In 129 the Dwarves made war against the Ogre
March 4, 2012 9:44 PM   Subscribe

How to Host a Dungeon is a solitaire pen-and-paper game in which you create an underground complex of rooms, populate them with various fantasy races and monsters, and simulate its history. At almost any time you can stop and have the basis for a D&D campaign. Here's a YouTube playthrough of a game: Part 1 - Part 2

The first edition is free; the expanded second edition costs $5 for a PDF download. The site contains many additional example playthroughs.
posted by JHarris (53 comments total) 120 users marked this as a favorite
I paid for the expanded edition; it is great.
posted by JHarris at 9:45 PM on March 4, 2012

Just a couple of days ago, I bought the Mythic GM Emulator, a series of charts and guidelines to generate events and conflicts for solo play, or to assist a GM. There's an online version and an forum thread about using it to generate a fantasy world.
posted by Zed at 10:03 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Someone should code a version of this, so that you don't have to play it.
posted by markkraft at 10:18 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

FUN! The most fun i had playing D&D was doing DM prep, this takes me way back.
posted by elphTeq at 10:20 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

This looks really cool, like the sort of thing worth feeling guilty about never, ever trying it.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:32 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Hey Bob... it's a mess in here. Lots of papers everywhere. What did you do all day?"

"I made a cave complex! The Dwarves mined it, and eventually ran into primordial monsters, and killed them after a long, hard fight... and then some of the tunnels flooded with lava... and then...!"

"Wow. You must really miss Dwarf Fortress. Still waiting for your laptop to get back from the manufacturer?"

"Y-yes..." *cries mournfully!*
posted by markkraft at 10:34 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

So sort of Dwarf Fortress world-gen meets Under Illefarn? Very promising. I shall be having a go at the first edition and looking more deeply into this. Cheers!
posted by howfar at 11:10 PM on March 4, 2012

So this is like D&D, but for people with even less friends?

So... you know... me?
posted by gkhan at 11:38 PM on March 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

When I saw this, I thought that it was about hosting your own S&M dungeon.
posted by wuwei at 12:39 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Zed, that's interesting. Would you mind telling us more about Mythic?
posted by JHarris at 12:59 AM on March 5, 2012

Oh, this looks like fun! So far I've been far too shy to do any GMing but this could be a nice way to prepare for it and get some confidence beforehand. Thanks.
posted by daisyk at 1:20 AM on March 5, 2012

In 129, the Dwarves made war against the Ogre
And the Ogre was most displeased

In 130, the Dwarves toilet-papered the Ogre's garden
The Ogre did not appreciate that

In 131, the Dwarves held a party, and pointedly failed to invite the Ogre
And the Ogre cried alone in his room

In 132, the Dwarves left insulting messages on the Ogre's facebook page
And the Ogre fumed with silent rage

In 133, the Dwarves did a shit in a paper bag, set in on fire, left it on the Ogre's front step, rang the doorbell, and ran away
The Ogre was both injured and furious that day

In 134, the Dwarves took the Ogre's girlfriend out to a movie and ended up getting to second base with her
The Ogre's displeasure was simultaneously righteous and immense

In 135, the Dwarves put around a rumour that the Ogre was bulimic
The Ogre slipped into a deep despond

In 136, the necromancer returned from his hellish slumbers and, with the Ogre's assistance, slaughtered the Dwarves in their stone halls and danced among their entrails.

Every Ogre deserves to be respected for who they are.

Speak up against Dwarvish hate and intolerance.

It gets better.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:18 AM on March 5, 2012 [21 favorites]

@doctorfedora you should do it ironically, that doesn't count because it's a joke of some kind. give them names like butt and dong so everyone knows it's a joke
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:47 AM on March 5, 2012

oh, neat - you can ask a question, set the probability, and have it answered for you!

Q: do the orks have hats? EXCEPTIONAL YES

Q: are the hats festive? NO

Uhoh, non-festive hats! Roll initiative!
posted by dubold at 4:09 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Over 20 dwarf clans were extinguished last year due to Ogre-related incidents.

As we approach peak mithril, the productivity of the average dwarf was reduced by 1.2%

Dragons lurk in 5x5 rooms and refuse to give directions to inquiring dwarfs.

But there is a solution.

He holds the trust of the Ogre.

He will jumpstart the economy by proven methods—singing about gold will restore consumer confidence.

He will ruthlessly slaughter the Wyrm or build bigger doors after public consultation.

