Dinky Dungeons

These comments copyright 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 31, 1998

Dinky Dungeons is a simple role-playing game (RPG) published in 1985 by "Doc's Games - an Uncle Morty Production." The format is unique for an RPG: the original (complete) game was sold in a ziplock bag measuring 3" by 5" - and the actual rulebook is only 2.5" by 3.25"! (~60 x 85 mm.)

The ziplock bag includes a 32-page rulebook, an errata sheet, a GM-screen, some character sheets, an adventure, an adventure map, and 2d6 - two 5mm dice (3/16").

The game is a wonder of conciseness. The rulebook includes character creation, character classes and races, weapons, armor, and items to buy, two different systems of magic spells, action resolution, saving throws, combat, "skill rolls", experience rules, and a monster list containing 37 creatures with stats, over half of them also having some note or other. The errata sheet includes the missing notes for some of the monsters, some detail about combat that was overlooked, rules for healing, alternate experience rules, and a picture of a Fuzzy Winker whining.

There are only two attributes, Physical and Mental. Character creation is random (roll 2d6, assign one to Physical and the other to Mental), but easily adapted to a point-based system (distribute seven points [eight from generous GMs] between your Physical and Mental attributes, max score in a single attribute = 6).

There are three character classes:

  • Fighters (high Physical stat),
  • Wizards (high Mental stat), and
  • Bards (roughly equal stats).
Four races are available:
  • Humans (no bonuses or restrictions),
  • Elves (+1 to Mental, other racial characteristics, can't be Fighters),
  • Dwarves (+1 to Physical, other racial characteristics, can't be Wizards), and
  • Fuzzy Winkers (-1 to Mental and Physical, large cowardly rodents who can't use magic, weapons, or armor - my kind of character!).

The combat system uses 2d6 - compare the attacker's skill (Physical Attribute if using weapons, Mental if using magic) with the defender's, and check the Combat table (7 or less succeeds if attributes are identical; other ratios have proportionaly higher or lower success thresholds). Doubles are either critical success or failure, depending on if you succeed or fail with the roll - double ones and double sixes more extreme than double threes or fours. Weapons do damage by their type - there are light, medium, and heavy weapons. Armor makes you harder to hit.

There are seven magic spells for Wizards and another six (mostly different) for Bards. If your character is of one of these classes, you start with a number of magic spells equal to half your Mental attribute, and have Spell Points (to cast the spells) equal to your Mental attribute - Spell Points regenerate daily. Spells range from Create Light, Open (or Lock) Door, Detect Magic, etc., to the more potent Deathspell and Shadow-walk. It's easy to add your own spells as characters develop - steal them from any other game you want, or legend, fiction, etc. The game is so simple this is very easy to implement.

Skill rolls (other than combat or magic) are either Idea rolls (based on your Mental trait) or Muscle rolls (based on your Physical trait). Oddly enough, they actually blew it here - everyone has the same chance of success on a skill roll, no matter what your attributes are. Instead, the smarter characters can try more Idea rolls during a day, and the stronger ones can try more Muscle rolls during a day. We changed this to making it more likely to succeed at a roll the higher your relevant stat - a trivial change.

The Idea and Muscle roll problem was addressed in a related game, Small Space - which is basically Dinky Dungeons for an SF setting. In Small Space, you have Physical skill Points (PP) and Mental Points (MP) equal to your Physical and Mental scores, respectively. You can then buy certain skills with those PP and MP - some skills require one or more MP, some require one or more PP, some require both, some require either. There are no skill levels - you either have a skill or you don't - not having it means you have a penalty on the Idea or Muscle roll - or in some cases, can't even try the skill at all. This idea could be easily ported to Dinky Dungeons with minimal effort - especially since Small Space only has nine skills to choose from ...

However, Small Space goes a bit too far in other rules - it loses the basic simplicity of Dinky Dungeons. Had they stopped with the skill introduction - loosely based on TFT's Talents - it would have been near perfect. In case you're wondering what else they include: lots! Too much! Space ship generation and combat rules, futuristic weapons, invention rules, alien races, planet generation, initiative rules, etc., etc.

Dinky Dungeons works. It's so simple, so natural, that it actually works well, especially with some tiny tweaking to make it more to your tastes. There are actually very few RPG rules systems I would run a game in today - Fudge has spoiled me, and I translate every setting into that game. But Dinky Dungeons is one of the few systems I would still use. It's actually simpler than my own game, Sherpa, and I sometimes wistfully wonder if I blew it by making it so complex ...

People ask me, when I mention this game, if I know TWERPS. Of course I do - but TWERPS just doesn't make it for me. The one-attribute system is humorous - but Dinky Dungeons actually works, which TWERPS doesn't quite - at least for me. The one attribute in the latter isn't really Strength, as they claim, but Class (or perhaps Competence) - the game makes no sense otherwise. Since I've never liked class-based games, and since I don't really care for a flat action resolution (as opposed to a curve of some sort - TWERPS uses a d10, while Dinky Dungeons uses 2d6), TWERPS just doesn't appeal to me, and I'd never actually run a game in it - though I enjoy reading the source books!

Anyway, Dinky Dungeons is hard to find these days, but worth a look if you like simple games.

Related Products

In addition to Small Space mentioned above, Uncle Morty also produced:

  • Dinky Kingdom: a fantasy world in which to play Dinky Dungeons. It includes six maps, description of the city Dink and surrounding kingdom, some new creatures, and an adventure in the Creepy Caverns.
  • Berzerko Tower/Doc's Maze: two fantasy adventures. (If you have a copy for sale, please let me know!)
  • Lost Tomb of Antigorne/Sacrifice to the Blood Deity: two fantasy adventures.
  • Blades of Boardum: fantasy adventure - introduces the fantasy race, Boar-Men.
  • Siegewheel of the Blue Goblins: fantasy adventure.
  • Troll Canyon: solo fantasy adventure.
  • Freaks and Friendlies: post-apocalypse RPG, which has some interesting Psi powers (as well as more magic, for some reason). More creatures and weapons, of course.
I don't have any others, though their "catalog" lists Hoaky Heroes, a superhero game - was it ever released? - and Moxie Tuff-Guy Wrestling. There are also POW Cards, which I'd love to get hold of. If you know of any other Dinky Dungeons related material, or have any to sell, please let me know!
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