Underworld and Wilderness Adventures

In part one you have learned how to build up and tear down characters with speed and alacrity. Now, in part two, you will learn how to craft the thrilling maelstrom into which your precious alter egos will be remorselessly hurled!


Give each player some playing cards randomly. For a 90 minute to two hour game (about right), give about 32 cards total - so eight each if you have four players. Vary from this suggestion based on the number of players and the amount of time you want to spend. Give the same number of cards to each player. A speed round of two or three cards each might be fun! Distributing an entire deck will lead to an epic and lengthy dungeon crawl.

Any card can represent an area in or around the dungeon with a challenge in it. Don't get hung up on causality - it's perfectly fine to make a challenge take place, for example, at the local harvest festival if you like. Just wave your hands and mumble when describing getting there. Getting the adventurers back to the dungeon will be somebody else's problem.

Number cards (two through ten) are easy challenges. Only one success out of three is required. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are difficult challenges - two successes out of three are required. An Ace is an awesome challenge - three successes out of three are required.


The basic configuration is simply a bunch of cards, each representing an area with a general challenge. But you can, and should, pair or stack cards to make challenges more interesting. Additional elements can become descriptive (it's not just lava - it's boiling lava! More damage when you fail!) or thematic (if you fall of the wagon, your pathetic is totally going up!) in nature. Up to three additional cards - including monsters - can be added to a room. So in an eight-card-per-player game, you could conceivably have eight different unremarkable rooms, or two very complex and interesting ones. Something between these two extremes is probably ideal.


Black Cards:
Any black card can be added to an existing room to add an extra die of damage with each failure. Adding a second black card adds a second die on failures (for a total of two dice of damage) and a die of damage even on successes! You can't include more than two cards to increase damage.

Red Cards:
Any red card can be added to an existing room to lower a helpful trait by one with each failure, as chosen by the player. Adding a second red card forces the players to raise a harmful trait by one with each failure as well, as chosen by the room creator! You can't include more than two cards to attack traits.

Increasing Difficulty:
Any combination of cards totaling more than nine can be used to increase the challenge from easy to difficult, or from difficult to awesome. Note that a ten card can do this all by itself. If you had a ten, you could stack cards to move from easy to difficult, and then again to awesome if you wanted.

Any card can be designated a monster. Monsters penalize the existing challenge, based on their card value, from -1 to -3 on player rolls. This means that if your target number is eight, and there is an awesome monster involved, you must roll a five or less (8 minus 3) to succeed. Monsters always leave treasure when defeated. Monsters rarely work together, so no more than two can appear in any one challenge.

While these effects can stack on top of each other, each card only has one effect - it is either a room challenge, a bonus to damage or trait loss, an increase in challenge, or a monster.


If you end up using four cards in a challenge - the base card, plus three more - what you have authored will be extra-crazy. In addition to any monster-based treasure, this challenge will give up one, two, or three treasures of its own, just like a monster, just because.


Once you have your cards sorted into rooms, write the details of each on a separate post-it note and keep it to yourself until called upon to reveal your handiwork in play. The nice thing about authoring challenges and keeping them around is that you can, over the course of the game, construct a virtual map of your dungeon on the tabletop. Be sure to add little skulls when characters are killed.


Clemont draws eight cards: - King of spades - Queen of hearts - Seven of spades - Seven of hearts - Six of spades - Four of clubs - Four of spades - Three of Clubs

First, he sets up three rooms, using the king, queen, and a four.

He pairs the seven of clubs and four of spades, totaling eleven, and uses that to increase the challenge of the king - making it an awesome challenge. He writes down: "Awesome falling challenge. A mile-wide chasm spanned by a single fraying steel wire that is slick with cliff shark droppings."

He adds the six of clubs to the queen, making it a difficult challenge that inflicts an extra die of damage with each failure. Clemont writes down: "Difficult falling challenge plus 1 die damage per failure. Stilt-walking over broken glass beverage containers and medical waste."

Finally, Clemont first adds the seven of hearts to the four of clubs room. This will be an easy challenge, but failing it will cause the loss of a helpful trait. He still has the three of clubs, which he makes into an easy monster in this room. Clemont writes down: "Easy drowning challenge plus helpful trait loss on failure and easy monster. Drowning in self pity after finding a negative review of the adventuring party in a popular dungeon newspaper at a news kiosk staffed by well-informed goblins."


It's good form to create challenges that include elements of drowning and falling. The base challenge is always one or the other, but by adding additional cards, you can make a challenge more colorful. Not just a fall into a pit - a fall into a pit of ice-choked grease! Not just drowning in a raging river - drowning in a raging waterfall with jagged stalagmites at the bottom! Remember that the base damage in all challenges is equal to the difference in the roll and the target number. Thus, if the target number is 9 and you roll an 10, you take 1 hit point of damage. This is the standard, and can be increased when you design challenges if you like.

When creating a challenge, use the guidelines below to determine damage and challenge difficulty, but feel free to interpret them in a way that is both satisfying and fun. If you want a raging lava river filled with angry robots but only have an easy challenge to use, make it a very small and irritating lava rivulet filled with verbally abusive robots and don't worry about adding a bunch of penalty damage cards. These lists are not canonical, so be creative and go nuts.

