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Well, I'm gonna make a hex grid based campaign with dungeons and such, and my player and I dislike D&D, Pathfinder and the likes for the over the top complexity. We've been using Savage Worlds for a while, however it doesn't feel like a system made for Dungeon Crawls.

I'd like to ask if there is a system that lets a single player stand on his own and that fits the dungeon crawler/exploration style.

I recently ran into Super-Console and Dungeonslayers. I am loving Console for its simplicity and wackiness, but the fact it tries to emulate a Console RPG makes things such as disabling traps and non linear dungeons quite hard to think about. And though we're loving Dungeonslayers, my player likes to Control a party, and I don't know how it would turn out if I give him control over 4 DS players, plus it doesn't have a Monster Creation rules system.

So I'm still debating which system would be best. Some points I want to let you know about:

  • I'm looking for a system that rewards my player experience for defeating foes, the problem with Savage Worlds is that Experience Gaining is way too fast, and players get experience regardless of what the face.
  • Something simple, that lets my player control a party, but without making the characters feel like "the same"
  • A game that let us play a long term campaign, we're not running to a one-shot or short campaign.
  • A system focused on combat, dungeon crawling and that works well for hexgrinding.

The reasons why I DON'T think Console, Savage Worlds and Dungeonslayers are good to go.

  • Console is a very simple, colorful, fun to run game, but it's WAY too focused in combat. Though this will be the main focus of the adventure (we HATE talking dragons and magic animals...), there are no skill systems, nor trap detection/disabling ones, plus stats grow to 99 and the only checks are for attacks/spell-casting and opposed checks.

  • Tough Savage Worlds is our favored system, I just feels NOT good for dungeon crawls, the Magic Items are too uninteresting and very little flexible, there are no real reasons to motivate my player into the fray of battle or exploring, since SW is a brutal system and giving a false step away from the rad means he can go down in a single round, and it's way too anti climatic for "boss" encounters, as they can die in a single action as well.

  • Dungeonslayers would work or seems to work for single, but it's not simple enough to make him run a party without having to track many things, and there's not any sort of monster creation rules system.

  • D&D, Pathfinder, 3.5 and the likes aren't games we enjoy because a single action can take forever to resolve, and to tell you the truth I didn't felt like the beginner box of Pathfinder helped me understand the rules once they leveled up, it's too much of a hassle for something we want to be fun.

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Sounds like a Basic D&D edition or retro clone would be perfect. Someone want to write an overview of the usual suspects like LL, ACKS, S&W, and the four(ish) Basic editions? –  SevenSidedDie Aug 13 '13 at 2:05
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This may require more details on what you want outside combat. "Traps" seems clear, and "not diplomacy" seems implied. Anything else? What kind of challenges other than combat do you want? Knowledge/Puzzles? Athletics/Climbing/Swimming? –  leokhorn Aug 13 '13 at 7:34
    
Could you say what you find over-complex in D&D/Pathfinder and don't want to see in the suggested systems? –  leokhorn Aug 13 '13 at 7:41
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In other words, all answers to this question should be from people who have specifically run or seen run single-player dungeon crawl low-complexity games that fit the OP's criteria. "I'm sure X would work" is not a good answer. –  mxyzplk Aug 13 '13 at 17:47
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I'm going to close this for 24 hours while people read our guidance on system recommendation questions. If you don't provide an answer saying that you have, or you have seen, someone run a one player/full party combat heavy XP-based exploration dungeon crawl campaign with that system, you need to not answer. Best as I can tell, zero of the existing answers do this. We allow sys-rec questions on a limited basis because of these tight criteria; these questions are banned on most other SEs. Follow the rules. –  mxyzplk Aug 15 '13 at 12:22
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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

3 Answers

While any of the systems might work for you—they tend toward retro-D&D with fewer rules than D&D 3 or later—I recommend checking out Dungeon Crawl Classics. If you want a sample without spending money, you can check out the Open Beta Rules from 2011 and the free adventure Doom of the Savage Kings.

