Sunday, 16 June 2019

Free RPG day: a mountain of modules

Yesterday was free RPG day - didn't play, but retweeted Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Which got me the question from a friend on Twitter if I knew any other short and free dungeons.

UPDATE 18 June: added some Trilemma two-pagers that can fuel a couple of sessions or a complete campaign.

I knew my Bookmark Folder of Holding would be useful someday. Holy mother of dice is there a mountain of great work available online. I'm doing a lot of people injustice by focusing on contained, free modules. Have a look at the commercial modules at the bottom of the post.

Let's get crackin'. The material below slants towards free, short, easy to drop into your campaign with minor modifications. But while I'm dredging the old bookmarks, let me add some links to other amazing material.


Just want a quick site to use right off the bat? Head for the One Page Dungeon Contest near the bottom of this post, or check out:


Arnold K. of Goblin Punch is less active now than a few years back when he published a big post every two days, but his Goblin Punch blog has a backlog you can run years worth of weekly RPG sessions from. Chock full of original and evocative work. Seriously archive binge this if you haven't already. Or dive in and rediscover.

Arnold famously wrote the GLOG = Goblin Laws of Gaming, a stripped down, super easy to mod RPG system that plays just like D&D bar the excessive rules lawyering and reading. Further developed by Coins & Scrolls - more material here.

Since this post focuses on free and ready-to-play modules, let's move onto those. Two sites stand out to me as Arnold's best work - both accessible and inspiring creativity in DM and players alike:
  • The Boswitch Bathhouse is a beautifully compact heist module. A place where people go unarmed and pay good money to relax in the warm water? Ideal site for a robbery, kidnapping or worse. I'll note that I think the site could've done without the dungeon under the bathhouse, but the plot to work over the wizard Verdric von Vermis is awesome fun. Useful tables of other guests and how they respond to the PCs.
  • The Isles of the Dead are what you run immediately after a party wipe-out. They wake up...and have to make choices. Make a deal and return to the world of the living? Try and get into heaven? Make a place for themselves here on the isles?
 Three other adventure sites well worth a read:
  • The Meal of Oshregaal is a wizard's home you get to burgle. Or try to out-diplomacy the local orcs in. When I first read this site I didn't get what the place was about. Later reading shows how well it all fits together. Take an hour to read this and make notes. There's NPCs with issues to handle everywhere.
  • The Blowhole Caverns are home to nasty barnacle men and full of strange loot. Do be nice to your players and hint that the tide is coming in.
  • The Fragrant Mother is a huge plant, half-sentient in her dreams and inhabited by pixies. They know there's something wrong in the root cellar below Mother, but are afraid to look...
  • The Kellertown Incident is graphic, disturbing - I wouldn't play it with kids. A village goes sleepless, then their eyes are opened and they Awaken to hate and disgust.

I wasn't kidding when I said Goblin Punch is a treasure trove. Just a couple of examples:
  • Want to drive your players nuts? Point them to a nymph who has something -or someone- they need and watch them fall in love. 
  • The Heralds of the Immaculate Morning (post 1 and 2) are not your daddy's death cult. Lead by a bona fide angel who remembers paradise and cannot bear the world anymore, so starts a campaign of painless death and infertility. Hard themes to tackle but the write-up is truly inspired.
  • The Invincible City of the Tusk People. More a fantastic location than a pre-packaged adventure. Don't shed blood, don't unsheathe that knife or the city will eat you.
  • Full overview of Arnold's many beasties. Not remarkable because of their stats, but because of how much thought has gone into what they want and do. Examples:


I'm already plundering Skerples' blog for ideas on feudal society, but there's way more material there. In terms of free adventure sites:

