Monday, October 26, 2020

Prison of the Hated Pretender 2020 Release

A revised, updated, edited, illustrated and annotated version of my 2012 Prison of the Hated Pretender is now available for purchase and download at DriveThruRPG.  The adventure is introductory, and now includes copious notes on running classic style adventures as well as conversion details for 5th Edition D&D. 

Published through the amazing Hydra Cooperative, and available here:

DriveThru Link

Prison of the Hated Pretender is a small (10 room) introductory adventure - the lair of a cursed despot, eternally tortured by the spirits of his victims.  Focused on faction interaction and simple puzzles, the Prison seeks to introduce unfamiliar players with some aspects of classic dungeon crawl style play.

Well received since its initial publication, this new edition adds a rewritten set of professionally edited keys, aimed at greater usability and coherence, a newly redrawn maps (GM's, blank and annotated for quick reference), illustrations, and a set of tutorial notes.

As an introductory adventure, I'm particularly proud of the notes, as they should make running the adventure easier for players new to the classic, problem solving play style. Because of the Prison's size, these notes are largely focused on issues of faction conflict, and encounters such as: asymmetrical encounter design, reaction rolls, monster goals and morale. While published to be compatible with the 1980's editions of Basic D&D and "retroclones" such as Labyrinth Lord and OSE, the mechanics and concepts at its core are easily adapted to 5E play and Prison of the Hated Pretender includes 5th Edition stats for its new monsters as well as notes on conversion. 

Because of it's long term status as a free product, my personal beliefs about the value of hobbyist produced content and its short length, I've asked Hydra to release Prison of the Hated Pretender as a
Pay What You Want PDF with a suggested contribution of $5.  It is a complete adventure however and should be ready to quickly introduce to your table. If you wish to encourage more products like Prison of the Hated Pretender, please review and rate the product, either on DriveThru RPG or elsewhere, as this will help introduce it to as many new players as possible and hopefully spread greater understanding of how classic play works and why it can be fun.

-Gus L.


  1. Purchased immediately! I've run this adventure several times over the years and am excited to read the re-release.

    1. Hope you enjoy it, the adventure is almost unchanged(treasure values are up a bit, phantasm numbers and descriptions adjusted). If you have any impressions reviews and such are greatly appreciated.

  2. I ran this as the first adventure site for a new 5e campaign I'm running. I also plan to incorporate Dread Machine and Red Demon of the Vile Fens to create the backdrop of a prior civilization with advanced arcane technology.

    I know it's not your favorite system but my players like it and I think with things like 1) resource tracking, and 2) no darkvision, we can move a few steps from the current 5e zeitgeist to a more classical style of play. My experience with Hated Pretender proved that out a bit.

    It was 180 degrees from what my players are used to. No Investigation or Perception rolls. No set-pieces or balanced encounters. The puzzled out the dungeon with experimentation and their wits. I nerfed the phantasms pretty significantly but they still ran away screaming and elected to try exploring again at night.

    They managed to trigger both traps in the lower level, resulting in a PC going unconscious. I know in true classical play she would be dead but still, I think the party learned an important lesson.

    Overall, hated Pretender has been one of my favorite scenarios I've run in my brief 3-year DM career. It threw the players for a loop but they adjusted quickly. It is also very evocative and can be used to drop hints about the wider world and really create a sense of mystery for the players. 5/5 would run again and again.

    I also ran Winter's Daughter around the same time for another group and the effect was similar - they learned a few principles of classic-style play, adjusted quickly and had a blast. I know Winter's Daughter is highly praised for that aspect and I think Hated Pretender is its equal. I prefer the aesthetic of Hated Pretender.

    1. Always glad to hear that Prison is working as intended, a fun, short introduction to some elements of older style gaming. Thanks for letting me know.

      I may not be a personal fan of 5E, I just couldn't get it to stick after a year of playing it, but so many people seem to love it so who am I to say anything negative! So much of running, designing and playing RPGs is finding the way you and your table want to play and making adjustments to get there - adjustments to rules, to expectations, to setting - everything.

      Like the lethality divide between how older editions are presented/derided/held up as deadly meat grinders vs. newer ones being defined as more forgiving. It's largely a play culture issue, and very easy to either make 5E deadly or B/X completely safe. I haven't found that either matters too much as long as everyone agrees on how one is playing.

      If you have a blog or post on how resources and other classic elements are working for you, and how you're making them work I'd love to read it, always interesting to see how folks manage it.

  3. I don't have a blog but I've been thinking about creating one for this reason. I participate in the online 5e community a but and, maybe I'm imagining it, but I feel like people are beginning to recognize what 5e is missing and wondering how to really incorporate exploration into their games. Maybe when I get a few more sessions under my belt I'll have more to offer.

    If I ever get that off the ground, I'll let you know. At any rate, please keep doing what you do and I'll keep trying to spread the word.


Old Games

Let’s talk about old tabletop roleplaying games - specifically the kind of games played in the 1980’s and recently depicted in the nostalgia...