Characters are very fast to create, and the classes are very distinct during play. In fact, the recommended mode of starting play is to roll up three to four 0-level character and run them through a dungeon—the character funnel. Those that survive the funnel advance to 1st level. With one player, I would let them play more than one character, even after the character funnel.

Another great feature is its simplicity. For example, the entire feat-chain for D&D 3e's Fighters for tripping, disarming, etc., is a simple Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic that Fighters (and Dwarves) get at first level. The Skills chapter is 4 pages long, in a book that's almost 500 pages. Characters can go tenth level, but it takes sustained play to get even halfway there. The game is about dungeon crawling, and there are a lot of written adventures you can pick up.

One feature you might not like is that the system tends towards randomness and occasionally wackiness. It uses weird dice (d24, d5, d7‽); DCC has a bunch of tables for fumbles, criticals, spelling casting; your randomly generated 0-level character might be a farmer with a pitchfork and a chicken wandering otherwise defenselessly into almost certain death; Wizards can gain Corruption that twists their bodies in strange ways, like one of their arms turning into a tentacle.

When I want a highly random and weird D&D experience, DCCRPG my system of choice.

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Here's an overview of other D&D retro-clones, although I don't know of their suitability for one-player games. I'm hoping someone else will chime in. –  okeefe Aug 14 '13 at 12:09
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Can you expand more on how you've played or seen played these games in the way the OP's looking for? –  mxyzplk Aug 15 '13 at 12:25
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Another good choice for old school dungeon crawling might be Tunnels & Trolls. It was created because the author found D&D to complex (And that was OD&D back in the day) and the rules are thus really easy to use. While several Classes exists, the system doesn't really require a party and one-on-one play should work fine.

It also doesn't matter which version of the game you decide on, since Tunnels & Trolls only changed slightly since its release and every new version can be seen as a new set of house rules.

If you are knew to old school games and want to get in the vibe, it might not hurt to check out some of the OSR retro clones dungeon master guides. Even if you don't want to play D&D, many of them include great advice on building dungeons and wildernesses and rules on how to utilize them in play. On example would be the referees guide from Delving Deeper, but most OSR games should do, really.

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Welcome to the site! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! –  BESW Aug 14 '13 at 12:50
    
Have you, personally, run this in the manner described above? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 21 '13 at 2:49
    
@BrianBallsun-Stanton T&T is an odd one. It has single-player/full-party (and no-GM single-player too) play built-in, so does it really need personal experience to say that it can do what it does? It's more like "yes, this game uses 3d6 for skill rolls, as you are asking for" than "I think it could be played using 3d6 for skill rolls, but I haven't done it myself." –  SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 3:00
    
Which is fantastic if the respondent has experienced single-player play and found it fits requirements. The mechanical match is only part of the question. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 21 '13 at 3:02
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@BrianBallsun-Stanton Again, T&T is in an odd position here. The asker's requirements read like the feature blurb of the game. It's pretty much pitch-perfect for these requirements out of the box. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 3:03
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Given that you are playing one on one, if your player does not want to handle more than one character, I would probably avoid systems that are based on parties (like anything related or derived from DnD).

I am thinking that maybe something like FATE (Legends of Anglerre) or DungeonWorld, both systems do not rely so much on healing from other players, and both can give you plenty of narrative/story reasons for a dungeon crawl (although loot can be a little dry on DW).

My 2 cents.

Edit: adding a little more to it. I like FATE or DW not only because they do not have a big dependence on healing, but also because both games provide ways for the GM and the player to manage the risk/deadliness of the crawl, which I personally find more important than usual when just playing with one player instead of a group.

DW also works specially well for an exploration campaign like the one described.

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Dungeon World pretty much works on the assumption that you're a party of adventurers. The character creation process requires you to choose at least one bond to a different PC. It stands true that the game could quite easily be hacked and its cinematic nature makes it easier to manage more than one character per player. –  Zachiel Aug 13 '13 at 15:48
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Prior to 3e, D&D worked fine with from 1 to many players. Don't dismiss the entire game family based on a limited experience. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 13 '13 at 19:03
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