Doing Things

This page covers the core mechanisms of A Dungeon Game. No ruleset could possibly hope to cover every eventuality that may arise during play. When something comes up and you aren’t sure how to handle it, apply the rules presented here in the way that seems most fitting. There are no wrong answers.

This page contains the following sections:

Attribute Checks

When you want to do something and failure would be interesting or risky you roll dice. If failure wouldn’t be interesting or risky, you just do it. If you lack the skills or tools to do something, or if success is otherwise impossible, you cannot succeed. Find another plan.

To do things, decide which attribute you are using and roll under it on a d20. If you roll your attribute exactly you do it really well.

If you’re particularly well positioned to do the thing well, roll with advantage: roll two dice and take the most beneficial result. If things are going poorly for you and it’s going to be harder than normal, disadvantage works the same way but you take the least beneficial result.

You can always choose to exert yourself to turn a failed roll into a success.

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Saving Throws

Saving throws made against traps and natural hazards use the same procedure as attribute checks, rolling under the most appropriate attribute on 1d20.

To make a saving throw against creature abilities or spells and effects caused by enemies, roll under the appropriate attribute but over the enemy’s HD.

You can’t exert yourself on saving throws.

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After failing a roll you can choose to exert yourself in order to succeed.

  • If you rolled over your attribute: Subtract your attribute from the result of your roll. Reduce your attribute by this number permanently and treat the roll as a success.
  • If you rolled under your enemy’s AC in combat: Subtract your roll from the enemy AC. Reduce your attribute by this number permanently and treat the roll as a success.

You can’t exert yourself on saving throws.

Abilities that have been reduced due to exertion can be recovered during rest periods between adventures. 1

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You’re made of meat and when people poke holes in you you bleed and die. If you’re going to fight you have to be prepared to die, and you should be sure you’re going to win before you draw your weapon.

Making An Attack

When you direct violence at someone, pick which attribute you’re using. Unless you can come up with a good reason why it should be different, use Agility for ranged attacks, Brawn for melee attacks, and Cunning if there’s magic or trickery involved.

To make an attack, Roll 1d20.

  • If your result is less than or equal to your attribute and above their Armour Class (AC), you hit them. Roll your weapon’s damage.
  • If your result is either higher than your attribute or equal to or lower than your enemy’s AC, you miss.
  • If you roll your attribute exactly your enemy is temporarily stunned and you get to make another attack immediately.
  • If you roll the enemy’s AC exactly you deal no damage but reduce their AC by 1 for the rest of the encounter. Armour breaks when the AC reaches 0.

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Dual Wielding

You can wield two melee weapons simultaneously as long as at least one of them is Small.

  • Attacks made with small weapons while dual wielding use Agility instead of Brawn.
  • You must Exert one point of Cunning in order to make a second attack in a single combat round.

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Ranged Attacks

Characters who fire ranged weapons into melee combat risk striking combatants other than their intended target. When you miss an attack with a ranged weapon against an enemy engaged in melee with someone else, make an Agility saving throw. If you fail, you strike the other combatant and deal your damage.

If there are multiple other combatants engaged in melee with your target, the GM selects the new target of the attack at random.

The only time this does not apply is if you roll your enemy’s AC exactly, in which case you reduce their AC as normal.

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Using Scars

Your Scars are a physical reminder of your previous experiences of violence. Once per initiative round you can modify a roll you make in combat by +/- X, where X is the number of Scars you possess.

This modification can be applied to attacks, damage rolls, saving throws, etc. If you’re fighting and you’re rolling dice, you can utilise your Scars.

When you choose to use Scars to modify a roll, you always use the full value and not a portion of it. If you have 3 Scars, you can’t modify a roll by 1 or 2; it has to be 3.

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Being Attacked

Enemy attacks work in the same manner as adventurer attacks. Enemies do not have the same attributes as player characters. Instead they have an Attack value determined by their Hit Dice.

The procedure and outcomes for making attacks is identical to that of players detailed on the previous page, replacing any reference to attributes with their Attack value.

The GM rolls dice for enemies.

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Rituals in Combat

Performing Rituals while fighting is difficult and dangerous. You can’t cast a spell and move in the same round. If you use a scroll in combat, you automatically go last in initiative.

If you take damage before your go in a combat round, your Cunning check to perform the Ritual only succeeds if it is equal to or below your Cunning but greater than the amount of damage you took. If you fail, roll a Mishap as normal.

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The Encounter Check

The GM should check for encounters every other exploration turn, when the party lingers in one place for an extended period, or when they produce excessive noise (e.g. forcing open a door, shouting, engaging in combat that lasts for more than 3 combat rounds).

Roll 1d6. On a result of 1, an encounter occurs. Roll on the appropriate encounter tables for your dungeon.

The frequency of encounter checks and the chance of encounters may change depending on the conditions of any given dungeon or area within the dungeon.

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When enemies are encountered in the dungeon, the fiction will tell you whether one side surprises the other. If one side is surprised and combat begins, the surprised party takes no actions in the first combat round.

In the event that both parties are unaware of each other, there is a 2-in-6 chance that they are surprised.

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Encounter Distance

If not made obvious by the fiction, characters first become aware of encountered creatures when they are 2d6 x 10 feet away. Encounters outside occur at 2d6 x 10 yards.

Characters exploring the dungeon with torches or lanterns can’t surprise enemies. Their light acts as a beacon, allowing them to be seen but rendering them unable to see beyond its range. Encounter distance is dictated by the nature of the light:

  • Torch, 30 feet
  • Lantern, 60 feet

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Roll to determine the initial attitude of any encountered creature whose reaction to the adventurers isn’t obvious from the fiction.

