September’s Patron’s Choice – Dinky Dungeon – Is Smaller Better?

Dinky Dungeon

Author: Denton R. Elliot
Publisher: DOC’s Games
Page Count: 32-46 Pages
Available Formats: PDF and print
PDF (Unofficial)
Print (other options available) – Market Price

Dinky Dungeon is a minimalist’s dream game. The rules are light and the concepts so simple that once you have a full understanding of this game, you will no longer need to reference the rules. Is the game robust enough to capture your imagination? Let’s take a look!

Dinky Dungeon was published in 1985, a simpler time, right? Anyways, Doc’s Games published this little gem of a game in a 2.5″x3.5″ booklet with the declaration that inside it offered a complete fantasy gaming experience, imagine that! The game was designed by Denton R. Elliot and featured super simple rules, simplistic and yet whimsical art, albeit with a minimalist approach. There where several “supplements” published for Dinky Dungeon during it’s time. These also kept with the small format and retained the same whimsical art style as the original game.

This game approaches character generation in a simple way. Every character has only two stats, mental and physical. This really cuts down on the min-maxing! Players roll 2d6 and assign one as their mental score and the other to their physical score. Players then select a class (Warrior, Wizard or Bard) and then pick a race, if using that optional rule. Race does modify one of the two stats. Next, players will equip their hero with the tools of the trade. Lastly, Wizards and Bards will select some spells. That is literally all there is to character creation. When I said this game takes a minimalist approach, I was serious.

The mechanical engine of this fun little fantasy game is super simple. Given the simplicity of the game, combat is at the heart of the mechanical system. Therefore, that is what I will highlight first. In combat, characters can perform one of three actions during their turn; Cast a spell (if capable), Fire an arrow (ranged combat), or engage in melee. Before those options can be employed, the initiative has to be determined. Like everything else, this is simple; the highest combined mental + physical total goes first. Ties are determined by a 2d6 roll. Once the initiative has been determined, combat rounds are as simple as players (and monsters) resolving their actions in initiative order and applying damage, rinse and repeat until the combat is over. Combat can be boiled down to cross-referencing attacker and defender attribute scores to determine a target number. The attacker then needs to roll equal to or under that number to score a hit. Damage takes a slightly different approach from more traditional fantasy games, the damage is determined by simple dice rolls, doubles act as a critical or fumble. Damage is subtracted from either the physical or mental attribute score. Once a player’s mental score reaches “0” they’re brain-dead and at “0” physical, death ensues. If for some reason the physical damage is so catastrophic to reach -20, the corpse is never found and lost to time. Armor does reduce the physical damage by a preset amount as well.

The game is not so superficial that is all combat driven, players’ have the ability to find traps and break down doors and do other heroic type actions. To do these types of actions, characters will roll versus their appropriate attribute. The character’s mental or physical score is the number of times per day that they can attempt these types of actions. When trying, they will roll 2d6. On a 7 or higher they are successful and do not have to pay a mental or physical attribute point, if doubles are rolled they are also considered successful, but they lose 1 attribute point, and any other result is a failure and they will also lose an attribute point.

 Small package!
 Super simple rules
 Can be used as a filler game and played anywhere
 Everything you need is included in one booklet
 Supplements add options to the game

 Overly simple mechanics
 Not well suited to long running campaign style of play
 Very hard to find the original game or supplements

I have played this game a number of times over the years as filler games before online conventions were scheduled to officially start. This was like our traditional warmup game. The games I played were fast and brutal. Character deaths were inevitable because of the push your luck style of game that it is. Remember, I said you can lose attribute points when trying “other” types of actions? That makes it all the more challenging when these values are also how you take damage. If you’re looking for a simple and whimsical fantasy game, this is one to get. Is it for everyone? Nope, certainly not. It’s not the type of game to take seriously. Play it for what it is!

So, is smaller better? It’s really going to depend on what you want to get out of this game. If you’re okay with a minimalist approach and looking for a short filler type of game, than yes. Dinky Dungeon does what it set out to do; bringing a complete fantasy game experience in a super small package. If you want or expect a more robust playing experience, than Dinky Dungeon is not going to be a game for you and you should look to the “bigger” games out there.

Let’s talk about availability. The game, as originally published is very hard to come by. That being said, someone has taken the liberty to release the game (for free) as it was originally written. This can be found by a simple Google search. Put on your Google-Fu hat and find it yourself.

You can learn more about the original game and the supplements that were available on this website.

~ Modoc

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