Basic Game Concepts

The first two chapters of Dark Dungeons talked about what the game is and what the characters (and by extension the players) do. This chapter talks about how you do it.


In Dark Dungeons, dice will be needed to resolve a lot of situations where the whims of fortune have an effect on the outcome of a situation. As well as the traditional cubic dice numbered from one to six, the game uses a variety of other dice of different shapes. Since these each have different numbers of sides, they are often called polyhedral dice.

If you have already played other role playing games, you may already own some of these dice. If not, you can buy them at your friendly local game store or online. In order to distinguish between the different types of die that you can use, Dark Dungeons uses a standard terminology throughout.

Types of Die

Each die is referred to using the letter ‘d’ followed by the number of sides that the die has. For example, a regular die with six sides is referred to as a ‘d6’, whereas a die with twenty sides is referred to as a ‘d20’.

A normal set of polyhedral dice comes with a four sided die, a six sided die, an eight sided die, one or two ten sided dice, a twelve sided die, and a twenty sided die—or, to use Dark Dungeon’s terminology, a d4, a d6, a d8, one or two d10s, a d12 and a d20.

Therefore, if the rules say that you roll a d20 for something, they mean that you should roll the die with twenty sides. If they say that you roll a d8 for something, they mean that you should roll the die with eight sides. If they say that you roll a d6 for something, they mean that you should roll the die with six sides. And so on.

There are a small number of special cases where there is not a single die that fits the roll that is needed. Sometimes you will be asked to roll a d2, d3 or d100.

In these cases, you must roll one or more other dice and interpret the result.

To “roll” a d2, roll any die and if the number shown is odd then you “rolled” a 1. If the number shown is even then you “rolled” a 2.

To “roll” a d3, roll a normal d6 and halve the result (rounding up). This will give you:

1-2 = 1

3-4 = 2

5-6 = 3

The same halving process can be used with a d10 in order to “roll” a d5.

To “roll” a d100, take two d10s that are easily distinguished and roll them both. Read one of them as the tens digit and the other as the units digit, although if both roll ‘0’ then the result is always treated as 100 rather than 00. Sometimes, particularly with older dice sets, the two d10s will be different colours— in which case you need to say which will be tens and which will be units before rolling. Most new dice sets include a special d10 which has tens already marked on it, so this always counts as the tens die.

If you only have one d10, simply roll it twice with the first roll counting as the tens and the second roll counting as the units.

Example: Marcie has to roll to see if Black Leaf (her thief character) has successfully climbed a sheer wall or not. In order to do this, she needs to roll d100 and get less than or equal to Black Leaf’s Climb Walls ability. Black Leaf’s ability is 87, so Marcie needs to roll an 87 or lower.

Marcie has a red d10 and a white d10. She has declared at the beginning of the game that she will always use the red d10 as tens and the white d10 as units, so she doesn’t need to re- specify this each time she rolls.

She rolls both d10s, and gets a 9 on the red die and a 0 on the white die. Therefore her d100 roll is 90, which is more than 87 so Black Leaf has failed to climb the wall. Had the die rolls been the other way around (0 on red and 9 on white), her d100 roll would have been 09 and she would have succeeded.

Multiple Dice

Often, you will need to roll more than one die at the same time. In this case, there will be a number before the ‘d’ as well as after it.

The number before the ‘d’ shows how many dice must be rolled. If this number is one then it is sometimes skipped.

When rolling multiple dice in this way, simply add the numbers rolled on each die together in order to generate a single result.

Therefore if you are told to roll “3d6”, you should roll three six sided dice and add the numbers rolled together. If you are told to roll “2d8”, you should roll two eight sided dice and add the numbers rolled together. If you are told to roll “d4”, then this is exactly the same as being told to roll “1d4”, and you should roll a single four sided die.

Dice Modifiers

Sometimes rolls will have additional modifiers. These are straightforward and are simply added or subtracted from the total rolled.

