It’s been a whirlwind! d20 Diaries has become something bigger and grander than I could have ever imagined. I’ve gathered fans throughout the world, our page views increase every month, and I’ve embarked on a freelancing career that’s already gone better than I could have dreamed. The future’s looking bright!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re still new around here. d20 Diaries is still in it’s infancy. There’s plenty more features we hope to add in the future, and more stories we hope to share. There’s a pile of articles waiting to be fleshed out, and many, many more adventures to be had.
So today I’m sending out a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you! Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate it more than you know!
Here’s to another year! I hope you stick around for the ride.
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Yule! Happy Holidays! And if you’re currently celebrating a holiday I haven’t mentioned, then happy that, too!
We here at d20diaries would like to take the time to say to each and every one of you: thank you.
Thank you for your time and your attention. Thank you for your feedback and kind words. Thank you, thank you, and a thousand more times, thank you. It means the world to us that so many of you choose to spend some of your precious time with us.
We wish you all the best today, tomorrow, and every day afterwards.
It’s summer vacation here, so my kids and I are trying to fill our time with as much swimming and trips to the park as possible. They each set themselves a few goals this summer, so we’ve been working on that. My son wanted to learn about robotics and make himself a robot. My daughter wanted to learn how to sew, make herself a stuffed rabbit, and learn how to bake. My son has had a lot of fun checking out books from the library, and trying to put together a robot from a little kit. He’s discovered that making robots takes precision and attention to detail — both of which he’s decided to needs to practise. There were a lot of points where he noticed he’d done something backwards because he wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still, with some help he made himself a cute little spider robot that can motor around a bit. It drains the battery like CRAZY though, so he’s decided the next one needs a better power source. He wants me to teach him about solar panels, which I am not afraid to admit is not my forte. Sounds like another trip to the library is in order! Haha.
My daughter’s sewing and baking lessons are going better. I told her we would not have time to make a stuffed rabbit this summer, but I have been teaching her sewing safety and some basic stitches. She’s constantly looking around the house for socks and clothes with rips in them so she can mend them herself. It’s adorable. She always loves helping with baking, but this summer she wanted to make something (almost) all on her own. She’s made a few batches of cookies that turned out well. She adores watching Nailed It, Sugar Rush, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix, so she was determined to enter a baking competition this summer. This past weekend she challenged some of our extended family to a bake-off for a family birthday party.
Everyone had to make a LEGO-themed cake. It had to include a bit of real LEGO on it somewhere, but otherwise, whatever you baked was up to you. She was positively thrilled everyone agreed, and set to work drawing cake plans. In the end she made a vanilla rainbow-chip cake with chocolate icing that she decorated to look like mud covered in grass. Then she stuck a big LEGO rabbit she built on top of it. My son baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing that was in the middle of being demolished by LEGO construction workers, and I made a strawberry shortcake-style cake that was dyed inside to look like the cake was made of LEGO. So tasty. Other cakes were made to look like LEGO blocks, while my mother made a massive three-tiered cake covered with fondant work. Everyone had a great time and my kids were thrilled when some people voted their cakes the most creative, or tastiest. They really enjoyed tasting all the cakes and giving it their nit-picky judge’s remarks. They had a blast.
But, my kids aren’t the only ones with goals this summer. I’ve been working on not one, but four different freelancing assignments (currently top secret!), all of which are going really well. And of course, there’s the release of Pathfinder Second Edition! The game is highly intuitive, which makes it wonderfully easy to learn, but the Core Rulebook is a massive tome! It definitely takes a while to read through. Plus there’s the Bestiary, Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6), The Fall of Plaguestone, and a whopping five Pathfinder Society Scenarios available already, which I’ve been trying to find the time to read.
We’ll be participating in an online gaming convention via play-by-post soon, which is hosted on Paizo’s message board. There’s a really welcoming community of people playing there, so if any of you are considering playing a game via play-by-post I highly recommend you sign up for the convention and give it a try. Play-by-post Gameday VIII begins on August 26th and runs until November 3rd. There’s still some room for players to join games, but there won’t be for long. For more information or to sign up for games, check out the announcement thread here! If you need guidance, assistance, or information about playing via play-by-post, stop by the Flaxseed Lodge, check out the helpful links at the top of the page, and make a post in the Discussion thread, letting everyone know what you need help with. There’s always people willing to lend a hand and help a new players get started.
