An ingenious and thrilling roleplaying game
This 90-page book throws the reader/player into a Dungeons & Dragons style role-playing world. You take a team of four adventurers into an underground network, hunting for treasure and seeking to slay the final boss monster. You’ll need a pen, dice and some sheets of gridded paper. There is no board, no miniatures, cards or token – just the book and your imagination.
All instructions are carefully and simply explained, with examples given where useful. First comes the selection of the gamer’s team of four – which can be composed of any of the following: Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard, Barbarian, Elf, Dwarf and Halfling. Each of these classes has its own strengths and weaknesses, and how the team is formed will deeply affect the game itself. Second, you have an opportunity to buy equipment to enhance the team (from bandages to weapons to spells).
Next, beginning the game proper, the player uses dice to randomly select the first chamber of the underground dungeons to be explored. The shape of the room is marked onto a sheet of gridded paper, which will slowly form the map of your progress. Every exit from a room will lead to the generation of another chamber… You are literally exploring the unknown.
Much of the game involves dice-rolls and checking results in tables. For example: What does a new room contain? What kind of monsters are you to face? What traps or treasures?
Combat is resolved with dice-rolls, as you would expect. There is a strategic element to the fighting too: you must choose which team-members are in front (and most vulnerable) and which are behind (more protected). Monsters come in a number of classes: Vermin, Minions, Weird and Boss (including the ultimate enemy, the dragon). The varied creatures offer different challenges – for instance, your team members could be hacked, devoured incinerated or turned to stone.
There’s more to the game than simply fighting too. When your team encounter a creature, you can choose to see how it reacts rather than simply attacking – which could result in you being given a new quest, being helped, being asked for a bribe and so on. Players will discover other nuances, such as the option to search rooms for secrets, that also add depth to the game. Team-members can also “level-up” to enhance their abilities – if they live long enough! Finally, when the team has success in defeating the main boss (and hopefully amassing lots of treasure), it is time for them to fight their way back to the entrance.
Overall, what makes this game brilliant is the blend of the very familiar; the complexity of the game balanced with well-devised easy-to-learn gameplay; and the randomness. While the format of every game will be the same, the dungeon explored and the encounters within will always be unexpected. The artwork in the book is also very good and adds to the flavour of the experience.
At just £9.99, this is great roleplaying fun at an extremely low price. Some people may also like to use it as an introductory “stepping stone” before purchasing one of the bigger, much more expensive RPG’s.
The game is designed as solitaire, but can be played with multiple players.
The only negative thing I can imagine is that very experienced “hardcore” RPGers might find the book offers too basic a game. I, personally, fall into the category of a casual gamer.
Add-On scenarios are already available for about £5 each, plus a supplement book for £9.99, which takes the gameplay to an advanced level. I hope the creators continue to support and expand the game.