Wil Wheaton calls it “Disneyland for gamers.” John Scalzi had a lot of fun dungeon stomping, and Patrick Rothfuss called it “among the coolest, most enjoyable gaming experiences of my entire life.” What is it? True Dungeon.
True Dungeon is a two-hour-long live-action D&D adventure with sets, props, and giant animatronic dragons. There are actors in costume, puzzles to solve, and (simulated) combat. But it’s not exactly a LARP, either. The idea is that you’re in a role-playing adventure, but instead of rolling a D20 you actually get to disarm traps or memorize glyphs to cast spells.
True Dungeon is the brainchild of Jeff Martin, who was first inspired by an old stick he found to introduce props during a role-playing adventure in 1997, and eventually grew into a huge event at Gen Con 2003 that catered to 500 gamers. Since then, it has continued to grow and expand, becoming more elaborate.
This year will be my first time at Gen Con, and I’ll be joined by fellow GeekDads Dave Banks and John Booth. We’ve been invited to participate in True Dungeon and we’re extremely excited about it. I’ll admit that I’m an RPG noob, but the idea of a game that challenges me mentally but requires physical interaction is intriguing. I asked Dave and John to give their impressions, and this is what they said:
A few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to take a run through True Dungeon. Unfortunately, the offer required me being in Indianapolis for Gen Con at the same time as a long-planned family vacation. Sadly, I had to say no.
Still, the very idea of True Dungeon stayed with me and I was reminded of it often. As I sat down to prep the week’s encounters in my D&D game, I’d think about actually walking through a darkened dungeon, battling monsters, and solving puzzles in True Dungeon. “One day,” I’d think to myself, “one day.”
I’m very excited that I’ll be exploring True Dungeon at Gen Con this summer. It’s the only thing that was on my “must-do” list and the wait has been more than just a little difficult. I’m really looking forward to trading in my bag of dice and rely on my wits and fellow GeekDads on what will hopefully a be a very memorable adventure.
I’ve been role-playing regularly since my re-introduction to Dungeons & Dragons a few years back, but full-on LARPing has never really stirred my interest. The seemingly LARP-lite, immersive True Dungeon experience, though? For some reason … it calls to me. It just sounds like so much collective fun with friends, and I’m super-excited about my first opportunity to participate at this year’s Gen Con.
True Dungeon added 2,000 tickets to this year’s run, so there are still tickets available! You’ll need to have a Gen Con registration, and tickets are $44 for a session. There are two tracks available this year, Golembane and Lycans Afoot, and each one comes in a combat-oriented or puzzle-oriented type. For the experts, there are also Nightmare levels in which, well, it’s a lot easier to die. The GeekDads are trying to avoid that this first time around.
You can also buy packs of tokens from True Dungeon—these represent the loot! They’re equipment, potions, and even just money. You’ll get a randomized 10-pack with your ticket, but you can buy more of them if you want to stock up for the adventure.
Dave, John and I will report back to you about our experience after Gen Con!