Closer to home, this coming weekend my family and I will be attending Convocation, an annual Pathfinder and Starfinder Society convention in Winnipeg. We’ve signed up for a short demo game of Pathfinder 2e and PFS Scenario #10-16: What the Helms Hide on Saturday afternoon, followed by PFS #10-12: Breath of the Dragonskull on Sunday afternoon. Last time we played Pathfinder Society in person at a Con we all died a horrible death, so we’re hoping we have better luck this time! Haha. My kids are bringing some of their favourite characters, so wish us luck!
And after that…? My kids and I will be starting work on submissions for the upcoming issue of Wayfinder. For those of you who don’t know, Wayfinder is a digital magazine full of fan-created content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the Starfinder Roleplaying Game that releases each year at PaizoCon. Over the years they’ve made an astounding 19 issues of Wayfinder, as well as a Bestiary! Nearly every issue has a theme, with this latest one being Starfinder’s Absalom Station. This years topic is the Diaspora! Previous issues are all a free download on Paizo’s website. Everyone is welcome to submit an article to Wayfinder — a fact my children were thrilled to take advantage of last year — and I highly recommend any of you interested in getting into freelance RPG writing give it a shot. Just download a few back-issues, give them a read to see what kind of content they’re looking for, then head over to the Call for Submissions for full details. This year, my kids have decided to submit more than one article, so they’re already wracking their brains for ideas. My daughter, in particular, is thinking of more ways to include rabbits without actually being obvious about including more rabbits. This, of course, should surprise no one.
Well, I’ve got to run. My daughter is currently waving my new Core Rulebook at me, and mouthing the words ‘GOBLIN.’ Something tells me we’re making characters today…
My family and I would like to take the time to wish all of the fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day! We’d also like to remind everyone else to do something special for the fathers in their lives. (Don’t forget!)
I’d stay to chat, but I’m about to embark on an exhausting day! My family and I are off to the Red River Ex (a local carnival) to spend the day with my husband’s stepdad and family. For them, going to the Ex on Father’s Day is a decades-long family tradition, helped in part by the free pancake breakfast and free admittance today.
Established in 2007, Free RPG Day works with participating hobby game retailers and RPG publishers to bring new and exclusive RPG products and adventures into the hands of gamers worldwide. Fans can grab brand new material for a variety of RPGS for free by stopping by their local participating game and hobby shop.
Last year my family had a ton of fun with Free RPG Day, particularly with Paizo’s two releases: Skitter Shot, a first level Starfinder adventure featuring a crew of excitable skittermanders, and We Be 5uper Goblins, a hilarious sixth level Pathfinder adventure featuring some infamous goblin heroes on their most epic and amazing adventure yet! For those of you who missed FREE RPG Day 2018, both modules are available as a free download on Paizo’s website, or as a physical copy for five dollars.
This year Free RPG Day was held on June 15, 2019, with Paizo’s free downloads of the PDFs being available on July 1, 2019.
My husband, my children and I headed out for a trip to our local game shop. There’s a few places you can go in Winnipeg for RPG products, but our shop of choice is Game Knight Games and Cool Stuff. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, two buses and at least an hour and a half of travel time for us, but it has a great selection of RPGs, board games, miniatures, and collectible card games. They also have a spacious game space. It’s a wonderful store. The buses were accommodating, and we made good time. In no time at all we headed inside and perused the goodies on offer. There was quite a selection!
There were two products we knew we wanted to bring home with us: Skitter Crash, a third level Starfinder adventure featuring skittermanders, and We Be Heroes? a Pathfinder Playtest adventure for first level goblins. My seven-year old daughter immediately scampered over to the table and swept up Skitter Crash, while my son grabbed We Be Heroes? This left my husband and I a bevy of books to browse. In the end, my husband settled on The Witcher Easy Mode: An Introductory Booklet to the Witcher TRPG, and I scooped up Modern Age Threefold Quickstart.
The Witcher Easy Mode: An Introductory Booklet to the Witcher TRPG is just that –– an easy introduction to The Witcher TRPG. 30 pages in length it includes rules, six pre-generated characters and a short adventure called Still Waters.
