Once upon a time, I scorned accessories for roleplaying games. “Bah,” I thought, “I have this pencil and some paper, that and some dice are all I need to create and run a great adventure!” And, hey, maybe teenager me actually had the time and creativity to pull it off. But as time has passed I have found accessories more and more helpful, variously creating more immersive gameplay, making sessions run more smoothly, or reducing preparation time. Conveniently for me, tabletop roleplaying accessories have also become much more available over time. And, as you probably guessed by now, this review takes a look at one of those accessories.
The original Dungeon Discoveries decks were, as the name implies, fantasy themed (Curious Treasures, Wilderland Voyage, and Fumbled Searches). The more recent set, although still bearing the Dungeon Discoveries brand, are Dungeon Discoveries Sci-Fi. Like the fantasy version, there are three sets – Sci-Fi Searches, Sci-Fi Locations, and Sci-Fi Story Hooks.
The basic ‘mechanics’ of each deck are similar. Pull two cards. Choose an option from the top of one card and an option from the top of the other card. Squish them together for to produce something interesting. The Searches deck focuses on objects (adjective/noun). Perhaps there’s a bullet-ruptured tracking device, or a sparkling freezer unit. The locations provides a place and function. There might be a servant’s alcove containing a malformed and powerful dangerous spirit, or a hydroponic garden that is locked remotely when you enter. The Story Hooks deck is a bit more complex, with four ‘slots’ on each card – person, action, purpose, twist (so four cards to make a whole hook). Perhaps the exiled governor makes a sacrifice to become a legend but a key item is missing.
The Dungeon Discoveries decks can be used either during pre-game planning, or during play. Personally, I prefer the pre-game option – sort of a middle ground between making up everything on your own and using a fully pre-packaged adventure. You can do everything on the fly during play, but for me coming up with entire plots mid-session is not optimal, even with a bit of prompting (I mean, that’s the sort of thing I might do for Masks or Monsterhearts one-shot, but usually not something like Starfinder). For use during play, I like the locations deck best – because sometimes the players end up trying to go some place you hadn’t even conceived of, so now you’re making it up on the fly no matter what.
As pre-game planning, the three decks effectively flow through different conceptual levels. Use the story hook deck for inspiration for the plot. That will probably give a number of plot-integral location ideas, and then the locations deck can be used to help fill out the maps. Similarly, there are going to be plot-relevant items, but you don’t want the rest of the rooms to be empty when the party inevitably searches. Or actually use the location and search decks to help think of the plot integral locations and items (where is the sacrifice going to take place? what is the key item that’s missing?). Sometimes the hardest part of design is starting with a blank page, and the Dungeon Discoveries decks can help get past that, then speed up the process of filling everything in.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.