Vote #1 quidnunc kid in 137 or be prepared to defend your stronghold.

posted by ersatz at 4:53 AM on March 5, 2012 [13 favorites]

This looks immense fun. Have bought the full version (note: delivery of PDF sadly not instant). Have also started doodling on a science fiction equivalent, because I am a giant nerd.
posted by Zarkonnen at 4:59 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Adding another name to the "looks fun, take my money" list.

Anything that makes me enjoy creating vast dungeons with history has to be good.
posted by DuchessProzac at 5:05 AM on March 5, 2012

An early attempt to make a science fiction versions shows again that I am terrible at game balance:

32 The seekers on Zuxx achieve spaceflight and organise as an Empire! They encounter a shape-shifter that kills one of their number and then moves to Preba.
33 The seekers are 1 old. They gain 1 resource. They explore the caves on Qualek. An ultrapredator evolves on Zuxx and kills one of the seekers there. The seekers' civilisation collapses.
posted by Zarkonnen at 5:10 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, hey! I bought this, but have yet to play it. Need to pick up some beads...
posted by adamdschneider at 5:24 AM on March 5, 2012

This looks totally awesome. I am awaiting its arrival as we speak. And Zarkonnen, a scifi version would totally rock.
posted by charred husk at 5:38 AM on March 5, 2012

This is very cool, and has me pondering how one might do something similar to generate a convincing world in Inform 7.

Also, when is the 1920s-1930s Lovecraftian version coming out?
posted by usonian at 5:50 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

In 136, the necromancer returned from his hellish slumbers and, with the Ogre's assistance, slaughtered the Dwarves in their stone halls and danced among their entrails.

Oh, how I wish my necromancers would do something half that interesting instead of writing endless books about themselves, the writing of the books about themselves, and, worst, books about shelving the books they've written about writing books about themselves. I know that necromancy has a certain amount of of inevitable solipsism, but the accompanying egomania is really the worst.
posted by Copronymus at 6:00 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You guys might also be interested in Microscope.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:40 AM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

when is the 1920s-1930s Lovecraftian version coming out?

Not the same thing, of course, but Realms of Ctuhlhu features a Mythos Tale Generator.
posted by Zed at 8:18 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

JHarris, this just made my week. I've been looking for awhile for a solitaire game like this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:50 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

> JHarris, this just made my week. I've been looking for awhile for a solitaire game like this.

same here. This is fantastic and I'm already daydreaming about all the awesome dungeons I'll be creating.

Now I can play Analog Dwarf Fortress whenever I'm not at my computer! :)
posted by johnstein at 12:28 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You guys might also be interested in Microscope.

Oddly, I purchased Microscope around the same time as HTHAD. It is also interesting, but it's not a solo game so testing it isn't so easy.
posted by JHarris at 1:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been killing spare time here and there today playing this and using the GIMP and various layers as strata. My map seems so much more jumbled full of stuff than what has been shown - I wonder if it has to do with me misunderstanding how tokens and rooms relate to each other (can there only be one token per room?)

The reason that this is so awesome, though, is the same reason Skyrim's dungeons are much more interesting than given credit for even though there are limited monsters. Back during 2nd edition there was a dungeon construction book that only had 3 or four types of dungeons. The trick to making everything interesting was permutations - you have a bandit lair, but it has been overrun by bears. You have a dwarven ruin full of undead that has had a volcano rip through part and now elementals are running all over.

By tacking story upon story of what has happened in the dungeon you add verisimilitude and give a puzzle for the players to solve. "What happened here?" Peeling back the layers of history until you get to the end and the big reward (or horror, if you want to go all Cthulhu). This is a fantastic tool for creating all of those layers and making a intriguing dungeon.
posted by charred husk at 1:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

charred husk, I actually believe that the rules don't go into too much detail so that players will come up with their own solutions and assumptions. For example, if a non-mining race or monster happens to dig out some ore, does it produce a loot counter? The rules don't say. One can assume either yes or no, and give the dungeon a slightly different outcome for it.

But to answer your question directly, I don't think there can be only one token per room, but adjacent tokens take up extra space that might have to spill out into adjacent territory to hold.

I think you're generally right about dungeon history. There are two different competing schools of thought of dungeon design. They are, to my understanding:
1. The original paradigm, which is that dungeons are purposely inexplicable. They are a kind of wonderland or primordial entity, where the rules of logic do not entirely apply, a protean kind of place. Entering a dungeon is to intrude upon the edge of faerie. This explains how different kinds of monsters can live in an underground complex of rooms without having to worry about how they'd all survive. It's high on sense of wonder, but low on reason. This room may contain a magic sword +5, the next one an evil demigod bent on your destruction.
2. From that sprang the notion of dungeon histories and ecologies, where the rooms you explore have purposes and past events that explain the monsters and treasure they contain. These are less conductive to immediate play along the lines of 1E-style random generation, but give the player a bit more to do in that they may be able to figure out some of the underlying plan, and ideally use that information to make their way through.

