I’ve been doing a series of posts on GMless games lately. Lets take that idea one step further. What if you want a dungeon crawling experience but you don’t have a GM or even other players? Don’t worry, boo. I got you covered.
Four Against the Darkness has an old school feel to it. The mechanics are simple and you don’t need much to get playing. If you’re looking for a game to tell you a sprawling epic story, this isn’t it. This game is more an engine for randomly generating dungeons, killing the bad guys, and stealing their stuff. Honestly, that is not my favorite style of play. For a solo adventure, however, it’s been really pleasing.
I’ve been playing Four Against the Darkness on my lunch breaks. As I shovel food down my throat for half an hour, I lay out some graph paper, get my 2d6 ready, and pull out the scrap paper I made my characters on. The party is simple: A fighter, a rogue, a wizard, and a cleric. There are a few other options, such as Elf and dwarf, but something felt right about that iconic foursome to me.
After writing down some simple stats and buying your gear, you roll some dice. Looking up their number, you draw the starting area on your graph paper. Every time you decide which way to go, you roll the dice again and draw the new area.
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When you enter a new area, you roll to see what is in it. Will it be treasure? Will it be a trap? Will it be a monster? The reliance on random dice rolls to answer those questions is fun. It gives a sense of mystery, as you never really know where your journey is going to end.
Encounters are handled simply. Each monster has a level. If you want to hit it, roll a d6 and add any modifiers. If you get over it’s level, boom: it’s dead, unless its a big bad boss monster. When it’s the monsters turn, you roll to defend, which is basically the same mechanic. Roll that dice, add your defense modifiers, and hope your wizard doesn’t get hit.
It can certainly get a bit deadly. I’d been skulking around in a dungeon for about a week worth of lunch shifts. I’d been really racking up the gear and was feeling pretty good about myself. A random dice roll put me into the lair of a chaos lord. I couldn’t help but think of the miniatures from the old hero quest game.
A few dice rolls later, and the rogue drops. It’s okay. I expected that. All I had to do was get out of the dungeon and I’d find a new rogue for the party. Everything is fine. This is normal. Then the wizard went down. I needed to roll pretty high to hit the chaos lord and the dice were not being kind to me. The fighter, wounded from an earlier encounter, fell next. It wasn’t long until the cleric gave into the eternal embrace of darkness. I had a TPK and I hadn’t even finished my leftover yakisoba.
While not exactly an full fledged RPG, Four Against the Darkness was a really fun activity. I’m going to make up a new party later today and give it another go. They have a plethora of quest books written up as well, though I’m not sure what they add or change. In any case, Four Against the Darkness is a decent way to pass a bit of time.