Dungeoneer was the outgrowth of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, which in turn were “advanced” versions of the choose your own adventure books – adding combat and tests of skill and luck to the choose your path to success formula.
Dungeoneer remains one of my favourite examples of simple old-school fantasy role-playing. The system is incredibly simple and the resulting nostalgia to the old game books is perfect (for those of us who played them). Dungeoneer was also the first RPG I ever bought in a traditional paperback format instead of digest-sized booklets or full sized RPG books.
There is one basic flaw in Dungeoneer character creation, in that a good roll for starting Skill makes a character that is incredibly more skilled than one with a lower Skill – the entire skill system in the game is based on this one stat, and the higher it is the more skills you get, as well as a better chance of success with those skills.
Dungeoneer characters are quick to make. A pair of d6 in hand, I roll 1d6+6 for skill, 2d6+12 for stamina and 1d6+6 for luck. The results are a fairly skilled and quite lucky character with a lower-than-average stamina. I see him as an agile skirmishing type who moves in for the kill and nimbly ducks aside when the going gets tough.
As such, I pick out 10 points of special skills as follows: Sword / 2, Dodge / 2, Jump / 1, Awareness / 1, Sneak / 2 and World Lore / 1. His last point goes into Magic, giving him a smattering of minor magic spells that he can cast, as well as reducing his Skill base by 1 (from 10 to 9). He gets 4 Stamina worth of spells, and I grab Luck (1), Stamina (1), and Sleep (2). This gives Erul the ability to heal himself, keep his luck up (so he can use his high luck regularly) and finally has a fairly powerful and quiet offensive spell to supplement his sneakiness. He’ll have to be careful about casting it though, since it drains two of his fairly low Stamina, and he can’t heal while in combat.
In the end, we have…
Name: Erul GoblinHunter
Profession: Ranger / Scout / Hunter
Sword / 11
Dodge / 11
Jump / 10
Awareness / 10
Sneak / 11
World Lore / 10
Magic / 10
4 Gold Pieces
Ah… I remember playing a very fun, essentially improvised, Dungeoneer campaign back in the day. It was so easy to pick up and play that it was no trouble at all to just run and run, making things up as we went along. Inevitably, the broken system led to the wheels falling off the game, but it was a great deal of fun while it lasted.
I keep thinking, at the back of my mind, about giving the system a tweak and polish and releasing it as a free retro clone. One day…
The 48 hour challenge version of Adventures in the New Kingdoms started out as a Dungeoneer Hack, with some slightly more advanced trait usage and a class system based on the one from WHFRP.
As soon as you fix the whole SKILL stat and how everything in the game, including the number of skills you get, is based on that number, the game gets a little more bearable. I’d almost take a page from the ZERO RPG and make it so the number of skills you get is inversely proportional to your skill stat (and thus how good you are with those skills). Not sure if it would do enough, but it would certainly work towards a more balanced start for characters
My current ideas are to drop STAMINA to 1d6+6 in line with the other stats, and to have skills confer a flat +2 bonus. I think I may also limit characters to one skill per “level” and have magic be item-based. It’s not going to be much like Dungeoneer at all!