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I’m making an effort to write more play reports of my games. They’re an important part of the scene that I don’t think we see enough of any more, and they serve as a good oral history of what play looks like. I’m less concerned with solely narrativising play and more interested in talking about my techniques for running the game and decisions I make in play. As A Dungeon Game is something of a living” game still in active development I’m also interested here in looking at how the game survives contact with real players.

Last night I ran a session of my adventure FEAST using A Dungeon Game for two players new to the system. We created characters and played through half of the adventure in a little under 2 hours. FEAST was written to be system neutral and I converted it on the fly with ease. For the purposes of this post I have written up a full conversion of the adventure, which you can find here.

Character creation was quick and simple, with some decent rolls from both players. One player chose to learn a pair of Rituals, sacrificing their relatively high Cunning and rolling well (a pair of 1s) when asked to pay the price. The characters are:

Deandre Rall

Former hangman. Face twisted into a grimace due to a permanently swollen lip.

  • A 17 B 12 C 13 HP 7 AC 0 Scars 1
  • Extra: +1 Damage
  • Rituals:
    • Phrase: Corrupting Blade
    • Phrase: Lingering Bears
  • Medium ranged weapon (heavy crossbow)
  • Medium melee weapon (machete)
  • Equipment:
    • Torches x6
    • Tent
    • 8sp

Chauncey

Former brewer. One leg shorter than the other due to a poorly-set break.

  • A 11B12 C11 HP 11 AC 6 Scars 1
  • Extra: +1d3 health
  • Medium melee weapon (mace)
  • Small ranged weapon (hand crossbow)
  • Equipment:
    • Rations (1 week)
    • Torches x6
    • 11sp

The only reason I’m writing up the full characters is because I wanted to experiment with how to present them in text. This can be reduced even more if I use H” in place of HP and S” in place of Scars”.

We began on the edge of the dense beech forest, with a small cabin nestled in the shadow of the trees and a track winding past it and disappearing into the woods. Our characters had met while travelling cross country to get here, both drawn by the sight of a falling star a week earlier that they intended to find. I had them both roll on the Fungal Coercions” table to give them both a reason to be here. Their rolls were identical, and the players filled in the detail. I determined that both were infected with the fungus but had not yet become aware of it.

Noticing smoke rising from the chimney of the cabin and movement inside, the pair knocked on the door and let themselves in. Inside they found a woman who greeted them warmly, offering them tea and biscuits and asking them their business in the forest. She introduced herself as Amanya and explained that she had been conducting research here for a month or two, and that in recent days the forest had begun to attract more and more visitors.

They questioned her about her research and she happily explained that she was a scholar of old and forgotten gods. The locals know of a spirit in the forest that they call Pahloun Efagddu1, but Amanya believes that it has a much older name that has been forgotten. She told them that there is a standing stone in the heart of the forest that according to her old books marks the burial place of a powerful sorcerer who could commune with Pahloun Efaggdu, and that there is rumoured to be a network of ancient caves beneath it. She offered the pair 30 silver if they could locate the standing stone and an entrance to the tunnels, an offer that she said she had extended to other travellers who had visited her.

This exchange was driven by a positive reaction roll and my desire to give them just enough information to want to explore the forest and interact with the things they found. The fallen star is, of course, a red herring and doesn’t exist.

The pair agreed to look for their stone during their search for the star - though not before bargaining Amanya up to 40 silver - and took their leave. As they left she delivered a warning to them. Treat the forest with respect, or it will defend itself.

With the morning burning on they departed the cabin and headed into the trees, following the track until it diverted into three separate paths. The first continued due east and showed signs of recent foot traffic. The other two split off into narrower tracks that looked more like game trails, running to the north- and south-east respectively.

Rather than throw the group straight into the encounter with the distressed, mutilated logger, I decided to give the players a choice about which hex they started in.

Deciding that they didn’t want to run in to anybody else in the forest just yet the party decided to forgo the obvious path and began following the game trail to the north-east. They followed the trail as it wound through densely packed beech trees, the forest floor and trunks coated in thick moss, the air filled with the sound of nuthatches and woodpeckers. They soon found that the game trail began to fade but they pressed on in roughly the same direction, using the position of the sun glimpsed above the canopy to aid with navigation.

