"Intro box" for game with new players?

Hi folks,
Thinking about introducing my teenage kids and nieces to RPGs while on vacation next week. I was a 5E DM, and have been looking into OSE, Shadow of the Demon Lord, and WWN trying to find a good transition game from 5E that is rules light, but with lots of character options/development. But, I am kind of lost in the journey of learning new rules sets, building my own campaign/world, etc.

Given I have a short timeline to pick up something, learn it, and run it- do you have recommendations for an adventure and/or system with some pre-generated characters or something that isn’t too overwhelming to pick up and run within a week? I am very analytical and get bogged down trying to learn every nuance before DMing…



My go-to for a last minute one-shot for a while now has been the Droner House. It’s fairly straight-forward and you can adjust the premise fairly easily depending on the type of game you want to play. It’s designed for a way lighter system than the ones mentioned but you can easily replace the mobs with those of your choice.

Most of the time I run it with its standard premise but when I have a party that wants to go in guns blazing, I swap it to focus on the cult involved and make it more of a “save this family” or “wipe out the cult” situation.


Thank you, I’ll check it out!

As an adventure, I really like Prison of the Hated Pretender. While it doesn’t have pregen characters, it’s pretty easy to set up and run with basically any system. If you want something longer, Tomb of the Serpent Kings is perfect for a short campaign. It’s bigger, but the first section is nearly zero-prep and you can put up the rest as you go.

As for systems, I really like Maze Rats for its simplicity, but that same simplicity means most adventures don’t support it out-of-the-box and you have to convert monsters and traps yourself. Going to something a little more complex, you have Cairn, which already has conversions for both adventures I suggested (and many more): Prison of the Hated Pretender and Tomb of the Serpent Kings.


I second Cairn. Less crunchy than other OSR systems but still extremely versatile. The two adventures mentioned work well with it and it is natively compatible with Droner House (just swap Charisma for Cairn’s Willpower.


Cairn has a character generator which is kinda like pregens.
Though, I think rolling up characters would be a fun part of introducing the them to the game. Teenagers need a little time to warm-up to things anyway and get their hormone soaked brains working.
FMAG is also a great game you could probably order and grok it within a week (if ya have amazon). Also found a generator for it.
I don’t really know about character options heavy games (if that’s what you were asking) except WWN. Seem like that would oppose the only having a week part so I’d avoid it. You could just have a list of questions you want them to answer like:

  • What was you prev. occupation,
  • What’s a skill you gained from you occupation (give em a 2 or 3 out of 6)
  • What a connection you have to the party
  • What’s a flaw you have
  • What’s a secret you know that others don’t
    But if overthinking is your problem, just run them through a quick dungeon. I made this recently, someone pointed out that too many of the rooms have monsters (and I think they have a point)

As someone who came to the OSR from 5E myself, I’d recommend B/X D&D (via either Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy, Basic Fantasy RPG, or the original Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert) as a great first foray. There is a lot that you’ll already be familiar with but still plenty of new-to-you stuff to be excited about.

If you’re going with OSE, I’d run Winter’s Daughter. (I just ran this adventure in OSE for a group that had only played 5E before, and they loved it.)

There are also some fun pegenerated characters in Rogues Gallery I for OSE (which could also be used with B/X, or with Basic Fantasy with some minor conversions).

For Basic Fantasy RPG, I’d go with The Blackapple Brugh (scroll down about 1/3 of the way to find download/print links). And here are some 3rd level pregenerated characters.

For B/X (or any of them) Tomb of the Serpent Kings is also a great choice, as others have mentioned. It’s great for teaching both the one running the game and the ones playing the game how to “do” OSR, or at least one version of OSR.

Honestly, you can run any of these adventures with any of these systems with minimal-to-no conversion, as they’re all pretty much just B/X D&D.

(Also, there are SRDs for both OSE and Basic Fantasy if you want to get a good read on them without having to buy/download anything.)

Keep in mind that much (if not most) of the character options/development in B/X (and most other OSR games, in my experience) comes from what happens in the game and not from the rules or character sheets.

Have fun!


I’ll second the Tomb of the Serpent King as a great dungeon for learning about the OSR and suggest another: the Waking of Willowby Hall as a wonderful short dungeon romp. I used the Hall to introduce my group to the OSR with Knave 1e.

If you want a fantastic starting town & local area I highly reccomend the Black Wyrm of Brandonsford.


These are all excellent suggestions! My grouped started in 5E so we found it best to transition to Five Torches Deep. I love this little system. 5E bones but very flexible and can have old school systems plugged into fairly easily. Like 5E, but deadlier and more breathing room for the DM. This might be a good fit for you since you already know the system. No pregens ,but you can make a character in about 10-15 mins. There’s a monster resource online calledFive monsters Deep that will have all the monster stats you’ll need.

I have ran the Incandescent Grottoes for a younger group and it was great fun. A lots of the cool basics of dungeon crawling and really being in an otherworldly environment.

I’ve also had fun with Desert Angel Fiasco It’s a bit of a self admitted railroad, but there’s tons of character choices, great NPC’s and it’s on a hovering ship charting its first course through a desert! It’s a hell of a ride and easy to run.

Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom is a great intro adventure with great treasures and a ton of danger.

Have fun with them. Kids are often murderhobos and take forever to make decisions. Give them patience and some timers, in game or out.


5 Torches Deep is so underrated. I feel like it gets too many complaints (although I kind of understand why). It does a great job at bridging 5e character styles with OSR principles. Worth it for anyone that wants to run a game with Forgotten Realm-style characters but without the 5e mechanical complexity.