OSR Using Shadowdark quickstart to run The Waking of Willowby Hall. Any thoughts?

Jolly Ruby

My girlfriend wants me to help her introduce her friends to TTRPGs, and I agreed running an one-shot. She tasked me with some very specific requests:
  1. She wants me to run D&D (any edition) or some adjacent fantasy game (like OSR games and Pathfinder).
  2. The players expressed they want to have options when creating characters.
  3. She said it's unlikely any of them will read the rules before "tipping their toes" in RPG, so a rules light system or a system where the game master can be the only person who read the rules is preferable.
  4. One of the players expressed liking the idea of dangerous combats.
With all this information I concluded The Waking of Willowby Hall is probably one of the best options to run to this group, given the short length and evocative premise. (Winter's Daughter would be cool too, bur my girlfriend already played it before).

I thought first in running it in OSE Advanced, restricting the races to humans, dwarves, elves and halflings, and the classes to the base four + druid, barbarian, ranger and bard. I tweaked the system a bit for some days to streamline everything, until yesterday I met my new love: Shadowdark.

Shadowdark did everything I was trying to do, but better. Simple ancestries with equivalent benefits, classes with clearly defined features, and the fast paced and rules light gameplay of OSR games that drew me to OSE as my first option.

So, what should I be aware before I try this? Does my experiment have any blatant flaw I'm failing to see? What advice do you give me?

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Shadowdark did everything I was trying to do, but better.
Same here.

So, what should I be aware before I try this? Does my experiment have any blatant flaw I'm failing to see? What advice do you give me?
I don't know the module you're using, but I did try ShadowDark with the quickstart rules, and it really did what I hoped it would do!

In my opinion, the one thing I think you might need to be aware of is something that isn't in the quickstart. It's the "Designing Monsters" advice that darjr shared. You might want to compare your module's encounters with the "How Many Monsters?" section to maybe rejigger the lethality levels of combat.


I haven't read this one, but I know the author, Ben from Questing Beast, likes to give lots of opportunities for player shenanigans, so needing the rules to match up probably won't be a priority.


Main issue I see with shadowdark with regard to the stated objectives, is the limited character options. On the other hand in a D&D (adjencient) context, options without reading rules in advance tend to be problematic.

Jolly Ruby

How did this work out, @Jolly Ruby? I haven't played the adventure, but its horror-adjacent premise seems like a great fit for Shadowdark.
It went well! I think all four objectives were met. It felt D&D enough, even if it wasn't actually D&D; all players could create the characters they wanted to play; nobody besides me read the rules beforehand; and the combat was almost too deadly, but hit the sweet spot.

The group was composed of me and five players: two who had played both OSR and modern D&D before, one who played TTRPGs, but never played D&D or adjacent games, and two players who never played TTRPGs before. The players who played D&D before adapted very well, the game and the nomenclature are familiar enough to play it seamless. The player who never played D&D but played other TTRPGs felt it was "weird" at the start, but adapted quite well too. She said it involved too many dice rolls, even if I asked for almost no ability checks. The players who never played TTRPGs before loved it, and I even spent hours after the game talking about the system and the adventure with one of them.

As @Arilyn said, the shenanigans opportunities were more prevalent than the system rules, so the choice of adventure was very adequate for a game where the players can play without knowing the rules. I ignored some rules too, like the "always on initiative order" and "real-time tracking" in favor of better control of game pacing. I didn't tweak the monsters too, since most encounters are intentionally way over the character's paygrade (the giant and the death knight) or are massive threats with glaring weaknesses (the owlbear). Speaking of the owlbear, it almost killed two characters! Luckily, ShadowDark isn't as punitive as B/X with character deaths, so they could be stabilized and the owlbear was scared away. They eventually encountered it twice again, the second time they locked it inside a room, and the third time was right before their escape, and they killed the beast with fire!

The game was a bit longer than I expected. We played for more or less seven hours, with some large breaks. I was afraid they would be tired way too soon, but everyone was asking for more until we ended the adventure, so I consider it a successful experiment.

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