During GenCon 2008, post-Ennies, I ran off to a far away hotel to play in my very first session of True Dungeon. No photography is allowed inside the game itself, but I smuggled in my trusty voice recorder inside my shirt pocket to record the whole thing as a bit of guerrilla reporting. It’s hard to describe just how cool True Dungeon is, and how much work the organizers put into creating a unique experience. Hopefully, by listening to the recording, you’ll get a taste of what it’s like. (Also, listen to me be a crappy bard!)
Critical Hits Podcast #11 (35 MB, over an hour long)
Some notes on the rooms after the jump (all pictures were sent out by the True Dungeon people via email):
The starting room. This is where we were sat down, chose our characters, and give out loot (gained from previous quests and by spending real money) is divvied out. The recording begins as our guide explains some of the basics of the game.
The training room. Here, spellcasters got to memorize the images/objects that they’d need to cast their spells as the rest of us practiced combat, which involved sliding disks down onto a board trying to hit targets representing a monster. Then we are filled in on the backstory, including a speech given to us by a drow woman (in costume and body paint.)
The first room, which begin with us finding a riddle on a pedestal that had a spot for an object. We were then attacked by stirges, which were represented by plush animals that we had to put around our neck until we killed ours in combat. (I got rid of mine in the first hit.) Then we discovered a wooden object (kinda like this) that we had to “set free” as a puzzle, involving spinning the object to make it come apart.
The second room had a number of stone faces in the center with various expressions. On the wall was a riddle, and a pile of plates with virtues that had to be matched with the faces. I think we got through this one so quickly because people in the group had run this dungeon before. Since we finished so early, I was beseeched to inspire the party… definitely worth listening to.
The third room was dominated by one feature: a large dome of criss-crossing yarn representing an energy field. In the middle was a pedestal and a large key on it. Party members showed item tokens for rope to the GM and received real rope in exchange, and the long, difficult challenge ensued to use the rope to get the key from the center without reaching in.
Fourth room started in a long chamber, which had a trap that required us to crawl on our bellies to get under. (The whole time crawling under, I worried that I was crushing my recorder, or at least turning it off.)
On the other side was a platform into another room, with a cool mirror effect that made it seem like the platform was suspended over a big pit. Our fighter went across, and as he reached the end, a Mind Flayer jumped out! The Mind Flayer costume was really impressive, and lead to our first real fight.
Room five was easily the most impressive of the whole thing. In the corner of the chamber was a sleeping giant- a massive puppet with a jaw moving up and down as it “slept.” Leading up to it was an obstacle course of criss-crossing wires that the rogue had to traverse. Upon reaching the end, the giant awoke… which lead to the puppet springing up to life and gesturing! The whole thing was an animatronic construct that the GM could trigger, which also initiated a sound clip of the giant taunting us as we went into combat.
Sixth room we were greeted by the GM, a woman dressed in a demonic costume complete with glowing paint, and an evil monk. Pre-recorded audio taunted us as the demon. Combat began, and the cleric commanded the evil monk to flee. After a round, it was revealed that the demon was actually an illusion. The light in the room changed, which turned the demon costume into an angelic one. Very cool. After another speech from her (and getting healed to full), we had an anagram puzzle to rearrange letters on a pillar.
In the interlude between rooms, we were informed that we would be teamed up with another party for the final chamber.
Since we were the combat game, we battled against Iuz’s avatar, which was a giant plastic snake that sprung out of the wall at us.
Iuz also made an appearance as a blackened Lich-looking guy, and made a show of collapsing when the combat was over.
When we beat him, we were given an impressive glowing orb that changed colors, and waited for the other party (the puzzle game) to finish their part.
Afterward (after the recording ends) we went into a debriefing room, where we got final loot, gained xp (I leveled up!), and filled out feedback cards about the whole thing. I chose to leave out that portion of the recording, since the feedback area of the dungeon wasn’t quite as exciting as the rest.