Game Systems

Core System

Most systems in Dungeon Crawl work on one of three principles:

  • 3d6 + Bonus, try to equal or exceed a target number for success
  • 3×6, try to roll equal to or lower than an ability score:
    • For a high difficulty roll, choose the highest die
    • For a moderate difficulty roll, choose the middle die
    • For a low difficulty roll, choose the lowest die
  • 3×6, try to roll high:
    • For a very effective weapon or tactic, choose the highest die
    • For a normal weapon or tactic, choose the middle die
    • For a less effective weapon or tactic, choose the lowest die

As mentioned earlier, some rolls, such as for attack and damage, will use the same result on three dice for more than one effect.


Feats cover most situations in the game that are not combat. Based on the difficulty of the Feat, roll 3×6, keep the appropriate die (higher is more difficult), and compare the result to the appropriate ability score. If the result is equal to or lower than the score, the Feat succeeds. What success and failure mean is up to the GM.

Character with a 6 ability will normally never fail at even High difficulty Feats. This is intentional, as those characters are the pinnacle of quality at that ability, and shouldn’t have much difficulty with tasks surrounding it. However, when Wounded (see Dying and Recovery), the character’s abilities are lowered for the purposes of Feats, so failure has a chance to creep in. Even when success is assured, simply succeeding doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences of success or that it happens instantly (e.g., a rogue with Reflex 6 will be able to pick any lock, even a High difficulty one, but doing so may take several rounds and might provoke notice from the lock’s owner).

Feats generally cover tests of adeptness or resilience. What they don’t cover are perception, logic, cleverness, knowledge, and craft: these things should either be awarded automatically by the GM if appropriate to the character’s background and player’s descriptions, or should be left up to the player to roleplay as desired. There is no die roll in Dungeon Crawl to separate lies from truth, solve a riddle, or remember a monster’s weakness; however, a clever player may figure out how spells or Feats can make all of these things easier.


Each ability has multiple features. Most of these features are mentioned elsewhere, but they are summarized her for reference:

  • Fortitude:
    • Characters roll against Fortitude for Feats of strength and resistance.
    • Spellcasters target the character’s Fortitude to inflict poison, diseases, and wracking effects.
    • A character’s base HP is derived from Fortitude.
  • Reflex:
    • Characters roll against Reflex for Feats of agility and acrobatics.
    • Spellcasters target the character’s Reflex to inflict most aimed and area effects.
    • A character’s movement rate (overland and when using the Move action in combat) is based on Reflex.
  • Will:
    • Characters roll against Will for Feats of perseverance and concentration.
    • Spellcasters target the character’s Will to inflict mind control and confusion effects.
    • A spellcaster’s base SP is derived from Will.
  • Vigor:
    • Characters roll Vigor for Feats of physical endurance.
    • All characters regain HP and, if a caster, SP at a rate per hour equal to Vigor.
    • A character attempting to recover from Wounds may make one test against Vigor each day, success removing a Wound (The test is normally Hard, but becomes Moderate with full rest, and Easy with full rest and a healer’s attention).
  • Luck:
    • Characters roll Luck as a Feat to avoid completely randomly inflicted effects.
    • Whenever an NPC, monster, or effect chooses a random target (but will definitely choose one target), each potential target rolls 1d6 + Luck; the lowest roll indicates the target.
    • A character can permanently reduce Luck by one level (to a minimum of 1) to avoid certain doom.
  • Charm:
    • Characters roll Charm for Feats of persuasion (easy, moderate, or hard based on how convincing argument was)
    • Characters roll Charm as a Feat to see if hirelings will take a dangerous action (easy, moderate, hard based on the danger of the request).
    • Characters cannot attract more personal henchmen than Charm.


Combat takes place in rounds of roughly three seconds. Actions alternate between player characters and their enemies, each acting as a group.


Each round, one player and the GM roll 3d6 for initiative. On a tie, compare the highest die, then the middle die, then the low die (reroll if it’s a complete tie). Certain circumstances might give a bonus or penalty to the result.