For example, if instructed to roll “2d6+4”, roll two six sided dice and add the numbers rolled together; and then add four to the result. If instructed to roll “1d8-1”, roll a single eight sided die and subtract one from the number rolled.

Table 3-1: Ability Score Bonuses & Penalties

Ability Score ValueGeneral Modifier(Charisma Only)(Dexterity Only)
Max HirelingsHireling MoraleReaction ModifierInitiative Modifier

Creature Attributes

Creatures (including people) in Dark Dungeons are split into two broad categories, Player Characters (often abbreviated to “PCs”), which are the adventurers controlled by the players; and Monsters which are the other creatures and people in the world controlled by the Game Master.

Although creatures and characters controlled by the Game Master are referred to collectively as monsters, they are not necessarily particularly monstrous or hostile. Some of them are simply neutral characters and even allies of the player characters that are controlled by the Game Master. Intelligent monsters, particularly ones that the players interact with socially as opposed to fighting, are often referred to as Non-Player Characters (abbreviated to “NPCs”).

Since the varying capabilities of different creatures and characters can have a large impact on the success or failure of various actions that the players wish their characters to take, these capabilities are recorded as (mostly numeric) values and traits that can be used to modify or provide target numbers for die rolls, or to determine what sort of actions are possible. Since player characters play the largest part in the game and are the centre of most of the action, they have the most attributes. Monsters that are expected to only be in the game for a short while (for example a single fight) are described in less detail.

Ability Scores

The innate abilities of player characters are described by six values, called Ability Scores.

These represent the core abilities of the character and rarely change. These values are Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. In normal humans (and demi-humans), these ability scores will normally range from a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 18, with the average being 11.

These ability scores show the strengths and weaknesses of the character, and are used as target numbers for various tasks (see Chapter 5: Ability Checks & Skills for more details). Additionally, each score also has one or more bonuses or penalties associated with it that are used to modify other die rolls and checks. Table 3-1 shows the modifiers for different ability score values (it includes values much higher than 18, since Immortal characters may have much higher ability scores than normal humans).

Strength (abbreviated to “Str”)

Strength needs little explanation. It represents the raw muscle power of a character. Strength checks are made when trying to perform tasks that rely on raw bodily strength rather than skill, for example when trying to break down doors. Strength bonuses and penalties apply to a character’s melee attacks, and to the damage that a character does with melee or hurled weapons.

Intelligence (abbreviated to “Int”)

Intelligence represents the memory and reasoning power of a character. Characters with a high intelligence will be able to perform difficult calculations and make deductive leaps, whereas those with lower intelligence will only do such things more slowly if at all. Intelligence checks are used in a variety of situations where characters need to reason things out or remember things, particularly with academic or formally taught knowledge.

Wisdom (abbreviated to “Wis”)

Wisdom represents a combination of intuition, common sense, and spirituality. To a lesser extent, wisdom also represents the perceptiveness of a character and their ability to notice subtle clues and things out of place. Characters with high wisdom are likely to possess these traits, and be level headed, whereas those with lower wisdom may be rash or act without thinking.

Wisdom checks are used in situations where characters must notice something, and wisdom bonuses or penalties apply to characters’ saving throws against spells.

Dexterity (abbreviated to “Dex”)

Dexterity represents the co-ordination and agility of a character, as well as the speed of their reflexes. Characters with a high dexterity will be agile and graceful, whereas those with a lower dexterity may be clumsy and awkward. Dexterity checks are used when a character must do something involving balance or fine manipulation.

Dexterity penalties or bonuses are applied to a character’s attacks with thrown or missile weapons, and also to their armour class. Dexterity may also provide a special bonus or penalty to initiative rolls.

Constitution (abbreviated to “Con”)

Constitution represents the toughness and general healthiness of a character. Characters with a high constitution are likely to be fit and healthy, whereas those with a low constitution are more likely to get ill and get winded easily.

Constitution checks are rarely made, although might be in some circumstances where stamina and endurance are important. Constitution bonuses or penalties are applied to the hit point rolls that a character gains each level.