Both, taken to extremes, have problems. The first it's that the players are beholden entirely to DM, or even dice, whim. The second in that, if everything is planned and charted, the dungeon loses a lot of its mystery, and anyway the notion of dungeon ecologies doesn't hold up if you think about it too hard. How To Host A Dungeon is great for #2, but the random determination aspects supply a bit of #1, and it's the combination of the two I think that is the source of much of its appeal.
posted by JHarris at 6:13 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

There really are two different parts to #2. One is the ecology and one is the history. Ecology is almost always handwaved to some extent in dungeons and only the most detail oriented players will appreciate the extra effort put into planning beyond the "gelatinous cubes eat the trash" level.

As fantasy fans, however, we're conditioned from Tolkein to salivate at history and lore. The goblins you tracked down are wielding drow weapons, but this construction over here looks dwarven... what happened here? Who or what was Kazalad and why is name all over the place? It allows you to have a story for the players to follow even if they're wandering a non-linear dungeon. One campaign I had this massive backstory of a fallen dwarven civilization spread all over the place. They were just standard D&D treasure hunters but they ate up the lore, often finding more pleasure in discovering new pieces to the puzzle over the actual treasures.

That's where I think this is so great, a procedural way of creating lore organically without having to come up with it whole cloth. I had plenty of stories just for my one dwarven civ without even getting to the fall. The main problem for me is that I'l not sure how to go about drawing everything - my art skills suck.
posted by charred husk at 6:50 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The actual drawing in the game is fairly minimal, it's just chambers and connections and lines. Give it a shot.

Some advice: the game asks you to bring "beads" to the game, one color generally for loot and one for creatures. I went out and got some really tiny beads for this, and they were unwieldly. It turns out it's okay to use those blobby glass beads you can find at nearly any crafts store, along the lines of Go stones.

It might also help to use graph paper for your dungeon, then you can then use a "standard" size for rooms. The rules are flexible enough that you can adjust a lot of little things like that.
posted by JHarris at 9:26 PM on March 5, 2012

hose blobby glass beads you can find at nearly any crafts store

The flat bottomed ones, come mainly in blue, green, clear? These are my second most important game supply after dice. I always use them for bennies, Fate Points etc., but they are also extremely good as fight scene mooks, position markers and prop jewels. For pretty much any call for counters in any game, these are the easiest and cheapest way to go.
posted by howfar at 10:15 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bought this yesterday, read some in bed, had dungeon generation dreams all night.
posted by cortex at 7:51 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking a bit on expanding How to Host a Dungeon a bit. For starters, there really needs to be more civilizations than Dwarves, Dark Elves and (in the paid edition) Demons. We could dip into Lovecraft and bring in Old Ones, or even a Great Old One and his minions. Really, Lovecraft seems filled with creatures that could fit in for civilizations and monsters, although it goes against the D&D-ish vibe of the thing.

I also agree with the above comment that this thing seems ripe for computer automation. Part of the game, however, is in player interpretation of events, and anyway some of the fun seems like it'd be lost if a computer did all the work.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on March 6, 2012

I've seen this before but thanks for the link as it was a nice reminder to actually buy it this time around.

I'm in an introductory Geology course this semester and it seems like a variation of this could be an interesting educational tool where the student uses the dice and charts to procedurally generate strata, have events that uplift or turn layers, form volcanoes on lucky rolls, smooth the surface out when the land slips below sea level for a few million years, and then add some more layers afterwards.

Of course, shouldn't stop there. Once the layout of the underground strata and the above ground orogeny, erosion, canyon building, etc. are finished, then the dwarves show up to start digging their tunnels with the resulting underground city being affected by the geological realities. D&D + geology: could anything be better?

(Though I'm not sure what conditions would be best for producing veins of mithril. Haven't covered that part in class yet.)
posted by honestcoyote at 3:46 PM on March 6, 2012

If you're not careful, honestcoyote, you'll end up writing Neal Stephenson's REAMDE.
posted by Zed at 4:11 PM on March 6, 2012

Tony Dowler's a genius, and this is hella fun. Those two things are independently true, but not unrelated.
posted by edheil at 7:22 PM on March 6, 2012

Bought this last night and have been having a lot of fun so far.