Modern AGE Threefold Quickstart is an easy to understand gateway to the Modern AGE RPG that comes with streamlined rules, reference sheets, five pre-generated characters, and an introductory adventure called Burning Brighter. It’s 40 pages long and has a lot of nice art inside.
We Be Heroes? is an adventure we knew we wanted to bring home with us. It’s a Pathfinder Playtest adventure, using the final version of the Playtest rules. We Be Heroes? is a first level adventure written by Brian Duckwitz which continues the tradition of the super popular We Be Goblins series (We Be Goblins!, We Be Goblins Too!, We Be Goblins Free!, We B4 Goblins!, and We Be 5uper Goblins!). However, this adventure features a whole new team of goblin adventurers who are set to take on the minions of the Whispering Tyrant! (And zombie pigs?!) Driven by hunger and the orders of their chief, the goblins of the Crookedtoes tribe are tasked with finding out why all the animals in the forest have fled the region, and what happened to the tribe’s best scout. They get to meet up with some heroic knights, explore a wrecked farmhouse, and… be heroes! We absolutely adored reading this adventure and intend to play it soon — although whether we’ll play it as a Playtest adventure, switch it over to Pathfinder First Edition so we can play it right away, or wait for August and switch it over to Pathfinder Second Edition rules remains to be seen. Either way, we’re going to have a blast with it. If you didn’t get your hands on this amazing product, don’t worry. You’ll be able to download it for free on Paizo’s website in two weeks or so.
Finally, there’s my personal favourite… Our skittermander heroes from Skitter Shot are set to continue their adventures in Skitter Crash! Written by Jason Keeley, this is a third level Starfinder module that sees our skittermander heroes crash their ship on a mysterious swampy planet after a run in with space pirates and an interstellar cyclone! They’ll need to find their ship, deal with the space pirates, and (of course!) make some nu-friends! The adventure was a lot of fun. So fun, in fact, that we played it today at our local gaming store with a wonderful GM (you’re awesome, Wil!) and another player new to RPGs (I hope you had fun, Robin!).
This adventure is a BLAST. I highly recommend it.
I hope a lot of you got out to Free RPG Day! If you did, I’d love to hear what kind of products you got your hands on, and what you thought of them.
This Mother’s Day my kids wrote me poems and stories, drew me pictures, cards, and books. My son even made me a coaster to hold my drink. And my husband? He and my children got me character art commissioned for my favourite Pathfinder Society character!
I’ve never had character art for a character of mine before. My kids and I have drawn pictures of some of our characters on occasion. And sure, a picture here or there might inspire us to make a character similar in appearance. But custom professional art? Unheard of! So it was with great shock and surprise I awoke to discover my family had somehow procured gorgeous art of my beloved -1 PFS character.
Clearly I have a wonderful family and am beyond spoiled. Today I’m going to share that art with you!
Introducing Danicka Raburnus and her vicious dog, Prickles!
Danicka Raburnus was my very first Pathfinder Society character. My -1. I had played Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, and other RPGs for a long time before making Danicka, but she was the first character meant for organized play. She marked my entry into the Pathfinder Society, and was the first in a series of wonderful characters, delightful roleplaying, and exciting adventures.
Danicka is… far from perfect. When it came time to create Danicka I wanted to do something different. Everyone has characters who are attractive, intelligent, healthy, brave, and so on. People who are special. Heroes. They’re not all perfect, and many have a flaw or two, but they usually have quite a few redeeming qualities. I’ve got plenty, myself. So when it came time to make Danicka I wanted to create a character who was different than those I’d made before. Someone who wasn’t a hero. Who wasn’t special. Someone hopelessly flawed and regrettably forgettable. Someone who wanted to be special, who wanted to be the hero, but just wasn’t.
I have a soft spot for making, strong, independent, female characters. I love playing half-orcs and dwarves. I love bards, rogues, oracles, and sorcerers. Adaptable characters with a flaw or two, and a bit of a scoundrel’s streak.
So I went out of my way to make Danicka different.
I made her a wizard, which I rarely do. And I went out of my way to make her as unremarkable as possible. She has an archetype that prevents her from having a familiar or an arcane bond––qualities that make her feel inferior to her fellow wizards and spellcasters. She learned spells that are visually unremarkable. No fireballs or flashy magic for this girl! She was intelligent and wise, but too shy and nervous to speak her mind.
