The Black Orifice

Tabletop gaming resources and events from grumpy old games designers, Ben Redmond and Nigel McClelland

Dungeon Slam Design Blog


A look at the different upgrade option in Dungeon Slam.

There are two different types of "upgrade" cards in Dungeon Slam. Known collectively as "Level-Ups", you can improve you adventurer's abilities by adding Gear or Abilities. In this blog post we'll have a look at how Level-Ups work and some examples of both types.

Adding Level-Ups to your Adventurers

Level-Ups come on cards, so that all the rules you need to play your adventurers can be referred to throughout the game. Whether Gear or Abilities, each Level-Up is assigned to a particular slot - your adventurer must have the slot available to use the Level-Up in question, and once a card has been assigned to a given slot, no other cards can be assigned to the same slot.

Let's have a look at these two example adventurers to give you an idea about the different slots available to them.

Examples of Adventurer Cards looking at Level-Up Slots

Gear Level-Up slots are found on the left of the adventurer card. It is rare that an adventurer won't have the full set of Gear slots, but as you can see Gendo, who is a mechanica - a fantasy robot of sorts - is missing his Body slot. This is because his physical form (exposed cogs and the like) makes it difficult to equip with clothing and armour.

In contrast, an adventurer's ability slots are unlikely to have any shared slots. Ability slots come in two shapes: squares and pantagons. A square icon tells you that the adventurer has a single slot for the ability in question, whilst a pentagon tells you that they can have two Level-Ups from a given ability category.

Gear Level-Ups

Half Plate Level-Up CardArmour

Here's an example of a Gear Level-Up card: half plate armour. Firstly you will notice that this card uses the Body slot (probably as you would expect for armour). At the bottom left corner you will see the points cost for the Level-Up; at five points, half plate is one of the more expensive gear cards. The empty boxes near the top of the card we'll look at in a moment as they don't apply to armour, but the main text box for the Level-Up rules is worth mentioning.

Here you will see that half plater provides ARM [2]; this is an armour rating. Armour in Dungeon Slam reduces the damage you will receive, and at ARM [2] wearing this armour will reduce the damage you suffer from each attack by two points of damage - quite a sizeable amount. However, armour and spellcasting does not mix; wearing this armour will cause the adventurer to suffer -5 dice on any Arcana dice rolls.

Now that we've looked at an example of armour, let's have a look at some weapons...

Rapier Level-Up CardPolearm Level-Up CardWeapons

Next lets have a look at two weapons for contrast. Firstly, the Rapier: the icons at the top of the card show that this weapon takes up a single hand slot, and uses the Finesse skill. Below the Level-Up name you will see that to make an attack with the rapier, you will need to spend one token of any type (more on tokens in another blog). Whilst the Polearm has the same token costs (you will find all mundane weapons have this token cost), the skill icon shows that you should make a melee roll instead, and that is takes up both hand slots to use.

Let's take a moment to introduce how attacks work in Dungeon Slam. You may remember from a previous blog post that when you make a dice roll you roll a number of dice equal to your skill and then discard dice results, keeping a number of dice equal to your attribute. When you make a standard dice roll you want to get the highest result possible, so you get rid of the lowest numbers. When making an attack, however, the different dice results correspond to different effects, so you might want to choose a lower dice result to achieve a particular effect you're after. The Rapier, for example, has damage results on 4, 5 and 6, but also a Sidestep result on a 2 and a disarm result on a 3, so you can use your attack roll results to knock an enemy's weapon out of their hands or dodge around them for some extra squares of movement that your opponent cannot react to. The Polearm, however, has less damage results but more special effects. On a 2 you can push opponents away, whilst on a 3 you can pull them around or towards you, and on a 4 you can knock them prone.

Ability Level-Ups

Reach Ability Level-UpPierce the Shadows Ability Level-UpAbility Level-Ups can have a range of effects. Some are actions in their own right with a skill roll requirement and token cost; some are modifiers to another actions, where you spend tokens to improve the output of anotehr action; and others, like Reach, are permanent effects that require no token spends, and will just apply a bonus whenever their situation occurs. Reach, as an example, requires that the adventurer is using a polearm, and is fairly cheap at only 2 points, but allows the weilder to use their polearm two sqaures from their target. On the other hand, Pierce the Shadows costs 4 points and is itself an action. You need to spend an awareness token to take teh action, and it requires the user to make an Awareness roll, the difficulty being twice the opponent's Mobility. This ability allows an adventurer to break an opponent's Hidden special rule - great for spotting those assassins lurking in the shadows.