> I've been thinking a bit on expanding How to Host a Dungeon a bit. For starters, there really needs to be more civilizations than Dwarves, Dark Elves and (in the paid edition) Demons. We could dip into Lovecraft and bring in Old Ones, or even a Great Old One and his minions. Really, Lovecraft seems filled with creatures that could fit in for civilizations and monsters, although it goes against the D&D-ish vibe of the thing.

I found this interview with Tony Dowler at Pirate vs Ninja .

He says he encourages people to expand on the idea and share new civilizations or monsters, so I don't think it's a big deal to go against the D&Dish vibe. I mean, I don't even play D&D but I love the concept behind the game and think it could lend itself to a plethora of other themes.
posted by johnstein at 8:52 PM on March 6, 2012

I've just gotta say, everyone who's thinking of ways to expand How to Host a Dungeon: do it!

Also, you guys are super awesome. Thanks for buying my game.
posted by tonydowler at 8:05 PM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Hiya, Tony!
posted by cortex at 8:10 PM on March 7, 2012

A couple of turns into the age of monsters and this is what I'm looking at so far with the ruins of Mazdam. Not that you can tell what's going on from the weak-ass color coding.
posted by charred husk at 5:51 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey, thanks for making it! When you make a new edition, would you by any chance be interested in ideas for more races and stuff?
posted by JHarris at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2012

@Jharris, yeah, I am totally down with new races and stuff. I would definitely like to make a new edition eventually with new stuff in it.
posted by tonydowler at 8:31 AM on March 9, 2012

Just stumped up the five bucks. What a bargain.

Pretty keen to pay again for the multiplayer version currently in playtesting, too.
posted by robcorr at 12:24 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

'Cause I was thinking, what this really needs for the Primordial Age is a Lovecraftian Great Old One. It could come back for the Great Disaster.

You want rules? Well, off the top of my head....

Primordial Age die roll chart addition:
Where the die lands is the cavern where a Great Old One sleeps. In terms of alignment all Lovecraftian monsters are unaligned, although Tsathoggua is sometimes friendly anyway. In gameplay terms this works like a Fate cavern, but if a civilization finds it the way the civilization meets its end is according to the identity of the Old One, which is determined by rolling D8 on this table:
1. Hastur. The civilization meets its end as usual, but the closest three civilization ⬤ are changed into Alpha Predators, having made an Unspeakable Promise. When the Age of Monsters begins they will almost certainly begin warring with each other, probably killing each other off until only one remains. Afterward Hastur departs the dungeon for interstellar space.
2. Great Cthulhu. The cavern is in fact an underground lake. The civilization meets its end so suddenly that their works are undamaged. Remove all ⬤ from the map as usual, but leave any ◯ treasure. (This will make for a relatively short Age of Monsters, and it is likely that the Age of Villiany will begin soon. If this is not to your liking only leave the three closest ◯ to the Great Old One's cavern.) Dark Elf slave ◯s flee the dungeon. Afterward Cthulhu returns to R'lyeh, and leaves the dungeon.
3. Tsathoggua. It goes back to sleep where it lies. The civilization still ends normally (they flee its presence lest they wake it up again). It persists into the Age of Monsters where it continues to slumber. It does not get a turn itself, but every turn a monster encounters it it attempts to appease the sleeping god. Only the monster rolls. If the monster rolls even, it gains one ◯. If it rolls odd, it loses one ⬤.
4. Nyarlathotep. The civilization makes a Faustian bargain with the god. Civilization immediately breaks down; every ⬤ rolls a D6, on an even it remains as a wandering monster, on an odd it perishes in ecstatic rites. ◯ treasure remains, ◯ slaves are removed from play. Nyarlathotep returns to Azathoth's court.
5. Azathoth. As with Cthulhu the civilization ends leaving all its loot in place. However, at the site the cavern, draw a large new cavern a finger in diameter, and three new waving tunnels radiating away from it. Everything within the space of this cavern is destroyed. During play this room is unhealthy to be in; encounters taking place here are at -1 for the occupant. This counts as the Great Disaster.
6. Eihort. The closest ⬤ has made the Bargain, and leaves a Breeder colony of Eihort spawn on its spot for the Age of Monsters. Special rule for Eihort spawn: uncaring of ◯, they need no support and cannot bribe. However, they are at -2 in encounters. Eihort's location is considered a maze, as with a minotaur. Eihort remains into the age of monsters as an Alpha Predator. ⬤ lost by opponents in encounters with Eihort become new spawn. Eihort never encounters his spawn, and cannot be bribed.
7. Mythos race. They begin the Age of Monsters as Delvers. Roll D4 to determine type: Elder Things, Mi-Go, Deep Ones, Cthonians. Elder Things get +1 in encounters. Deep Ones flood caves they encounter. Cthonians act as Purple Worms.
8. Invent a new Great Old One. Remember to praise Shub-Niggurath afterward.
posted by JHarris at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