Easy Drowning

  • Drowning in still water - a well, pond, or sewer. Perhaps an Olympic swimming pool, or garden water feature, or the endless tears of a reluctant virgin?

Difficult Drowning

  • Drowning in thick liquids. Blood, oatmeal, or mud would be good. Drowning in your own fluids would also fall under this classification.
  • Drowning in raging or turbulent water, like a gigantic underground stream.
  • Drowning in hot liquids, like a vat of tea.

Awesome Drowning

  • Drowning in thick, hot liquids, like lava or hot tar.
  • Drowning in sand or wheat, fine grains of any sort.
  • Any drowning can become awesome by cranking up the madness to action movie levels - a regular old "hot liquids" challenge becomes "a torrential rain of boiling goat urine."

+++Advanced Drowning
You can easily arrange drowning in self pity or drowning in debt. Add a couple of trait-shredding red cards to a challenge and get all personal and weepy. This sort of challenge can be a refreshingly absurd change of pace between greased balancing beams, Gorgon warlords and belching pits of acid.

Drowning in greed is a great option. Characters bickering over treasure may be drowning in greed, but you can drown in greed without treasure as well. Characters drowning in greed can be the victims of both red trait-damaging cards and black hit-point-crushing cards - their lust for wealth is physically painful.

Easy Falling

  • The most basic falls involve tripping, slipping, and falling down.
  • Falling off things and out of things like logs and barrels are great as well.

Difficult Falling

  • Dangerous surfaces, like jagged stone, fire ants, or flaming oil can all complicate a fall.
  • Falling in complicated ways, or bouncing around, or passing through trap doors, or being vaulted into the air first, can make challenges difficult.
  • Falling from a great height, or onto sharp things.

Awesome Falling

Awesome falling challenges should be, well, awesome.

  • Falling onto poisoned spikes, into flaming tar pits, or through industrial beef-processing machinery
  • Ramp up a simpler challenge with colorful language. "Slipping on a wet staircase" is one thing, but "slipping on a wet staircase without a handrail" is something else entirely.

Advanced Falling

Falling in love, falling out of love, or falling for a trick all cry out for some red cards in the challenge to tear down the helpful traits and build up the harmful ones. Falling out of love is a popular precursor to drowning in self pity.

Characters bickering over treasure may have a falling out, but you can have a falling out without treasure as well. Characters having a falling out might gain or lose traits, but they might just beat the crap out of each other, too. Or both.


Drowning your sorrows and falling off the wagon: Getting drunk is itself a potentially serious challenge in Drowning and Falling. Any easy challenge can be declared alcohol-based as a special case, and no damage is accrued through failure. Success means the character is drunk for the next challenge, with appropriate penalties and benefits.

Being drunk makes survival harder when you are drowning. Increase the challenge from easy to difficult, or from difficult to awesome. If a awesome challenge is encountered, a drunk character automatically dies!

However, being drunk makes survival easier when you are falling. Decrease the challenge from difficult to easy, or from awesome to difficult. If an easy test is encountered, a rubber-boned drunk automatically succeeds.


The world of Drowning and Falling is a mist-choked fantasyland of dark moors and verdant forests, craggy crags and crumbling castles. There is magic, and there are monsters - monsters that can make you fall! Or drown! But for the hearty souls who seek adventure, there is also treasure!


Monsters, like drowning and falling challenges, are rated as easy, difficult, or awesome. They always accompany drowning or falling challenges and cannot be encountered alone, because that wouldn't make any sense.

  • Easy monsters inflict a -1 penalty to character's chances of success during the challenge.
  • Difficult monsters inflict a -2 penalty to character's chances of success during the challenge.
  • Awesome monsters inflict a -3 penalty to character's chances of success during the challenge. That's serious business!


Johnette's character Gwarl is crossing a raging stream guarded by a pirate skeleton! This is a drowning challenge (in this case, difficult), and for her first test, Johnette, her left-hand neighbor, and the challenge creator work out her target number - an 8. The skeleton, being an easy monster, inflicts a -1 penalty, so Johnette must roll a 7 or less to succeed. Gwarl emits a foul dwarfling battle-wind and plunges into deadly combat!


You are free to make up monsters to throw at the adventurers. There are countless manuals stuffed with monsters that were designed for other games. Clever players of The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game can easily repurpose these and make them even better. Note that not all monsters are, technically, monsters. Despite this unassailable fact, they are still monsters.

Easy Monsters

These monsters are -1 to player tests.

  • Jenny Green-Teeth is a hideous river-bank witch!
  • The Maiden is a pretty girl who yearns for love!
  • Skeletons are dead men made of living bones!
  • When the nuts and berries run out, blood squirrels turn to flesh!
  • A friendly cat is always purring underfoot, threading figure eights around your ankles…until you fall!
  • Your big brother (or big sister) is an age-old nemesis that will trip you and then point and laugh, calling you a weakling. (This tends to be bad for the helpful traits. Often entire rival adventuring parties comprised of older brothers and sisters are encountered.)
  • A blob is a pudding-like amorphous beast of terror.