I never use complimentary words to describe her. I don’t call her pretty, or fit, or athletic, or slender. She’s not even skinny. She’s scrawny. Boney. Her hair is frazzled, limp, plain, or mousey. Her skin is not like porcelain, or alabaster. It’s pale, freckled, and ink-stained. Her clothes are nice but ill-fitting, out of fashion, and in dull colours. She doesn’t show off any skin, covering herself from neck to fingers and toes. She doesn’t even wear nice boots, just flimsy cotton shoes that flop and squelch wildly whenever they get wet. She wears a floppy hat on her head. She has poor vision and wears plain spectacles.
It’s not that these qualities are undesirable or unattractive. They’re not. It’s that I designed her to be average and blend in, and that I describe all of her qualities in as uncomplimentary a fashion as I can.
She shrieks in battle. Gets queasy. Stammers, stutters, whimpers, and whispers. Her efforts to make friends are awkward and almost always end in failure. She’s shy and meek. Easily scared (often terrified!). She faints on occasion (though never in a way or at a time that would hinder her mission or the game). She’s weak, awkward, and extraordinarily clumsy.
But amidst all those awkward and oddly endearing qualities, she’s a hero. Not outwardly. Certainly not obviously. But she’s a good person. She won’t take a life. Ever. And she won’t condone it from her allies. In fact, wanton violence, destruction, theft, and other illegal deeds are among the only things that she’ll speak out against. She’d rather remove an enemy from a fight than cause someone harm. I gave her merciful spell as a feat to ensure her few damage dealing spells aren’t lethal. She’ll stabilize unconscious enemies, hurl herself into danger to protect someone else, and is always the first person to offer healing potions to the wounded. She’s generous and kind. She won’t lie and always gives her enemies a chance to surrender.
So, who was Danicka? Where did she come from? And what make such an ordinary, meek woman want to be a hero?
Danicka was born to a hero. Her mother, Portia Raburnus, was a wizard of great renown who helped saved the city of Magnimar not just once, but on three occasions. Danicka has always wanted to be just like her mother, and grew up studying the arcane arts. Her mother passed away five years ago, right before Danicka began her formal training at the local magical academy, Stone of Seers. Danicka always keeps her mother’s arcane bonded item with her—a highly decorative quarterstaff that looks remarkably like a broom. She had hoped to use the broom as her own arcane bonded item, but could never manage to make it work.
Danicka did well in school, but despite her academic achievements she was constantly overlooked—for Danicka was ordinary looking, and incredibly shy. Regrettably forgettable. Most people don’t even remember Portia Raburnus had a daughter.
Danicka’s recently graduated and set out to finally prove herself brave and bold! A hero, like her mother! She marched right into the local Pathfinder Lodge and demanded a job. Unfortunately, her demand came out a nervous whisper and they hired her as a maid. But, sweeping the floors used by bolder souls with her mother’s broom isn’t enough for Danicka Raburnus! She’s going to prove herself one day! Maybe after she’s done cleaning up the common room…
Danicka is incredibly shy. She speaks rarely, and when she does its in a whisper. She’s constantly trying to work up the courage to be louder, to make friends, and to do something, but her attempts at friendship always come out in awkward stuttering bursts, and her attempts to speak her mind end up with her randomly yelling something (and then losing the courage to finish). She’s easily embarrassed and was bullied on occasion in school (when her classmates could be bothered to remember she was there).
Danicka studies hard and loves to learn new things. She knows she’s a young woman of many flaws and is trying desperately to change. She wants to be brave and bold, but has yet to break out of her shell and really be herself.
Mechanically, she’s a wizard with the exploiter wizard archetype that’s a member of the Silver Crusade faction of the Pathfinder Society. She took the traits tireless logic and volatile conduit. Her beginning feats were eschew materials and merciful spell, although she later added spell focus (enchantment). She’s knowledgable and speaks a wide array of languages. For her first exploiter exploit she chose energy shield, although she never had the opportunity to use it until many adventures had passed. Some of her most commonly prepared low-level spells are daze, detect magic, read magic, comprehend languages, mage armour, shield, sleep, and merciful ray of frost or merciful magic missile. In time she learned that outsiders and undead were a threat her non-lethal methods couldn’t handle, so she started carrying a lethal wand, a few lethal scrolls, and some holy water around to combat such irredeemable threats.
