Dungeon Saga Role Playing

Is DS a roleplaying game? It’s a question I’ve heard a few times now. The answer is very simple: no… and yes.

No, DS is not designed to be an RPG, and never was. It lacks any specific guidance or suggestions for a DM and differs from a pure RPG in the structure of what it includes and how this is presented. It was always intended to be a board game, and that’s what it remains.


What is a roleplaying game anyway? Having designed DS as a board game and without thinking about how you’d use it as an RPG, I started thinking about what made it not. And, having thought, I don’t think there’s much, if anything, to stop you.

It’s been many years since I did any roleplaying, so I may be (= am) out of touch with what is considered normal these days, but the principle can’t have changed all that much. It’s about playing a role and telling a collective story, and a competent GM and players should have no trouble at all in using Dungeon Saga as a springboard for adventuring in the fantasy world of Mantica. In fact, thinking back to the early days of RPGs, what’s included in the box (and especially the Adventurer’s Companion) is a far greater source of plot hooks and guides than many early systems started with. Try playing T&T, for example. Even D&D was very spartan when it started.

You will have to use your imagination, and you won’t get spoon-fed with pre-written adventures. However, you should remember that pre-written adventures aren’t generally aids for good roleplaying, they’re useful crutches for the time-poor DM, and products to keep companies solvent. Having played many systems and more adventures than I can recall, I can happily say that none of my personal top 5 moments in RPGs were pre-written. To be honest, I’m not sure I can think of any really good moments that were. The whole style of gaming is about imagination, and DS provides all the hooks, hints, plot ideas and springboards for adventure that you need. It’s really down to the GM to make a game from that, and that’s more about his skill than anything I’ve written or not.

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15 Responses to Dungeon Saga Role Playing

  1. Danny says:

    I agree wholeheartedly mate. Having only seen and played the beta rules for the basic game, for DS to be used as a RPG-Lite (in my opinion), it just needs a Hero progression framework and a system that will allow the players to attempt things outside the scope of the normal move and combat, like climb a rope, leap over a chasm or search a room etc. It would be nice if DS had this in the advanced rules, but if it doesn’t it would be very easy to simply create your own system and integrate it…or port over one from another game.

    Perhaps a project for you for a future DS supplement 🙂

    • Tyr says:

      Yeah, doesnt seem like itd be terribly difficult. Just add some stats and skills that arent combat-related, and there you go really. It might not be the most interesting of RPGs (since youre just going to be hanging out in a dungeon), but stil. 🙂

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Only if you choose to. The downtime section between adventures is set outside the dungeon, and though DS skips through it fairly quickly you could easily play it out as a session or three if you wanted to make it an RPG. Really wouldn’t be hard.

        • Tyr says:

          Didnt even consider that, true… though actual combat would be more difficult.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Why? You have the rules and tiles already. If a fight kicked off in the pub while you were playing out the downtime you could just use a room tile from the set. When I started roleplaying we just drew what we needed on a bit of paper. We had neither floorpans nor models. We just used our imagination 🙂

  2. Mike Saville says:

    To be honest, the reason I bought into it was for the minis for my small Pathfinder, game. Like you Mr T, I’m not one for pre-generated scenarios and modules, just a sandbox and a handful of creative minds to share the evening with. Then I thought we could play it occasionally as a change from Pathfinder. However it was only a small step to think about overlapping them, and I have little doubt that it’ll make an excellent aside within the game. And I’m looking forward to it more and more the closer it gets.

  3. I agree with your description of roleplaying, in fact a few systems rarely use dice, with the game being more of a collaborative guided story telling. That said I feal there is a element in role playing in most themed games, I have started playing firefly and it is a fairly sandbox style game when it comes to how you wish to achieve your goals and I could see dependant on who I played with getting into charactor would occur particularly if pirating an opponent ship to steal a crew as a bounty. But for now with my wife we play it more like rat race or monopoly where we focus on our aims and not the theme.

    For me I think in terms of this game the advanced rules will be about the sandbox – how much you can make the charactor(s) yours and how many alternatives to complete a task are available.
    For example there is a warded 3 chest, at the moment a wizard could use break ward to slowly open the chest. The advanced elements could come by a barbarian gaining the ability to smash wards at the risk of being zapped, a thief having a chance of opening a magical lock possibly with the aid of an equipment item, while a fighter and ranger have no options. Similarly encountering a trap a thief may have no problems disabling it, while only rangers selecting a particular skill have a chance, but in this case the fit fighter and barbarian could leap it if they had the skill, while the wizard is stuck (unless they found that scroll)
    So I guess where my interest is given the range of obsticals in the various campaigns – mundane/magical locks; lava rivers; various abilities possessed by monsters; enemy spells; traps; and I hope a few other surprises. Are there multiple ways of dealing with them at higher levels (with greater/lesser success/risk)
    This may not agree with anyone else’s view point, as I want dungeon saga primarily as a simple game but hope that the advanced ruled will allow me to “create new challenges and solve existing ones by new means”

