Dungeon Game

How to Play

Written April 22, 2021, last changed July 9, 2021

Approaches

Approaches are the ways you can handle a situation. Approaches start at d4 and go up by die sizes as you grow more confident in them: d6, d8, d10, d12.

The approaches are:

Battle with an enemy in a head-to-head fight; assault or hold a position; wage war; outmaneuver, outplay, or outsmart an opponent.

Charm with smooth, quick, or clever talk; manipulate others to change their attitudes or behaviors; draw attention; cause distractions; give a performance; run with a bit.

Cobble together a tool or item; mend or patch broken equipment; tend to wounds; make use of herbs and medicines; tinker with machinery, disarm traps, and pick locks;

Connect emotionally with someone or something; express yourself creatively; recognize patterns; take part in ritual; imagine alternatives and impossibilities.

Hunt something down, track its movements; lean on your intuition; forage for resources; locate and exploit a weakness; ambush with precise violence.

Kindle hope, strength, or love in yourself and others; resist despair; inspire others; lead others in action; push on despite setbacks; ignore or recover from wounds or illness.

Pass unnoticed; act naturally or underhandedly; sense things before they happen; scout ahead for danger or opportunity; act quickly on instinct; read the mood of a situation.

Scramble into a new position; climb, swim, run, jump, and tumble; dodge out of the way; maintain or recover your balance; force your way through.

Study someone or something with close scrutiny to answer a question; learn or master a pattern or practice; commit something to memory; test your knowledge.

Attributes

Each approach belongs to one of the three attributes:

Battle, kindle, and scramble belong to Strength, which determines your fatigue: how much you can carry and how long you can push yourself before getting tired.

Charm, hunt, and pass belong to Poise, which determines your focus: how you well you can keep your wits together in a dangerous situation.

Connect, cobble, and study belong to Insight, which determines your skills: the special things you know how to do that most don’t.

Choosing an Approach

Like from blades, yeah?

You can’t attempt the same action twice in a row, unless the circumstances have changed.

Rolling

Once you’ve decided on your action, you can roll for it using the appropriate die for that stat. On a 4 or higher, it’s a hit: that means you get accomplish what you set out to do. Otherwise, it’s a miss: if there’s some threat or peril you’re facing it’ll be its turn to make a move, otherwise you might lose focus equal to the difference or suffer wear and tear on your possessions.

Reactions

Sometimes, instead of acting, you’re reacting: trying to prevent a threat from coming to pass. On a hit, you’ve prevented it and can immediately take an action of your own. On a miss, you’re at risk of what threatens you, but in this world you learn to recover from mistakes fast. You lose focus equal to the amount under the target you rolled, and as long as you don’t run out, you still prevent it, but only barely.

Focus

You start with an amount of focus equal to your Poise. If you don’t have the focus to spend on a missed reaction, your focus breaks, and the threat comes to pass.

If your focus is zero, you can’t act (but can still react) until you take a deep breath.

Turns

This game is played in turns. On your turn, you’ll usually either be taking an action, or reacting to prevent the world player’s action.

Each turn, all the players will decide on their own actions or reactions, negotiating them with the world player, and rolling any dice if appropriate. Once everyone has done so, the world player will resolve the effects of those actions simultaneously, and then take their own turn.

Running out Fatigue

When you would mark fatigue, but don’t have any fatigue slots remaining, erase all of your marks not taken up by possessions. You will immediately suffer a minor setback (usually “tired”).

Setbacks

Setbacks are the injuries, diseases, bad moods, hexes, and other problems that bear down upon you along your journeys. Setbacks come at three levels: minor, severe, and fatal.

Minor setbacks reflect annoyances, bruises, and wear-and-tear that comes from pushing yourself and taking risks. They are easy to recover from and don’t significantly hinder your actions.

Severe setbacks reflect wounds, diseases, and other unignorable difficulties. Recovery from severe setbacks is slow, and they can make some actions more difficult or dangerous while under their effect.

Fatal setbacks run the risk of ending your life forever, and if you’re lucky enough to survive, you’ll lose something you can never get back. See mortality, below.

Minor setbacks reduce your base focus by 1, severe by 3, and fatal by 5, to a minimum of 1.

If you run out of setback slots of one level, you gain a setback of the next worse level instead. If this would be worse than fatal, you die.

Mortality and Scars

When you suffer a fatal setback, it leaves you with a scar: a permanent mark of having escaped death. Roll a d6 to determine which:

If you would gain the same scar twice, you die instead.

Healing from your scars is a lifelong undertaking, and not one open to those who continue to follow the wanderer’s life.

Impact and position

The approach you choose for your actions and reactions can affect the result.

Your impact is how much you can hope to accomplish with an action. When you choose your approach for an action, the world might tell you that the action will have a limited impact: you’ll only get partway there, but your next action will finish the job. They might instead tell you that your action will have a big impact: you’ll go above and beyond, getting something extra on top of what you wanted, maybe setting yourself up for a follow-up.

