How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 3 - Dungeon Generation, a Solo DnD Tutorial
Welcome to my blog, How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo, dedicated to playing Dungeons & Dragons solo using Basic D&D rules. This series of blog posts is based on a YouTube video series I started back in July 2020 and is all about working out a way to play solo Dungeons & Dragons games. The aim is to develop a suitable rule system so that a game of D&D can be played without the need for any other players or a Dungeon Master.
In the first post I discussed the different iterations of the game, which are available, as well as which one would be the most suitable to use for a solo DnD campaign. I've decided to go with the BECMI Basic D&D rules written by Frank Mentzer and published in 1983.
I also briefly talked about the stationary and equipment needed to play. I recommended the use of stationary over digital tools to encourage playing in an old school way, but how you want to play your solo DnD campaign is totally up to you.
I then discussed the character creation process in depth, using the BECMI rules and I created a first level elf called Taeral.
In this post, I will get around to playing an actual solo DnD game using the "Solo Dungeon Adventures" article written in the Spring of 1975 by Gary Gygax himself, in the Strategic Review newsletter. Arguably, the article produced the worlds first procedurally generated roguelike dungeon crawler. I am going to implement the rules and the tables in that article, so I can begin to form the basis of how I will play a solo DnD game. This will be a basic overview, which includes the generation of a couple of rooms using a few dice rolls. I will also discuss time tracking.
The Strategic Review Newsletter containing the "Solo Dungeon Adventures" article is available here: https://annarchive.com/files/Strv101.pdf
I have reproduced the information in a PDF which you can download from here: Solo Dungeon Crawler Dungeon Generator.
The PDF version has been reorganised, cleaned up and adapted to fit my solo rules system, so I would recommend use of this version.
As this series develops, I will chip away at every angle bit by bit, until the whole thing increases in complexity and becomes more balanced and robust.
I will begin by taking out my spiral notebook and going through the "Solo Dungeon Adventures" article, which will act as my tool for randomly generating dungeons. I am going to copy all the tables presented in the article into my notebook for easy reference. The notebook is going to act as my main tool for solo campaigning. It will include all the random tables I will need to reference throughout, such as random dungeon and random wilderness generation.
The Strategic Review article could also be printed out and placed in a ring binder as an alternative. This ring binder could be compiled with all the rules that require referencing into one concise folder for nice, easy referencing. Entirely up to you.
As I write this blog, I am also going to create some useful PDF's, which contain the information I am collating in my notebook. This will be for your own reference and can also be printed out and collated, so you have all the rules and tables at hand for your own use.
After copying the tables into a spiral notebook, I will lay out my Character Sheet, the notebook and some blank sheets of graph paper on the table and grab some dice. I will also make sure I have a copy of the Basic D&D rules nearby (this should include both the Player's Manual and the Dungeon Masters Rulebook). This is the basic solo RPG system in its infant form. It's basically a fun dungeon crawler at this point, but as I progress with the campaign, layers will be added on top to add further depth, detail and rich back story.
First I'm going to cover the basics and generate a random dungeon.
The Strategic Review article states that you should always start in the very centre of the graph paper. So that's what I will do (roughly marking the centre of the graph paper). I will generate a room in the very centre of the page and that room will contain a set of stairs. Taeral has descended into the dungeon, down the stairs, from the wilderness above ground!
Before rolling a room, I need to decide on a scale to use on the graph paper when drawing the dungeon. In a normal D&D game, each square on the graph paper represents a 10 foot by 10 foot space. However, graph paper differs. For example, my graph paper has 2 millimetre squares which is relatively small. So each square on my graph paper will represent a 5 foot by 5 foot space, so essentially 10 feet will be a 2 x 2 area of the graph paper.
I roll my first room of the dungeon using a 12-sided die using Table 5 of the "Solo Dungeon Adventures Article".
I roll a two. Table 5 indicates that a roll of 2 to 4 is a square 20' x 20' room. I jot this down on a piece of scrap paper.
