(update)Tomb of the Serpent Kings – it was a mediocre experience



On Monday, my group will dive into the dungeon that is the Tomb of the Serpent Kings – for the second time. The first time, they had to flee because hordes of mushroom head goblins had brought them to the brink of death.

In three days, they will return: former GLOG-characters, now transformed into ICRPG heroes by the cruel joke of a bloodthirsty god (me):

  • Brynn Lightfoot, a Gambler
  • No-K Tau Graustein, a Dwarven Blade
  • Kyacheslav Kharmalov Dobrovolsky Njemcic, a Guardian from the Cold Empire
  • Dog, a Really Good Dog Wild Mage

I have turned the okay-ish dungeon into index cards, created some nice TTTs for them, and softened the death and dying rules somewhat (the variant of GLOG we were using was pretty forgiving).

I am very confident this session will be a blast :slight_smile:

The pic shows the first five rooms. As you can see, I’m no great artist, but drawing really is FUN :slight_smile:


Awesome! Please circle back and tell us how it all went!!


Looks rad! Happy gaming!

Monday is an odd day to play though. :stuck_out_tongue:


Yah, tell me about it… thing is, I’m running my own business (wedding minister) and teach Russian combatives twice a week, plus I have a family, so Mondays are pretty much the only days we can play…


Good luck, have fun! :smiley:


I ran it last year for a couple players on Roll20. I just jotted some conversion notes in my GM log and it worked fine. Not sure if we are posting spoilers about the adventure so I don’t want to put too much detail about the conversions…


I’d love to see those conversions. Been prepping TotSK myself.


Well that stinks, they weren’t in the GM log I thought they were! I might have put done them on a pocket notepad at work during breaks, I’ll dig my old note pads out tomorrow.


I’ll see if I can post some of my notes today. I also included two monster A.I.s, one for Xiximander the Sorcerer, and another one for the basilisk.


Here’s one of my monster A.I.s for TotSK: the basilisk.


And another one, the monster A.I. for Xiximanter, an unholy warped sorcerer with the upper body of a desiccated man, and the lower body of a skeletal snake.


The entire dungeon on index cards. Heck yeah!


Ah! You only write during breaks? I write all the time at work! I feel lucky to have a relax job! XD


Those AIs are great! I didn’t do anything that advanced.


Thank you, brother! They’re huge fun!


Thank you for sharing those. I’m going to pour over them later. Now, time to prep for the gang coming over to play at my table.


So, we played yesterday!

And it was… mediocre, at best. I have analyzed the experience, and these are the reasons why that session definitely didn’t live up to the hype I created myself.

  • When my players were confronted with challenges or threats, the first thing they all did was look at their character sheet – trying to find loot that might help their characters. This is a double whammy for me because we are freeform gamers (have been playing freeform almost from the day we started roleplaying, 1984), and we’re used to immersion. For lack of a better expression, we want to become our characters. Not all the time, but most of the time. ICRPG definitely did not support this play style.
  • This begs the question: Why? My (personal) answer is that the structure of ICRPG (special powers and loot galore) requires resource/loot management. As a result, as a player, you simply have to take inventory. Not looking at your character sheet means potential disadvantages in-game.
  • What are my ideals for roleplaying? Immersion, first and foremost. Challenges and fun. But immersion is crucial for our style of gaming.
  • How can I referee ICRPG so it meets our goals? First, NO game mechanics on the sheet. I’ll tell the players the name of the loot and what it does (in game world terms, not in mechanical terms). Same goes for spells. All the players know is what effects their characters get when they use their stuff. This should focus their attention and energy on their characters, and not on their sheets.

I’ll keep y’all posted how it goes.


I wasn’t expecting that outcome at all, lol. Really interesting.

As you point out, it may ultimately come down to a style of play, especially if the group has been freeform for all of that time. ICRPG works wonders, generally, because the rules get out of the way, so folks can focus on the fun and story and keep immersion high. As a testament, I can’t tell you the last time I consulted the rules while playing.

But you’re right. ICRPG embraces a style of play where players do focus on their loot and abilities. Some players just like having cool stuff and options on their sheet.

I’d be curious if more familiarity with the loot would help, as we don’t even think about what a speed quiver or a burst fire module do anymore mechanically. But, that aside, if your group is much more narrative, I think your solution is a good one. I’ll be eager to hear how that plays out. Indeed, you may be on to something that will have a bigger impact on the community.


Like Alex, I did not expect that outcome at all. Interesting. I don’t think I’ve consulted my sheet for possible actions in any of the times I’ve played ICRPG. I always get the Loot did enable me to be more freeform because it was simply an item that could be picked up by anyone, and not a racial/class feat I was locked into.

I’m happy to hear that despite this occurrence you’re going to experiment with different approaches. Definitely keep us posted and, if there’s feedback you’d like, holler.


So this is kind of heartbreaking to hear. HOWEVER, it was not totally unexpected.

TotSK is supposed to be an intro to OSR dungeon designs where the players are supposed to use their wit and not their character items or abilities generally.

However, this could also mean that it may have been the loot getting in the way. That being said, I don’t see where there is a lot of abilities or loot that get in the way here for these characters.

The Gambler has his devil deck, the blade has a weapon gem for maximizing damage, the Guardian has shield gloves, and the Dog Mage has anywhere from 2-5 spells that may be defined (I don’t know how you play with your magic).

When I ran TotSK, it was not a fighting dungeon. I ran it with White Hack and it was great because the players knew it was dangerous and had to be smart.

In ICRPG, I don’t think it would be that different, because you would still want to players to take stock of what they have.

Could it have been the actual LOOT they had? Or the Stats?

Could you elaborate on the stats and loot the players currently have? I’d love to offer some more tailored advice to give you a better game next time!

EDIT: Also, could you show me what type of rules you were using before? Did that game have you track any inventory (like rope, 10 ft pole, ammo)?