OSR Experiments #1: Morgan Ironwolf meets Dark Dungeon

Okay. I've set a new challenge for myself. I'll try and translate my Dark Dungeon game to Old School and the other way around.

I've been wondering a while now why old school attracts so many followers. And also why does it intrigue me aswell? Is it just nostalgia, whistfully thinking about the time we were young and (at least somewhat) nerdy? Longing for the sense of wonder we first experienced playing the game in the eighties? Table-o-mania? Is B/X a best game ever?

Yet, I haven't played D&D for some twenty odd years. Instead I have mastered and played my own game which evolved from home brew D&D – into something quite different.
So why do I prefer playing my own Dark Dungeon game above old school? Or why not?

Perhaps I can find out by translating DD into Old school and vice versa.

My first set task challenge: converting the Moldvay example adventure to Dark Dungeon stats.

[Just for the record here, I'm talking about Dark DungeoNNN which I wrote, with a few friends in 1989, and which evolved during the 90s. You can download the lite version here. I am NOT talking about the Dark DungeonSSS game retro style D&D clone of a much more recent date. Translating D&D to a clone would not be much of a challenge, would it? - Thanx for pointing out the potential confusion, Jeff!]

Challenge 1: Redesigning Morgan Ironwolf

My Dark Dungeon game was actually never written for dungeon romps, as our playing groups had grown out of the dungeon already. We went for more cinematic style adventures of one or two game sessions at that time. But who knows, it might hold up. Let's try.

First, in my opinion we need the heroes. In Moldvay, we find five of them. A dwarf, a warrior, an elf, a cleric and a thief. In Dark Dungeon these would be a dwarf, a warrior, and elf. A priest and a thief. So far fairly easy, eh?

But, let's provide some stats. Moldvay doesn't give many. Only Morgan the female fighter has a complete character sheet. Fredrik the dwarf is 1st level, and has only 6 hit points. Sister Rebecca can cure wounds. And all but Fredrik are 2nd level. So, I guess I can make up the rest. Here goes.

I'll give all second level characters 55 skill points. That is 5 above the starting 50. At this moment I'm just winging it, but I guess that 5 more points per level would be okay, especially at the lower levels. Also, I'll allow one skill at level 6 for each second level character. That's one skill point in the master range for each level above 1.

So, how would the heroes look? Today I'll try Morgan.

Morgan, female mercenary, 55 pts

Strength 5, (actually 16 in D&D, but there's a limit in DD for starting characters at 5)
Dexterity 3, (this would relate to D&D Dex 13, as 10 is average in D&D, and 0 in DD)
Constitution 4, (14 in D&D) good for taking blows
Intelligence -1, (7 in D&D)
Willpower 0, (10 in D&D)
Appearance -1, I'm surprised at the D&D dump stat Charisma: Morgan has score 8 in D&D

This makes for a total of 10 abilty points, or 20 skill points. Leaving 35 for the rest.

Combat skills:
Mercenaries fight for their daytime job, so the brunt of the skill points can go here.

long sword 6, this would be her main weapon, so this is the one skill above 5
shield 5
dagger 4
brawling 5, if she runs out of weapons
short bow 5, nothing beats a good ranged weapon attack

That's 25 points in combat skills, leaving 10 for the remainder.

Other skills:
Hm. Ten points. I'll just have a look at the template on page 5 of the DD rules. Yes, these are the Dark Dungeon rules you can download here. I'll pick a few and divide the ten points equally.

Swimming 2
combat tactics 2
hunting 2
leader 2
survive rural 2

Now I'll equip her from the template too.

Ringmail brigantine & light helmet (armour class 2 all over)
Longsword (weapon class 3)
Dagger (weapon class 1)
Short bow & a dozen arrows in quiver (weapon class 2, range not important in the Lite rules)
Leather boots
Backpack with food & flask of wine
Money worth 100 silvers (I'll say that's 4 in gold and 20 in silvers)

Morgan has some more equipment in D&D on her sheet, like a silver arrow, torches, iron spikes and fifty feet of rope. For ease I'll figure that that costs about a gold coin, leaving her 3 gold, 20 silver.

There. Morgan Ironwolf is ready for dungeon delving. However, I'd also would have to provide for some background in Dark Dungeon. Let's say she's served in the city guard of the nearest large town, Hardby. There she had the rank of assistant Serjeant. But after a conflict with her superiors (which she does not readily discuss), and a short time spent in jail, she went working for the highest bidder. Now, returning to her home hamlet, soliciting for the position of assistant sherrif, she finds that her brother Paul was taken by a goblin warband. Morgan is a natural blonde, blue-eyed, strong built, in her early twenties.

You may notice that I didn't mention hit points. If I would fill out a wound box for Morgan however, as described on page 11, Morgan would have four additional Light wounds she could take, in her arms, legs, chest and guts respectively.

To be continued...

Sheet gratefully borrowed from D&D Basic.

PS updated Morgan Ironsword into Morgan Ironwolf... guys... help me proofread?


  1. Different from many gamers, I didn't start with (A)D&D but with White Wolf's storyteller games, so I can't speak from personal experience in regard to D&D nostalgia.
    However, I think that it's safe to say D&D was never a great system (neither was Vampire), but the longing for that old wide-eyed sense of wonder we used to have will keep us coming back to our "first love".
    For D&D, this fuels the free retro-clones. For Vampire, it has led to a new main rulebook being announced for this year... for a gameline that's been dead for seven years now.

    I'd be really interested to know whether you can recapture some old magic with a retro-clone, please share your experiences! :-)

  2. I'm also very curious whether a retro-clone would work for me. Or whether I could recreate the first sense of wonder of my first D&D, by translating it into Dark Dungeon.

    We'll see!