Charisma (abbreviated to “Chr”)

Charisma represents the likeability and force of personality of a character. Characters with a high charisma are born leaders and orators, whereas those with lower charisma may be boring or find it hard to communicate. On a physical level, charisma is unrelated to how attractive a character looks; although charismatic individuals often have better bearing and confidence which enhances their attractiveness.

Charisma checks are often used in social situations. Charisma also provides limits on a character’s leadership potential and provides a special bonus or penalty to the reactions of monsters that the character meets.


When it comes to fighting, time is divided up into Rounds, each of which represents ten seconds of combat. This results in a level of abstraction where the game does not attempt to model every single thrust, parry and cut.

In a single round, most characters and other creatures will make a single “attack”. Although this is resolved in a single roll, an attack does not represent a single swing of a sword or a single punch. During a round, a character will swing repeatedly and also block, parry and manoeuvre. Instead, the attack roll represents the sum total of this activity (although some characters and creatures may get more than one roll if they are particularly effective in combat). The defender’s Armour Class is added to the attacker’s Attack Bonus, and this (with various modifiers—see Chapter

10: Combat for more details) shows what the attacker needs to roll to “hit” the defender. In the same way that an attack roll does not represent a single swing of the sword, a “hit” does not necessarily represent a solid blow with a weapon. A hit in combat represents a potentially lethal blow. If a defender is inexperienced or badly weakened and exhausted, it may indeed kill them or knock them unconscious. However, a defender who is fresh and experienced is able to partially or wholly avoid the blow, although not without cost. The hit points of the target will be reduced.

Attack Bonus

A character or creature’s Attack Bonus represents their combat skill. For player characters it is based on their level and class. For monsters it is based on their Hit Dice. Attack bonuses start at +0, which represents a person or monster who is completely unskilled and unused to combat, and increase with increasing ability, to a maximum of +50 or more.

Armour Class

A character or creature’s Armour Class represents how hard they are to hit in combat. A “hit” in combat does not represent a single solid blow with a weapon but instead represents one or more potentially lethal blows.

Armour makes potentially lethal blows less likely, and therefore makes it harder for an attack roll to score a hit. Again, this is abstracted and does not represent the armour making it harder to actually hit the character, merely making it harder to score a potentially lethal blow.

The armour class of a “standard” warrior wearing suit armour is 0, and characters wearing less armour have armour classes that are represented by positive numbers (representing a bonus to an attacker’s rolls) whereas characters wearing more armour have armour classes that are represented by negative numbers (representing a penalty to an attacker’s rolls). It is important to always remember that a lower armour class is better; this is why a character’s dexterity bonus is subtracted from their armour class, rather than being added to it.

Hit Points

The ability of a character or creature to avoid potentially lethal damage— whether in or out of combat—is represented by their Hit Points. These hit points indicate a combination of skill, luck, divine favour, and sheer determination. A heroic character with many hit points will be able to keep fighting and keep dodging potentially lethal blows for a long time, whereas a character with few hit points is inexperienced and is likely to be killed rather quickly by the first or second such blow.

As characters avoid more and more potentially lethal blows, they will still pick up nicks, bruises and scrapes; and they will become more and more fatigued. Therefore, when something potentially lethal hits a character, they take Damage.

Damage reduces the number of hit points a character has left, and if a character takes enough damage they will run out of hit points and be knocked unconscious or killed.

See Chapter 10: Combat for more details on taking damage. Hit points lost to damage can be recovered by either time, the application of first aid, or magical healing.

Monsters have a number of Hit Dice, which shows how many d8’s should be rolled to determine their hit points. Characters get extra hit points each level, at lower levels the additional hit points are rolled on a die (of varying type depending on the character’s class) and the character’s constitution bonus or penalty is added to each roll. At higher levels, characters gain a fixed number of hit points per level (again depending on their class) and no longer also add their constitution bonus or penalty.