    • crimsonsun says:

      +1 To this though I also came to the conclusion that it shouldn’t be too hard to build a few extras upon the basics if needed. Really looking forwards to this game now however and its getting close!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think that the top end of what you’re looking for is beyond the remit of DS. At the moment, at least. That said, it’s the sort of thing I’d make up on the fly as a DM anyway, so I don’t see it as terribly hard to add. And, doing it that way avoids a 200 page rulebook full of details that you can’t find stuff in. Mentioning no names…

      • Mike Saville says:

        A 570 page CORE rulebook. Then the Advanced Rulebook. Oh, and bestiaries, magic manuals, fighting manuals, equipment manuals, NPC guides,.. to be fair, it’s mostly open source and available for free on tinterweb superhighnet, but it’s hard to imagine I’d play the game if I was dependent on that many rulebooks.

        I like the idea that DS is simple, with lots of scope for elaboration.

  4. Nakano says:

    I remember there was a discussion about having to replay the scenario again (Replaying Campaign Adventures). The default was that scenario is “required” to be played until heroes win. What was the outcome of the additional suggested alternative rules? Any official mentions?

    As far as I know, all scenarios in the base game are single-part. Does any expansion have different – more “roleplaying” -like approach (multi-part scenarios – outcome of the 1st encounter effects on the second – or letting the players to decide what scenario to choose etc.)?

    • Shane says:

      You can opt to skip the replay at the expense of losing an ‘hour’. I believe hour was the terminology used. You only have x hours to complete all the missions.

      All previous discussions I’ve read say that none of the campaigns we are getting have the results in one scenario have an impact on future ones. But it was noted as a consideration. Argument against this system was that it eats up a lot of design time for outcomes that will rarely be used. The assumed preference was to have more scenarios and campaigns instead of a smaller number with greater story interaction.

      I’m paraphrasing. And not very well.

  5. Drew Williams says:

    Morning Jake, revisiting old thread but comments seem to fit here best.

    With dungeon saga about to ship were all getting pretty excited and the rate of comments posted on the kickstarter page is increasing proportionally. Lots of talk around rpg lite elements following the publication of the adventures companion.

    I was wondering / hoping if you are going to be involved in the support of the game on a regular basis?

    In particular I was hoping for a monthly / bi-monthly article looking at a particular aspect of the game, alternative scenario ideas (perhaps sample partial dungeon builds), the theory behind item creation etc.

    Would that be something yourself and mantic could get behind?

  6. Drew Williams says:

    thinking further on some of the comments on the Kickstarter board I posted the following thoughts. I’m copying them here also to see if / what people think;

    Thinking on the create your own dungeon thing and crimsonsuns comments earlier about cards / tables to govern quests / encounters, I had a few ideas / questions. More thinking out loud at the moment but thoughts / comments appreciated.

    1st, Thinking about the way this system works if we design our own adventures using anything but the supplied monsters (in their prescribed groups) would we not need a tailored (i.e. remove cards that are no longer relevant) or custom overlord deck?

    2nd, Could the game be run successfully without the overlord deck? How would you balance the lack of the surprise / extra actions the cards offer the overlord.

    3rd, The timeout mechanism of the overlord deck could also be utilised in a similar manor as FFG’s Mansions of Madness (of which I have also shamelessly stolen some of the puzzle games for my D&D encounters) Story cards could be inserted at staged intervals through a deck to simulate a race against time and against an evolving plot.

    4th, Have any minion / boss creation guidelines been mentioned as part of the adventures companion? I’m wondering if we’ll have to wing this sort of thing, adopt a counts as system, or if we’ll get some advice from Jake or in the Adventures companion.

    5th, I liked the simplicity of the earlier suggestion that movement, combat dice and armour become agility, strength and toughness respectively when considering attributs for tests. Main problem I can see with this is range. Combat dice seem to range from 1-5, armour has a similar range and movement is 4-7. This leaves the problem of, for example, a dwarf having an ‘agility’ of 4, where as a Elf has a Strength of ‘2’. There would need to be a way to reconcile the range to a dice pool for this to be effective. Perhaps the answer would be to give each hero a 2, 3 & 4 dice pools assigned against these abilities in an order appropriate to his character? Thus Dwarf has low agility, medium strength & high toughness etc.

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