Dungeon Solitaire for Fun

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Matthew Lowes has posted the rules to a dungeon delving game that only uses a standard US deck of playing cards. It is called Dungeon Solitaire, Tomb of the Four Kings and it is brilliant. Go to his site now and get the rules and read through the walk-through.

This game appeals to me because I can play it anywhere and I never really know what the adventure will be. As an OSR guy, I also appreciate the high mortality rate due to a lack of strategy. If you play smart and a bit cautious, you have a good chance of winning, though fate may doom your efforts regardless of how you play.

So you've read the rules and everything, right? Good. Like any good fantasy RPG, I immediately came up with a bunch of house rules. I have shared all the last two of these with Matthew and his response has been one of appreciation that someone is enjoying his game. I hope my ideas do not steal his thunder, so I share these in the spirit of talking about a great game that is flexible enough to change to your liking.

The Monsters Go to 11!

The first house rule I attempted was to use a Rook deck instead of a standard deck. The main difference is that instead of using 2 to 10 to represent monsters, hit points, secret doors, and treasure, I use 2 to 11. Sure I get an extra hit point, but everything else is just a bit tougher as well. Here are the house rules to play the Going to Eleven way:

  • The Red suit is the same as diamonds. The Black suit is the same as spades. The Green suit is the same as diamonds. The Yellow suit is the same as clubs.
  • Set aside the Red cards from 2 to 11 for your hit points.
  • The 12s are played like Jacks (skills). The 13s are played like Queens (divine favors). The 14s are played like Kings. The 1s are played like Aces (torches).
  • The Rook cards is the Scroll of Light.

All other rules remain the same. I will warn you up front that because the cards are all numbers, it can be hard to remember which skill you have. I had to constantly think through the colors and numbers to remember. Otherwise, having an extra hit point didn't make it any easier and I couldn't adventure longer because I did not have extra torches.

Campaign Mode (One Deck)

Campaign Mode with one deck is essentially a variation that let's you revisit the dungeon multiple times as long as you can get out. It encourages quicker sessions, but the more you go in, the more difficult the adventure becomes.

Play by the rules as written. However, if you can make it out successfully, you put all discards, torches, and cards played back in the deck and shuffle. Treasure and unplayed skill cards stay with you. Reset your hit points back to 10 before returning to the adventure.

I discovered that if I dare to make a third trip, it can get extremely difficult. I had to fight the 10 of spades and only made it out because I played the last Queen. I had thought that putting the Queens and Jacks back in the deck would give me an advantage, but that didn't prove to be the case.

Questing Mode (Two decks)

This one hasn't been tested yet, so if you give it a try, let me know. The two decks of cards do not need to have the same back. It is a nice thing to have, but seeing two different backs doesn't really provide that much of an edge as even if you know what the card is, you still have to play it.

Remove the joker from one of the decks. Separate the cards into piles of 2 to 10 by suit. Place all four Jacks in a different pile and repeat for the remaining face cards. The 2 to 10 piles of clubs, diamonds, and spades will be used to "stock" the dungeons you visit. The other cards will be available for purchase as explained later.

Separate the other deck as dictated by the rules. This will be the deck that is used as a base for playing.

Now you need to decide the nature of your quest. Add as many Kings from the Store as you would like. Randomly pick two cards from the 2 to 10 piles of diamonds, spades, and clubs. Shuffle these cards into the playing deck. Nothing will be done with the 2 to 10 of hearts or the face cards yet.

Play the game per the rules with the extra cards. If you get out of the first dungeon alive, put all discards, torches, and cards played back in the deck and shuffle. Treasure and unplayed skill cards stay with you. Reset your hit points back to 10.

You may now use your treasure to buy items to help you in your quest.  Add the number value of your diamonds to determine how much money you have. (You may not spend a King card as collecting the Kings is the goal of your quest.) All items will cost 10 treasure to purchase per item. Making a donation at the Temple of the Goddess will cost 20 treasure.

If you wish to improve your Armor, purchase a card from the 2 to 10 pile of hearts. For each 10 treasure spent, take one heart from the Store's 2 to 10 heart pile and add it to your hit point pile. It doesn't matter which heart you take, but you will need to place it on the heart with a matching rank. For example, if you purchase the 8 of hearts, place it in the hit point deck under the 9 of hearts and above the other 8 of hearts.

If you wish to purchase a torch, take one Ace for each 10 treasure spent and place them in your hand.

To purchase a skill, take one Jack. You may only buy one skill at a time.

To seek the Goddess's favor, you may spend 20 treasure. Take a Queen from the Store and shuffle it into the playing deck.

A note about buying items. The Store does not make change. Any treasure above the cost of purchase is lost. Any treasure spent goes into the 2 to 10 pile of diamonds and that pile is shuffled.

After purchasing items, take two cards from the 2 to 10 piles of spades, clubs, and diamonds to restock the dungeon and play again. The game ends when you fulfill your quest, retire, or lose.

Five Suited Deck of Cards (not the Five Crowns deck)

When you have five suits of cards, play by the normal rules with the following changes:

The fifth suit represents magic. When a card from the fifth suit is drawn, it represents a threat from a spell or spell-like effect. Like other cards, if you draw a card with a higher value, you have overcome the spell with no ill effect. If you draw a card with lower value, one of two things will happen:

  • If the action card is odd, treat it the same as a monster card.
  • If the action card is even, treat it the same as a trap card.

