Deathtrap Solitaire: 4th Edition Playing Card Dungeons

Here’s an old idea revisited and reborn for 4e D&D, reminded to me by this thread over in the Microlite20 forums.

You will need: The D&D Core rules, a shuffled deck of cards, miniatures, dice and battlemats, two or more players (but no GM!). This can be played solo too (hence the Deathtrap Solitaire moniker), should you feel the urge for a little solitary random dungeon action.

Turn a card. That’s the room.

Whoever holds the deck describes the room, lays out battlemats as required and controls the action. For the purposes of this turn, he’s the GM.

Hearts Empty
Clubs Creature(s)
Diamonds Creature(s) & Treasure
Spades Trap!

Jack, Queen and King are special. These rooms contain something which furthers the storyline of the adventure. Whoever drew the card can add a story element. If this card is a Club, it must include an NPC or non-combat encounter. If Diamonds, it’s an item. If Spades, it is a potential challenge or setback that must be overcome. Optionally, the King could represent a major milestone such as the end-point in the adventure or stairs leading to a lower level – in which case, clear the cards from the table, start the map again and add one to further the encounter difficulties. Onward, brave adventurers!

Empty (Hearts)
This room is a relative safe haven for the characters. They may take an Extended Rest here. If they do, draw another card and if this is Clubs, Creature(s) appear interrupting their relaxation.

Creatures(s) (Clubs and Diamonds)
The current deck holder selects or creates an encounter, sets out the battlemat and controls the action. The card value shows the encounter difficulty:

Ace-3 Party level -1
4-6 Party level
7-9 Party level +1
10 Party level +2

Either create an encounter as per the building rules in the DMG, or select one of the pre-built ones from the Monster Manual. My 4e Monster Manual Encounter Table should keep things flowing quickly, and the deck holder is free to modify and adapt the encounter as required provided it stays withing the XP limits.

Treasure (Diamonds)
The room contains a Treasure Parcel and one or more Creatures. Draw another card to find the Encounter difficulty and play this through before receiving the Treasure. Refer to the DMG p126 and check off the card value against the Treasure Parcel list for the party level where Ace=1, etc.

Trap! (Spades)
The room contains a Trap or some kind of hazard. Create an encounter as per Creature(s) above, but include a Trap from the DMG p87 as a major feature of the encounter. For example, the room may feature 2 Shadowhunter Bats, a Goblin Hexer and a set of Pendulum Scythes for 625XP – an appropriate 2nd level challenge for 5 PCs.

That’s done. What’s next?
Once the room is clear, pass the deck to the left and the next player draws two cards. Set one face down adjacent to a side of the current card, and the other adjacent to any card on the table. These are new areas of the dungeon. The party can choose a route and turn any card to enter that room.

And so, it continues.


7 Comments on “Deathtrap Solitaire: 4th Edition Playing Card Dungeons”

  1. That sounds hella fun. It also kicking something in the “I bet I could program something like that” part of my brain into action. I’ll have to think about this.

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