Your position is how much danger you’re in risk of. In most situations where danger is present, you’ll be in a risky position, but circumstances or your choice of approach might move you to a desperate or careful position instead. The consequences the world player threatens you with are based on your position:

When something gives you an edge, that means it increases the impact of your actions, and can sometimes improve your position. When something puts you at a disadvantage, that means it reduce your impact or potentially worsens your position.

Determining impact and position

To determine a character’s impact or position, you can often go off of your instinct. However, if you’re in doubt, you can consider the scale or potency.

Scale is the measure of quantity or size. In a fight, if you outnumber them 2-to-1, that gives you an edge. If you’re up against something bigger than you, that puts you at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, If you’re trying to sneak by unnoticed, being smaller or fewer in number may be the edge you need.

Potency is the result of specific circumstances: special strengths or vulnerabilities as well as extra care or attention. When you attempt call upon an old rite to lay a spirit to rest, wearing your ritual robes will give you an edge as you conduct the ceremony. A cook’s meal is more potent when tasted by the hungry. The divine power of the wounded spirit-fragments of the gods are potent against us mortal folk.

Expectations and Role

In such a harsh world, it’s important that we know what to expect of each other. As you make your character, you will learn what is expected of you, and what you can expect of others. Everyone is expected to hold one another accountable to their roles.

As a pilgrim, you can expect those with a bed to spare to offer it, and they may expect something from you in return.

The expectations that define you are known as your role, accumulated from your heritage, background, discipline, and journey. As you play, if you live up to these expectations, you can check them off. At the end of each session, you’ll erase any checks and gain an expectation point (EXP) for each erased this way. EXP can be used to grow and change.

When someone fails to to do what you expect of them, you can:

You must be the judge of which response is appropriate.

Growth

You can spend EXP to grow, exploring new directions or further mastering what you know.

Gain a level

Spend EXP equal to your current level plus 8 to learn and grow. You can:

New disciplines and skills have to be taught and learned. Once you have the capacity, you will need a teacher or other resource to show you the basics and get you started. Once you’ve been introduced, you will be able to work on learning as a long term project. For each month you spend regularly practicing, you can make an action towards the project. Having the teacher available during your practice will give you an edge.

It’s possible to teach your fellow wanderers skills and disciplines while on the road.

New skills start at d4.

Skills

A list of specific masteries you have acquired. You have a number of skills equal to your Insight, and can give you an advantage during some actions, or even make certain actions possible that wouldn’t be otherwise.

Skills also give you further confidence: each skill has a die value associated with it, starting at d4 When you make actions while using that skill, roll that die alongside your approach die and use the higher result.

Fatigue and possessions

You have an amount of fatigue equal to half your Strength (round down) plus 10. This represents your capacity to withstand exhaustion. Each possession you carry burdens you: it reduces your max fatigue by 1 for as long as you hold it. Lighter objects might be represented as a collection of things that in whole cause a burden or may be ignored. Heavier or bulkier things might be counted as multiple things or otherwise cause an extra burden.

This burden shouldn’t be taken too literally. A sword and a sack full of blueberries weigh different amounts, but they are both “a thing” as far as this game is concerned.

Possessions

Long-term Projects

A long-term project is something that you chip away at in your free time. For a simple long-term project, draw a circle divided in 8 sections. When you have the time, you can take an action to make progress on your project. A success allows you to mark off a number of sections based on the reward of the action: 0 for futile, 1 for limited, 2 for effective, 3 for decisive, and 5 for critical. When the circle is filled, the project is complete.

For more complex long-term projects, there may be several or many steps, each with their own circle.

Resting & Recovering

When you get a night’s sleep, you recover 1 minor setback.

Recovering from a severe or fatal setback is a long-term project. You can make progress towards severe setbacks once per day, and fatal setbacks once per week.

Asking Questions

If you need to learn more about other characters or the world, you can use following three actions to ask the world player. Each is based on a specific attribute. Choose an approach under that attribute, describing how you’ll use it to learn more, then roll. On a hit, choose 1 question and ask it; the world player will answer honestly. If you ask about a player’s character, that player will answer instead. If you have a limited impact, the answer will be somehow incomplete. If you have a big impact, you can ask a second question.

You can draw someone out with your strength – perhaps by feinting during battle, by rousing them with kindle, or by leading them on a chase with scramble. On a hit, they open themselves up to you. Ask:

You can read the room with your poise – perhaps by seeing how people to react to your charm, by using your hunter’s intuition, or by silently noticing the ebb and flow of attention with pass. Ask:

You can devote your attention with your insight – perhaps by connecting closely with someone, by tinkering around, or by studying it thoroughly. Ask:

Are these the only questions I can ask?

You can always ask the world player any questions you like, even without taking an action, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get an answer. You can also always take an action to try to get a specific question not on these lists answered. These are just the questions that the game is most interested in.