“This is no longer a load-bearing giant rock bat.”
The party was in the middle of a crypt, in a finely carved chamber, save for a single stalactite hanging from the ceiling. Puddle John, ever curious, decided to check out the stability of this lone stalactite, at which point the thing unfurled giant bat wings and swooped down to envelop him.
This was our first combat in the game of Down We Go, and already it was very thrilling, in a very good way, because the players themselves had inspired the creation of the monster they now faced.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Welcome to Lost in a Dungeon, a new blog dedicated to the game Down We Go by Plus One Exp, written and created by Markus Linderum. My name is Chris Mennell, and I normally blog at thesecretdm.com. I also co-own Kill Jester with Ava Islam, author of Errant, an old-school RPG that successfully kickstarted earlier this year. You can find me online @chrismennell on Twitter and Instagram, at Christopher Mennell on Facebook, and also on Discord. Or just email me at email@example.com.
I’m refereeing a Down We Go campaign that started this past Monday (September 13th, 2021) online, and I’m using this blog to share the play experience in a weekly blog series. Over time, I’m hoping to offer additional content to help support and enhance Down We Go, including a variety of options for players and gamemasters alike, such as new factions, random generators, and more.
First though, let’s talk about what Down We Go is. Down We Go is a very simple ruleset for playing old school style adventures where players explore dungeons in search of treasure. Well, “simple” may not be doing the title justice. I mean the rules themselves take up only a couple of pages — it’s all you need to run the game — but there is more depth to it and more on the way, thanks to the crowdfunding campaign currently going on (less than 7 days left as of the writing of this post). The fleshed out system, known as the Infinite Edition, includes a randomly generated city known as Infinopolis that has ever-shifting districts and layout, and also features a collection of factions inhabiting the city that the players might encounter…and even want to join.
And more content is on the way, thanks to a set of stretch goals being hit as the campaign raises more money. These include hexcrawl rules by Ava Islam with art by Madeleine Ember, Planar hopping rules by Planar Compass, a museum themed dungeon by Diogo Nogueira, and so much more.
On to the adventure.
I’ve been gaming since I was 8 years old, since 1987. I’ve run my fair share of dungeons. But to say that I was nervous about this game would be an understatement. The truth is, I’ve never run an official game online for a group of players. I’ve done little one shots with a single player, someone I trusted very closely, and I’ve run dozens of play-by-post games, but a live session with a group of players online scared me. That’s right, I admit it, I had anxiety about running the game.
What if I messed up? What if the players didn’t enjoy themselves? My imposter syndrome was strong and pushing back hard against the idea of me actually running the game. I almost canceled the game three separate times, but in the end I pushed forward and ran the game.
And I’m so glad I did. And it isn’t even about my experience and wealth of knowledge in running games — it was Down We Go itself I think that made the experience possible.
Down We Go is, as I mentioned, an old school style game, complete with dungeon crawling and collecting treasure as features. But it plays with a shared narrative — a mechanic referred to in the rules as “Lore as Loot”, which sums up nicely that information…specifically details provided by the players…are just as important to the experience as what the gamemaster contributes.
Players are encouraged right from the start to add in their own details to help flesh out not just the setting, but the adventure itself. Choosing adjectives to describe a dungeon location, which in turn influences the kinds of encounters that could be had there. The players aren’t told rumors by the GM they overhear in a tavern, but are rather asked to provide the rumors themselves, which the GM then takes and shapes an adventure around.
Let’s meet the players and their characters first, and then we’ll talk more about the actual play experience we had.
Ryn: Played Nadia, a Catgirl Mystic wielding two hand axes
Rory: Played Puddle John, a Toadperson Mystic
Tony: Played Victor, a human Holy/Sneaky, sort of a reformed shyster
David: Played Nyris Nor, a Bloodthirstry/Sneaky something-or-other, whose identity (and species) are a mystery
Lily: Played Lily Lemonade, an alien godlike entity that took the form of a human girl from a lemonade ad poster, Mystic
We then had the party choose starting gear, which there weren’t exactly mechanics for in the Beta rules I had, but I spoke with Markus about it and he said they were working on them for the official publication, once everything was done. Instead, I made the ruling that characters started with a weapon of their choice, any gear that made sense associated with their role(s), and 1d4 typical adventuring items they could think of.
And that was it. We were ready to start the adventure.
In the next blog post, we’ll get into what the actual adventure experience was like…including our encounter with the dreaded giant rock bats.