On Ruins of the Undercity

So my wife and I have been playing a bit of solo Dungeons & Dragons.

My first thought when playing Ruins of the Undercity was "Wow, this is a great game." Then it occurred to me, isn't it Basic/Expert that's the good game?

My second thought was dying at zero hit points is harsh. We have some level 2 characters, but nearly a dozen have died!

But this isn't really about Ruins - I'll be talking about that once we've sussed out a little more of the upper levels. . .

It uses tables, although altered, that are similar in structure to the tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide for solo play. These tables work like so:

What's next?

Door->Location->Type->Locked->What's behind?
Chamber->Size->Exits->Exit location->Door table->Lighting->Content
Room->Size->Exits->Exit location->Lighting->Content
Trap->Type of trap
Wandering monster->Roll for level->Roll for type->Roll for number encountered

This isn't vague, it's very specific. Yes, Room and chamber are reversed from their classical use. 

Is it necessary to have all these rolls? It's a lot of rolling, and takes a lot of time. 

This type of gaming is essentially gambling. Here are the important rolls - the ones where some gambling rides on the outcome.

Type of corridor structure
Is the door dangerous (the type/locked rolls) and what's behind it.
The content of the room
The type of trap (and the roll to disarm it)
and The type of monster.

Although the rest of the rolls provide information about the environment, there is little to nothing riding on them the majority of the time. The majority of the rolls simply provide minor detail and take up a great bit of time. 

Other games do this same process - Munchkin! is the most well known. It's been modified so far away from the root that any similarities are thematic only. Is there a good solution to this? 

Minds are working on the problem.


  1. The way I solved the question is to make the situation more focused than "Ruins of the Undercity." I too got it, and was wearied by all the rolling, notation, and looking-up of the process.

    I actually created two settings that do not have doors at all; you can make one with doors based on the model I'm using, but the two I have done so far don't have them.

    Both are designed to be on a 2 page spread so you can open it up and leave it there, so that's cool; no flipping around.

    Also, duties are ideally shared between 4 players. One maps, one rolls the length and width of the room, one rolls for how many exits, and one rolls for monsters and items (and interprets results.)

    Fast, suspenseful, creative, and fun--at least, that's the goal.

    Here are drafts of those two efforts, for Crumbling Epoch (though it would work for any OSR game with little adaptation.)


  2. That's cool, Andrew (but 4 player roles doesn't make for a good solo game. :P )

    For my money cards are part of the answer. I think the D&D boardgames do this pretty well, within the constraints of a boardgame (Wrath of Ashardalon, et al). Before I bought that game and started playing it I had been working on my own cards, with dice rolls to "fine tune" and randomize even more so I didn't have to have cards for every possible variation. Still, there's plenty of room for improvement and other approaches, to suit one's own tastes and interests.

  3. I think the solution is to use these sorts of table systems as prep tools rather than realtime. Otherwise, there is little possibility for connections between zones or information gathering, which leads to a pretty sterile environment.

  4. +Fitz-Badger, solo is one thing, and playing without a DM is another.

    +Brendan, agreed these are good for prep. As for information gathering and connections, you can seed that in as you go if you want.

    Here's an example of using it for prep:

    Here's an example of how it can play out and find connections on-the-go:

    Either way, the idea is to make it easy to play with little or no prep, even for a novice DM.


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