I had intended to keep her a wizard for the entirety of her career, but along the way, things changed. Danicka changed.
After Danicka’s first mission in the world of play-by-post gaming, she was invited to join an ongoing campaign run by the delightful and incredibly talented GM ShieldBug. For a wonderful seven scenarios she had the pleasure of playing in a consistent group of awesome players. Her companions were very different from Danicka. Some were weird, some were liars, some were scoundrels, and most were violent. They pushed her buttons, shoved her out of her comfort zone, tested her morals, and urged her to change. With them she found her backbone. She found courage. She faced peer-pressure and discovered that there were things worth fighting for, even if it meant standing up to your allies. She made friends. She made enemies. She made mistakes. She became a hero. She saved people and towns.
Mostly, she was embarrassed.
But it wasn’t only Danicka that changed. Her friends did, too. She made them better people. And they made her brave.
On one of her adventures she was forced to interact with terrifying, man-eating, Thuvian desert dog. Miraculously she bonded with it, though it terrified her to no end. Later in the scenario she was forced to face the dog in combat, and she managed to convince him to stand down. The mission came to an end and I was faced with a turning point. Move on? Or keep the dog?
Danicka kept the dog. She named him Prickles, for his spiky fur (matted with the blood of his enemies) and terrifying demeanour. Although I could have just bought a dog and remained a wizard, I chose to multiclass Danicka into druid. I selected another understated archetype (the wonderful wild whisperer!) that removed some of the flashier of the druids abilities and replaced it with investigator’s inspiration and talents. She began to take ranks in handle animal, and survival. She used her druid spell slots to prepare healing magic. She took the feat boon companion, and statted up Prickles as a wolf.
Danicka spent the next while attempting to tame her vicious dog. I took great glee in role-played her fear of her own pet, and her worry that it will hurt someone. Prickles is clearly the alpha of the duo, but he usually listens to Danicka’s pleas. That said, out of fear, Danicka never tells Prickles to attack anyone. She’s too afraid she won’t be able to stop him from killing. Instead, she orders him to stay by her side. Mechanically, Prickles has the bodyguard archetype. He’s always on ‘defend’ and won’t enter a fight unless Danicka is hurt. However, if she’s hurt he flies into a rage and attacks whoever wounded her until they’re dead. Usually Danicka hurls herself between the enemy and her dog before they are devoured, but once or twice Prickles killed something––an event which filled Danicka with great regret. For his part, Prickles is used to his ‘pet’s’ panicked shrieks and mewling. But he’s incredibly territorial and won’t stand for anyone touching his ‘pet.’ Not even her allies. He’s a bit cantankerous, and won’t take ‘orders’ from anyone other than Danicka. And he only listens to Danicka if she begs.
All in all, they’re a comical pair, with my shy wizard desperately trying to handle her overwhelming pet.
On her most recent missions, Danicka’s had to bid her old friends farewell. She’s gone on new adventures with new teammates. Only Prickles has remained by her side. But, despite the distance, it’s her old friends that continue to drive her and inspire her. Mhazruk Kruhl and his terrifying familiar Needle, the burly Yaiho Crasher, the tap-dancing escaped-slave Forrest Glavo, the eccentric Arin Qualnoh blessed (or perhaps cursed) by the gods, and Brock Swiftread, a scoundrel if there ever was one. They’re the closest thing to family she’s ever had.
So here’s to Danicka and Prickles, and all the people and characters who have made her who she is. Here’s to the people who have GMed for her and played alongside her. The people who have put up with her panicked shrieks and bleeding heart. Here’s to my family, who brought one of my very favourite characters to life. And here’s to Joe Nittoly, the amazing artist who drew her. Thank you! Thank you! And thank you again! You’re the best!
And here’s to all of you, for taking the time to read about one of my favourite characters. Maybe I’ll see you around a PFS table one day.
My family and I would like to take the time to wish all of the mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day! Admittedly, we’d also like to remind everyone else to do something special for the mothers in their lives. (Don’t forget!)