Next, I roll a d6 to find out how many exits the room has, and I roll a 3. A roll of 3 (on a room up to 600' in size) indicates three exits. I note this on the scrap paper.
Next I roll a d12 to find out the direction and location of each exit and I get:
5 - exit on the opposite wall.
7 - exit on the left all.
Another 7 which means the third exit is also on the left wall.
I note the exits on the scrap paper.
Next I roll to find out the contents of the chamber. I roll a d20 for that and I get a natural 20! This indicates treasure.
I roll d100 next and get 75 - 250 gold pieces.
So referencing my scrap paper, I draw up the first room of the dungeon.
Taeral descends down the steps into a 20 foot by 20 foot square room. He can see a door directly ahead of him. He can also see two doors on the wall to his left. 250 gold pieces glitter at the foot of the stairs.
I will light a torch at this point. Taeral has infra-vision, which means he can see up to 60 feet in the dark. Infra vision means he can only see patches of heat, so it would be more affective for him to actually light a torch. He has 6 torches on his Character Sheet. I light one of these torches using my tinderbox, which has flint, steal, dry wood shaving and twigs. The torch will burn for six turns (one hour) so tracking time is necessary.
I will pick up the 250 gold pieces and add them to my Character Sheet. Not a bad haul for the first room of the dungeon.
Next I will go north and try to force open the door. I will need to roll a 5 or a 6 on a d6 for success. Straight away I roll a 6! Now I need to determine the space beyond the door by rolling a d12. I roll a 1, so that means that beyond the door to the north is a parallel passage or a 10' by 10' room if the door is straight ahead. In this particular case the door is straight ahead, so I force open the door to the north and open a 10' by 10' room. The room has no monsters and no exits, but I also roll that the room contains treasure.
I will roll on the Treasure Table. I get the result 'Magic'. I'm not going to roll on the Magic Table. The "Solo Dungeon Adventures" article indicates that where a result of magic is given on the Magic Table, a roll must be made on the magic tables in the original Dungeons & Dragons booklet. I'm going to change this rule because we are playing Basic D&D and not OD&D. So instead of rolling on the OD&D Magic Table, I am going to roll on the magic tables in the D&D Basic Set Dungeon Master's Rulebook. I will copy the necessary sub tables into my notebook so I have all the tables in one place.
A roll on the first table will tell me which magic sub table to use, in order to discover which item I find in the 10' by 10' room. To do this I roll percentile dice (d%). I get an 81. I can see that 66 to 85 indicates scrolls, so Taeral has come upon a magic scroll in this room. I roll on the Scroll Table (Table E) now, using a d20. I get a 15. I find a Scroll of Protection from Undead, which might come in handy. I will add the scroll to my Character Sheet.
As there are no exits in the little 10' by 10' room, I am going to roll to see if I can find a secret door. For every 10' of wall space searched it takes about a round. I'm going to start on the left hand side wall and I'm going to look to see if I can find a secret door so I roll a d6 and I get a 3, so that's a fail (as an elf Taeral can find a secret door on a roll of a 1 or a 2).
A round of time has now passed and I have not found a secret door. I'm currently keeping track of time on a piece of scrap paper. This is something I'm going to develop but using scrap paper will be fine for the moment for tracking rounds, turns and events such as lighting a torch and when that torch burns out etc. Later, I will develop this into a full Time Tracker to be used in conjunction with the solo roleplaying system I am developing. This will also include tracking movement and checks for Wandering Monsters every few turns. For now I will roughly keep track of movement in rounds and turns.
I now have a basic example of how my solo DnD rules system works and how I get to discover the world and explore it piece by piece, but I have only just begun my adventure, discovered a few rooms. In the next session I intend to explore further, generate more random chambers and corridors and develop my system for tracking time in the dungeon. What I have so far is the basis of a solo dungeon crawl and I will continue to develop this system to create a more detailed and balanced game world. See you next session.
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