After a few hours they came to a place where an ancient beech tree had been cut down. The stump was wrapped in thick chain as though somebody had tried to pull it out of the ground and failed. The chains themselves were rusted and old, and the scene was being reclaimed by moss and creeper. The pair began examining the scene, and wondered whether it might prove useful later to salvage some of the chain. With about 30 feet of the stuff wrapped around the tree they decided that it was too much to carry, and that if it was so decayed that they were able to snap it then it wouldn’t be particularly useful, and so they left it.

Their interest was piqued, though, and they began scouting further out to look for evidence of whoever might have been working here. They moved further into the forest, searching slowly and carefully, and a few hundred yards from the tree they discovered an old camp, apparently hastily broken down. Pots lay cold in the ashes, overtaken by furry mould, and nonsense sigils had been carved into the bark of the surrounding trees.

The first encounter with the chained tree was the result of an encounter roll. The abandoned camp was a decision I took to place another result from the encounter table in front of them. Part of this was driven by the fact that they were actively looking for exactly this sort of location, and part of it was driven by the fact that we were running this as a one-shot and I wanted to introduce the weirdness in the forest early in order to set the tone.

Deciding that there was nothing of interest here but now slightly on edge the pair pressed on into the forest, heading east and keeping a look out for any sign of damage caused by a fallen star. After maybe an hour of exploring they came to a small clearing dominated by a giant beech tree. The trunk was ringed by a perfect circle of purple-capped mushrooms, and its bark was covered with carvings of the same symbol they had seen at the campsite earlier.

As they circled the tree they noticed that the hilt of a knife was protruding from the trunk, and Deandre decided to step into the ring and take it. For a moment the world lurched around them with a feeling as though they had missed a step on a flight of stairs, and then everything righted itself again. (This was a passed saving throw, and my desire to indicate that something had nearly happened.) Deandre took the knife, which they found was made of bone, and pulled it from the tree. Immediately they were gripped by the sensation that this knife was theirs and that nobody would take it from them.

Deciding that there was nothing of interest here and sensing that they were not approaching any sort of fallen star, the pair turned back with the aim of finding the original trail near where they had entered the forest. They retraced their steps, easily following their own tracks, and soon found themselves back at the crossroads. I called for a Cunning test to navigate and Chancey rolled exactly their Cunning, which serves as a crit in A Dungeon Game. I decided that the result of this would be that they did not need to make any more checks to navigate while they were in this already-explored area. Once there they picked the middle path, deciding that the other visitors to the forest must have known something they didn’t.

It didn’t take long before the air began to fill with the scent of fresh sap and saw dust. Up ahead they spied a pair of tents in some disarray, and as they approached they became concerned with the sight of blood and viscera dripping from the branches and daubed across the wood of the trees.

They immediately left the path, stepping into the woods and keeping low to try and circle the campsite and see what was going on. Getting closer they began to hear the sound of low whimpering and crying, and as they circled the tents they saw a lone man sitting on the ground beside one of the tents. His arms ended in jagged, bloody stumps where his hands should have been, and he was desperately trying to apply a tourniquet with unsurprisingly poor results.

Here I made a decision on the fly that this NPCs missing hands probably constitute a Scar, and I decided that if it somehow came to combat I would allow him to apply a Scar modifier to his rolls. This isn’t something I’ve done before while running A Dungeon Game but I like it as a way to make human enemies a little more varied. It didn’t become relevant here, ultimately, but I’m keeping it in mind for future sessions and have included Scars in the stat blocks of enemies in the conversion for this module.

As the man’s cries rose in volume Chauncey slipped around behind him, approaching quickly but stealthily. He clamped a hand over the man’s mouth, hissing in his ear to be quiet, that they were here to help. Deandre approached from the trees, squatting down and applying the tourniquets so that the man wouldn’t bleed out. Chauncey removed his hand and began to question the man about what had happened, but very little sense was had from him. He babbled and raved about the trees coming to life and attacking him and his friends, and Chauncey and Deandre realised that his friends were still present in the clearing - pulled to ribbons and scattered among the trees.