I’d stay to chat, but I’ve got a whirlwind day! My family and I spent yesterday out watching Detective Pikachu in the movie theatre. Today we’re having my husband’s family over for lunch and… Well, I have no idea what else my kids and husband have planned for me. In all honesty, as long as I get to take the day off of chores, I’m a happy woman.
Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.
This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.
Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.
Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.
Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.
Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!
This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.
Boss #1: Baby Barbarian. He takes two swords, two arrows, and three dash to defeat, and his dungeon contains twenty cards.
Baby Barbarian and an example of Challenge and Dungeon Cards
There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.
This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.
So what the heck are all these symbols?
There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.
The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!
As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.
With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.
Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.
If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.
We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.
The board after my kids and I defeated the final boss!
All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.
My kids love games of all kinds. Not surprising, I know. Most kids love games of one kind or another. But mine REALLY love games. This year for their birthdays they decided that they have enough toys. What they wanted was some new board games.
“But, awesome board games, Mom. Really good ones.”
So they did some research, made lists, did some more research, discovered a love of Dice Tower, and revised their lists until they each had a (much too long) list of board games they wanted. Although our birthday celebrations aren’t over yet, they’ve both had a few parties with family and were thrilled to find they got some new games. Most of what they asked for are large, complex games. But a few are short, easy to learn card games. You can expect to see a lot of board game reviews in the coming weeks, but today we’re starting short and sweet, with Dungeon Mayhem!
Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons & Dragons card game for 2 to 4 players. Games are short and fast-paced, with a round averaging about five minutes. It’s a small, portable game, with the rectangular box about the size of my hand. It’s the perfect size to bring with you on the go or play in compact spaces. We bring it to the laundromat, for example. Intended for ages eight and up Dungeon Mayhem lets players take on the role of an iconic hero and battle it out.
The game is super easy to learn and surprisingly fun to play. First, you choose a character. Each comes with their own unique deck of cards, hit point card and tracker, and a reference card. Youngest player goes first and play continues clockwise. You start with three cards in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. You start with 10 hp and when you reach 0 hp you’re out of the game. Last adventurer standing wins.
There are four heroes to choose from: Sutha the Skullcrusher (a female half-orc barbarian), Azzan the mystic (a male human wizard), Lia the Radiant (a female elf paladin), and Oriax the Clever (a male tiefling rogue). Each adventurer has their own deck that plays differently, but with the same basic mechanics so it’s easy to pick up any one and just play. Each card features illustrations by Kyle Ferrin showcasing the different characters in a fun-loving, cartoony style. Many cards have clever, entertaining, or familiar names. The cards each have a variety of symbols on them which tell you what each card does. The symbols are all easy to understand and, if you ever forget what they do, each character has their own unique reference card to remind you.
There are five symbols that appear in every character’s deck. A swords deals one damage to an opponent, a shield blocks one damage dealt to you, a heart heals one hp, a card lets you draw one card, and a lightning bolt lets you play one extra card. Although some cards in the decks contain a single symbol on them, most have a combination or two or three symbols. These symbols appear in different combinations and quantities throughout the decks, making each one different. The paladin’s deck has a lot of healing, for example, while the rogue’s lets you play a lot of cards, and the barbarian is the only character who can do four damage at once to a single enemy. In addition, each deck has a few unique symbols and cards. Sutha the Skullcrusher can deal one damage to each enemy and then gain that much hp with her Whirling Frenzy while the wizard Azzan can swap life totals with another player by playing Vampiric Touch.
There’s a few other rules to the game, but not many. Typically when you play a card it gets discarded, but if you play a shield card it instead is placed on the table in front of you. For each damage it prevents it gets a damage counter, and when it’s been completely destroyed the shield card is removed from play and placed in the discard pile. If you happen to use up all the cards in your hand (you’ll need lightning bolt cards to do this, which let you play an extra card on your turn) you can draw two additional cards. And if your deck ever runs out you simply reshuffle it and keep playing.
While playing we found that this game was super simple to learn, teach, and understand. You get the hang of it quick, and games are fast and exciting. Since you’re battling each other there’s definitely a ‘take that’ feel to this game. Some rounds you’ll feel picked on if you get defeated quick, but others are more balanced. It just depends on the strategies of your opponents at the time. My kids often decided the best strategy was to kill me and then duke it out themselves, so I was brutally ganged up on a lot. Haha. They quickly realized this was a poor strategy when my husband also joined play, as he often teamed up with me so that he didn’t have to combat a pair of allied kids on his own. (How the tables have turned!) My daughter is an expert at the old ‘kick them when they’re down’ strategy, very often dealing ruthless finishing blows against whoever happens to be doing the worst. …Even if it might be against her brother who she was supposedly allied with. Clever girl. Haha.
The decks are fun, varied, and balanced. No one deck it better than the other, they’re just different. Although it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are between the decks it becomes clear pretty quick. Lia, the paladin, deals a lot of damage and heals a lot of her own wounds. Her special abilities include Divine Inspiration, which lets her put any card from her discard pile into her hand and then heal two hp and Banishing Smite which destroys all shield cards in play and then lets her play an additional card. This was my daughter’s favourite deck, and my second favourite deck. While my daughter prefers Divine Smite and her beloved steed Fluffy, I’m a big fan of the Finger-wag of Judgement and Divine Inspiration. This deck is tough to take down and enjoyable to play.
While my daughter and I loved the paladin, my son and I both decided the rogue, Oriax, was out favourite deck. Packed full of cards that let you take extra actions, this deck often lets you play more cards than your opponents. It’s also got some enjoyable tricks, particularly with Clever Disguise, a card that prevents you from being targeted by any cards until the start of your next turn. It’s particularly great for forcing your allies to duke it out at the start of the game, which is likely to result in them retaliating against each other in subsequent rounds. A nice little start! We also really like using Pick Pocket to play a card from someone else’s deck. Need healing? Grab a card from the paladin. Want to wreck your opponent? Snag a card from the barbarian. Want to get a nice full hand or play something tricky? Take a card from the wizard. Sure, it won’t always be what you were hoping for, but I’ve never seen it not be useful. One downside to the rogue is that he only has one way to heal himself: Stolen Potion. Although it lets you heal one hp and play another card (which is great) it does mean that when you’re low on health it’s hard to save yourself. One hp once in a while doesn’t do much. I also love Sneak Attack. It’s art and theme bring a smile to my face every time. Haha.
It should come as no surprise that the barbarian’s deck deals a lot of damage. In fact, they have the only card in the game that can do four damage against one enemy (Rage). They also have the awesome Whirling Axes, which we mentioned earlier. What might be surprising is how balanced it is. It’s got some solid shield cards (my daughter loves the dogs Riff and Raff), ways to draw cards (Open the Armory and Snack Time), ways to heal (Snack Time and Whirling Axes) and ways to destroy a shield with one card (Mighty Toss). Although none of us named this deck as our favourites, it also turned out to be the most played deck and both my son and husband’s second favourite decks. Sutha is a fearsome foe!
Which leaves us with the wizard. At first glance, Azzan’s deck is the most balanced. He can do everything well, but doesn’t have the most of anything either. Burning Hands and Lightning Bolt are some of his most reliable damage dealing cards. Magic Missile is my favourite, as it lets you deal one damage and play an extra card. Stoneskin and Mirror Image are great shield cards. Knowledge is Power gets him a lot of extra cards while Speed of Thought helps him play those cards fast. His one downside is a lack of healing cards. Eventually we came to realize he does have the most of something very important: TRICKS. His three unique cards include Vampiric Touch, which we already mentioned. This card lets him swap hp totals with another player — which can be game changing. Charm lets him take someone else’s shield card that’s on the table and use as his own — also awesome. And Fireball deals three damage to every player (including himself). My daughter’s prone to hoarding fireballs, using Charm to steal someone else’s defences, and then blasting a bunch of fireballs to kill everyone at once while she hits behind her stolen shields. Cheeky thing. Haha. Although Azzan’s deck is just as easy to use as everyone else’s, it’s also the deck that is most rewarding when played with some forethought.
We really enjoyed Dungeon Mayhem. It’s not a complex, tactical game like some of our others, but it’s a fun, quick, romp you can bring with you anywhere. We hope they come out with an expansion that contains another two or four decks. It’d be great to have more deck choices and play with more than four players. Happily, this deck was quite affordable. Our copy was only $18 Canadian. Well worth the money.