Difficult Monsters

These monsters are -2 to player tests.

  • Beware of cave monsters - hodags, imps, and goblins that like to hang around deep pits!
  • Giant clams are mollusks with malice on their minds! They travel in packs.
  • The dreaded gorgons lurk on cliff ledges! They will use your head to grind their corn!
  • Tripping knights are sworn to make passer-by fall!
  • Elves and scorpions travel together to sow chaos!
  • The Princess is a not-so-pretty girl who demands love!
  • Beware what lurks below the surface when venus fly kelp are about.
  • Sirens lure adventurers to their doom - flashing lights and blaring noises can distract you - beware! Where was that pit again?
  • Cliff Sharks are relentless, carnivorous fish that lurk in nests above narrow cliff ledges, waiting for doughty adventurers to send to their doom! Even their droppings can cause a deadly fall - or drowning! Cliff Sharks is also a seller of quality used automobiles with financing plans for any adventurer's budget.

Awesome Monsters

These monsters are -3 to player tests.

  • Metagorgons are gorgons composed of living gorgons!
  • Dragons are giant fire-breathing lizards of legend. If you are unfamiliar with dragons, you are not allowed to play this game. Seriously, just put it down.
  • The kraken is a many-armed monster of the briny deep seeks to drown anyone who hunts for it's treasure!
  • Lava monsters are terrible creatures of yore that live in low-viscosity flows of molten rock, such as pillow lava!
  • You'll run anywhere just to get away from the hideous visage of Medusa, boss of the gorgons - even into a pit of boiling oil!
  • Like the kraken but unlike the maiden and the princess, the queen is a many-armed monster of the briny deep who seeks to either drown anyone who hunts for her treasure - or make them her king!


Everybody loves treasure!

If a challenge with a monster attached is overcome, the group gets treasure. The amount of treasure is equal to the die penalty of the monster, so an easy monster (-1) gives up one treasure and a awesome monster (-3) gives up three, total. These must be divided among the player characters in any way that seems equitable. Work it out among yourselves. Clerics may wish to steal treasure at some point.

When you get treasure, immediately state what it is - a pair of magical pants, an ancient sword, a vest of bones, a pile of gold, or whatever you like. Write it down on a post-it and keep it handy. Somebody will probably want to steal it at some point. If another character dies, the survivors may divide up the dead guy's now-abandoned treasure in any way they see fit.

Treasure is awesome. A treasure can be used to re-roll a single die in every challenge. If you have three treasure, you get three re-rolls. Describe how your treasure is helping you overcome the challenge! To be clear, a treasure can be used once in every challenge, and if you have more than one treasure, you can take advantage of multiple re-rolls during each challenge!

One of the appendices is a treasure generator, in case you need inspiration. Hooray for treasure!


Sometimes adventurers will not agree on an equitable division of treasure. They may wish to steal it from their peers between scenes, which is encouraged. This is what you get for drowning in greed or having a falling out with the rest of the party. The whole thing is tremendously counterproductive but, in the interest of maintaining realism, rules have been provided.

Every character may attempt to steal one item between each scene, so even if you get ganged up on, you have a chance at recovering some of your property.

Stealing treasure becomes an additional challenge for the potential victim, who will be furiously beating off his light-fingered fellow adventurers. If one person wants to steal from you, it is an easy challenge. If two person want to steal from you, it is a difficult challenge. Three or more - awesome. If you win, you keep your treasure. If you lose the challenge you must fork over one treasure for each thief. They choose from among your hoard in descending order of cool.

Note that damage and lost levels from treasure-stealing attempts are par for the course.


The player with the most gaming materials within arm's reach goes first. This player states a direction that the party will explore - straight ahead, left, or right.

If they choose left or right, the player to their left or right announces which of the challenges they have crafted the party has encountered. If straight ahead, the person most directly opposite them does likewise. Lay down the post-it note adjacent to the last one played, creating a map of the adventure as you progress. This process may fray at the edges if people insist on going in circles.


You must play easy challenges, or challenges with easy elements, if you have them. If you have no easy challenges, you must play difficult challenges. This creates a de-facto escalation during the game, and ensures that all the characters will be killed by a dragon, kraken, or other enormous monster at the end of the game, rather than the beginning.

As players use up their challenges, certain options become impossible - you can't go left if the player to your left has no more challenges. You can't go that way - pick another direction, until you face your final doom - the most rough and tough monster in the gorgon pits. If, for some reason, a character survives the final challenge, an exit to the surface inevitably beckons.


Role-playing games are all about imagination, and camaraderie, and telling stories together. It isn't about competing, it is about collaborating.

When the dungeon and its monstrous denizens and savage dangers have finally been bested, take stock - who ground up the least number of characters? Who emerged with the most treasure? These players win.

Who lost the most characters? Who emerged with the least treasure, or tried to slip some immolation in? These players lose. Whoever the majority feels did the worst job is responsible for providing snacks - good snacks - the next time The Drowning and Falling Role-Playing Game is played.