Well here is my report of my very first game in the Six by Six Challenge! I had had a sneaking suspicion this was never going to happen but the opportunity suddenly presented itself for a first go at the Ganesha Games solo dungeon-crawl, Four Against Darkness (4AD).
I downloaded it a couple of days ago from RPGNow.com together with one of the scenario booklets that builds on the core game engine. I had been intrigued by some of the reports I had come across on the web and I had been looking for some sort of a dungeon-bashing game as a way of getting some of the old Citadel miniatures into play. 4AD does not need miniatures, except for a bit of gloss, but it does need graph paper for mapping, other paper to record how the adventure is going and a couple of d6. The map of my first game is shown below.
The game is built around a party of four characters of pretty standard fantasy RPG character types working through a randomly generated dungeon until the party comes across the Boss Monster. Defeat the Boss Monster and then work the party back out of the dungeon and they get to keep the spoils of their endeavours. But it is rather more sophisticated than that. There are a series of tables that manage the size and shape of the rooms or corridors encountered; whether the room is occupied or contains a feature (traps, artefacts etc); and how the occupants might react. The player has choices to make about whether to dive into a room to attack the monsters that might be found there or decide to wait and see how the monster might react. There are even rules about marching order of the group and, not that I saw this in my play through, how the player may be set side quests by certain monsters.
When I started playing the game it did feel exactly like what it was: a dice-driven randomised dungeon generator based on basic D&D dungeon crawling stereotypes. There was quite a lot of flicking between pages and puzzling out some of the imprecision in the rules. But then my party met the small dragon in the fourth room, attacked it while it slept and just survived its fiery breath to finish it off and suddenly it clicked. The next room was empty but on a search the rogue found a clue (find two more in future encounters and you "learn something significant" which could benefit the character). The seventh room contained a spear trap guarding a miserly 5GP and I had to decide how the trap might work. I pictured the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and decided the trap was in the corridor and thus as the rogue was not at the front in the marching order he could not try to disarm the trap. And then in the final room the party came across the Boss Monster - there is an increasing chance of this occurring dependent on what the party has come across before. This was a chaos lord complete with energy draining powers. The party was just strong enough to survive and defeat the chaos lord despite the loss of the rogue and some of the most consistent rolling of 1's I have seen in a long time. And then the remaining three traced their route back to the beginning, thankfully not meeting anything in the interim.
So what did I think of it? It was a good bit of splendid nonsense and I can see it can grow as the characters develop from dungeon to dungeon, particularly as they pick up clues and go on quests and so on. I think the additional adventures from Ganesha Games will add in the context as to why the party is dungeon crawling in the first place. So the intrepid adventurers Albanac the Warrior, Uthacar the Dwarf and Zandemar the Wizard will be back, mourning the loss of Baltro the Rogue.