Make Your Next Celebratory Pub Crawl a Dungeon Crawl Instead


Frustrated by society’s unspoken rules that your pre-wedding festivities have to be with members of the same gender (all-women’s bridal showers, ladies-only bachelorette parties, etc.), I decided to buck tradition and invited over my best guy friends to help me party in style: adventuring party–style.

Some of my most memorable moments have been spent around the gaming table, whether they be reveling in a triumphant roll or despairing at my disastrous dice luck. As my schedule became increasingly hectic with wedding planning and adulting and the like, all I wanted was a night off featuring some RPG shenanigans like I enjoyed in college. So I called up my gamer guy friends not for a night of pub crawling, but of dungeon crawling.

I asked everyone attending to prep a single room in a dungeon, either by crafting their own or lifting one from a beloved module of yore. Then we would each take turns DMing our prepped room so that no one person would be saddled with the job the whole night, and we could all enjoying playing and rolling up characters. I didn’t give them much guidance beyond “have fun with it”: the sole goal of the PCs would be to survive, and DMs were at liberty to make that as challenging as possible.

Simplicity was key to sitting back and having a good time (think Beer & Pretzels: the RPG). Here’s Some Fuckin’ Dungeons & Dragons had wafted through my social media channels on more than one occasion, so this seemed like the perfect time to give it a go and embrace its chaotic goodness.

We certainly got some choice characters courtesy of whothefuckismydndcharacter.com, and we rounded out the party with some Fiasco-style character relationships using this table from Dyson’s Dodecahedron blog. I highly recommend linking the characters this way—it really helped add story and roleplaying opportunities to what might otherwise have been a very mechanical-feeling dungeon.

Although the rules were about the right weight for the evening (add your level for attacks, beat a 20 with your roll + mod to succeed at a save, add your movement to initiative rolls), they lacked for DC guidance and trap/monster balancing (which you could definitely wing, but old habits died hard for us). For future reference, here’s a breakdown of attack and check probabilities compared with the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons:

Chances of Succeeding on Attacks and Checks by Game and Level

  DC 10 Easy DC 15 Medium DC 20 Hard DC 25 Very Hard   DC 15 Medium DC 20 Hard DC 25 Very Hard DC 30 Nearly Impossible
HSFD&D Lvl 1 60% 35% 10% Impossible HSFD&D Lvl 10 80% 55% 30% 5%
D&D 5e Lvl 1* 80% 55% 30% 5% D&D 5e Lvl 10** 70% 45% 20% Impossible
HSFD&D Lvl 5 80% 55% 30% 5% HSFD&D Lvl 15 100% 80% 55% 30%
D&D 5e Lvl 5** 90% 65% 40% 15% D&D 5e Lvl 15** 75% 50% 25% Impossible

* Estimating +3 Ability Modifier and Proficiency
** Estimating +4 Ability Modifier and Proficiency

I had everyone advance their character to level six so that we could get access to a solid number of spells and a decent pool of hit points. We added abilities scores (rolling 3d6 down the line, baby) for flavor and certain checks, but used the default HSFD&D rules for attacks, saves, maneuvers, and such. That was definitely for the best, as 3d6 can be pretty fucking unforgiving (Max, I’m looking at you with your 4’s in Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom). I told people to balance encounters for 1st-level D&D 5e characters, and between that and the occasional trap or three, we hit the sweet spot for lethality.

The totality of my character sheet, plus some misc. notes.

Once we had our party created, we kicked off play by rolling randomly to see whose dungeon room we landed in first. The conceit was that all of our characters had been mysteriously transported to a dungeon in a pocket dimension (perhaps as punishment: “Hell is other player characters”), and we asked that each time the DM come up with some reason why their character was absent from the encounter, and suitably hilarious explanations ensued. The end result was a relatively linear progression as we tried to survive each room and make our escape, but it was a blast to see what each DM brought to the dungeon and how they tried to kill us this time.

For more coherency, one could give more of a prompt to the DMs to craft a room within a certain milieu, such as a gothic castle or volcanic caverns. To spice things up, or to run the round-robin as a more fully fledged dungeon, one could randomly assign keys, treasure, NPCs, or other items of interest to specific GMs to put into their rooms. It would be interesting to use Secret Santa facilitators (such as drawnames.com) to keep the assignments secret from the rest of the players. Maybe next time.

Ultimately, the round-robin dungeon crawl is best enjoyed when everyone is willing to set aside their expectations for a deep story or immersive investigation and instead embrace the zaniness that often crops up in RPGs anyway. The other major pit trap to avoid with this style of play is overly complicating the rooms, as it was easy for a single room to turn into a two-hour long encounter with a large party size (we had eight players, including one who was DMing at any given time).

All in all, we had as much fun as I’d hoped, and I would absolutely try this again in the future!

Have you ever done round-robin DMing or threw a D&D party? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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