This exercise started out as an attempt to produce a set of rules for the old Caverns game described in the Beholder website. The description was obviously set up with the intention of encouraging people to come up a set of rules themselves to roughly match the gameplay the author had recollected from his version of the game. Which is exactly the challenge being met here. However, the exercise has very quickly developed it’s own life under the influence of exposure to other game systems, and other developments that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Other games that have impacted on this development are:
- Hero Quest
- Wabbit Wampage
The game is basically a swords and sorcery game which is not all that serious and will hopefully have some quite fun and novel types of play involved.
“Tantrix?” I hear you ask. “Isn’t that a sort of esoteric nerdy tile and pattern game? How can that possibly relate to a Swords and Sorcery Dungeon Delving game?” Well, the caverns in this game develop as the players cover more and more of the area and discover more and more of the cavern system. The cavern tiles are hexagonal and need to be matched correctly to the adjacent tiles. So it is a very loose relationship with Tantrix.
The main aim of the game is that the players draw a Quest card for themselves then attempt to fulfill that quest. Once the quest is fulfilled then the character wins the game by getting back to the Caverns entry point. It’s as easy as that.
Download the Game
Here are the game files.
All of the files within the .zip archives are in a .pdf format. The down side of adventuring it can tend to get messy with dead bodies all over the place. For this purpose some counters have been provided to represent the bodies of those who have fallen. They are the ones with a skull on them or a grave stone.
To give you a flavour of the game here are the character descriptions:
You have become a aspirational figure to young independently minded women. You are best known for slaying the giant mutated chaos rat of Calingor with an ipod and your thumb.
Right now you are between jobs and thought that going dungeon diving might be a good way to fill in a lazy afternoon.
You have a bit more smarts than the typical Barbarian fighter, who you regard as a bunch of thick self-centred posers who spend more time in the bar “fighting” than actually doing anything useful.
What attracted you into being a fighter was the feel and look of leather and chains. You also really enjoy the way other men admire your body and the way the sweat glistens on your nicely oiled muscles when you are working out at the gym.
You took up adventuring so that you would get regular involvement in pub brawls and all the groping and straining that that entails.
Intelligence is not one of your strong points.
As an outgoing female dwarf you are unusual for your kind. Making your way as an adventurer in this male dominated field has been harder for you, but has given you great determination, a thick skin, and a strong tendency towards militant feminism.
You have become very competitive in your adventuring because you are determined to show that you are as good as or better than any mere male adventurer. This has seen you delve many different dungeons with some success. This one promises to be yet another to fall to fem power.
You have grown bored digging rock, and singing the “Hi Ho” song and have decided that adventuring would be for you. So far things have been going really well and you have enjoyed the change - especially now that you have discovered Kareoke and that there are many more songs in the world than the “Hi Ho” song. Just because you are Grumpy does not mean that you cannot be happy.
You are good with weapons, and have a natural defensive advantage because most adversaries are used to fighting someone a little taller.
You are renown amongst dwarfs for your beard waggling trick, which is very popular with youngsters (under 200 years).
Like, you know, you just live to shop. Finding a new range of shoes in some obscure little shop hidden away in the rough end of town is such an adventure for you. When you go back home with them, all your friends are like “Wow!” soooo envious. They all wish they were as mod’ as you.
Someone told you that there was a big sale on somewhere around here. You think this way might lead to their bargain basement, but you’re not so sure now. Like maybe you missed a turn or something. It’s a bit creepy down here, and the others you have seen here just have nooooo taste – like just soooo last week.
Tall, blonde, and beautiful, you are frequently mistaken for being Swedish. You have toured the world extensively and experienced the world to its fullest. Your camera is always at the ready and you have become very skilled at subtly taking fine pictures of people who are known to attack photographers, or demand money from them. Your photos can be found in travel guides the world over.
Not content to cover photographic and travel opportunities on the surface only, you are now breaking new ground with your first foray into the seedy and dangerous underworld.
A will of iron, a heart of stone, and a mind like a steel trap; you are equally adept in the corporate boardrooms as you are in the unforgiving world of magic.
Your company offices frequently have infestations of mice and newts that require professional exterminators to be called in to deal with. The infestations typically occur after union negotiation meetings, audits, and OSH investigations.
Recently you have become aware of some other company executives gaining items of power down in the various dungeons underneath the city. Right now, you need an edge, to help you push out the vice chairman of the board. Maybe you will find it down here.