Deandre was meanwhile searching the wreckage of the campsite, and they came across a leather pouch filled with runestones. Each of them was carved with the same symbol seen on the trees, and as Deandre picked them up they were struck by a vision of a great standing stone, pulsing veins, spurting blood, the symbol carved into flesh. They felt their hand pulled to the boneknife, and an almost overwhelming desire to use it.

This was all narrative, with no saving throws or in game effects (enforced or otherwise).

In an attempt to try and calm the man’s mind and get more sense out of him with the hope of learning more about the runestones, Deandre turned to magic. They had learned the phrase Corrupting Blade, and they wondered whether they could reverse the word Corrupting” to Cleansing”, using the bone knife they had recovered from the tree as a focus for the spell to help clear the man’s mind.

I really liked this interpretation of the words and was fully prepared to let this work if the roll went well. I was particularly impressed with this level of creativity and engaging with the system from a player who has never played RPGs before. Unfortunately Deandre’s player failed their roll, and chose not to Exert themselves to make it work. The following encounter was a result of their roll on the Mishap table, plus subsequent rolls from me for encounter distance and reactions.

Holding the knife in their hands Deandre placed the flat of the blade against the man’s temple and tried to channel the words to clear some of the panic from him. As they focused on inverted the phrase they knew, though, one of the words from their other Ritual slipped into their mind instead: Bears.

The magic unravelled and Chaunchey and Deandre froze as a pair of deep, rumbling growls sounded from somewhere very close by. Then the air filled with the sound of rustling undergrowth and something - a pair of somethings - very heavy crashing through the trees towards them.

They ran, Chauncey grabbing the man they had been helping by the ankle and dragging him along behind them in an attempt to keep him safe. Deandre put on a good burst of speed but the man slowed Chauncey down. He could almost feel the hot breath of the bears on his neck, and so he made the hard decision to release the man’s ankle and leave him as bait while he escaped into the forest with Deandre. (I called for Agility tests to determine the result of this chase, with Chauncey rolling at disadvantage. He failed, and chose to leave the NPC behind to be able to escape.)

They ran until they could no longer hear the bears, but they soon found themselves hopelessly lost. Rather than pressing on deeper they decided to turn to the west, pressing through the woods until they found something that they recognised while keeping an eye out for bears. They walked for another hour or two, getting into late afternoon with the sun starting to dip, before they emerged from the forest into a clearing dominated by a wide, low hill. At the top they spied a standing stone - the standing stone - and they climbed the slope to investigate it.

The stone towered over them, ten feet tall and two feet thick, daubed in old graffiti and wrapped with thick green-black vines that wound their way through three holes carved all the way through the rock. Deandre recognised them as matching the shape of the symbol on their runes and carved into the trees, and they felt a pull from the stone and the knife. They knew that they had arrived somewhere they needed to be, and that there was some way to make this stone move and reveal the secrets beneath it.

Deandre took out the bone knife, drawing it across their palm and smearing their blood onto the stone. Immediately the vines pulsed and tightened, writhing and pulling as the ground rumbled beneath. Slowly the stone pulled itself apart along invisible seams, revealing a dark hole in the earth and crude earthen steps descending into humid darkness.

Chauncey suggested that maybe they should find their way back to Amanya and tell her what they had found, but Deandre was possessed with a desire to see what was inside and descended into the darkness. Chauncey followed.

This was all driven entirely by the players buying in to the fiction. I would have been happy for them to go away and not enter the dungeon, but I was even happier that they chose to go inside despite both of the players acknowledging that it felt like a really bad idea.

We left the session here, and will pick it up again inside the dungeon next week.


  1. Roughly pronounced PAH-loun eh-VEG-thee”. This uses the Welsh alphabet but is not actually Cymraeg.↩︎

Up next Conversion Guide - FEAST This conversion guide is for use with FEAST. Creature and NPC stats are listed in the location where they appear in the text. For more information Devlog - Dual Wielding A very minor devlog today. I realised that players always want to dual wield melee weapons in games and that I don’t have any way to handle that, so
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