I was asked to run a game for Nick and some friends, and they specifically wanted something Old School to see how things used to be done in the 1970s, so out came Labyrinth Lord and Death Frost Doom. (I love OD&D, but not quite enough to run it from my aging White Box books; the Moldvay edition, and Labyrinth Lord which retroclones it, were and are more popular for a reason.)
Random character generation Old School style is fast and easy – which it has to be, given the lifespan of the average first level character – so it was only a short while later that the party took shape; one fighter, one dwarf, one cleric, and one Charisma 17 thief. I dropped Deathfrost Mountain into my old Irongrave campaign, expecting this to be a one-off, and the party began at the town of Stonebridge, where none of the players had been before, drawn by the rumour of treasure in the mountain, which they accepted despite rejecting the rumours of the resurgence of the ancient death cult which used to live there.
Now while original DFD is more than five years old and thus outside my self-imposed spoiler limit of five years, the new edition is only a year old and so well within it. So you’ll get partial spoilers.
The session was about six hours long, and of that they spent probably an hour generating characters, buying equipment in town, and taking to NPCs; and a couple of hours thrashing around outside the dungeon entrance, talking to more NPCs, examining the entrance in minute detail, and demonstrating the usual healthy acquisitiveness.
Then they found their way in, and explored the complex, continually thinking they had found it all – and then finding another door. They avoided four potential Total Party Kills, and most of the treasure, because they did not search the rooms thoroughly enough; they found the Sacred Parasite and killed it with fire, losing the thief in the process (one hit point you see – Old School, baby) and being unable to recover her body (for resurrection) or the loot (for fencing).
They then unleashed the Sealed Menace, which they escaped by creative (and desperate) use of some of the items they found in the dungeon. By the time they had finished doing that, the Sealed Menace had destroyed Stonebridge, which they could see burning in the distance as they marched south to the next town (the campaign’s titular Irongrave), concocting stories on the way of how they had warned Stonebridge and fought valiantly in its defence.
Oh well, easy come, easy go.
What about Death Frost Doom then? It’s a horror story rather than a hack-and-slash dungeon; the players find a lot of creepy stuff, but it is quite possible to go for extended periods without fighting anything – there was only one serious combat in the entire session. Everything in the scenario is there for a purpose, and it all interacts, and there were a number of interactions I didn’t spot until I was actually running it, despite having read it several times and taken notes.
As Zak S says in his introduction, this scenario demands only a little of your campaign’s space and time, but it does something with every inch of that space and every second of that time. I’d love to run it again sometime – and there are not many scenarios I think that about.