Dungeon Game

How to Play

Written April 22, 2021, last changed May 23, 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: the world player makes a move. Often this means setting up a consequence that you’ll have a chance to react to.

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.

Minor setbacks reduce your base focus by 1, major by 2, and severe by 3.
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 severe, you die.

I can be possible to treat a major or severe setback: on a success, it still takes up the same slot, but only reduces your focus by one and can usually be recovered by resting. A decisive treatment stays effective unless something aggravates it. An effective treatment stays effective for the whole day. A limited treatment stays effective until your next deep breath. Some setbacks (like hungry) cannot be treated in this way, and some setbacks may take extensive or difficult treatments.

Risk & Reward

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

When you choose your approach for an action, the world player will tell you how effective it will be on a hit. An action can be futile, limited, effective, decisive, and critical.

When you choose your approach for a reaction, the world player might adjust the possible consequences, telling you if the reaction is desperate or assured. If you miss an assured action, your focus cannot drop below 1 (and thus can’t be broken). If you miss a desperate reaction, your focus will always be broken and reduced to 0 immediately.

Risk represents how terrible it would be for your focus to break during a reaction. A reaction can be desperate, risky, or safe.

Fear

The world is overwhelming and terrifying. As fear increases, so does the target for dice rolls, making actions harder and reactions more dangerous. By default the fear level is 4, so this is the target for your rolls. Some conditions, places, and monsters can increase the fear level. Watch out!

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, vocation, 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 somone fails to to do what you expect of them, you can:

You must be the judge of which response is appropriate.

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. The world player determines the size of a long-term project. When you have the time, you can take an action to make progress on your project. Add the result of your roll to the total progress. When you reach the goal, the project is complete.

Sizes: 15, 30, 45

Resting & Recovering

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

Recovering from a major setback is a size-15 long-term project. Recovering from a severe setback is at least one size-45 long-term project, but may require multiple steps. If someone else is present to tend to you as a healer, they can take an action to make progress on the project once per day, with the benefits of that progress arriving after a night’s sleep. If nobody is tending to you, roll a d4 each night and mark that as your progress.