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D6 Dungeons makes tabletop roleplaying fresh

08 November 2019 — No Time To Play

It pays to watch the release announcement section on Itch. My latest find is yet another rules-light RPG called D6 Dungeons: 50 pages of adventuring goodness for younger players. I made a point of reading it all before writing these lines, contrary to my habit. Turned out to be a good idea, too.

D6 Dungeons does a lot of things right and a few things wrong. More importantly, it does most things in its own way. Health in particular is tracked in a manner that makes you feel it, not with boring old hit points, and special abilities spice up the combat system. Which by the way offers enough mechanics that you don't need to improvise all the time, while being genuinely simple and fun. There are both classes and skills: you start with generic characters and make them your own later as you progress. Magic is freeform, but you get guidance as to difficulty levels and limitations (arcane magic can't heal, divine magic can't injure). Last but not least, rolls are based on a dice pool system I haven't seen before. At a glance, it all seems to err on the easy side, which is fine with me and makes sense given the game's target audience.

In the way of downsides, the text states repeatedly that each enemy is denoted by a single number, its difficulty rating, but then goes on to give most of them two or three scores depending on which skill you happen to be rolling against this Friday: stealth to bypass them, intimidation to make them back down and so on. (Speaking of which, this is a game where mechanics really do support alternatives to combat, unlike bigger, more famous RPGs.) Another problem is all the stuff that's mentioned but not explained, like poison, stunning or non-lethal damage from wrestling and such. Narrators will want to house-rule this stuff as needed.

Other things seem broken at first, only to be fixed later. The initial skills of each base class don't overlap at all, meaning you're hosed unless you have one of each in the party. But optional rules let you swap out starting skills, and extra classes have more interesting combinations. Equipment seems rather expensive at first, but the sample adventure makes it clear the narrator is expected to hand out treasure generously. Orcs and goblins are introduced as man-eating brutes, only to be suggested as playable classes down the road. There's even a talent tree system if you want it, clearly inspired by videogames but more general-purpose as befits a tabletop RPG.

All in all, an entertaining read (the writing helps too), and a fresh take on tabletop roleplaying, especially for beginners, but not only. Worth your time.

Tags: tabletop, rpg, review

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