Diceless Dungeons - Fun, intuitive, diceless dunegon-delving from Olde House Rules

I picked up a copy of Diceless Dungeons a while back and just recently got around to reading it. It's pretty clever. In terms of genre, Diceless Dungeons occupies a middle ground somewhere between D&D-ish high fantasy and historical fantasy in terms of the genre tropes it caters to (e.g., the majority of magic tends to be of a less powerful sort with roots in Earth's history, although three types of "high sorcery" do exist). It's definitely not straight-up kitchen sink fantasy as is so common in our hobby, but it's also not humdrum historical roleplay devoid of magic. And, hey, dungeons!

Creating a character in Diceless Dungeons is a simple matter of picking three talents from a list that help define what your character is good at. Is your character a Linguist? Are they Mighty? How about Nocturnal? All of the talents that you can pick from grant your character some kind of advantage in actual play. After you have chosen your talents, you just need to jot down a few lines of character back story and you're off to the races! It should be noted that the Sorcerer's Apprentice is presented as an option, as such characters aren't appropriate for all worlds of fantasy, but if you want spell-slinging magi, they're in here.

At the center of Diceless Dungeons is a quick, intuitive, combat resolution system with heroes being able to sustain 10 wounds before dying and a given combat being assigned a number of rounds based on the size, strength, and number of foes present. This is the number of rounds that the heroes must survive in order to prevail in the combat, each side taking turns attacking the other. This is the core of Diceless Dungeons and, in my opinion, is a pretty spiffy mechanic.

There are, of course, a number of tactical options that players and the Referee can avail themselves of so victory on either side is not a foregone conclusion. Additionally, rules are provided for things like "heroic death" - an option that immediately ends a combat, but at the cost of one player character's life (after which the player of that character must sit out a session). These options add an element of further uncertainty to combat resolution without adding a great deal of complexity. That's a win in my book.

Non-combat action isn't governed by a unified task resolution system as one might expect but, rather, by good, common sense, advice presented in a straightforward, easy to digest, manner. There is guidance and a selection of simple, concise, rules presented for mapping and moving, negotiation, thievery, and the like.

The booklet goes on to provide simple rules for character advancement, wherein players accrue Skill Points that can be spent to improve new talents, shrug off a fatal blow in combat, or save against a creature's special attack. This system is tied directly into the character creation system and the action economy central to combat resolution, treating Skill Points like the valuable resource they are.

Finally, Diceless Dungeons rounds out with an example bestiary, advice for the Referee with regard to building and stocking dungeons, and a short section discussing magic items.

Final Verdict:

If you like old school roleplay and diceless systems, you need to pick up a copy of Diceless Dungeons. It's an affordable, elegant, product that provides an easy entry into diceless roleplaying.


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