Saving Throws

In some situations - usually combat situations - something might have a harmful effect on a creature other than direct damage (for example the petrifying gaze of a basilisk), or it might have a damaging effect that does not rely on an attack hitting the creature (for example a dragon’s fiery breath filling an area). In these cases, player characters and monsters often have a chance to partially or fully avoid the effect by rolling a Saving Throw on a d20.

There are six types of saving throws that between them cover nine of these situations: Death, Death Rays & Poison; Magic Wands; Paralysis & Petrification; Breath Weapons; Rods, Staffs, and Spells. The difficulty—the number which needs to be equalled or exceeded on the d20 roll—is usually based on the level of the defender (or the number of hit dice in the case of monsters), although there may rarely be modifiers.

Although rods, staffs and spells are covered by the same saving throw, player characters only add their wisdom bonus (or penalty) when this saving throw is used against spells.

Experience And Levels

As mentioned previously, the adventuring careers of player characters are split up into levels.

Each character normally starts at level one, which means that they are inexperienced and have never adventured before. Once characters start adventuring, they gain experience. In game terms, this means that they gain Experience Points for doing adventurous things—slaying monsters, recovering treasure, undertaking quests, and so on.

When a character has acquired enough experience points, their level increases. An increase in level is accompanied by an increase in the character’s abilities and attributes, showing that the character is now more experienced and becoming more capable in their chosen adventuring profession.

Character Classes

Even with the same amount of experience, not all player characters are the same. Although they are all assumed to be adventurers, their backgrounds may be rather different from each other. For example a young human that has just finished a five year apprenticeship under a magic-user and has now mastered the essentials of spell casting is going to be very different than a dwarven warrior who has spent every weekend doing combat training in case of goblin attack.

In the game, this difference in background, upbringing and training is represented by Character Classes. Each player character (and some important non-player characters, if they are also adventurers) has a character class based on their background. As a player, you have a free choice of character class for your character, providing your ability scores meet some minimum criteria. See Chapter 4: Creating a Character for more details.

The character’s class determines which sorts of weapon and armour they will have been trained how to use, and also may provide them with various special abilities. There is little difference between the classes at low levels, since all the characters are novices in their chosen professions. However, as characters gain experience and levels, the differences between the classes become more pronounced.

Dark Dungeons has five different classes for human adventurers, and three classes for non-human adventurers. Non-humans have different cultures to humans and different natural abilities, so their adventurers are brought up with different backgrounds and are sufficiently different from human adventurers to warrant their own classes.

The five human classes are, Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Mystic and Thief; and the non-human ones are Elf, Dwarf and Halfling.

Each of these character classes is fully described in Chapter 4: Creating a Character.


All sapient creatures in Dark Dungeons have an Alignment. This represents the philosophical outlook of the creature. There are two opposing philosophical alignments that a creature might have: Order, or Chaos.

Creatures aligned with Order, usually referred to as “Lawful” creatures, enjoy stability, routine, and predictability. They are likely to live in large cities with well defined social mores and caste, class systems or other forms of social stratification where everyone knows their place and there is little social mobility. Such societies can be benevolent and protective or oppressive and tyrannical in nature, but in either case one’s position in society and feeling as if one belongs to a group are often seen as more important than individuality.

Creatures aligned with Chaos, usually referred to as “Chaotic” creatures, are quite the opposite. They prefer novelty and change to stodgy routine, and are more likely to live in small family groups or clans than in cities. Position and respect in such groups is often very changeable and linked to individual traits such as strength or honour. Chaotic societies can be bastions of altruism, freedom and individuality or brutal dog-eat-dog places where only the strongest survive.

Many creatures don’t wholly embrace either of these philosophies, preferring something in-between the two. These creatures are usually simply referred to as “Neutral”.

The constant struggle between Order and Chaos is the struggle between civilisation and barbarism and the balance swings back and forth as empires rise and fall. This struggle is also an inherent part of the way magic works, and there are magical effects and spells that vary depending on whether the alignments of their caster and target match.