By Shane Garvey
Published by Adventure Games Guild
It may be difficult, sometimes, to find a gaming group. Or maybe everyone has commitments that stop them from meeting on a regular basis. There are times when you just want to game, but you’ve only got yourself for company and the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a computer screen tapping keys.
Say hello to Dungeon: A Solo Adventure Game.
Dungeon is a self contained game that enables a player to have random roleplaying adventures without the need for those pesky Gamemasters sitting at the head of the table hogging all the limelight. It has the feel of an old-school gamebook - such as the Fighting Fantasy series - but there’s no page-flipping. Every game is a random sequence of events that your hero has to fight through to win their goal and gain the treasure. All you need are some six-sided dice.
The book itself is a 47 page PDF with a colour cover and black-and-white interior. The cover is quite striking, with a red leather-like background and the image of what could be a fossilised dragon splashed across it. It’s quite effective.
The interior is black-and-white with large print and small pieces of simple but effective artwork. There are nice scroll-like borders on the hero, quest and encounters pages that are quite pretty and add to the atmosphere. It would have been nice to see more artwork invoking the genre, such as warriors and monsters, and more illustrations in the bestiary would have been a good addition - I always like to see what I’m fighting. It’s all very well laid out, easy on the eye and professionally done.
You also get a sheet of Dungeons Cards you can print out with monster and encounter details on – more on this later.
Players get to choose from four Heroes – the barbarian, the dwarf, the elf and the mage. Each of these heroes has abilities and equipment that will help them in different ways during the adventure so what you choose will make a difference.
Each hero (or monster, for that matter) has a set of simple stats – Combat Dice, which denotes how many D6 the player rolls when attacking. Armour, which indicates the target number you have to reach on the Combat Dice roll to injure your opponent; for every die that scores equal to or above this number you score a single wound. Wounds are the health score of the hero. Magic Dice, if you’re playing a mage. Speed, a form of initiative score, and Gear, what the hero is carrying.
Magic is handled in a similar fashion as combat, with scores for the difficulty in casting the spell acting in a similar fashion to the Armour score.
As you can see, the system is very simple and I’ve managed to give you an idea of how it works in the stat description above. Anything more would give away the entire system, so I won’t go into any more detail here.
The combat system is incredibly simple – you roll and damage, they roll and damage, until one of you drops down dead. It’s a nice and effective little system and plays out really well.
Now that you’ve got a hero, you need an adventure for him or her to go on.
Quests are a sequence of twelve random encounters, called in the game ‘Areas’, that the hero has to overcome in order to reach the ‘Final Area’, the conclusion to the Quest. In overcoming these Areas and the Final Area, the hero can increase in treasure, items and abilities. What is in each Area is decided upon randomly and can take the form of a Monster to fight, an Event to overcome or a Quest Monster to defeat. Each Quest also has a different Final Area with special goals for the Hero to reach in order to complete the Quest.
First of all, you choose one of six quests – these are the simple goals to achieve that have a possible Special Rule, which tells you how you begin or what may happen during the Quest; a Final Area which gives you the goals to overcome after surviving twelve Area; and the Quest Monster, the primary foe of the Quest.
Each Area is rolled for randomly, or you can use the cards I mentioned earlier – first, a 1D6 decides whether you encounter a foe, an event or if nothing at all happens. Upon rolling for an Encounter or an Event, the player then rolls 2D6 on the relevant Encounter or Events tables. Encounters decide what monster you will fight, including the Quest Monster, and Events tell you what other things befall your hero, such as cave-ins or finding a fountain. These Events can also have their own sub-tables to randomise effects should you decide to interact with them.
From all of these areas the hero has the chance to earn gold, potions and artefacts to help them on their Quest. All of these tables create a random variety of results that keep the game entertaining.
Upon completing the Quest, the hero can earn Experience, which increase their Wound stat, learn a skill that ups their abilities, or earn even more gold and artefacts. This is decided on randomly.
For two dollars what you have here is a quick, easy and simple game that will keep you entertained for quite a while. You also have the basics of a great introductory roleplaying game with simple mechanics and a form of character advancement.
It certainly looks the part – the simple colour cover is quite evocative and effective, and the interior is well laid out and easy to read. It does suffer slightly for lack of illustrations and it would have benefited from more images. I’m also a sucker for game world maps, too, so it would be nice to see where it is I‘m adventuring, but that’s a personal preference and bears no impact ion the game itself. You could quite easily set this on your favourite game world.
The game itself takes about ten minutes to fully learn and I’ve played out quests that last ten to twenty minutes, so it makes it perfect for a pick-up-and-play game if you have nothing else on or if you’re on along journey. It is fun and the random nature of the game keeps you on your toes and makes every game different. With only six quests in the book and two lots of Areas that equal 22 events it is easy to see that games will become repetitive, and in fact I have had a couple of games that have felt very similar. It does say in the book that future expansions will provide additional Quests, which is a good thing, and it would be nice to see an increased number of Encounters and Events to supplement what is already in the book. This would definitely add some longevity to the game, but they’re so easy to do then there’s nothing stopping enterprising players from creating their own. You could create them for your friends and challenge each other.
You can use the random dice for the Areas or print the cards that come with it. To be honest it’s much easier to print the whole thing out as it makes it easier to refer to the sheets you need.