Four Against Darkness – First Game Review

“A warrior, barbarian, cleric and wizard walk into a dungeon…”

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.  This was actually my starting party of adventurers for my first foray into a game of Four Against Darkness by Andrea Sfiligoi.

0FDB9C1E-3BDE-4C71-B148-B1FA80A27214In my last post (apologies for the length of time between posts, but gaming time has been drastically reduced this year) I gave a quick overview of the game based on my first read of the rules.  For this post I was going to attempt a solo game and try and get my head round the rules some more.
As a quick recap, Four Against Darkness (or 4AD from now on) is a pen and paper dungeon crawl game that gives 1 to 4 players a quick fix of dungeon exploration and monster bashing with the minimum of setup.

So with pen, paper and dice in hand, I created my party.

Party time

Erwin Fontarr – a tall, slender, handsome young warrior, clad in leather armour, wielding a mighty sword handed down from his father.

Bron Ironhammer – a burly, barbarian from the cold northern lands of the realm.  Young and eager for adventure in the warmer southern region, his beard but a wisp of hair on his chin.

Fionn Tremaine – newly ordained into the priesthood, her robes and armour are pure and unmarked like her heart.  With raven black hair and dark eyes, she stands ready to battle with her trust mace.

Mahri the Magnificent – a title she gave herself, even though her magical powers are few and largely untested.  Mahri has graduated from mage school and now seeks to put her magical skills to the test.

I followed the simple character creation instructions, got their stats, rolled for some gold to get them started, and some basic equipment and weapons.  Let’s assume they’ve been to the village general store.

The adventure begins

We meet up with our fearless band as they scout out the centre of the village for the tavern.

“Before we go anywhere I need a drink” proclaimed Bron, as the group wandered into the village of Dunder Falls, named after the waterfall in the mountain to the north.

“Can’t you wait until we have something to celebrate” replied Mahri to Bron’s large back.  He turned his head as he walked on, “not if you want me to have my famous fearless courage”.

Mahri rolled her eyes and beside her Erwin grinned.  They’d need more than drink to get them through what lay ahead if the rumours Erwin had heard were true.

At the inn, the group got drinks and proceeded to try and engage some of the locals in idle chit-chat to gather some information.

“Ye don’t want to be goin’ near them caves if ye know whit’s good fer ye”, a man so old and wrinkled he appeared like one of the undead Fionn had read about.

“Tell me more sir” she asked.

“Been some strange goin’s on up there.  Ain’t no one takes their herds near the caves anymore.  Too many animals goin missing, likes”, replied the man.

Fionn frowned. Bron leaned forward, “well let’s have some directions then. We’ll be heading there first thing tomorrow”.  Erwin groaned.

And so the scene was set.  Disappearing livestock, scared villagers, and mysterious caves.

Into the darkness

The rock wall in the clearing stretched up out of sight, the lower section covered in undergrowth.  Bron stepped forward and pulled the undergrowth aside.  “Here’s the entrance”, the other 3 headed over beside him, Erwin lighting a torch.

First up, roll a D6 for the opening room, in this case a corridor.  The party cautiously move in, and surprise 3 orcs grunting to each other as they headed for the entrance.

Bron and Erwin being first in are momentarily surprised, but not as much as the orcs.  However, they swing and miss in the tight confines of the corridor.  Mahri utters a small chant and unleashes a fireball.  All 3 orcs are consumed in the magical flames, screeching as they burn.

The party look at each other and silently move on down the corridor.  After a short walk the corridor opens into a large round room.  The torchlight doesn’t reach the far side, but it does illuminate something in the middle of the room.  Fionn moves towards the object.  Its a large box.  Fionn looks for a lock but instead finds a small set of numbered rollers… strange lock.  She attempts to turn the rollers.  They click as each number is turned.  There’s suddenly a loud click and Fionn yelps in pain.

”It’s a trap” she calls, blood streaming down her arm where a small dart is lodged.  Mahri gets a bandage from her pack and tends to the minor wound.  The group decide to ignore the box and move on.  Who knows what the next triggered trap would be.  The opposite side of the room is a door.

The door opens onto a corridor.  As the group move along the corridor they hear a scuffling ahead.  The group move quietly towards the grey back of a troll.  Bron swings his sword at the trolls back, a brutal slash inflicted, the troll wails in pain and falls to the floor.  Fionn charges in before the troll can recover and swings her mace at its head.  The troll falls lifeless to the floor.

The group move on through the dungeon.  Along corridors, through empty rooms, and on towards a small door, the first they’ve seen for a while.  Erwin slowly opens the door and peers around the door.  A small man in a purple cloak and grey hair sits at a desk writing with a large feather quill.

He looks up “Come in, come in!  How can I help you.”  The room is the temporary office of a wandering alchemist offering his services to the group.  The party thank the alchemist for his offer and move on.

The corridor ahead branches to the right, Mahri taking the lead.  She sees a green glow ahead and creeps forward to investigate.  Unfortunately little does she know, she’s now been cursed…. -1 to all defence rolls.

The characters continue on until they reach the end of the last corridor and a door.  Erwin opens the door, onto a dimly lit room.  And in the dim light sleeps a red dragon.  Slightly larger than the largest horse the characters have seen, this is a young dragon.  Without wasting another second the characters charge in, determined to get the upper hand.

Mahri the Magnificent hangs back from the rest of the group, suddenly realising she has no spells to go up against a dragon.  What can she do with fire or sleep!

Bron and Erwin press the attack.  Along with Fionn, the group go back and forth with the dragon.  Raining blow after blow, gradually wearing it.  The dragon slashes with claws, and breathes what little fire its young breath can muster.  As the dragon weakens further, Bron, Erwin and Fionn move in for the kill, and slay the dragon!

 

What happened next?

The party loot the dragons lair and escape the dungeon.  Returning to the village inn they’re the talk of the town and are thanked profusely by the villagers.  Now we know where all the livestock was going!

Rolling on tables gives the loot and the experience for the characters.

  • Wand of Sleep
  • Scroll of Escape
  • Ring of Teleportation
  • Jewellery worth 140gp
  • The group gain 2 xp to level up the Fionn and Erwin.

This has actually take longer to write than it did to play.  OK, this was my first proper play through so there was a lot of flicking back and forth through the rule book, but that’s the same for any new game.

The key here was it was enjoyable.  You feel like a story is unfolding with each roll of the dice.  It’s a great story telling mechanic, an if you invest in it, 4AD becomes more than just a dungeon crawl.

So next game I’ll do the same again, and capture the story.  So come back and catch up on the next adventure of my party of heroes.

Four Against Darkness from Ganesha Games

 

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