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How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 4 - Combat & Time Tracking, a Solo DnD Tutorial

How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 4 - Combat & Time Tracking, a Solo DnD Tutorial

Welcome to my blog 'Solo Dungeon Crawler' and the fourth post in a series called 'How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo', dedicated to developing a solo rule system for playing Dungeons & Dragons by yourself using the D&D Basic set from 1983. Specifically the BECMI/Mentzer Basic rules. I've been using these rules in conjunction with 'Solo Dungeon Adventures', written by Gary Gygax, to procedurally generate my dungeon.

So far in this series of blog posts I have covered choosing a ruleset and why. Character creation and specific rules for solo DnD campaigns, and generating a random dungeon to explore. I also briefly touched on tracking time.

In this session I will continue to explore my random dungeon (generating further as necessary) and briefly look at how encounters will be handled. I am also going to develop a suitable method for tracking time.

I'll recap what's happened so far in the my solo DnD game.

Taeral descended into the dungeon via a staircase and found 250 gold pieces glittering at the foot of them. He picked up the gold, lit a torch and moved up to the door at the north end of the room. He successful opened the door and went into the room beyond where he discovered a magic scroll. It was a scroll of protection from undead. Seeing no other exits he decided to check the left hand wall for a secret door but he didn't find anything out of place.

I am now going to check the north wall for a secret door. The roll is a failure so I don't find anything. I will check the east wall next. Another fail on the dice (I need a roll of a 1 or 2 as an elf).

I'm going to move back into the first room and try to force one of the doors on the east wall open. I roll too high on the dice and fail. Weary of alerting monsters on the other side I will give up and try the other door on the east wall instead. I take two attempts to force this door but I make it through to the other side. I will consult the 'Solo Dungeon Adventures' dungeon generator to find out what's beyond the door. I roll a 10' by 20' room. It has a door on the left wall and one at the far end of the room, directly ahead. I also rolled a monster, it's a Carrion Crawler! And it's guarding 1,000 silver pieces and 2,000 electrum pieces!

The carrion crawler is a scavenger. It "is a 9' long, 3' high, many legged worm. It can move equally well on a floor, wall, or ceiling. Its small mouth is surrounded by 8 tentacles, each 2' long, which can paralyze on a successful hit unless a Saving Throw vs. Paralysis is made. A tentacle hit does no actual damage. Once paralyzed, a victim will be eaten (unless the carrion crawler is being attacked). Unless magically cured, the paralysis will wear off in 2-8 turns. Carrion crawlers are not normally found outside of dungeons." (Mentzer, 1983)

Encounter Distance

So, I am in a 10' by 20' room. Piles of silver and electrum pieces are scattered about the floor. According to the Dungeon Master's rulebook: random encounter distance is determined by a roll of 2d6 multiplied by 10 to give the number of feet. For purposes of solo adventuring where distance will often need to be determined in smaller rooms, I'm going to determine the die used to work out distance based on the size of the room, so in this instance a single d4 will suffice. If I scale this up it would work as follows:

  • 10' of possible space - encounter distance is at 10'
  • 20' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d4 in increments of 5'
  • 30' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d6 in increments of 5'
  • 40' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d8 in increments of 5'
  • 50' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d10 in increments of 5'
  • 60' to 90' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d12 in increments of 5'
  • 100' to 120' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d20 in increments of 5'

So for example, if I am in a 40' corridor and I roll a d8 and get a 5, the distance of the monster will be 5 squares away from me (if each square on the map represents 5 feet). 5 x 5 is 25, so this would make the monster 25' away.

The following table can be used to determine encounter distance in increments of 10' as an alternative:

  • 10' of possible space - encounter distance is at 10'
  • 20' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d4/2 * 10
  • 30' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d6/2 * 10
  • 40' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d4 * 10
  • 50' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d6-1 * 10
  • 60' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d6 * 10
  • 70' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d8 * 10
  • 80' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d8 * 10
  • 90' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d10-1 * 10
  • 100' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d10 * 10
  • 120' of possible space - encounter distance is at 1d12 * 10

Coming back to my Carrion Crawler now, I need to roll a d4 to determine its distance. I'm going to use increments of 5' on this occasion. A roll of 1 indicates a distance of 5', a roll of 4 indicates 20'.

I roll a 3, which means the monster is 15' away from Taeral.

I draw up a battle map of the dungeon room and place Taeral into the room by the door, and roughly 15' away, I place the carrion crawler. This can be done on dungeon tiles, or a battle map with miniatures, or you can simply draw up the room on graph paper and mark the positions of the characters with a pencil.

I'm using pencil and graph paper. I'm careful to draw to scale as best as I can (remembering that the Carrion Crawler is about 9' in length).

According to the D&D Basic Set Dungeon Master's rulebook, I need to determine surprise. As it took two attempts to force the door, I will rule that it's highly unlikely that the Carrion Crawler would be surprised. So in this instance, a roll to determine surprise will not take place and I will skip to the initiative phase, but before I do that I will determine the monster's reaction.

