The stated intention of the game is to provide a set of rules suitable for introducing teenagers to role-playing. Morningstar writes that it is "designed expressly for young players with short attention spans who demand action and fun" .
The game is designed to be extremely simple. Each character has five dice, each with a different number of sides: a d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. The other die commonly used in role-playing games, the twenty-sided die or d20, is not used in the original rules of Dungeon Squad.
The d4, d8 and d12 are assigned to three 'aspects' of the character - Wizard, Warrior, and Explorer. Higher dice indicate a greater level of skill in that area. For example a character with a d4 in Warrior, a d8 in Explorer, and a d12 in Wizard would be unusually skilled in magic, but unusually unskilled in physical combat.
The Wizard die is used to cast spells, and the Warrior die to hit in combat. The Explorer die is used "to sneak around and be a thief". Tasks which are mentioned in the original rules as using the Explorer dice are moving silently, picking locks, climbing walls, disarming traps, and jumping chasms.
The d6 and d10 are each assigned to spells, weapons, shields or armour. Characters who don't assign any dice to a hand-to-hand weapon may assume that they have a hand-to-hand weapon with a d4 assigned to it (or that their fists are the equivalent of such a weapon). However a similar rule does not hold for spells, shields, or armour. Characters who don't assign a die to a particular spell have no ability to cast that spell, and characters who don't assign a die to armour or a shield are assumed to not have one.
Characters also randomly generate a starting amount of gold, and may exchange this gold for various equipment, and later for greater advantages such as new spells.
The main mechanism of the game is that characters roll the dice assigned to one of the three 'aspects', and succeed if they roll equal to or over a pre-determined number. The rules give the target number for several different tasks - always 2, 4 or 6.
If a character succeeds, they might then roll the d6 or d10 to determine the degree of success. For example, if a character succeeds in wounding an adversary by rolling their Warrior dice, they would then roll the d6 or d10 assigned to their weapon to determine how severe the wound was. Armour and shields have the opposite effect to weapons - that is, they reduce the damage suffered by the character.
A number of variants have been written, some of which are listed in the 'External Links' section below.
The game is released under a Creative Commons 'Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5' license. This means that the game may be freely downloaded, distributed, and modified, provided credit is given, the project is non-commercial, and that modified works are distributed under the same or a similar license.
Shannon Appelcline noted that Jason Morningstar frequently participated in game design contests and submitted several games in 2005. These included Dungeon Squad, which he wrote as "a 24-hour RPG after trying to run D&D 3.5 for a group of teens".: 290 Appelcline also described that although Bully Pulpit games did not have any new releases in 2007 and 2008,: 299
Morningstar had a new publication from an unlikely source: his old "Dungeon Squad" game was printed in a Spanish newspaper (2009) in Mexicali, Baja California — where it went out to 10,000 readers. A few years later, Dungeon Squad it would also be published in Czech (2011) — not bad for a contest entry that Morningstar had released into the Creative Commons.
- the original rules in pdf form.
- expanded version of the rules, with rules for playing non-human characters, and some extra spells.
- DS40K: Adventures in the 41st Millennium A Warhammer 40,000 RPG setting, running on the original Dunegon Squad rules system.
- The Dungeon Squad! Companion A fan site, which includes two adventures, a set of rules for running Dungeon Squad games set in the Dragonlance world, and Space Squad, an adaptation of the rules to the space opera genre.
- Pirate Squad
- Adventure Squad A generic version of the rules for fantasy, modern and sci-fi games.
- Dungeon Squad - Yet Another Variant Extra rules focused on creating versions of the character classes from Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and 4th edition. An older version of Adventure Squad.
- Zombie Squad! is a zombie survival horror game based on Dungeon Squad.