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The Deep Dark
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The Deep Dark

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An eldritch beast rises out of the dark wretched waters in front of the ancient elvish gate. Great tentacles slither out from underneath it; reaching out for you as it snaps its angry maw. What do you do?

The Deep Dark is a minimalist tabletop role-playing game about dungeon delving.  It uses modern game design to accomplish an ‘old school’ feel. The Deep Dark has been said to be PBtA meets OSR. The PBtA mostly GM facing with Principles for the GM, and skills like 'moves'. OSR then player facing a strong focus on player ability in fictional positioning and advantage. 

The Deep Dark conforms to many of the common assumptions of modern dungeon delving role playing games. You can expect to see attributes, classes, levels, xp, treasure and monsters. 

Some aspects that stand out as less common:

  • 1d6 + modifier resolution. When rolling for a test roll 1d6 and add positive modifiers for attributes, alignment statement, lineage descriptor, and tools! Add negative modifiers for light. If your result is 6+ you succeed and get your intent!
  • 5 character classes: Cartographer, Quartermaster, Master-at-Arms, Theologist and Arcanist.
  • Instead of Hit Points, this game uses Health Descriptors to indicate character health. These descriptors are struck through as characters take damage. 
Some things unique to the Deep Dark

Alignment Statements

Player written Alignment statements determine the philosophy of the character. These alignment statements are used to position the characters in the fiction. 

25 Class Skills

Each class as a unique skill list, and each skill provides your character with a special ability or advantage. 

The Arcanist's Experimenting skill may be used to turn monstrous abilities into known spells! 

Detailed Light and Exploration Rules

Light is super important in the Deep Dark, and modifies every roll made with the dice!

Detailed GM Section

Not only does the GM section have principles for the GM to run the game, but provides rules for complicating the characters' lives,  generating and stocking dungeons, and rules for treasure!

Town Mechanisms

Returning to town to restock and sell loot is almost as important as delving into the deep in the first place. Town is fully mechanized with detailed locations, each with its own purpose and advantage for character use. That is if you can afford it! 

and more!

This PDF contains everything needed to run full games of perilous adventure!

You can find a Character Sheet here

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"..a classic dungeon crawler alongside modern takes on rules to make it inviting to newcomers but also a nice hit of nostalgia for others." - Brennon, Beast of War

"Overall it's pretty interesting...It all feels like it would gel together nicely and thrusts at an overall design goal that would be Old School..[5 STAR REVIEW]" - Fraser Simons, The Viel and Hack the Planet

"The Deep Dark is a minimalistic fantasy tabletop rpg inspired by the old school renaissance! There are a lot cool ideas with very streamlined solutions here! I like it!" - Diogo Nogueira, Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells 

Reddit r/rpg March 2020 Game to the Month! 

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Reviews (0)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 03, 2020 9:08 pm UTC
I just bought this I must say, wow! Very well written and digestible. I will draft a full review once I'm finished and had a session, but I just have a quick question.

Is there a mechanical reason that only Humans can be Arcanist's and Theologist? Or is it just the way your world is? I can't see any "extra" benefit of being an Elf, Dwarf or Halfling that in most systems facilitates these kinds of limits. So i thought i'd just pop in and ask.
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 03, 2020 9:09 pm UTC
Also, is there a character sheet floating about?
Customer avatar
Stephen B April 04, 2020 1:37 am UTC
Hey! Thanks for taking the time to reach out! I would say the mechanical reason for limiting those two classes is because I try to imbue the setting through the mechanics. Tell you about the world, through the rules. Also, take a look at the Lineage descriptors, and you'll probably see that Humans got the short end.
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 04, 2020 7:19 am UTC
Thanks for the response!

So after reading the entire rules and prepping for a roll 20 session, I have the following questions/suggestions if you could spare some time.

1. Mapping- I think a few examples of what consequences a failed roll could have might be a good idea here, as done in other areas.
2. "Similar to Helms, Shields allow players to choose to take damage to a location that is not their characters" What exactly does "take damage to a location that is not their characters" mean?
3. On page 52- "GMs looking to create their own monsters should first choose the Challenge Type and HitDice desired for the monster". Challenge Type is never explained or mentioned again. Also in the example "The Goblin Shaman (as a Hard Medium Monster) has a total attribute of +2, so by making Clever +3, the GM must give the Shaman a negative to equal it out". There is no reference to "Hard" in the guidelines provided prior to this and the...See more
Customer avatar
Stephen B April 05, 2020 4:05 am UTC
Hey! Thanks again for reaching out. Im glad you've taken the time to read through it all. I'll try to address some of your topics the best I can.

