Vol. 4 (1972)
    • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
    • Sabotage (1975)
    • Technical Ecstasy (1976)
    • Never Say Die! (1978)
  • Blue Öyster Cult
    • Blue Öyster Cult (1972)
    • Tyranny and Mutation (1973)
    • Secret Treaties (1974)
    • Agents of Fortune (1976)
    • Spectres (1977)
    • Mirrors (1979)
  • Hawkwind
    • Hawkwind (1970)
    • In Search of Space (1971)
    • Doremi Fasol Latido (1972)
    • Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974)
    • Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975)
    • Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (1976)
    • Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977)
    • 25 Years On (1978)
    • PXR5 (1979)
  • Judas Priest
    • Rocka Rolla (1974)
    • Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
    • Sin After Sin (1977)
    • Stained Class (1978)
    • Killing Machine (1978)
  • Led Zeppelin
    • Led Zeppelin (1969)
    • Led Zeppelin II (1969)
    • Led Zeppelin III (1970)
    • Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
    • Houses of the Holy (1973)
    • Physical Graffiti (1975)
    • Presence (1976)
    • In Through the Out Door (1979)
  • Rainbow
    • Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)
    • Rising (1976)
    • Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978)
    • Down to Earth (1979)
  • Rush
    • Rush (1974)
    • Fly by Night (1975)
    • Caress of Steel (1975)
    • 2112 (1976)
    • A Farewell to Kings (1977)
    • Hemispheres (1978)
  • Thin Lizzy
    • Thin Lizzy (1971)
    • Shades of a Blue Orphanage (1972)
    • Vagabonds of the Western World (1973)
    • Nightlife (1974)
    • Fighting (1975)
    • Jailbreak (1976)
    • Johnny the Fox (1976)
    • Bad Reputation (1977)
    • Black Rose: A Rock Legend (1979)
  • UFO
    • UFO 1 (1970)
    • UFO 2: Flying (1971)
    • Phenomenon (1974)
    • Force It (1975)
    • No Heavy Petting (1976)
    • Lights Out (1977)
    • Obsession (1978)
  • Uriah Heep
    • Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble (1970)
    • Salisbury (1971)
    • Look at Yourself (1971)
    • Demons and Wizards (1972)
    • The Magician’s Birthday (1972)
    • Sweet Freedom (1973)
    • Wonderworld (1974)
    • Return to Fantasy (1975)
    • High and Mighty (1976)
    • Firefly (1977)
    • Innocent Victim (1977)
    • Fallen Angel (1978)

Old-School Modules, Part I

I need to post more often. A new update of Stone Halls & Serpent Men is coming, but needs some more work and testing, since I’m making a significant change: Level 1 characters will only receive 2 Professions, they’ll get a 3rd at Level 2. There’s also a major gameplay & player control tool, and some other goodies.

In the mean time, I thought I’d go thru the collection of ancient modules, and see which ones are suitable and interesting to run with Stone Halls & Serpent Men. Since I expect most people don’t have the oldest rules (even though you can buy all but Holmes currently on DriveThruRPG), I’m just going to include their maps to show what they’re like, but I won’t do that for the standalone modules. All map rights held by Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast/TSR, except Outdoor Survival by The Avalon Hill Game Company.

This first installment will just cover original D&D, Holmes, Moldvay, and B1.

Dungeons & Dragons Book III Underworld & Wilderness Adventures (TSR, Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson, 1974)

The underworld adventure consists of a side-view of 6 levels split into several parts with interconnections, but no key.

There is a partially-keyed map for level 1. Not really usable as an adventure by itself, and the other levels are not detailed.

The outdoor map is the Outdoor Survival boardgame, with some features changed into fantastic equivalents, but it’s unkeyed.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Barely a sketch.

D&D Book 3-pg 3
D&D Book 3-pg 4
Outdoor Survival

Dungeons & Dragons, Basic Set (TSR, Eric J. Holmes, 1977)

There’s a much better side-view map of The Great Stone Skull Mountain, 7 levels including a domed city. But again there is no key.