The Jack of the fifth suit represents a magic staff. With this card, you may choose the play it as any of the other Jack cards or use it to automatically defeat a magic action.

At the player's option, the King, Queen, and Ace may be added.

Final Thoughts

Again, I really enjoy this game as well as inventing variants. Please get the rules from Matthew and share your fun with others. I have had so much fun playing it, even when I was killed in the first room. Twice.

Updates, 200-word RPGs, and Other Fun Stuff

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My last post was about Warrior, Rouge, & Mage. I have a draft I plan to finish about my bi-weekly Dungeon World group.

All in good time. RL first, then game stuff. Feel free to skip down to the game stuff.

For those that know, my son's surgery will be May 11th. Thanks to so many that have been so generous, especially Spes Magna Games that bought my 1e DMG and gave it back to me under the condition that I never sell it. Mark has also posted about my son's creations including the starfish dragon. Many many thanks.

Yes, he and I went down to our friendly comic book store for Free Comic Day. Good father-son bonding time. 🙂

We have gotten a lot of offline donations to help us out. The fundraiser doesn't reflect it yet, but we are only $300 short at this point. I can deal with that. Most of all, I am glad that neither my or my wife's family had to contribute any money at all. They bought my son's hearing aid many years ago and they have given so much to support us through the years. Okay, on to the game stuff.

Two Hundred Words Can Say So Much

You must have heard about the 200 word RPG challenge by now. At the link, David Schirduan has the entrants. My favorite is The Raver and the Bear. I will play this with my friends complete with making the appropriate noises (as the raver or the bear). The whole premise is delightful. I want to make cool stuff like this.

The Fantasy Heartbreaker

My entry turned into something larger. If you follow me on G+ or ts?, you've probably seen my latest idea for an rpg ruleset. I wanted to use items that non-gamers who likely have around their houses like regular d6s and a deck of cards.

Since that idea, I find myself writing in notebooks like I did in my 20s. Will it play? We'll see. My DW group is going to test it for me, I'm sure of it. The basic idea is that you have four stats. Three are determined by 1d6 or distributing 10 points. The fourth stat is determined by drawing a card, called your Chi card. Health represents how much punishment you can take. Mana represents your ability to use magic. Rolling 2d6 + Stat greater than or equal to 10 is a success. To use your special ability, draw a card from a deck. There are six rules to follow to determine success. It sounds more complicated than it is. My kids got it pretty quickly.

  • If you draw your chi card, the spell is a success.
  • If you draw a card that equals your chi card's rank, the spell is a success, but deduct the spell's Magic Rating from your Mana.
  • If you draw a card that matches your chi card's suit, the spell is a failure, but do not deduct Mana.
  • If you the drawn card's rank + Magic stat is 10 or more, the spell is a success.
  • If you draw a face card, the spell is a success.
  • All other results, the spell fails and deduct the spell's magic rating from your Mana.

I have since discovered that this fourth stat, special ability, and resource pool need not be related to wizardry magic. A priest could have faith instead of Mana. A rogue would have Confidence. An alchemist could have Lore and a warrior could have Courage. There are lots of possibilities that I am exploring and hope to write about soon.

Dungeon World for the 18 to 24 Group

As always, there is Dungeon World afoot. I am running my group through the venerable Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I have enjoyed my DW version of the troll (one of his moves is to regenerate the last wound he received).

"I rolled a NINE! Awesome! I hit him for 17 damage! I'm ready to take my lumps behind my armor."
"The troll's wound begins to close up before your eyes. Just like that, the wound is gone!"
"Crap!"

Wait until they get to the entrance of the caves. Bwa ha ha. (Yes, they are having a lot of fun. No one has died yet, although one character came close.)

Didn't you used to be an old-school guy?

Why yes, I am still that guy. Swords&Wizardry stuff is coming down the pike soon as well. I hope to provide more details about what this stuff is and how it will come about, but I think it will be fun for everyone.

I am convinced that I will get the DW group into an OSR game if it kills me. If not, maybe I'll run a game at a local store.

I am still trying to get a game to work on my Kindle Paperwhite. I have decided, however, that I'm just going to have to get EPUB formatted modules to work first, because that is easier.

That's all for now. Next post should be more polished rules about my heartbreaker.

Bad News, Good News

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I avoid these posts, but here's the bottom line first:

Everything is going to be much later than I wanted. Everyone at the house spent the month of December sick. (Apparently, I was sick since the first of the month, or maybe even earlier.) This means delays on the zine, delays on polyhedral pantheons for Swords & Wizardry and delays on more work on various S&W databases. Besides all that, there are a host of other things sitting as drafts on this site.

Enough of that. Now the good news.

My family volunteered to help me make game stuff. My wife will do the cover of my zine. She does oil paintings in a impressionistic, dreamlike style. My son is helping with the writing of the minigames and my daughter wants to play test everything.

For those that want the hard copy, my wife also wants to help me sew the zines together instead of using staples. She gave me the idea to be like Christian and also just mail out articles, minigames, and other writings for free. After all, she said, who doesn't like getting good things in the mail?

I hate delays and it makes me afraid that I will not finish. This fear is why I make no promises with dates and times.

More than that fear, though, is the desire to give back in some way to the hobby I rediscovered in 2001 and the OSR I discovered more recently. Besides, who doesn't enjoy making stuff with your family?

I hope to have a post for Saturday, but we'll see.