I was a Wizard, so spell casting for druids, clerics, and wizards is a bit different. Before the adventure began, players with weapons were given a chance to practice their shuffleboard skills. Spell casters were shown various items that would have to be memorized. For the wizard, a board was hanging on wall with twenty odd shapes arranged in different locations and a word in each shape. For example, the word Death appeared near the center of the board on a small wedge-shape. Twenty words in all, and I had to memorize not just the words but also their locations. When in combat, I could choose to cast a spell — I would tell the DM who would point to my wizard board hanging on the wall but this board lacked words. The DM would say “Find Limbo” and I would have to point to the shape where that word was found. Success and I would deal more damage. Failure meant less damage or none, depending on the spell and situation.
We defeated the Carrion Crawler and then proceeded to another puzzle room. This next puzzle turned out to be the group’s favorite. A flow of lava kept us from crossing to the other side of the room. Stone tiles, each with a letter on top, littered the floor. The DM told us we’d have to solve the puzzle to cross. And that’s it! We began by trying to figure out if there were any dungeon-y words that could be assembled. Meanwhile, rogue Jonathan solved the room’s puzzle that consisted of a dexterity-checking puzzle box. He solved the puzzle and got us a clue — “The Drow went FIRST.” We identified the word FIRST and found matching stone tiles on the floor. One of the players (Gerry) decided to test out stepping on the letters that spelled FIRST and fell into the lava, taking some damage. That wasn’t the solution obviously. It was player Brian who figured out the puzzle. The second player to cross would need to spell out SECOND (but in reverse), third player THIRD, and so on. Some of the moves from stone to stone required a large JUMP without touching the lava. We all got across with big smiles, especially Dave who said “Good puzzle!”
More puzzles and combat followed. In one room, a Salamander attacked us. Great costuming, too. If you made eye contact with her, she’d glare at you and likely tell the DM she wished to attack that player. I made the mistake of looking too closely — when she glared back, I laughed… and proceeded to be attacked. Doh. We beat her, and her head dropped slowly and her weapon fell…
One final round of combat awaited us — as we moved through a dark hallway to the next room, a DM greeted us and pointed out a treasure pile on the opposite side of the room. He told us we had ten seconds to grab all the treasure we could and we rushed in… with a giant spider looming above us that sprayed down poison (water drops) randomly. Everyone hit had to make a save or take poison damage. Fortunately I was late in the line and avoided the poison, but others were not so lucky. (Funny enough, the treasure pile was not just a trap, but also built as such — treasure tokens were mixed in with gold coins but the really GOOD treasure tokens were glued down to the table so you couldn’t take them — nice touch, TD!)
Two final puzzles were also encountered. One involved giant talking mushrooms, with each mushroom having a uniquely colored face on its surface. You had to listen to the clues the mushrooms spoke to decide on which mushroom to eat to shrink us down so we could move through a small opening and into the next room. We narrowed it down to three (of 9?) mushrooms but were stumped. We took a guess… and were correct! This let us move into the final room…
The final room had a doozy of a puzzle. The TD crew really know how to create some amazing puzzles, and this one stood out from the rest. Animated spiders crawled from a series of holes arranged around a circular table. Glowing crystals (eggs with LEDs inside) were scattered around the table. Each hold had a word associated with it. To escape the dungeon and get the treasure, we had to correctly place the colored crystals in their proper holes. Careful attention to the previous rooms (and a huge nod to Dave for reminding us to take note of our surroundings in each room) gave us a slight advantage as we’d noticed a keyword and color associated with a few earlier rooms. This allowed us to place a few crystals quickly with their respective words. But we’d missed some, obviously. The only way to determine where to place the remaining crystals was to pull out a false bottom in each hole and look at the word (a color) on the bottom and then place it BACK in the hole before another animated spider appeared. It was a mix of timing and quick reflexes. The DM told us a failed grab would result in immediate death, and we lost two or three party members in less than a minute. Even the words on the false bottoms were tricky, with some having two words. Logic could eliminate one of the two colors, but with time counting down, we were just too rushed… time ran out and the spiders swarmed the party and killed us all. TPK. (Total Player Kill).
We were bummed, but we were also grinning ear to ear. I think that’s the secret of TD — it’s just so much fun that dying loses its sting when you realize that for the last 90 minutes you’ve been laughing and smiling and enjoying yourself. We didn’t get the True Dungeon Survivor lapel pin… but we did each get a handful of Treasure tokens that could each be exchanged for random draws of treasure tokens in the exit area.
The GeekDad crew once again collected all the tokens into a large bag for next year’s True Dungeon, with each of us taking a few tokens home as souvenirs of our adventure. Next year’s crew will have an even larger assortment of armor, spells, weapons, and other items to choose from during setup.
All in all, I give TD a 10 out of 10! I just loved it, and can highly recommend it to all Gen Con attendees who haven’t yet tried it out. Take the time, schedule a game with friends (or make some new ones by being assigned to another group), and have two hours of what is the most popular event at Gen Con.
I’d like to thank Dave and Jonathan and John (“If you see a monster, don’t look at it!) for their advice and for inviting me along for the adventure (that started at 7pm and ended at 9pm). We followed it up by heading to the massive gaming hall and playing more boardgames until about 2am, all while talking about the puzzles and combat of TD. A fun time that is not going to be forgotten.