2d6 Reaction
2-3. Friendly.
4-6. Helpful.
7. Uninterested.
8-10. Hostile.
11-12. Murderous.

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Once per day you can spend ten minutes eating and resting while you tend to your wounds. Roll your recovery die and recover that much health. This roll can’t increase your health above its maximum value, and you can’t benefit from resting in this way if you do not have access to food, and you can’t recover if this period of rest is interrupted by strenuous activity or violence.

Rest somewhere safe for the night to recover your recovery die + 1d6 health. This roll can’t increase your health above its maximum value.

Attributes that have been reduced due to exertion can only be recovered in civilisation. For each week of bed rest in which you undertake no other activities, roll your recovery die and regain that many points in your exerted attribute. If you have exerted more than one attribute you may divide these points among them as you see fit, but you only roll once per week of rest. If the roll would increase an attribute beyond its previous maximum, increase that attribute to the new total permanently. Attributes can’t be increased above 18.

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If any of your attributes ever reaches 0, you are dead.

If you reach 0 health for any reason, roll 2d6 and compare the result to the number of Scars you have earned.

If your roll is equal to or lower than the number of Scars you have earned, you succumb to your accumulated injuries and die.

If your roll is higher than the number of Scars you have earned, roll your Recovery Die and restore that much health then gain a new Scar.

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Most people and creatures won’t fight to the death, preferring to flee and live to fight another day.

Enemy Morale

If an enemy’s response to violence isn’t clear from the fiction, make a Morale check for them using the following guidelines:

  • When the adventurers face a lone enemy, check Morale at the end of the first round in which the enemy is reduced to half health and for every subsequent round in which they take damage.
  • When facing a group of enemies, check Morale at the end of each round in which one of them dies.
    • If a group of enemies has a clear leader or is well organised, you may decide to roll for the leader as though they were a lone enemy rather than making checks for the group. This check should also occur at the end of the first round in which half of the group is slain, and for every subsequent round in which one of them dies.

To check morale, roll 1d20 under (10 + the enemy’s HD). If they are successful, they continue to fight.

If the roll is higher than 10+HD, they flee or surrender at the first opportunity. Enemies who flee may regroup and strike again, lay ambushes, pursue the adventurers, or simply hold a grudge.

Enemies who roll exactly 10 + their HD rally themselves. They gain an additional attack in the next round, and don’t check morale again during the encounter. Enemies with 11 or more HD rally themselves on a roll of 20.

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Hireling Morale

Hirelings 2 who find themselves in combat are likely to break and flee. At the end of the first round in which a hireling takes damage or witnesses a member of the party die, the adventurer who hired them must test their Morale.

To test Hireling Morale, roll under your Cunning but over the Hireling’s HD on a d20.

  • On a success, the hireling’s morale holds.
  • On a failure, the hireling flees and cannot be hired again.
  • If you roll exactly the hireling’s HD, they waver. They can be convinced to stand and fight if paid an additional HD x 15sp.
  • If you roll exactly your Cunning, you inspire the hireling to heroics. They may make an additional attack in the next combat round, and their Morale can’t be broken during this fight.

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Time in the dungeon is measured in exploration turns (referred to simply as turns) and combat rounds (rounds).

A turn is approximately ten minutes. This is enough time to search and map a single room or corridor, take a short rest, perform an attribute check, or the like.

The GM checks for wandering encounters after every third turn by rolling 1d6. On a 1, an encounter occurs. This frequency may vary depending on how populated or dangerous the area of the dungeon is, rising to every other turn for busy spaces or becoming less frequent for emptier, safer spaces.

Combat is measured in rounds. Each round is approximately one minute in game time. This represents not just the immediate act of striking but of jostling for position and all the feints and strikes that don’t result in direct, potentially-damaging contact.

In a round characters have enough time to traverse a normal-sized room and take an action - ready a weapon, retrieve something from a pack, make an attack, make an attribute check, etc.

Time outside the dungeon passes in 6 hour watches. This is enough time to cross or explore a single hex, or make camp and sleep overnight. Roll for wandering encounters once per watch. See the Overland Travel section for more details.

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Inside a Combat Round

At the start of a violent encounter, each character involved makes an initiative check by rolling 1d20 versus their Agility. 3 Characters who roll under their Agility act before enemies. Those who fail act after enemies.

Characters who roll their Agility exactly may make one quick, low-preparation action before combat commences - readying a weapon, quaffing a potion, etc.

On your initiative you have enough time to traverse a normal-sized room and perform one action. 4

Accessing items in your pack during combat requires a Cunning check to quickly lay hands on it. Passing the check means that it takes your action on your initiative to locate the item, which may be used the next round. Rolling your Cunning exactly means that you can use the item on the same initiative round that you retrieved it. Characters failing this check can’t quickly locate the item and must either forgo retrieving it or spend 1d3 Rounds searching for it while unable to take other actions.

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  1. Exertion works alongside gaining experience to form the core way in which characters advance and get better at adventuring in A Dungeon Game. For details on how recovery works, see Resting.↩︎

  2. Player characters can - and often should - hire retainers to accompany them on delves into the dungeon. For full details on hirelings, see Hirelings.↩︎

  3. A character’s Agility can sometimes be treated as a lower or higher value than normal while checking initiative. The most common sources of this are armour and carrying an additional backpack. Players can choose to exert themselves on initiative checks. Some GMs also allow players to modify their initiative check using their Scars.↩︎

  4. Many games give characters explicit movement speeds. This is not one of them. Use your best judgement for what constitutes normal-sized’, but most of the time you don’t need to be concerned with exactly how far a character can move.↩︎