Co-DMing the Deck of Many Dungeons
Last year my girlfriend bought me the Deck of Many Dungeons for my birthday. The product is set up as a standard deck of cards, but each card has a room with monsters, treasures, doors, or great chasms into the dark, depending on the card. By laying a few down, you can easily build a dungeon within minutes. Each card lays out the room with a small picture and a table that includes the monsters, treasure, and/or dressing (roll 1d8 for a particular smell in the hallway). They have sat, unused, on my desk for the last 8 months. Until a few nights ago.
One of my friends moved and we spent most of the day hauling boxes. We were tired. Furthermore, in the tradition of all great moves, we were drinking to salute the completion of an exhausting task. Not exactly the most furtive environment for an intricate role playing session, so we broke out some pregenerated characters and the Deck of Many Dungeons.
We are going to make this easy.
In the beginning...
The town of Rola attracts adventurers of all stripes. From the town an enterprising wayfarer can gain entrance into the dungeons below the ruins of the ancient Khrystahl Castle that once dominated the landscape. The dungeons are said to change everytime a new party enters, even adjusting to the strength of the explorers, seemingly drawing them in, ever deeper...
Our heroes overslept and arrived to the adventuring guild late. Everyone else had already chosen their party and headed in. Thus, we were forced to adventure together, whether we wanted to or not.
And so, those full of sleep but light on timeliness proceeded into the depths.
A weight lifted
The deck does as advertised, and builds a sprawling dungeon where you don’t have to think. Monsters, smells, traps, and treasures are already included. It was fantastic. The best part was that we passed role of the DM, along with the deck, around the table. It allowed me, our perma-dm, a chance to be a player, and it also allowed everyone to get a taste of DMing in a relatively low stakes situation.
Play proceeded in this way:
- The party would decide what direction to go.
- The new DM would draw a card from the deck (hiding it from the rest of the players) and then describe what the party sees, drawing out the new set of tiles on the game board.
- The DM would also create monsters using the table included on most cards.
- The party would explore the new area and fight the monsters or plunder, depending on what was listed on the card.
- Any properties of items or story elements that were created by a certain DM were owned by them. If you find a sandwich while Dani is DMing, she gets to decide the effects of the sandwich even if you eat it three rooms later.
We had fun.
Sure, it was a little clunky swapping DMs every 30 minutes. It was also a straight up dungeon crawl and light on the role play. Kick down door, kill whatever is behind it, loot (Cat: “I check for sandwiches”), and move on. But, it was really fun and the Deck made it possible.
This was also a great way to get players, with no previous DM’ing experience, a safe chance to explore. The monsters are on the card ready to go, and the rooms are simple to read and easy to set up.
Oddly enough, we found that even though this was a randomly generated dungeon crawl, story elements started to seep through as each new DM mixed their own vision into the game. That broken sword illustrated on the eight of hearts became the ruined magical “Sword of Nod” (the current DM, Dani, “Do you just make shit up like this all the time?” Me: “Absolutely not, also yes”). What broke the sword? Who are these Nod people? In another encounters, we found out the Hell Hounds were trained. How? And By whom?
“I donno,” Josie, the current DM, said when she faced me, “Looks like you’ll have to adventure to find out”.
She handed me the deck. “Your turn.”