Wednesday, 15 October 2014

DIY Tournament Dungeon Boardgame

24 Cheap and easy 2.5D Dungeon Tiles
My RPG club, The Hobbit's Hole, runs an annual memorial tournament in honour of one of its founding members called the Manic Trophy.

This year it's my turn to host the game and I'll be putting on a simple dungeon crawl game.  I'm musing over the rules at the moment but here's my outline: 

My aim is to have a 3 to 5 player competitive dungeon crawl lasting no more than 45 minutes, in the style of the boardgame Dungeon Quest.  Players start on the same tile, like in Drakon, each time they move they reveal a new tile and orient it as they see fit discovering the dungeon as they go.  The final tile holds the great treasure and the Boss Monster.

I'm going to be using a version of the 9 inch cavern geomorph tiles as popularised by YouTubers TheDMGInfo / TheDM'sCraft / DM Kaydons Kastle, where each tile contains an encounter, be it a trap or a monster (or maybe both).  This also gives me a chance to use the cards from the Inkwell Ideas Creature Decks.  

I like the idea of having a finite number of "moves" to a game, everyone has an equal chance the player skill element comes from trying to push your luck or deciding to flee.  I've played  games like Lost Cities which use this sort of "push your luck" mechanic and enjoyed them immensely.

I need quick and dirty "trump" style resolution so I'm going to base everything around a regular deck of playing cards.  Players get to choose their card whereas the DM draws randomly from a deck.

To represent levels of the dungeon the DM deck is divided into 3 stacks; Level 1(cards numbered 2 to 6), Level 2 (cards 7 to J) and Level 3 cards (Q to A).  I have 24 tiles in the game so the first 10 tiles represent Level 1, the next 10 Level 2 and the last 4 are Level 3.


Looking at the card suit symbols we have:
  • HEARTS - Look like a heart so should represent life force or vitality, these cards are used for all tests of strength and stamina.
  • CLUBS - Look like a tree and sort of like a brain so these represent knowledge and intelligence.
  • DIAMONDS - Looks sharp like a sword so these cards are used to represent Melee combat ability.
  • SPADES - Look like an arrowhead so these cards are used for all Missile attacks and Dexterity based skill checks.
  • JOKERS - Each player gets one of these to use during the game to automatically succeed at a challenge or to inflict an instant kill.  However, Jokers cannot be used to defeat the BOSS MONSTER, unused jokers are worth 15 points at the end of the game.
Players get to choose their class and pick up the relevant 2 suits of cards as follows:
  • Warrior - (Strength) and (Melee)
  • Wizard - ♣ (Intelligence) and ♠ (Missile)
  • Thief - ♠ (Dexterity) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Ranger - ♠ (Missile) and (Melee)
  • Cleric - ♣ (Intelligence) and (Melee)
Additional Character Classes contributed by Stu Rat
  • Barbarian - (Strength) and ♠ (Dexterity)
  • Bandit - (Strength) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Monk - ♣ (Intelligence) and (Strength)
  • Archer -  ♠ (Missile) and (Strength)
  • Warlord - (Melee) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Gladiator - (Melee)  and (Strength)
  • Swashbuckler - (Melee) and ♠ (Dexterity)

The first suit is their PRIMARY stat, e.g. Warriors (Strength) and is used to break ties.

Each time players move onto a new tile they will encounter either a monster, a trap or need to search for a treasure.

MONSTER ENCOUNTER: Players may either FIGHT using (Melee) or ♠ (Missile) or EVADE using ♣ (Intelligence) or (Stamina).  If a player succeeds in a fight the monster is killed and a treasure awarded.  If a player succeeds in evading the player can move to the next tile but the monster remains and no treasure is awarded. 

TRAP ENCOUNTERS: Players may either DISABLE using ♣ (Intelligence) or ♠ (Dexterity) or EVADE using (Strength) or (Melee).  If a trap is disabled it is removed from the game and the player gets a reward otherwise the trap remains.

NO ENCOUNTER:  Empty tiles can be searched by any player using any card. So there is merit in just following the first player and scratching around in the room once they've defeated all the monsters.

As detailed above, players resolve encounters by choosing a card and comparing it with the DMs Card, whichever is higher wins.  Players who fail an encounter must discard an extra card at random from whichever suit they used in the encounter.  In the event of ties a player who used their primary stat always wins, if they used their secondary stat they always lose.
I'm going to decide monster or trap based on a coin flip.  Heads it's a Monster, tails its a Trap, but you could design specific traps for each tile design you have.


Treasures are awarded for defeating monsters, disabling traps or succeeding in search rolls.  They are either drawn randomly from a seperate deck or if you want the rewards to increase in level as the challenges increase you can just award the challenge card.


When the last tile is drawn, the players have reached the end of the dungeon.  Any players who can move their character onto this tile in their next turn can attempt to defeat the boss monster either collectively as a group or try it on their own.  Players are reminded that the boss monster is an instant kill event and failure will result in death.  There's no such thing as a dead Hero in this game.

In either case they choose a card as normal, excluding Jokers.  However, the boss monster gets to  shuffle all the remaining challenge decks together and draws 1 card plus 1 card for each party member in the combat and discards the lowest card.

Players are awarded 2 treasures each for defeating the boss monster.


Players can FLEE the dungeon before drawing a new tile and keep any treasure cards they have amassed so far.  If their route out of the dungeon is blocked by a monster they must discard a card at random as they flee.


Players determine their Initiative order by choosing one card from their hand.  Highest goes first, in the event of ties the player who used a primary stat card wins, all others discard and redraw.

1.  FLEE - Players may decide to flee the dungeon or continue exploring.

2. MOVE - Move through an open exit and reveal the next tile.

3. ENCOUNTER - Each player resolves the encounter as outlined above.

4. NEXT TURN - Play moves to the player with the next highest initiative.


Once the boss monster has been defeated (or all players have fled the dungeon) the game is over and scoring occurs.

1.  DEAD players score 1 point for each unused stat card in their hand (+ 15 points for an unused joker).

2.  SURVIVING players score 1 point for each secondary stat card (+ 15 points for an unused joker) + the face value of any primary stat cards remaining + the face value of any treasure rewarded.

3.  The winner is the player with the most points


  1. Nice. Just saved this to my hard drive. I may have to print up some geomorphs and creature cards. You didn't mention the treasures. Will there be separate treasure cards, or does a creature or trap's card drawn double as the treasure awarded?

    1. Arrrgggghhhh! Well spotted. I knew I'd leave something out.

      I did a playtest last week and awarded the trap/monster/search card as treasure, therefore it gets better as you go up in levels. I'll try it with a seperate treasure deck this week and see how it goes.

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  3. There are 12 combos with the primary/secondary; once I realized that, I had to come up with suggestions for the other seven.

    Barbarian -- Strength/Dexterity
    Bandit -- Strength/Intelligence
    Monk -- Intelligence/Strength
    Archer -- Missile/Strength
    Warlord -- Melee/Intelligence
    Gladiator -- Melee/Strength
    Swashbuckler -- Melee/Dexterity

    1. Thanks Stu, I'll add that above so folks don't have to open the comments