50 Games in 50 Weeks: Dungeon Raiders

Apr 15 2013

One of the most fun experiences in my life is running a game I designed.

The game’s never perfect. Players almost always suggest changes. And they almost always have fun.

I’m going to describe what it was like to run Dungeon Raiders, which is my simplification of original D&D, during last year’s DC Game Day.

I ran “Temple of the Ghoul,” a free old-school adventure I’ve run several times. I love it. It’s a mostly linear environment: one entrance, a few upper-level temple rooms, and a small complex of rooms underground. The heroes have choices, but not many.

The system ran beautifully. Most of my players played early editions of D&D, so they became comfortable very quickly. Each class uses its own die for attacks, and you’re always trying to meet or beat 4. Nobody asked any rules questions after the first 15 minutes.

Like most retroclones, Dungeon Raiders makes combat so simple that players tend to exercise their creativity. When every round of combat looks the same–one die roll and one hit–players chafe and start to move their characters around the room, asking about the environment and tactics.

Unfortunately, I made one mistake: near the end of the game, while surrounded by zombies, the cleric gleefully cast Turn Undead. There’s no such automatic spell in Dungeon Raiders, and I told him with regret that his cleric couldn’t do that. He humbly accepted this and we moved on, but I realized that I had no reason to deny him. It wasn’t about to break the system, and this was a one-shot tournament game anyway.

Nevertheless, we built to a climactic slowdown with the titular Ghoul, and the players destroyed him surprisingly quickly and claimed a room full of gold.

Dungeon Raiders is completely free and available in PDF, mobi, and epub.

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