True Adventures, Ltd., is a role-playing game company started by Jeff Martin. It operates two entertainment venues at Gen Con Indy: True Dungeon and True Dungeon Fantasy Tavern. True Adventures is notable because their signature event, True Dungeon, is "the single most popular event" at Gen Con, drawing people to the convention just for it. The event is also notable for its scale; about 3,000 players play in groups of up to eight people (more recently ten) over four days each year. With tickets for each player costing roughly $40-$62 each, depending on the year and convention venue, or $28 for True Grind, the event grosses about $100,000, a phenomenal amount for a LARP in the United States. The company also hosted the event True Heroes in 2004 and 2005. True Adventures ran these events at Gen Con SoCal when the convention was still in existence. The company grew out of Martin's work in creating elaborate props and puzzles for his Dungeons & Dragons game.
Although True Dungeon shares some characteristics with live action roleplaying (LARP) games, the game's developers don't consider it a LARP. While players are free to role-play particular characters, True Dungeon does not emphasize role-playing aspects; characters lack backgrounds and names. Instead characters primarily are collections of spells and statistics useful for solving puzzles and battling opponents. The rules mechanics are loosely based on those of Dungeons & Dragons. Combat is played out by sliding weapon counters along a waist-high shuffleboard table. True Dungeon focuses on riddle and puzzle solving along with the shuffle board combat system.
Jeff Martin originally ran yearly immersive games of this sort for groups of friends. Gen Con owner Peter Adkison was invited to one of these events, then running under the name "Jeff Con" for about 30 people. After his experience, Adkison invited Martin to run the game at Gen Con after participating in one of Martin's events. True Dungeon was first run at Gen Con Indy in 2003. The first event was arranged at the last minute; there was no promotion and tickets were not in Gen Con's system.
Equipment for player characters exists in the form of "treasure tokens". These are marked plastic tokens indicating various pieces of traditional Dungeons & Dragons equipment. Examples include rope, small steel mirrors, weapons, and armor. In 2005 players were given a random weapon and random armor; they were expected to trade within their group to optimize their equipment usage. In 2006 players were given a random bag of 10 tokens. Since the game began players could also purchase additional bags of random tokens. There is a substantial after-market for these tradable tokens on eBay.
True Dungeon provides an interactive environment, complete with multiple solutions to many problems. There are a small number of NPCs as the plot requires. Players move through various rooms in the game world. Each room contains a challenge in either the form of a puzzle, a fight, or both. The puzzles can be very difficult and the game has a high rate of character death, although the game's lethality has dropped over the years. Jeff Martin said of the 2004 Gen Con Indy game that only 20% of characters survived, while in 2005 42% did.
Closer to live action role-playing, players are expected to physically explore their surroundings, not simply describing interactions with the gamemaster Many interactions do require gamemaster interaction, with some details of the environment described to players by the gamemaster assigned to each room.
The first few years, each group of players were accompanied by a gamemaster throughout the dungeon. In 2005, this was switched to having a gamemaster assigned to each room to ensure more consistent rulings for a given room.
To maximize throughput of players, each room of the dungeon has a group of players in it. Groups all advance to the next room simultaneously. As a result, each room has a hard time limit. If players finish early, they must wait for the time limit to expire before advancing. If the players are too slow, they are penalized hit points and are moved into the next room. The plot for each dungeon usually provides a reason for the time limit. One year the plot specified that the characters were fleeing lizardmen. Sometimes the rooms themselves explain the time limit; in 2005 one room had a moving wall that would crush characters who failed to open the locked door into the next room quickly enough.
Player success in True Dungeon (and True Heroes) is tracked in the form of Experience Points. Players with larger numbers of Experience Points (or XP) are given levels. These levels have no impact on the gameplay, but offer benefits outside of the game.
In 2005 two different adventures were run in parallel: "Battle Below Castle Greyhawk" and "Assault Above Castle Greyhawk". In the last room of one of the adventures players could send a brief message to the other adventure, a clue to help the second party complete their last room. Players were free to play both adventures.