  • Tomb of the Serpent Kings was written as an introduction to old-school dungeon crawling. I'm sure enjoying it, as are my players: there's NPCs to interact with (if they manage to find 'em...), interesting treasure, ongoing processes to tamper with, traps and of course beasts to fight or tame.
  • Not free but worth $4.99, the sweet, sweet module Kidnap the Archpriest. In which your players scout, plan and execute a heist to, well, Kidnap the Archpriest. Lots of NPCs to tangle with, handy overviews of who is where when and why (now with dynamic map! ;), and super useful tables to generate obstacles during the grand finale. Serious replay value to try new schemes. $4.99
  • More whimsical than I'm generally a fan of, but The Mysterious Menagerie of Doctor Orville Boros is very well put together. You'll love how Things Go Awry. Or, tip for players: sit stock still and prevent NPCs from messing with anything, and enjoy your DM doing song and dance routines for a couple of hours. Livestreaming it is just adding insult to injury, so definitely do that.
Need an NPC double-quick? Roll up a Horrible Peasant or Horrible Baron and check out their Grievances. Now also in Horrible Burgher taste!

As written above, Skerples did a lot of work to expand the GLOG rpg system. Check it out in this excellent Pirate Edition.


Michael Prescott of Trilemma makes isometric drawings and turns them into full adventure sites, free to download. One to two pages each, set in a campaign world of his own design but very easy to reskin and slip into your own setting. Full of evocative detail, the descriptions are terse but immediately get me to filling in details and backstory. If there's one flaw in these, it's that some lack tension ("what's happening here?") and moving parts for the players to fiddle with.

Some favorites (this is only about half of the full list!). First, sites I'd use right away:

  • The Lantern of Wyv - floating wizard-tomb / resurrection vault. I restocked Wyv (session 1 and 2) with a Djinn butler, caretaker Quicklings and a mutating altar for our Jungle Trek campaignlet
  • Stellarium of the Vinteralf - icy fortress overrun by dragon, good tables with treasures that actually feel like magic instead of off-the-shelf-+1 swords. Solid work.
  • The Hounds of Low Tide - a pleasant inn to get eaten
  • There is No God but Dissolution - where forgotten gods are laid to rest. Wonderful little dungeon to explore 
  • The Task of Zeichus - fairy land? pocket dimension? Lots of interacting NPCs in just a few words. I'd add more detailed courtiers, visiting merchants and resetting subplots (find a suitable gift for the queen!)
  • Do it for the Beast - more culties. can never have enough cult loons. What hooks me is the Half Brothers paragraph on page two. The town of sudden twins. 
Next up, some sites that I'd need to chew on a bit before I'd use them in my game. Could because the backstory needs working in, or I'd want to add an ongoing conflict.
  • The Moon is a Mirror - use as-is, or plunder for lots of shrines to minor gods
  • Veil of the Once Queen - a trip to fairy land, only the rot has set in. Really needs to be expanded into a multi-session adventure with subplots, quests, rivals etc.
  • The Lenses of Heaven - high level plane-hopping, or reskin as a haughty monastery? Good drop-in for when you're looking for someone and need a locale they're hiding out or stuck in.
  • The Sky-Blind Spire - when wizards grow powerful they build towers full of weirdness
  • A Litany of Scratches - monastery overtaken by vampiric tree
  • The Coming of Sorg - demigod (or demon?) getting summoned by a cult with second thoughts. Nice work cramming two factions to exploit into this site
UPDATE - If you want an idea for a long running campaign:
  • you could do very much worse than tracking the arc of orc shaman Stryggal Threestakes in the Raid Mirror
  • for an epic arc (low or high level), liberate someone from the hell of Mulciber's Flute 
  • join the long fight against the Sidhe by working with the giant monks of the Unmended Way


A great creative writer who sadly is not updating anymore. So many adventures on this blog - again, here's just a few, check out Dungeon of Signs for the rest.

Along the Road of Tombs - Not a one-session site at all, but packed with flavor. A grand complex taken over by an evil cult and refugees, all set in a decayed empire-setting that's painted vividly in a few blocks of text. Need to find time to play this.

