With my my friends H. and Yan, we played 2 sessions of Ruins of the Undercity. Since we were only 3, we decided to try to explore the Undercity without a DM (as proposed by the book). We used the party organisation chart and the random dungeon generator. But we also used a oracle table on which we could roll to ask YES/NO questions. It was ok, the game was functional, it reminded me of roguelike games like Stone Soup Dungeon Crawl or NetHack. But naturally the whole thing also felt limited. But still we had some fun moments when we complicated our character situation by asking questions to the oracle. Stuff like: "two rot grubs on the floor... ok is the ceiling crawling with them?" and when rolling a "1" while defending a doorway: "shit can the grey critters push me aside and swarm in the room?" We could have been more creative, but most of the questions concerning the dungeon were answered by the random dungeon generator tables.
What I appreciated the most about Ruins of the Undercity is how the build-in setting color all the random tables. I especially appreciated the list of shops offering local flavored equipment combined with availability rolls.
We rolled up 2 characters each to form a party of 6 characters. We used the former profession table from the book to add some colors to our characters.
We ended up with:
- Galatea, a actor's daughter who ran away to became a cleric in a poor temple.
- Madu, a bad cartographer who learned some magic charms.
- Xenokrates, a runaway bower apprentice now fighter.
- Paedo, a ruined leather worker who felt the calling of the Red Goddess.
- Dbeti, a nubian dwarf who had enough of being a petty clerk.
- Gowad, a persian merchant who dabbled in forbidden arts.
Madu stats sucked so much (STR 5, INT 9, WIS 8, DEX 6, CON 8, CHA 11), I liked how he was not gifted at anything and how, against is better judgement, he choose to venture in the undercity in search of treasures he imagined when daydreaming while he was reading old and crumbling maps of the city. It was fun to watch him survive against the odds! (But that said, except for his 2 hit points, his poor stats din't hinder him that much)
Generating the dungeon room by room & door by door during play was slow and laborious. The result was ok, but was not especially interesting or intriguing. I think the random generator can be useful as a GM tool, but I prefer random geomorph tiles over rooms by corridors generation. Or again I prefer to work with a dungeon creation tool, like How to Host a Dungeon, that provide a dungeon history and ecology that spark the imagination instead of detailed floor plans.
Oh and we constantly rolled poorly on the rooms content table, so we din't discover a single treasure in two sessions.
In conclusion I like Ruins of the Undercity, but not for it GM less proposition or it random dungeon generator, but for how it setting is build-in in it tables and lists. I would play in a campaign of Ruins of the Undercity, but only with a GM that use the random dungeon generator as a tool to dress up his or her dungeon instead of using it to entirely generate dungeon levels.