In 2006 two very similar copies of the same adventure, "Escape from the Spider Cult", were run in parallel, effectively doubling the number of slots available for players. The playable classes were also expanded to include Barbarian, Druid, and Monk, in addition to the previous Wizard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Ranger and Bard.
In 2007, again two very similar copies of the same adventure, "Race Across Greyhawk", were run in parallel. But this year, one dungeon was more combat oriented while the other was more puzzle oriented. This year also marked the addition of live monsters to the game including a shambling mound, a medusa, and a stone golem.
2008's adventure was entitled "Hope of the Lost." The plot line had the players infiltrating a temple of Pelor that had been taken over by evil forces. Again two versions were run in parallel, a "combat" version and a "puzzle" version. Like 2005's game, groups on the two paths had to work together at the very end to win. Unlike the 2005 year, the two teams actually joined up in the same room. The puzzle group had to solve a puzzle while the combat group had to fight a monster. Both groups had to succeed to win.
In 2009 True Adventures ran four events. "Five Aspects" was a revised version of the original 2004 game. "Smoak" was a new full length event. "Getting In" was a shorter event. "True Grind" was an all combat event.
In 2010 True Adventures ran three events. "The Evading Hilt" offered 1,500 tickets, "DragonWard" offered 3,000 tickets and the True Grind event offered around 300 tickets.
In 2011 True Adventures ran three events. "Lair of the Sea-Lich", "Dragon's Redoubt" and the True Grind.
In 2012 True Adventures ran three events. "Giants' Travail", "Draco-Lich Undone" and the True Grind.
In 2013 True Adventures ran three events for total of 7,500 tickets available. "Lycans Afoot" available in Puzzle and Combat versions, "Golembane" available in Puzzle and Combat versions, and the True Grind. Lycans Afoot and Golembane offer 4 levels of challenge: Non-Lethal, Normal, Hardcore, and Nightmare.
In 2014 True Adventures ran two events ("Flight of the Zephyr", "Into the Viper's Pit") and the True Grind.
In 2015 True Adventures ran a retro event ("Decent into the Underdark") at Who's Yer Con and a True Grind. True dungeon also premiered two new events (Into the Underdark & Sable Gauntlet) and a grind at Gen con.
In 2016 True Adventures ran a retro event at Gamehole Con ("Deeperdark redux") and a True Grind. True dungeon also premiered two new events (Behold Her Majesty & Into the Deeperdark) and a grind at Gen con.
In 2017 True Adventures ran a solo anniversary convention (True dungeon celebration) at which they presented a retro event ("Beneath Castle Altus"), and a massive "raid style" event called True horde. True Adventures also attended Origins Game Fair rerunning their 2016 adventures and premiered two new dungeons and a grind event at Gencon (The Moongate Maze & Dancing Among Stones) based on Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicle world.
True Dungeon Fantasy Tavern
In 2005, True Dungeon added a tavern area in front of the True Dungeon adventures proper. The area is decorated as a stereotypical fantasy tavern. Drinks are available for purchase. The area is intended to be a fantasy-themed area for gamers to congregate and socialize. It also acts as a staging area for players waiting for their session of True Dungeon. A shuffle board is available to practice combat, and many players meet here to trade tokens.
In 2006 players with a ticket for the day's event could enter the tavern. Any player with enough Experience Points to be fourth level could also enter. Anyone else wishing to enter needed to pay a fee.
True Craft was a quest based mini game that took place during the True Dungeon event held at Gen Con 2012. Players could turn in True craft tokens to costumed NPCs in order to participate in carnival styled games which could grant in game bonuses during the main True Dungeon events held that year.
True Heroes was a superhero-themed game that is played much like True Dungeon. It was produced in conjunction with Upper Deck Entertainment and Marvel Comics. Combat involved throwing small balls containing magnets at metal targets. Combat also used aspects of Upper Deck's "VS System". True Heroes operated at Gen Con Indy and So Cal in 2004 and 2005 before being cancelled.
