Tuesday, May 17, 2022

About Prison of the Hated Pretender

 Prison of the Hated Pretender is great short dungeon written and illustrated by Gus L.

It is available as pay-what-you-want on drivethrurpg, and you really have no excuse not to grab it now, because it's a very good one!

I grabbed the PDF and printed and stapled it at home.

The Basics

The 20-page pdf includes a backdrop village for the adventure, rumors and hooks, and the description of the dungeon itself, which has 10 keyed locations. It is "for 4-6 characters level 0-1", so basically a starting adventure.

It includes "universal" old-school statistics which are perfectly compatible with OD&D/BX/BECMI and their clones and pseudoclones. Treasure seems set to values that are appropriate for xp-for-gold systems, too.

It also includes an appendix with 5e statistics which, frankly, I didn't even bother to read.

Art is nicely evocative and the map is really good and included in three versions.

Same goes for the writing style, reasonably compact but very evocative.

The Dungeon Adventure

The Prison is not a dungeon proper, as it is above ground. It's a head-shaped, three-story tower of sorts, with an underground crypt. It's the crowned head on the cover.

Despite the small area, the prison definitely allows for multiple expeditions, because the place is full of interesting stuff to investigate and interact with, AND there's a faction of creatures that just keep coming on and on, until the players figure out what makes them return and how to prevent that, which means a typical group of the suggested level will be forced to leave fairly often, and plan to visit again.

In the 10 rooms of the Prison, there's pretty much everything a good dungeon adventure should have: faction play, possible non-violent interaction with creatures, mysteries to unravel, traps and hazards that are well described in their functioning and trigger and with ways to figure they are there, and treasure that is interesting.

Extra Feature: An OSR Essay on Dungeon Design AND Refereeing

PotHP also shines as an excellent guide of sorts for GMs who want to familiarize with the old-school style of play and adventure design, as each page has a box of text explaining the design approach of the adventure, the reasons behind it, and how to best run it.

The combination of "theory" and playable example truly is gold, and puts PotHP in the same category as Tomb of the Serpent Kings as great "educational" modules (and great modules on their own right).


  1. The way many of Gus' books—but this one in particular—mix adventure and theory is inspiring to me. It inverts the typical structure of RPG theory writing, and in doing so is able to speak to the issues so much more clearly.

    1. Thanks LS. You're no slouch at classic design theory either - Papers & Pencils is a great read and "Bloody Boudoir" is a great small encounter focused puzzle adventure.

  2. Thanks for the review Giuseppe, I wrote this way back in 2012 I think, but it's still one of my favorite little things. In general I'd love to see more information handed down from the OSR to the present scene, I see a lot of newer folks flustered by some of the same stuff we were struggling through back in 2013. For another great wonderful introductory adventure check out Arnold K of Goblin Punch's "Lair of the Lamb" it fill in a bunch of the procedural gaps in Hated Pretender.

    I Pretender think it still works well as an intro to certain Classic/OSR ideas around monsters as a puzzle and encounters generally -- especially combat as an inevitable fail state and the ways to put it off through flight and negotiation supported by the reaction roll, morale and more robust monster drives and characterization. I'm also convinced this is the easiest way to smuggle older design ideas into 5E games - so check out that 1 page essay if you're ever asked to help a 5E player have a more classic D&D time.

    If you want more theory, my theory blog - which is a bit verbose is alldeadgenerations.blogspot.com

    My newer publications are at RatKing Productions on DTRPG, but if you would like me to send you any review copies drop me a line at oldmanlaru@gmail.com and I will send you a PDF or three. There's also an old 3rd level Hated Pretender Sequel, "Dread Machine" but it hasn't been updated for either OSE or the concept of grammar.

  3. I've run it a couple of times. Always a winner.


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