The sample dungeon has a setting (sadly not the interior of the Great Stone Skull), a nearby town, and is fully keyed, with stats for the NPCs. I’ve only used this dungeon a couple times ever, but it’s nearly a modern adventure. Interesting points are the multiple entrances (stairs, tower, and sea cave) and multiple loops; it’s unreasonably hard for a defender to hold this dungeon, but that’s good for a starter adventure, where an overly powerful enemy can be avoided.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Acceptable, if bare-bones.

D&D Basic-pg 39
D&D Basic-pg 42

Basic Dungeons & Dragons (B/X), Basic Set (TSR, Tom Moldvay, 1981)

The side-view doesn’t even have named levels.

The sample dungeon of the Haunted Keep has one tower mapped with a few small rooms but a sort of interesting maze, fully keyed with example rolls from the tables. The scenario backstory about wererats, the second tower, and the 2nd-3rd levels are not mapped. I’ve never used this, and it’s kind of a sad little stub of an adventure.

However, note the dungeon key, by this time dungeon notation’s become standardized.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ Incomplete.

Basic D&D-pg 58
Basic D&D-pg 57
Basic D&D-pg 58-key

Basic Dungeons & Dragons (B/X), Expert Set (TSR, Dave Cook & Steve Marsh, 1981)

The sample wilderness is the Grand Duchy of Karameikos with a hex map and 3 barely-described towns, and an unkeyed “Gnome Lair”. But it does have a terrain notation key.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Nothing there.

Expert D&D-pg 61
Expert D&D-pg 62-gnome lair
Expert D&D-pg 62-key

B1 In Search of Adventure (TSR, Mike Carr, 1979)

Two complex maze-like levels, completely filling a page each (starting the very artificial pattern of an 8.5×11, north-facing dungeon map, easily predicted by players), with about 8 themed areas. Quasqueton is a funhouse trap dungeon built by an obviously unstable wizard and his murderous militant partner. The descriptions are often evocative of the tone of a well-run facility degraded into the den of a few scavenging monsters. This is not a “mythic underworld”, it’s not Gygaxian Naturalism with ecological notes and political interactions mapped out, but somewhere in between.

There is no side-view, and it’s not absolutely needed, but there are multiple connections between the levels. A more 3-dimensional dungeon would probably be too hard for novice players to map.

The monsters and treasures are given in separate lists at the end of the module, not assigned to specific rooms, whether to throw off players who have read the module, or because TSR was trying to teach novice “Dungeon Masters” how to distribute items, though I don’t think they succeeded at that.

There’s a good section of character lists (12 of each class), for pregens or henchmen, with randomized personality, arms, armor, level, and spells.

The handout/background sheet including a Sutherland illustration and adventuring tips is interesting. And the occasional interior art, mostly by David C. Sutherland III and some “DIS & DAT” with David A. Trampier of Wormy fame, is both informative and a little wacky.

In general, this dungeon is less deadly and more forgiving than one designed to test experienced players. It is designed to be fairly challenging, however, and is by no means “easy.” Careless adventurers will pay the penalty for a lack of caution—only one of the many lessons to be learned within the dungeon!

The dungeon itself is ready to run, and I think it’s an interesting challenge even 38 years later. I’d replace the every-monster-in-the-book tables entirely with a smaller number of themed monsters, and work out patrol paths and zones where they can hear alarms and come running. Make the dungeon a living community instead of a prison where you murder inmates. The treasures are almost acceptable in value (maybe halved, with the really good ones hidden or guarded better than usual), but there’s no flavor text for any of the magic items, which I consider unacceptable, so I’d have to expand those.

Rating: ★★★½☆ The page-fitting maps and fill-in monsters & treasures hurt an otherwise respectable challenge dungeon.

B1-pg 31

If all attempts to escape fail, the persons trapped will be doomed to their fate.


Next time I’ll look at Blackmoor’s Temple of the Frog and B2.

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