Using ICRPG for Old D&D Modules



Last year I ran a few ICRPG adventures, a homebrew fantasy one shot, Bearcats and the Last Voyage of Finnegan’s Pride. All great adventures and the sessions went well. However, they were all executed in the very specific ICRPG way - a series of encounters with the three T’s.

I’d like to try ICRPG with an old D&D Module (I have Night’s Dark Terror in mind which I’ve run with OSE), or an OSR adventure like Nightmare Over Ragged Hollow, but I’m struggling to see how I could make it work. I have no problem converting monsters, it’s more about the rhythm of the game.

For example, it’s the three T’s that make encounters work in ICRPG, that build tension and urgency. I can see that would work for combat encounters, dungeon crawling or action scenes, but what about the rest of the time. How do you identifying threats tied to timers without them becoming repetitive, or is that something you can ignore or use only where it makes sense?

I’ve been a GM since the 80’s so I’m well used to a traditional style of running games, I’ll admit that as much fun as those ICRPG sessions were I felt constrained at times. So if anyone has run this type of modules with ICRPG I’d appreciate insights and advice; how do you handle hex crawl elements of older adventures, towns and cities, more traditional RPG encounters?



There’s nothing wrong with down time in games. That being said, where I depart from how I played in the 80s is that I don’t want to spend my precious time “playing” at mundane tasks. Additionally, I don’t want games to get aimless where players have no clue where to go next. That’s when bad behaviors like murder-hoboism creep in; people start inventing “fun” just to have something to do.

So, with those polar stars in mind, I modify various events to keep the game moving. Let’s take “playing town” for example. If town isn’t the encounter (eg, orks start burning the place and dragging innocents out of their homes), then I tend to focus on the goals of town. It is shopping? Okay, then let’s do two rounds around the table where everyone gets to grab the two things they want most. You can still RP the potion shop and the dwarven blacksmith, etc., but once those two rounds are done, we move on, and it’s back to the main plot in the movie.

If the purpose of town is clue discovery, then it’s a similar approach, but I will outline six and only six key locations/people for investigation. So, the bartender has a piece, the shifty cleric at the temple, the tired gate guard, etc. I use six because if folks don’t have a clear direction, roll a D6 and then they might run into one of those random folks hurrying across town. This might take more than two rounds, but the goal is to always keep the game moving towards bigger resolutions. My games aren’t a performance. We don’t spend two hours talking to one gate guard, for example. That’s when phones come out, and that’s no good.

Notice, none of those non-combat activities have the 3Ts. That being said, if the game starts dragging or it starts getting aimless, it’s time for a timer to come out, and it’s time for something exciting to happen. (Timer comes out. Rolls a 3. “You sense it. Like a sudden change in the air. The hairs on the back of your neck go up as the sun dips behind the clouds…”). Then, you know, people start screaming and running and werewolves burst through the market or something.

Finally, I am also a bit meta about clues anymore, just to keep players moving toward a bigger confrontation or climax in “the show.” So, if they talk to the shopkeeper who has key intel, I’ll just summarize it for them. “Basically guys, she’s saying that the cobbler’s boy disappeared in the old caves outside of town.” Now, I have players moving in the right direction. I’d be shocked if they went, “yeah, let’s just head to the tavern for drinks,” when there are old caves to explore and a missing kid. Because, I have learned over the years, no matter how clear you think you are in terms of dropping hints, people sometimes need to hear new information 13 times before they understand it. There is a gap between hearing and understanding. So, I just summarize and keep my games moving.

ICRPG isn’t just a combat tool. It’s a mindset in terms of simplifying gaming and keeping the game moving. So, streamline mundane activities. Avoid aimlessness. Keep the focus on what matters next, like a good movie or show. We never see characters in a killer movie buying groceries or making the bed. Why would you spend your precious time, in this day and age, “playing” those moments? Instead, skip to the part where the vampires show up.

Just my two cents in terms of approach.


This is some great guidance a practical advice. Clearly I’ve been taking the whole 3Ts thing a bit too literally.

I’m going to take one of those modules and see how I can apply this. In particular the stuff around town activities and moving them on quickly. I suspect I’m set in my ways and need to break out of that.

Thanks, really appreciated.


I don’t think you are set in your ways at all! I think, somewhere along the way, we all got sold these notions of “how” games should unfold. And it became clear to me after a while that a lot of our DM habits, even some time-honored ones, have nothing to do with how writers, playwrights, and movie makers create outstanding stories. And isn’t that the true goal for us? So, in terms of my personal growth, I have taken a hard look at my habits and practices along the way, and if they don’t support solid drama: tension, struggle, pressure, pacing, climax, and resolution, I have thrown them out or modified my approach to gaming.

I will say, you earn 1,000 points today for taking a step toward re-examining things. I almost never see people with that sort of mindset, and my hat is off to you.


Appreciated. If it helps me run a better game then I’m all for it!


What do you feel gets lost if you run the module as is but use ICRPG?

I’ve adapted (and modified) DCC & LotFP modules for my current Alfheim campaign, it’s ICRPG with some trad and narrative sensibilities.

OSR modules usually have factions. I create Fronts for them and think of 3Ts, LOGs etc. in that context, before I zoom into each room/ scene. I see Timers as the inverse of Clocks from BitD and that covers most situations for me. The reactions to the party’s actions serve as a tension generator and a source of Ts on a module/ campaign level.

This way, Finigan’s Pride (which started as a one shot) blew up into a full campaign, it took them ~20 sessions to wrap everything related to it up, and are currently 11 sessions deep into a political intrigue-murder mystery in a single city and it’s going very well.

Of course, a lot dpends of your group’s preferences and playstye so.


I think it isn’t that you leave the Three T’e or Three D’s or D.E.W. behind. They’re more like DM side loadstars. Still useful, maybe more subtle of you want to maintain the looser feeling of old school D&D.

Wandering monsters are basically a timer. Where old school D&D makes this a percent chance every X rounds or where the players make noise, this is still a timer and could just as easily be a player facing one or secret one for the GM.

The three D’s are built into old school D&D in a way that that it isn’t in modern D&D (IMHO). I don’t remember any tank and spanks from basic d&d. A skeleton has like 4 hit points (especially when rolling monster HP) but can similarly kill a level one player in one hit.

Both timers and three Ds call your attention to pacing. You can more or less directly use them in an old school game to keep things moving. As Alex said, don’t waste precious time.

Part of ICRPG might be directly at odds with the ethos of old school D&d at first blush. Stuff like dead ends with no monsters and traps. I think these could be kept just fine if you are relentlessly applying the three Ts and three Ds


Thanks, that’s really useful, I’ll give your suggestions some thought.

Your Finigan’s Pride campaign sounds fantastic.


Thanks, some really useful ideas here.

With all the advice here I think I have enough to get started. Will probably try a smaller adventure first before launching into Night’s Dark Terror.