* I accidently reversed ◯ and ⬤ in the above comment. Filled circles are supposed to be creatures/monsters/troops, empty circles are supposed to be loot/slaves.
* "Unaligned" in game terms means never friendly. Dragons always attack it.
* [...]but if a civilization finds it the way there the civilization meets its end[...]
* If you invent a new Great Old One. Be sure to give it a good name. Some other Lovecraftian gods that could be used: Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth, Yig, Ithaqua, Glaaki, Byatis, Daoloth.
posted by JHarris at 1:35 PM on March 10, 2012

(A Colour Out Of Space would also make a great encounter.)
posted by JHarris at 1:35 PM on March 10, 2012

Totally unplaytested but I thought I'd throw it out there for fun. Forgive the formatting.

The Evil Cult
The live above the ground, but they worship what is below. You can only use an evil cult if there has previously been a Demon civilization or primordial monsters that you attribute a demonic quality to.

Evil cults are of chaotic alignment.

Evil cults can be played along side surface kingdoms.

Evil cult ⬤ represent cult members, ◯ represent demonic gifts.
Select a point on the surface that is closest to where there is demonic influence (either ruins of Demonic civilization or caves containing primordial monsters). A battlefield between the Demons and Heaven is ideal. Draw a temple 1 bead in size. Place 2⬤ and 1◯ on the keep.

Each surface construction acts as if it were a wandering monster during encounters.

The Season
Add 1⬤ to the temple up to a maximum of 5.

The cultists make their sacrifice. If there is a ◯ that are not demonic gifts in their zone of control, they are offered as a sacrifice. Move the X to the temple. It is now a demonic gift.

If there are no ◯ in their zone of control then they look for a a sacrifice within a finger's distance of them through conventional means (overland, existing tunnels). If they find a ◯ they convert it to a demonic gift. If they find a ⬤, treat this encounter as normal combat - if the cultists win add a ◯ to their temple.

If there are no sacrifices to be found this way, they begin delving. Build a dungeon room 1 bead in size underneath the temple. Add new dungeon levels underneath existing ones until existing construction is discovered.

If there are at least 4⬤ in the temple, build a new construction according to the following chart. Move 3⬤ and 1◯ to this new construction. Newly acquired Demonic gifts can be placed here according to the preference order below. New dungeon levels can be built below these structures, too, if needed.

The constructions are built in the following order of preference based on availability
Build Site Construction
The ex-demon pit The Grand Temple
Demon Palace High Priest's Residence
Gateway Stone Summoning Stone: Once per year, on a roll of a 1-3 on a d6, the cult sacrifices 1◯ and summons a demon to terrorize the world. Place 1⬤ where the d6 roll landed and treat it as a wandering monster.
Soul Mill Sacrificial Altar: If a ⬤ is used as the sacrifice this year, all combats will be at +1 to the cult's advantage.
Infernal Engine Sacrificial Smelter: If a ◯ is used as the sacrifice this year, all combats will be at +1 to the cult's advantage.
Charnel Shrine Temple of Death
Bile Pit Altar of Plague: When a sacrifice is made, on a roll of 1-2 on a d6, randomly label any non-cult controlled room as Plague 1.
Overland building Above ground temple
Cultist dungeon Temple of Pain
Any other room Underground Temple
Natural cave Underground Shrine: No more than 1X may be kept here.

If cultists ever encounter a bound demon or primordial make an encounter roll with the cultists using their ◯ instead of ⬤ for their roll bonus. Cult victory means the demon has been bound to the cult - consider it's ⬤ and ◯ to now be part of the cult. If the cult loses then they lose 1⬤ and the demon is insulted by their actions and proceeds to attack them at every opportunity.

All other encounters that aren't part of the annual search for sacrifices are as follows:
Victory: Opponent loses 1⬤.
Tie: Cultists lose 1◯
Loss: Cultists lose 1⬤ and 1◯
posted by charred husk at 1:39 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

[This is good]
posted by chunking express at 12:07 PM on March 22, 2012

Late to the party, but ever grateful. Thanks for posting this!
posted by safetyfork at 6:46 PM on March 28, 2012

FYI: Some more house rules from RPG Characters (whose blog is actually full of RPG and dungeon mapping goodness).

* Kuo-Toa and other Muck Dwellers
* Deep Gnomes & Other House Critters
posted by chunking express at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good finds, chunking express!
posted by JHarris at 9:24 AM on March 29, 2012

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