Monster's Reaction

According to the D&D Basic Set Dungeon Master's Rulebook:

Monsters may have nearly any reaction to the appearance of a party, unless the monster description says otherwise. To find the monsters' reactions, roll 2d6 and find the total on the left side of the Monster Reaction Chart. Use the chart to find the monsters' actions and any further rolls needed (Mentzer, 1983).

Figure 1, Monster Reaction Chart, (Tactical Studies Rules 1983, pg.22)

I will copy the Monster Reaction Chart into my notebook. This chart will determine how the monster will react to the player. I'm going to roll 2d6 on this chart. I roll a 5, which indicates a possible attack on the Monster Reaction Chart, which prompts me to roll again.

The rulebook advises after an initial reaction is determined "wait 1 or more rounds, and consider character actions, the speaker's Charisma, and the overall situation before rolling again (Mentzer, 1983).

The rulebook explains: "The actions of the PCs may affect the monsters' reactions. The characters may talk (negotiate), or may use hand motions if the creatures don't understand the PC languages. Your Reaction Roll may include an adjustment to account for the actions of the characters. Adjustments from PC actions could be a - 2 or - 1 penalty, or a + 1 or +2 bonus, or no adjustment (Mentzer, 1983)."

My roll on the table indicated a possible attack, but the rules advise that I wait another round (or more) before rolling again. I can simply attack for a round, while the creature makes up its mind, or I can try something else, like running away. For solo gaming, I feel like a more precise rule needs to be defined here, rather than "wait 1 or more rounds" I think I will redefine the rule as "wait 1 round". This removes any uncertainty.

I need to determine the amount of Hit Points the Carrion Crawler has. The monster's stat block indicates that the monster's hit dice total is 3+1, so I roll 3d8 and add 1 to the result. I roll 7 in total. The Carrion Crawler has 7 Hit Points.

I want to figure out the intentions of each combatant at this point. Taeral will cast the 1st level magic spell he has prepared, which is Magic Missile. I don't want to take any chance, I will cast the Magic Missile spell and try to kill the Carrion Crawler.

You may notice that in my video I mess up the rules slightly. Instead of waiting one more round and checking the Monsters Reaction, I rolled again immediately and determined that the Carrion Crawler will attack. It doesn't make much of a difference to the outcome of this particular encounter so on this occasion I will just say the Carrion Crawler's intention is to move forward and attack Taeral with its tentacles.

I'll roll initiative now. Taeral gets a 4 and the Carrion Crawler gets a 1. This means that Taeral has the initiative for this round of combat.

Taeral uses magic to create a glowing arrow and he shoots it towards the Carrion Crawler, inflicting 1d6 damage. I roll a 6! I also get a +1 bonus to the damage, so that's 7 in total. The Magic Missile kills the Carrion Crawler outright!

Time Tracking

In order to accurately track time I've developed a Time Tracker. This started as a prototype but through several sessions of DnD solo gaming it has been streamlined. My initial prototype was presented in my video. The latest version is available to download as a PDF from here: Solo Dungeon Crawler Time Tracker

My Time Tracker has two tables, one of which is used to track rounds and the other to track turns. In the world of Basic D&D, a round lasts for 10 seconds and a turn lasts for 10 minutes. I've included a reference next to the Round and Turn tables as useful reminders of how long certain tasks take. For example, searching for a secret door or searching for a trap takes one turn.

I've designed the Time Tracker to work in the following way:

  • Each empty box represents a unit of time. A round on the rounds table and a turn on the turns table.
  • When a round of time passes, tick off the first empty box on the rounds table.
  • When another round of time passes, tick off the next empty box, and so on.
  • Every 6 boxes on the rounds table represents 1 whole minute of time.
  • The boxes are segmented into 12 boxes per row for ease of reference.
  • When 60 rounds is reached (10 minutes), erase the all the ticks in the boxes and increment the number of turns by putting a tick in the first empty box on the turns table.
  • Every 6 turns an hour passes.
  • When 24 hours is reached, all the ticks in the turns table is erased so you can start again (be sure to increment the date by 1 day).

Wandering Monsters

A roll is often made every two turns for wandering monsters. I make a note on my Time Tracker every two turns to remind myself to check for a wandering monster.


One turn must be spent resting every hour or the character who doesn't rest will suffer penalties (see the D&D Basic Set rulebooks). I make a note on my Time Tracker every hour to remind myself to rest.

Movement & Time

Normal movement in a dungeon allows 120' of movement per turn. This movement is adjusted for encumbrance. So to move 12' in the dungeon will take 1 minute, or 6 rounds (10 times less than 120', which would takes 10 minutes).

I'm using a 10' per square scale for my dungeon. So, doing the math it takes 5 rounds (just under on 1 minute) to move 10'. I've noted that down so I remember it and this will help me when I'm moving through the dungeon, in terms of keeping accurate time.