1. Mapping is very important, especially the mapmaking skill. Page 32 goes into detail with what should be done with test failures in the Deep Dark. These kind of calls though, take practice to hone, I get it. What I'd suggest for a mapmaking failure is this:

Perhaps they make the map, but it takes so much time to draw out that everyone gets hungry and eats a ration, or the lights they draw by burn out. This uses up the resources they have. You could also break their equipment by saying an error occurs to make them spill their ink and ruin the map. OR they draw the wrong map, it leads them astray and now you have to call for a new test to get them back on track.

2. This is written weird I understand. Here's the hard and fast rule: Anytime a character would take damage, they may sacrifice a helm or shield (its lost and broken) in...See more
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 05, 2020 8:38 am UTC
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer! Just for the record, I have no issue house ruling or changing things to my liking, but I like to understand how the game mechanics are intended to work before doing so. Hence all the annoying questions. ;)

In regards to 3, I figured that was the case but was thrown by the +2 total abilities, whereas the actual text says +1, so for medium HARD monsters that should be +2. Gotchya!

My second read through has raised the following queries, then I Promise I'm done!

1. In the example of play on page 54, why is Thraundir even asked to roll, as even with help a total of 6 was never achievable? What am I missing?
2. In the example of play on page 56-57, Bolimbur moves (changes range) THEN attacks, whereas the combat chapter provides a very specific sequence to follow with movement occurring last. So is the combat sequence not as formal as outlined in the combat chapter, or is the example incorrect?
3. In regards to mapping,...See more
Customer avatar
Stephen B April 05, 2020 4:58 pm UTC
I understand. Thanks for reaching back out.

1. The quick and simple answer is: Procedure. The rules say you should roll when your character attempts something. Its failure on that roll that produces the consequences on page 32. Without a test, there is no failure.

2. The example is incorrect.

3. You are correct.

Thanks again for reaching out. It's not a problem. I don't have an eta on APOCRYPHA. I've uploaded the character sheet that we use at the table. It should be available publicly in a day or so.
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 06, 2020 7:38 am UTC
No, thank you! I look forward to the character sheet!
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 07, 2020 9:28 pm UTC
Hi Stephen!

Well session one went swimmingly, all 3 players had a ball, and all want to play more of The Deep Dark, so thanks for that!

Two questions did come up though so I'll post them here as I'm not sure how else to raise these queries.

1. The game refers to the Combat Matrix a number of time, is this meant to be something specific, or just a generic term for whatever combat tracking system the group is using?
2. Page 9 states "See the section on combat for more information on Health Descriptors and their application." The combat section however doesn't mention them at all, so my question is are these descriptors meant to have any mechanical effect(s) or are they just role playing cues?

Thanks again for your time.
Customer avatar
Stephen B April 13, 2020 12:49 am UTC
Hey. I guess some revisions may be in order now. Hope you're enjoying your gaming so far.

1. Its a term for how you keep up with ranges. I usually list everyone in 'ranged', everyone in reach, and everyone in melee.
2. Basically it was when you take damage, you mark through that many desripters. They are important, but are role playing cues.

thanks again
Customer avatar
Wayne R April 14, 2020 10:49 am UTC
Thanks very much for patience and responses. We've got session 2 coming up but so far it's been great fun!
Customer avatar
Yochai G November 26, 2018 9:32 pm UTC
Any chance you'll put this on POD or Lulu?
Customer avatar
Stephen B November 30, 2018 3:42 pm UTC
Hey Yochai! Thanks for your interest. There will be a POD - both soft and hard cover over on Lulu as soon as I finish shipping out kickstarter copies. Give it about 2 - 3 weeks.
Customer avatar
Yochai G December 13, 2018 8:50 pm UTC
I can't wait anymore! I'm going to buy it now, and hopefully it'll convert into POD dollars later...
Customer avatar
Stephen B March 22, 2019 2:21 am UTC
The Deep Dark is now available POD @ lulu
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