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Dungeon Realms – an RPG adventure with friends

Dungeons & Dragons has had something of a renaissance the past few years, thanks in part to a slew of fantastic live play storytelling podcasts using the D&D system (see: Critical Role, Adventure Zone, Dimension 20). A good tabletop RPG game with friends is hard to beat, but most game masters will agree: getting a group of players together on a consistent schedule is harder than any campaign prep.

Zoom sessions can help, and websites like Roll20 are popular for remote play. But even that requires people to be free at the same time and commit to several hours of consecutive game time. For some people, that’s just not feasible on a regular basis. Enter Dungeon Realms, an asynchronous roleplaying game that takes all the fun of conventional D&D and translates it into something you can play on your phone in your spare time.

Dungeon Realms

If you’ve never played something like this before, the concept is simple. A game master (GM) narrates the play and guides the story. Everyone else roleplays a single character, deciding which actions to take in response to the GM’s prompts. Dice rolls decide the outcome of risky maneuvers. Games like this are freeform, so players describe what they want to do rather than choosing from a set of options. The GM will decide how best to translate your choices to the game world, and can fire up virtual dice rolls based on your chosen stats any time they deem it important.

The game itself works like a group chat thread, with each player narrating their turns in a back-and-forth. It’s a bit like improv. Expectations for how fast the game is played (i.e. how many messages you’ll be expected to contribute each day) are set at the beginning. A separate chat thread for “table talk” allows players to converse without ruining the flow of the main game chat.

Dungeon Realms’ ruleset is based on 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (with a few alterations) but its presentation is very beginner-friendly and doesn’t require you to learn all the rules or keep track of stats manually. You can join a game designed for newbies, so everyone will be on the same page, and pick it up as your play. Experienced players can instead join a more advanced game, where everyone will be expected to know the rules.

Dungeon Realms started as a Kickstarter and has an ambitious roadmap of planned features, but as it stands this is still a new app ou might struggle to find a game right away if you’re hoping to play with strangers. But if you already have a group of friends to try it with, you can dive right into a custom game. There are also a bunch of pre-made scenarios you can play through, some of which are free.

It will be really interesting to see if this concept takes off, and whether it converts any first-timers into true tabletop RPG fans. It’s admittedly a bit of a niche app, targeted essentially at nerds with no spare time who miss social gaming sessions, but its friendly presentation might just open things up to a whole new audience.