The side that won initiative gets to act first. When the player characters act, they can briefly discuss their tactics if this seems reasonable, then actions are resolved clockwise from the GM. When the GM’s characters act, they act in the order required by the GM.

Since initiative is rolled each round, a group that goes last might go first the next round, essentially getting two turns in a row. Care should be taken to make sure turns aren’t skipped.


On any character’s turn, he or she can choose from several actions:

  • Attack: Use a melee weapon to attack a character in reach or a ranged weapon to attack a character in range. See the Attack section.
  • Move: Move a number of spaces (roughly 5 feet) equal to Speed. Movement may include a Feat (such as testing against Reflex to avoid obstacles or leap a pit), though the GM may require spaces of movement to be “spent” to perform the feat if it seems like it would slow the character down.
  • Spell: Cast a prepared spell, spending the requisite SP.
  • Dodge: Stand still but add you Speed to your AC on the opponents’ next turn.
  • Charge: Move up to your speed and then make a melee attack against a target in reach. Your AC is reduced by 2 during the opponents’ next turn.
  • Brace: Prepare to receive a Charge. Your AC is increased by 2 against any enemies that Charge on their next turn. If you have a weapon, such as a spear, that you can set, you deal +2 damage if you attack and hit on your next turn.
  • Guard: When wielding a melee weapon, designate a specific individual within reach who you are guarding. On the attackers’ next turn, if anyone attempts to attack your ward (who you can also reach), you may immediately make an attack against that target at a +2 bonus. If you hit, the target loses its intended action. You may make one such attack per Guard attempt (i.e., if multiple individuals try to attack your ward, you may only attack one of them).
  • Cover: When wielding a ranged weapon with which you have at least one level of Weapon Proficiency, you may cover one space within your range per level of proficiency (all spaces must be contiguous). If any enemy moves into a covered space, you may immediately make a ranged attack against at a +2 bonus. If the attack is successful, the enemy loses the rest of its movement. You may make one such attack per Cover attempt (i.e., if multiple individuals try to cross your area, you may only attack one of them).
  • Reload: If your weapon, such as a crossbow, requires a complicated reload, you muse use an action to do so.
  • Feat: You may attempt any Feat which could logically take place within a combat round of three seconds. The GM may rule that a particular Feat requires multiple rounds of using this action.
  • First Aid: You may give First Aid to a wounded character, preventing him or her from bleeding to death. See the Death rules.
  • Retrieve Item: If an item is buried in your pack or otherwise inaccessible, it may require one or more actions to retrieve it.
  • Use Item: You may use an item that is ready to hand, using the rules for that item.
  • Prepare: You may begin or continue an action that takes multiple rounds, such as a spell with a longer-than-normal casting time. These actions will typically require a certain number of turns in a row spent Preparing before they can be used.

Attack and Defense

To make an attack roll, the player of the attacking character rolls 3d6 and adds any applicable bonuses, such as from weapon proficiency. If at least two of the dice have a result of 6, and the result hits the target’s AC, the attack is a critical hit (see below).

The target’s Armor Class (AC) is equal to 10 plus bonuses from armor, shield, and other sources. The result of the attack is compared to the target’s AC. If it equals or exceeds this number, it is a hit. The attacker will consult the 3d6 roll as a 3×6 roll to generate damage.


If an attack successfully hits, the attacker deals damage. Based on the size of the weapon (small, normal, or large), the attacker chooses the low, middle, or high die from the 3d6 roll used to make the attack. This result, plus any bonuses, is the damage dealt to the target: his or her HP is reduced by that amount. If the target is reduced to 0 or fewer HP, see the Dying rules, below.

For example, a character with a +2 Blades proficiency attacks a target when wielding a sword. He rolls 4, 2, and 5 for a total of 13 (the 3d6 result plus the proficiency). The target is wearing padded armor (+1 AC), for a total AC of 11, so the attack hits. Since the sword is a normal sized weapon, the character picks the middle die from the attack roll (the 4) and deals 4 damage. If the target has 4 or less HP, he is now dying.

