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by Mike on 5 May 2014
Updated 22 January 2023.
Dungeons of Fate is a lightweight fantasy dungeon delving roleplaying game by Michael E. Shea based on Fate Condensed by Evil Hat Games.
Download the PDF of Dungeons of Fate.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The gamemaster (GM) describes the situation, the player chooses an action, and the GM determines a challenge level between 10 (easy) and 25 (nearly impossible) if needed.
The player rolls a twenty-sided die (1d20), adds an applicable attribute bonus and potential stunt bonus, and compares the result to the challenge level. After the roll, the player can spend Fate points to invoke aspects, adding +2 for each aspect invoked. They may also invoke an aspect to reroll once.
If the roll is less than the challenge level, the action fails or succeeds at a cost (GM’s choice). If the roll is equal to or greater than the challenge level, the action succeeds. If the roll is five higher than the challenge level, the action is a critical success.
GM’s don’t roll dice in Dungeons of Fate.
Aspects are short phrases that describe characters, locations, monsters, items, or temporary situations. Characters have four character aspects: ancestries, classes, backgrounds, and heirlooms. GMs define location, monster, and item aspects. Characters can create temporary aspects by creating an advantage (see Actions).
While making an action, a player can invoke an aspect by describing how the aspect helps them in the current situation and spending a Fate point. An invoked aspect awards either a +2 bonus or lets the player reroll. Multiple aspects can be invoked in a turn to stack bonuses, but a single aspect can only be invoked once per turn and only one aspect can be invoked to reroll on a turn.
When taking actions, the GM determines which character attribute fits the situation. The following list describes which attributes typically fit which situations.
Strength. Used for challenges of physical might, fighting with heavy weapons, and defending with heavy armor and shields.
Dexterity. Used for challenges of nimbleness, acrobatics, stealth, and subtlety; attacking with light weapons; and defending with light armor.
Constitution. Used for challenges and defenses requiring physical fortitude and increases a character’s starting hit points based on the bonus.
Intelligence. Used for challenges requiring a keen mind and high intellect. Used for arcane spellcasting.
Wisdom. Used for challenges requiring experience and worldly knowledge. Used for divine spellcasting.
Charisma. Used for challenges requiring charm and leadership. Used for innate spellcasting abilities.
Characters take one of three actions on their turn. Characters take the Defend action when attacked.
Attack. Attack an enemy. Failure: inflict no damage. Success: Inflict one point of damage. Critical success: Inflict two points of damage. A character can attack multiple enemies with a -2 penalty for each enemy attacked beyond the first.
Defend. Defend against an enemy’s attack. The GM determines the defending attribute based on the type of attack. This action is only taken when a character is attacked. Failure: Take damage equal to the level of the attacker. Success: take no damage. Critical success: Take no damage and gain a +2 bonus on your next attack.
Overcome. Attempt to overcome a challenge. Failure: Fail to overcome or succeed at a cost. Success: Overcome the challenge. Critical success: Overcome the challenge and gain a +2 bonus to your next related action.
Create an Advantage. Overcome a challenge 12 roll to create an aspect. Failure: Fail to create the aspect. Success: Create the aspect with one free invocation. Critical success: Create the aspect with two free invocations. A character can have only one ongoing aspect at a time.
Stunts are specialized character skills created by players during play. A character can have up to three stunts. Players define stunts the first time they’d come into use them during the game. A stunt usually falls into one of three models:
Characters are assumed to be equipped with standard adventuring gear and you’re encouraged to write down any items your characters might reasonably bring with them.
A character’s heirloom is considered their prized possession, an item of great value, quality, or magically enhanced.
Characters may discover other magical items throughout their adventures. These items have their own aspects and sometimes include free invocations.
Magic in Dungeons of Fate is handled as part of the characters’ aspects and handled just as other actions are handled. Magic usually comes in three varieties: arcane magic tied to intelligence, divine magic tied to wisdom, and innate magic tied to charisma. Players can describe any sort of magic recognizing that such magic still follows the four actions and associated challenge rolls. Specialized spells can be created as stunts.
Characters begin at 1st level and gain a level when completing GM-determined milestones. At 2nd, 5th, and 8th level characters gain 2 additional hit points. At 3rd, 6th, and 9th level characters gain +1 to a chosen attribute. At 4th, 7th, and 10th, characters gain one new stunt.
Scenes happen in rounds and turns. Each character takes one action on their turn during a round. GMs determine who begins a round or determines it randomly. Once a character has acted, their player chooses who goes next, including monsters, until everyone has gone. The last person to go then selects who acts first in the next round.
Locations are broken down into “zones” where groups of characters can reside. A character can move from one zone to another on their turn.
When a character loses all of their hit points in a scene, they’re knocked unconscious. If all characters are knocked unconscious, they may either die or find themselves captured by their enemies and restored to one hit point each.
A character can heal 2 hit points per hour (or 4 on a critical success) by overcoming a challenge 12 Constitution check. A character can help another character heal 2 hit points (or 4 on a critical success) by overcoming a challenge 12 Wisdom check once per hour. A character’s hit points are fully recovered after an eight-hour rest.
Monsters have a level between 1 (a weak bandit) to 15 (an ancient dragon). A monster’s challenge level is equal to 10 + monster level and has hit points equal to its level. Players choose whether to kill or knock out a monster reduced to zero hit points.
In a combat scene, GMs gain one Fate point for each character in the scene. When a character takes an action, GMs can invoke monster aspects by spending these Fate points and applying a +2 bonus to the challenge level. A character gains a Fate point when the GM invokes a monster’s aspect against a character’s action.
An individual character is roughly equivalent to two 1st level monsters or one 2nd level monster. Two characters compare to a 5th level monster. Four characters compare to an 8th level monster.
Use the following lists for inspiration or roll randomly to choose your class, ancestry, and background. Feel free to make up your own based on the story and world.
Your character begins with one heirloom, an item you covet and that has special meaning to you or even magical properties. Use the list below for inspiration.
During the game, create stunts the first time you would use it or choose from the list below. Use these as a model for building your own stunts.
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