- Sjöberg, Lore (2008-08-13). "True Dungeon Lures Would-Be Dragon Slayers". Wired. CondéNet, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- "DOUGLAS EQUILS: People fly to Gen Con just for 'True Dungeon.'" (Laws 2007, p154)
- "JEFF MARTIN: It's a walk-through, live action dungeon where you get to experience what it feels like to have an adventure." (Laws 2007, p153)
- "Not a LARP, True Dungeon instead focuses on problem solving, teamwork and tactics while providing exciting sets and interactive props." "Overview". True Dungeon. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- "JEFF MARTIN: ... It's not a LARP...." (Laws 2007, p153)
- "Combat is handled in a shuffle-board like fashion. The shuffle board has an image of the nasty being fought. The image is sectioned off with 'to-hit' numbers. Those participating in the combat place one of their weapon tokens in a slider, and slide it toward the image, hoping to score a hit. (Nelson 2006)
- "PETER ADKISON: ... He [Jeff] was running a small convention called Jeff Con, which was literally 30 people. But for those 30 people he was running a fully immersive role-playing event out of a hotel. I got this invitation in the mail.... ...it was an invitation to attend Jeff Con. I went out in early '03 and fell in love with the event." (Laws 2007, p153-154)
- "JEFF MARTIN: It was a last-minute thing; there was no promotion for it. It wasn't even in the program book. We weren't even in the Gen Con ticketing system...." (Laws 2007, p154)
- "JEFF MARTIN: ... It takes about a hundred volunteers to run it." (Laws 2007, p154)
- "JEFF MARTIN: ... In 2006 we took two completely full 53-foot semi-trailers with us." (Laws 2007, p154)
- "You get a bag of random tokens before the True Dungeon starts...." (Nelson 2006)
- "Every room has a challenge of sorts—either a puzzle-type and/or a combat." (Nelson 2006)
- "There were 1505 players in 215 with a survival rate of about 20%." Porter, Randy. "Gen Con 04". Keeper of Ancient GenCon Lore. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- "TD had a survival rate of 42% ... with 1505 players...." Porter, Randy. "Gen Con 2005". Keeper of Ancient GenCon Lore. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- "The room can be interacted with too! For example, if you want to search around for treasures or a clue, you need to physically move stuff around." (Nelson 2006)
- "Every room has a GM, which describes to the whole party what is going on." (Nelson 2006)
- "The event has grown tremendously, and we will greatly improve the quality of the experience this year by moving to the 'one-DM-per-room' staffing model" (aeon 2005)
- "Last year, two separate adventures ran simultaneously." (Nelson 2006)
- "A change from last year’s version was the running of only one adventure, but having two identical dungeons running at the same time." (Nelson 2006)
- One adventure, labeled "Race Across Greyhawk (Combat)" will offer players a more combat-oriented scenario. Its counterpart entitled "Race Across Greyhawk (Puzzle)" will challenge players with more puzzles than melee.
- "Sponsored by Wizards of the Coast, True Dungeon returns to Gen Con again this year and promises even more enjoyment than last time with the introduction of the True Dungeon Fantasy Tavern." "Jsgolfman" (2005-05-24). "Gen Con Indy, A Preview". Computing On Demand. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- "We wanted to create an awesome place for gamers to 'geek out' and revel in drinking in a medieval fantasy inn." (aeon 2005)
- aeon (2005-02-28). "True Dungeon". Game Grene. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- Nelson, Randall (September 2006). "GenCon 2006: True Dungeon Recap". Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine (119). Kenzer & Company. pp. 49–50.
|contribution=ignored (help) Article is also online: Nelson, Randall (September 2006). "GenCon 2006: True Dungeon Recap" (PDF). Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine. Kenzer & Company. pp. 49–50. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- Philleo, Paul (2005-11-25). "True Dungeon Experience at Gen Con". Multiplayer Online Games Directory. Retrieved 2007-05-07. Features a good description of the 2005 True Dungeon experience.
- "True Dungeon details for 2007". Retrieved 2008-08-22.
- Laws, Robin D. (August 2007). "40 Years of Gen Con". Atlas Games (published 2007-08). ISBN 1-58978-097-3. Check date values in: