Mini-Review: Axebane’s Deck of Many Dungeons
Today I have a review of something different for you all! This go around I have a utility for Game Masters to utilize and it is a physical product. Don’t let that stop you from reading. It is not a big, super expensive product. This is Axebane’s Deck of Many Dungeons, a deck of cards that doubles as a random dungeon creator. I bought this specifically to review since the expansion set released recently, so let’s talk about what it was like!
This is a deck of cards, complete with suits and all, so it is fully usable as such. Additionally, this is a dungeon builder. On the card faces, instead of symbols and designs you will find dungeon tiles. Each one is crafted with a different room, hallway, or intersection from which you can build a dungeon. To facilitate this purpose, the Jokers have been utilized as instructions and a pair of random tables to generate NPCs and items. The rules are simple. Remove the Jokers, Aces, and Kings. The rest of the deck is shuffled. An Ace is randomly selected to act as the entrance and a King selected to replace a room as the end goal. Building the dungeon is about pulling and placing cards until there are no gaps or open-ended halls. Unusable cards are simply replaced to the bottom of the deck.
This product is incredibly clever and well done. I have claimed various rules and systems to be elegant in their own ways and the ways they achieve their intended goals. But this product is the first that fits the term so well. It is a deck of cards with a self contained rule set for creating a near limitless amount of dungeons to use during your campaign. There is a clear method of beginning the dungeon, ending it, adding levels, adding inhabitants, creating obstacles, and rewarding treasure. Everything you want in a dungeon is included here without you having to do more than access the rules for Easy – Hard DC checks, monster stat blocks, and magic item tables.
I went ahead and made two dungeons with the deck which you kind find in the pictures above and below. Note I didn’t spend time going through cards to give it a clean card edge to card edge, right side up feel. Dungeons are messy and this gives me more play room anyways! These give you a decent idea of what to expect form the Deck of Many Dungeons, but let me explain why it is so great. Aside from being cleverly put together so that you need no extra material (not even separate instruction sheets), this product includes all of the following possibilities well mixed into the rooms and hallways: sounds, sights, traps, locks, monsters, magical effects, secret doors. Not only that but almost all of them are randomized and/or easily scaled to any level group.
This is done very cleverly by utilizing a small table that makes you roll a die (such as a d6) to determine what you might hear. For things like locks this is easy, hard, etc. and those DC values are based on the level of the group as per the rule books. As for monsters and treasure, these are scaled and random. By rolling a die you can randomize it, but the table is also generated on a scale that considers the group level. Level 6 group? Roll, add 6, and consult the table. The lovely thing about this is that you can randomize the difficulty of the encounters OR you can quick math the low end and high end and pick one based on your desire or needs.
This product is a useful tool to create dungeons that could be used in virtually any game but is 100% most useful for 5th Edition from which those tables are estimated around. It looks great, evokes a sense of wonder and mystery in the building, and turns something that might start to feel like work into a fun little game for the GM. This deck is full of vibrancy, possibility, and wonder. All I need to do now is find a way to work a classic dungeon into one of my games.
Finally, the product is $15 for those who haven’t looked. Since a good deck of cards with a fun design is usually $5 + and the quality of The Game Crafter’s production is wonderful, this product is WELL worth the cost. I would suggest this for anyone running 5E, especially if you like dungeon crawls!