Gravesand Beach - One Page Dungeon Entry about a stranded fortress on the back of a giant turtle. Have not played, but reads like a fantastic place to explore. Love how the author packs in sessions worth of follow-up in those last sentences.

Lone Colossus of the Akothoulos - explore the disabled-but-active wreck of a walking fortress. Hope your players don't get it operational again (or hope they do and go wild with the consequences!)

Thunderhead Manse - another One Page Dungeon Entry, this time about the strange occupants of a flying fortress.


The original question I got on twitter was if I knew any one page dungeons...saved this long list for next-to-last.

The One Page Dungeon Contest challenges people to fit a dungeon or situation on one piece of paper. Submissions (dozens per year) are free to download, but the interface makes it a right hassle - document names only, no description. Here's my short list for quick pick-up games.

Most of these are system-neutral: you'll have to stat up traps and opponents yourself.

Prime imagery:
  • Deep In the Purple Worm by Luca Rejec. Little text, the illustration speaks for itself. Spectacular, fantastic. Imagine the wizard making their tower out of a small Dune sandworm.
  • Prisoners of the Gelatinous Dome! by Jeff Call is gorgeous and shows why you should keep an eye on wizards of an experimental bent. Strange, weird, over the top, wonderful.
  • The Sea Devil's Stout by Ramsey Hong has your players investigate a strange disasppearance in the tavern's cellar. Well drawn, conveys its information by the illustration as much as by the sparse text
  • The Monastery at Dor Amon by Dale Horstman is a site overview rather than detailed adventure, but what a site!

Solid work:

  • Old Guard Tower by Aaron Frost and Mundy Kong is a cool paper model of a guard tower overrun by bandits 
  • WARSTONE GORGOTHRA by Daniel Dean is metal as can be. Dare invade the HAMMER OF LEGEND!
  • The Bridge of Dread by Mike Monaco is the only way across the river to the Other City. Get ready


  • The Goblinplagued Barracks by A Blasted, Cratered Land could be made into a one page dungeon (I've done so for private use). A watch house or small fortress is infected with a disease that makes its victims smell delicious to goblins, and makes goblins rapidly mutate.
  • Check out The Wicked City. Fair warning: does not fit on a One Page Dungeon except when you go nanosized fonts. A metropolis fallen to vice and ruin, with many factions of nobles, merchants, clockwork automata and desparate rebels. Individual posts could be made into smaller locales, for instance the Cobweb for a heist in high towers connected by rickety bridges, or You Say You Want A Revolution as a domain/influence game.


Not free but very much worth considering anyway.

CaveGirl has taken extradimensional travel from the realm of high level and made it accessible. If you know where to find a door, you can walk right into these demiplanes. Careful though - like an old-school megadungeon, these planes become weirder the deeper you go.
  • Gardens of Ynn (review) are a neglected fairyland garden with a hint of Alice in Wonderland: genteel and vicious at the same time.  $5
  • The Stygian Library (review) is endless rooms and hallways of books, where all information can be found if you're willing to risk a expedition into the stacks. $5
Coins and Scrolls produced the sweet, sweet module Kidnap the Archpriest, in which your players scout, plan and execute a heist to, well, Kidnap the Archpriest. Lots of NPCs to tangle with, handy overviews of who is where when and why (now with dynamic map! ;), and super useful tables to generate obstacles during the grand finale. Serious replay value to try new schemes. $4.99

Patrick Stuart of the mindbending False Machine. Check out the otherworldly Veins of the Earth - available for free as individual posts, bundeled as a commercial module. You'll never run the Underdark the same way again.

Finally, if you like the idea of Thunderhead Manse and are up for a wild ride that may wreck your campaign world, spend a couple quid and get Jeff Rients' high weird-module Broodmother Skyfortress. $9.99


  1. Nice post! I am linking folks to it on my blog/podcast this week.

  2. That's great to hear, thanks!