Dungeons Dark - GM Supplement

I have written this supplement to help me run well-paced and entertaining games with Dungeons Dark. Experienced GMs could probably do without some or all of these additional rules.

Resolution in Safe Situations

Rolling dice can slow things to a crawl in play-by-forum games, so Dungeons Dark asks players to roll only in dangerous situations, when the lives of their characters could be in the balance. To keep things simple, you could assume that anything attempted in a safe situation is moderately successful, but such monotone results would soon become boring. Instead, roll a die whenever a character tries to do something that’s not dangerous. As with the base rules, a 1 indicates barely pulling it off, while a 6 is an amazing success.


One of the most common activities players will conduct is exploration of the environments you have created. As above, roll to see how well their characters do, but with the following nuances. On a 1, they learn the bare minimum necessary for short-term survival. On a 4, they get what any competent adventurer would discover. On a 5, they learn everything possible about the mundane dangers of the area. On a 6, they unearth some hidden horror (very possibly guarding a massive hoard of treasure).


In general, whenever failure might be more interesting than success, describe the potential failure and roll against a player. If your roll is higher, then the player’s character fails in the way you have described. For face-to-face play, this option might be opened up to other players, as it is in Cthulhu Dark.

When someone is going up against a significantly stronger foe, you may roll more than one die.

Pass/Fail Cycle

To help pace the story, you might want to consider using the following pass/fail cycle to determine whether you roll to oppose the players.

  • If the players have suffered two or more defeats in a row, do not roll against them.
  • If the players have had a string of two or more successes in a row, then roll one die per such success in opposition to them.
  • Otherwise, just roll a single die in opposition.

If you take this approach, you must adapt your prepared environment to the flow of the story. If bad rolls have been beating the players repeatedly, maybe that trap around the corner is broken. On the other hand, if the players have been cruising through your dungeon, maybe the guards in the next room aren’t sleeping after all.

Guidelines for Scenario Design

  • Characters need about 10 attempts to Level up to reach Level 6. If you follow the above rules for exploration, several of these attempts could come when the players’ characters stumble upon a hidden horror you yourself hadn’t planned on. But even with those additional opportunities, you’ll still want to seed your campaign world with at least a half dozen hoards or other sources of treasure.
  • Each source of treasure should have at least one way to obtain it that avoids danger. It doesn’t have to be easy, but cautious players who focus on exploration and preparation ought to be rewarded. Undoubtedly, they will come up with superior ways to get the treasure that you had not considered; be open to these.
  • Looking for a half dozen locales where you can plant those hoards? Try these six common fantasy world settings.
  • Each locale should have at least three clues to each of the other locales. These clues don’t necessarily point directly to the treasure hoard to be found there–that’s the work of exploring each location–but they should be juicy enough to entice players to go there. If you’ve got six locales, that’s at least fifteen clues in each locale.