Dungeon Crawl Mechanic

I’ve been fiddling with a subsystem for this – I like the olde skoole dungeon crawl (the exploration) but not the “check every 5’ for a trap” aspect.

What I have so far uses some of the mechanics from the Chase Rules:

I break the adventure into Set Pieces and Exploration.

For Exploration:
1. One PC is the primary die roller. They choose a skill (Notice, Stealth, etc) and that reflects how the group is approaching the exploration. Other PCs may roll something (even Spellcasting – whatever they are good at) to add to the result. The rolls can be modified for things like the complex is on alert.

2. Every success and raise gets a card plus 1 (you always get a card, unlike the Chase rules). Clubs is a complication. If an assisting PC failed to get a success another suite comes into play to trigger complications.

3. If you get high cards, more interesting places are found, including the chance for Big Loot. Usually I have the Joker as a “you found the hidden treasury” Low cards get you the “you found the storeroom with the molding flour” with a Complication being something like “ooo, there is Yellow Mold”

4. Complications can be traps, patrols, extra monsters for a room, or penalties to die rolls (“you are hopelessly lost”).

Its all very fluid – sometimes I have the Complication Suite mean something (a spade is different than a club for example). I initially would try to assign cards to rooms (like what Wiggy did in his pulp adventures for the minotaur maze), but I have only used it in one-shots so far. For one shots, I just pick a breakpoint – say Face Cards are interesting and the rest are mundane rooms.

For Set Pieces
Set Pieces are usually the entrance, the ending, and maybe one scene in the middle somewhere. The base roll mechanic is the same, but the results indicate the PCs success in getting their to their advantage. If you get the Joker, you probably have the Drop on the Evil Priest and know where all the Traps are. If you get the 2 of Clubs, well, just bend over and take it – you got ambushed and fell into a pit trap full of acid.

I see adventures like Keep on the Boardlands as perfect for this – winding twisting cave system is more interesting using narrative vs. plodding along at using graph paper (IMO anyway). In one Convention game using this scenario (the Temple portion) the lead scout was Fox (the Fantasy pregen) – the cards are something low, 10 of diamonds, Ace of Clubs. The players goes “Fox is cautious – we go the 10 of Diamonds” – bingo – Bennie for that player.

What I like about it so far (but might take a bit of getting used to):

  • Playing games like Skyrim and Fallout, I got to appreciate how turned around one could get in a true 3D “dungeon” – that is usually missing in most of the games I’ve played. This helps bring that back. I can use a general map and indicate general directions the cards take the players in (unless its a maze anyway).
  • Everyone can participate, and there is not just one “skill” that matters. I can use the skill as part of the description if things fail or go well.
  • he cards tell everyone how its going. At first, this might not make sense, but I think players and (in the real world – adventurers) would have a sense if something bad or good is coming. The cards help indicate that. Their becomes discussion when there are multiple cards and the high one is a Complication.
  • It can be used for a one-shot up to a large complex.
  • Flexible – I can have the suite mean something, the card number/face mean something, or go very generic.
  • Replayable – maybe not directly, but for something like Caves of Chaos the PCs will have multiple delves. The cards indicate different and new areas found, or new challenges in old rooms.

What needs work – one player commented that while he liked it, it felt like it was filler into the final fight. In reality, that it true in all dungeon crawls – but the traditional way hides it better. I have used story to try to cover that – a bit of mystery beyond the bashing of monsters. But its not there yet (other than to do something like after N “rounds” anytime you get a Joker you have found the final scene")

==-==- More thoughts

Cryonic wrote:
Not sure what you consider the boring bits. I consider the “lack of encounters” areas to be a great “build the tension” sort of thing. You’re wandering through somebody’s ship or caves somewhere with unknown inhabitants. Things don’t really make a lot of sense if they are just random draws from a deck of cards because what you do in one area could affect nearby areas (creatures won’t just wait idly by as a fight breaks out nearby).

I’m glad you posted this, as it helped solidify something in my mind that I really like about Savage Worlds. Shane and associates did a wonderful job of providing tools/frameworks that scale with what GM/players want. And that is really what this thread is about.

Every adventure has a pace the GM wants to set. You can play it all out on tabletop for the detailed unfolding of events. Or you can use tools like Chase Rules, Social Conflicts, Dramatic Tasks and Mass Combat to abstract the events. The OP asked for (I think) is something to abstract what most of us grew up on – the detailed exploration of a dungeon. Ie, what is the Mass Combat version of a dungeon crawl (which is what I posted, but using more of the Chase scene mechanics).

Now, the beauty of the abstract systems in Savage Worlds is the ability to “zoom” in and out. I once used individual events as part of the Dramatic Tasks. This was an extended scene where the group had to deliver something by a certain date. So I made 5 scenes and played them out. I had conditions that equated to failure, success, and raise and used these in place the normal die roll for that “round”. Many have done the same thing with the Mass Combat Rules – play a scene that represents the PCs “getting involved” to determine the bonus for that “rounds” Knowledge Battle roll.

Thinking about that and what you asked (if you just draw cards, you lose the interactions with other rooms) – an option that I will add to my notes is that you could break a map into zones. The PCs pick a direction and the Complications draw from other rooms in that maps zone. Its just a level of zoom. I can go room by room, zones, or abstract — I can even use a Dramatic Task-like conditions that trigger the final scene.

Dungeon Crawl Mechanic

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