Critical Hits

Any attack roll that results in at least two 6s and hits is considered a critical hit, and has additional effects based on the weapon type:

  • Blunt: The target is stunned and loses his or her next turn.
  • Slashing: The target is bleeding and takes one point of damage at the end of its next turn and for a number of turns equal to the damage dealt. The target can stop this bleeding by spending a First Aid action on himself or herself.
  • Piercing: The attack may have hit a vital organ. After applying damage, roll 1d6. If the result would be enough damage to take the target to 0 HP or less, apply it (otherwise, nothing vital was hit and no additional damage is dealt).
  • Large: In addition to the effect of whether the weapon is blunt, slashing, or piercing, a critical hit with a large weapon knocks the target down (and, at the GM’s discretion, into any nearby hazards). He or she must use an action to stand up.


Spellcasters typically have to overcome a target’s defenses to affect him or her with an attack spell. Each spell will designate a primary ability score as its target. Each spell will also designate its attack potency as Strong (High), Moderate (Middle), or Weak (Low).

To attack with a spell, roll 3×6, keep the appropriate die based on is potency, and add the caster’s level. Compare the result to the target’s appropriate ability score added to the target’s level. If the result equals or exceeds the difficulty, the spell delivers its effect. Some spells have a reduced effect on a failure.

Area of effect spells make a single roll and compare the results to every target in the area. Some such spells have a Strong effect within a certain area, a Moderate effect in an area beyond that, and a Weak effect at the fringes. In these cases, determine which region of the effect each target is in, and select the correct result from the 3×6 roll.

For example, a 5th level wizard casts Burning Hands at a group of monsters. This spell has a Strong effect that will hit two monsters directly in front of the caster, a Moderate effect against another monster further away, and a Weak effect against two monsters at the fringe of the explosion. The Wizard rolls 5, 1, and 4. At the center, the spell has a total of 10, in the middle band it has a total of 9, and at the fringe it has a total of 6. These numbers are compared to the Reflex + Level of the monsters in the areas of effect to see if the spell hits.


A character reduced to 0 or fewer HP is dying.

Each time the character is reduced to dying, or takes additional damage while dying:

  • Roll a Hard test against the absolute current negative value of HP:
    • If the roll succeeds (rolls less than the negative value of HP), the character dies.
    • Essentially, a character at 0 HP is not in danger of dying, and a character at -6 or more HP automatically dies.
  • If the character is still alive after the test, he or she is Unconscious and also takes a Wound.
  • If the character is Unconscious at less than 0 HP, repeat the test at the end of the round each round.
    • In this case, the character dies if the test is failed, but does not take an additional Wound if it succeeds.
    • Another character can prevent this test by taking a First Aid action to try to stabilize the dying character.
    • Each First Aid action heals the dying character by 1 HP, to a maximum of 0 HP (essentially, healing the character to the point he or she is no longer in danger of bleeding to death).


  • A character at 0 HP heals normally according to Vigor.
    • The character remains unconscious until healed to at least 1 HP.
    • The character retains all Wounds suffered even after being healed.
  • Each Wound currently suffered by the character imposes a cumulative -1 penalty to all Feats based on primary abilities.
    • For example, a character with two Wounds would treat Fortitude, Reflex, and Will all as two points lower than normal when attempting to succeed at Feats.
    • If a character has an effective 0 in an ability, he or she automatically fails at feats using that ability.
  • Once per day, while sleeping, the character may roll a Feat of Vigor to remove a single Wound:
    • While adventuring, the difficulty of the Feat is High.
    • If the character has full bed rest and/or very limited exertion (i.e., is safe and not adventuring or doing otherwise strenuous activity), the difficulty of the Feat is Moderate.
    • If the character is tended by a healer while getting full rest (as above), the difficulty of the Feat is Low.
  • Some magic and other effects may speed recovery of both HP and Wounds.