This can be scaled up:

  • Move 10' = 5 rounds
  • Move 20' = 10 rounds
  • Move 30' = 15 rounds
  • Move 40' = 20 rounds
  • Move 50' = 25 rounds
  • Move 60' = 30 rounds
  • Move 70' = 35 rounds
  • Move 80' = 40 rounds
  • Move 90' = 50 rounds
  • Move 100' = 55 rounds
  • Move 120' = 1 turn

Time Tracking Example

I'll go over everything that has happened in my solo DnD game session so far to give a clear picture of how the Time Tracker works in practice.

I have the dungeon I generated so far, here:

Taeral started his adventure by descending down a staircase into the dungeon's first room where he found 250 gold pieces glittering at the foot of the stairs.

I'm going to mark a round of time off on my Time Tracker for lighting a torch. I put a tick in the first empty box in the rounds table of my Time Tracker.

Another useful thing I can use my Time Tracker for is making notes in the boxes to keep track of specific timed events. In the first empty box of turns table of the Time Tracker I'm going to note that Taeral lights a torch so I can see that on the first turn of the game, Taeral lit a torch. I know that a torch burns of 1 hour (6 turns), so I will make another note on Turn 6 to indicate the timed event of the torch burning out. When enough time passes and I tick of the box for Turn 6, I am reminded that the torch will burn out and I might need to light a new torch and decrement the number of torches I have on my Character Sheet by 1.

Taeral also retrieved the gold and put it into his empty sack. I will tick off another round of time for this action also, so I will put a tick in the next empty box on the rounds table on my Time Tracker.

Taeral moves up to the north door in the first room, which is about 10' of movement. As discussed before 10' of movement takes about 5 rounds, so I will tick five more boxes under the rounds table, which takes me about 1 minute and 10 seconds into my dungeon expedition.

Taeral tries to force the door. This takes about a round, so I will tick off another round of time.

Taeral enters the 10' by 10' room to the north, using another 10' of movement, so I will tick off another 5 rounds of time. He picks up the Scroll of Protection from Undead. I tick off another round of time for that action.

Taeral checks for a secret door on the west wall. It takes 1 turn to search for a secret door, so I mark off a turn on the turns table. Taeral didn't find a secret door. He tries to search the north wall and another turn passes. I tick off another turn. It this point the Time Tracker indicates a check should be made for a wandering monster

On my initial play through when I was just keeping a rough track of time I omitted this check, but now I have a fully developed Time Tracker it's not as easy to forget.

Taeral checks the east wall for a secret door. Another turn passes and is marked off. Taeral moves back into the first room, using 10' of movement, so I will mark off 5 more rounds of time.

Taeral tries to force open the closest door on the west wall of the room and fails. Another round passes. He moves 10' south (5 more rounds) and tries to force the second door, making two attempts before succeeding (another 2 rounds).

Taeral enters the 10' by 20' room behind the door, using 10' of movement (5 more rounds).

The encounter with the Carrion Crawler was brief and lasted only one round.

In the video I rule that 3 minutes are taken to pick up the treasure in the carrion crawler room (18 turns). However, the D&D Basic Set rules indicates that a turn is taken to rest after a combat encounter and this turn will include thing's like gathering spoils and such, so rather than marking off 18 rounds, I would advise marking off a whole turn (which also means a second roll for a wandering monster is due).

Time tracking is a really a mixture of common sense and using the information in the rulebooks as a guide. Passages are scattered about in the books in regards to how long specific tasks will take to carry out. It helps to keep a lookout for these, keep them in mind and note them down for reference. Time Tracking won't be perfect every time but using the Time Tracker will hopefully help keep a more accurate sense of time. The important thing time is being tracked as close as possible.

Using the method I have introduced here, I can work out. Taeral has been in the dungeon for:

  • 4 turns (40 minutes)
  • 51 rounds (8 minutes and 30 seconds)

48 minutes and 30 seconds in total.

This is quite an accurate picture of how long Taeral has been in the dungeon. See you next session.

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Solo Dungeon Crawler Character Record Sheet

Solo Dungeon Crawler Dungeon Generator

Solo Dungeon Crawler Time Tracker


Mentzer, F, 1983, D&D Basic Set Dungeon Master's Rulebook, TSR Hobbies Inc.

Tactical Studies Rules, 1983, Monster Reaction Chart, D&D Basic Set Dungeon Master's Rulebook, TSR Hobbies Inc, pg.22


  1. I'm glad you are getting Youtube subs! I found you via reddit. Keep up the good work, mate.

    1. Thanks. I really appreciate the subs and I’m very grateful that people are happy to leave comments I love to discuss solo games.

  2. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of this!!

  3. This is great! Thank you for including the PDFs, I was watching your video as I wrote up the solo adventuring rules in Affinity Publisher before I discovered you had already done the hard work. Loving the videos, I hope you continue the adventure.

    1. Hi Matt, thanks. Glad to hear the PDF's worked. I've been working on a much bigger project to bring everything together in one big rulebook eventually.


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