You are evil - or at least you believe you are. Actually, you are an unbelievably spotty little nerd and a complete bore who nobody likes. Even your mother thinks you are weird.
While you were reading some rules for a roleplaying game that you were playing by yourself, you discovered a reference to some sort of grimoire. After an extensive and unsuccessful search in the local library you eventually found and ordered a copy from Amazon.com. This has been your doorway into the world of the arcane. You have found yourself to be particularly good at wielding magic because you have a good brain for memorising stuff, can concentrate on something for hours, driven by petty greed, and are a virgin (and likely to remain so).
You have played dungeon delving role playing games before, and having found that they exist in reality, you are prepared to do it for real.
You saw some nice hunky studs heading this way, so you thought you’d tag along and see if you could get to know them better. You just love seeing all those oiled muscles rippling, especially when they are rippling close to you, and for your enjoyment.
Life is a party for you. You love music, dancing, intoxicants, and love-making. This dungeon does not worry you and you’re sure a bit of singing, dancing, and humour will help lighten the mood that seems to be affecting everyone down here.
You are a playful character that uses charm and a winning grin to get your way. Your main interests revolve around sex, wine, and carousing, with special attention paid to sex. As you claim yourself, you are “a lover not a fighter”. You can move quickly, which is a skill you have developed through years of escaping from the enraged husbands and boyfriends of some of your female acquaintances.
Somewhere along the way, you also learned a little bit of magic - probably as a means to increase your chances of getting someone in the sack (or where ever else takes your fancy.)
You have an inclination to eat clothing off washing lines.
Priests both Undead and Alive
Being undead has given you a whole new view of life. When you were alive you were timid and too scared to try anything, now that you are dead you are happy to give adventuring and all sorts of wild activities a go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You would like to try base jumping some time in the near future.
You have found that your priestly training was not much good for wielding weapons, but you have become pretty good with spells and magical combat.
Although the mask you wear makes it a little hard for you to be trusted by others, it’s a lot easier than if you didn’t wear the mask.
You feel God has just tipped a huge bucket of manure over you. As you look around the dungeon you have now entered, you feel a bit nervous. Obviously your faith is being put to the test, but you would rather your faith were tested through trying to settle squabbles between Mrs S. Hannover and the other members of the parish committee. This all seems like serious harm could be a possibility. Since you stepped over the threshold you have been desperately trying to dredge up all those old lessons on powerful prayers and incantations from the depths of your memory. The thing you most remember of those lessons was being sent off to the Headmaster for choir boy duty, for sleeping through them.
As they say, God moves in mysterious ways.
Orcs and Half Orcs
With a formidable physique and a complete disregard for the subtle points of civilisation you were naturally suited to becoming a member of the elite women’s rugby team. You have thrived on the on-field violence, and the extended sessions of one to one tuition with your gym trainer.
You felt that getting involved in the dungeon delving scene would help build your rep’ as a really nasty person, but also give you a good workout that might net a bit more money than your current contract already gives you.
You live to fight. When you are not adventuring, you do security work. Sometimes you guard banks, but you prefer to do bouncing at nightclubs, because there you usually get to see some action when some drunk try-hard kid gets lippy with you.
You are quite capable with weapons, but you are just a happy knocking things senseless with your bare hands.
You were rather surpised to find yourself dead one day when on a mission, then even more suprised to find yourself undead a little later thanks to a local necromancer. The necromancer employed you for a bit, but then got asassinated himself. Now you are a free agent out looking for work in the Ninja line of business. As business is curently slow, you have decided to try your hand at dungeon adventuring.
You are quick, and good at martial arts, although you have difficulty moving quite as quietly as you used to owing to your bones clicking loudly with each movement.
You come from a good family and a fine upbringing. You were firstly surprised, then most annoyed to find yourself raised from the dead and subjected to a “life” looking like a thing that had arisen from the rubbish piles of the most foul back alleys of the city. You have no money, your former friends run at the sight of you, and you cannot even go into the lowliest coffee shop to get a latte to help you cheer up without being hurriedly thrown out by the management.
Maybe if you get some money you will be able to have fine clothes and friends again. So this is why you are down in this disgusting dark cavern system looking for lost treasure. You are hoping that it will be easy to find some. Then you will be able to get back to the lifestyle you yearn for.
The Nettlebed Caverns Game presented here by Hamish Trolove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
All images and artwork presented on this page are Copyright Hamish Trolove 2014.