Donjon is, as Aventuras en La Marca del Este, a clear tribute to the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson , but with a twist, because the game system allows players and referee to modify on the go aspects of the adventure’s script they are playing… Yes, I know that experienced players and referees may think it’s a little odd, but would not have to be so because when we referee there’s a continual improvisation (not many times gamers do what we plan and should be remembered that they have free will to play as they wish, either for better or worse), so this playing mechanism shouldn’t be to difficult to apply.
To apply these modifications the referee and the players use the Law of Successes: they roll a certain number of 20-sided dice (it can be other type of dice provided all are of the same type) which varies according on the situation. Whoever gets the highest number of successes (dice with the highest score) will have won the roll and could decide what happens using the following rule:
1 success = 1 fact or 1 dice
Facts obtained will be the modifications that can be made to the plot (a player can declare that he finds a door in the underground dungeon that the group of adventurers is exploring or the referee may declare that the jewel found by one of the players possess unsuspected properties…).
If obtaining dice is preferred instead of facts it can be preserved to be added to the next roll of the person who had win the previous roll (the player or the referee) and thus improve the chance of multiple successes.
Once seen the basic the basic workings of Donjon it’s time to see the chapters in which is divided the book:
The author presents us the game and the reasons to have written it.
This chapter gives us a description of the book structure, a glossary of all terms used in the manual and a description of the basic game mechanism.
Description of the process of character creation with 3 widely explained examples. A fact that distinguishes Donjon from other games is that, apart form the six attributes that the character possesses (Virility, Cerebrality, Discernment, Adroitness, Wherewithal and Sociality), we can create characters as we wish because there isn’t a given set of skills. This way we can describe our capabilities as desired and invent our abilities considering each character has a primary and 4 secondary skills.
Money and Goods
This chapter explains how we can buy and sell goods and offers a weapons and armour list to outfit the characters and rules for managing other objects they can carry.
The author explains again the law of successes and offers some examples to apply it correctly.
The rules of the previous chapter are extended to develop all the typical combat mechanics of fantasy games (initiative, attacks and defences, wounds, etc.) in an abstract way but giving us the chance to bring it to the combat resolution typical of other games.
Description of the magic system that, instead of using a predefined and finite list of spells, allow us to create the ones we desire with a set of magic words selected when creating the character and a set of characteristics such as who will be affected or its duration. When it is done we must accumulate magical power (successes) with the appropriate test (regarding this it reminds me a lot of the magic system of Castle Falkenstein, where the spells might be built with different definitions and magical points were accumulated to carry them out). It also features rules for creating magical objects and their potential curses.
Here we could explore the typical skeleton of the Donjon adventures and some advice to design them, including the objective to achieve, how to divide them in chapters, how to create the monsters and NPCs characters will meet, treasure they can obtain and how to go up a level after finishing the adventure.
Your first adventure
Offers us the script of a complete sample adventure ready to be played with stats for the NPCs.
The last chapter offers us a summary of rules and game tables for a quick reference while refereeing and the character sheet.
To end this review I can tell you that Donjon is a great medieval fantasy game and is so versatile that can be easily used for roleplaying in other genres (like action movies or science-fiction), as the author suggests at the beginning at the chapter devoted to creating characters: how about exploring an abandoned space station and face space zombies?
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