Dungeons of Olde

Trashing old-school dungeons, one tile at a time!

Exploration Mode

WARNING: Outdated Rules

The rules in this section have become obsolete following the recent rules overhaul. The most current version of the rules are those included in the Core Rules section of this website.

Note: These rules for Exploration Mode were written when the game was envisioned as a tile-based, dungeon-delving skirmish game. If it is being played as a full roleplaying game, non-combat time will probably be handled less formally than described in this section. Depending on the direction the game takes during playtesting, this section may or may not be rewritten to better fit the genre in which the final game lands—tile-based dungeon skirmish, or full-on RPG.

Exploration Mode is how the game runs when things are calm or even cautious, and characters are exploring the dungeon environment. In Exploration Mode, figure that each turn lasts about a minute, and gives a character enough time to cross one dungeon tile (usually 4 or 6 squares on a side) slowly enough to look around each square as he passes, or to perform one specific task, like picking a lock or climbing up or down a ladder. Figure that each turn in Exploration Mode is roughly one minute long—more or less.

Generally speaking, when the game is in Exploration Mode, only the heroes are taking action. Opponents and other NPCs are inactive or not even on the map. In Exploration Mode, the heroes generally move as a group through the dungeon, from one tile to the next, waiting whenever one character has a special task to perform, such as a wizard reading ancient runes carved in the wall, a priest praying for divine guidance, or a pathfinder sensing for true north. Occasionally, the party may split up, moving separately and in rotation. This reveals the dungeon more quickly, but carries the risk a hero may be caught alone in an ambush or other catastrophe.

Moving as a party

When the game is in Exploration Mode, and the heroes are moving in a group, they should specify their marching formation—who’s in front, who’s in back, who’s “safe” in the middle. In most dungeon situations, the party is moving through 2-square-wide passages, so it’s common to set up the marching order in several rows of two characters, moving side by side. The easiest way to keep track of marching order is to place a special tile on the table, apart from the dungeon, and set up the characters’ miniatures in squares on that tile, reflecting their marching order.

In Exploration Mode, parties move as a unit, one dungeon tile at a time. The location of the party in the dungeon in Exploration Mode can be tracked with a single miniature, placed in the center of the tile currently occupied by the party. The actions of the party should be determined by informal consensus, although one player will usually step up as an informal “caller,” describing the group’s actions turn by turn, with input from the rest of the players. If disagreement arises about what the party should do next, or if the members of the whole group agree that they should split up for some reason, the party will be divided into separate groups.

Dividing the party

If the party splits up into smaller groups, the marching order for each group should be set up on a separate tile away from the dungeon tiles. Each group is then represented on the board by its own single miniature. If a single character is moving alone, his miniature can be placed directly on the dungeon tile—there is no need to set up a marching-order tile for a party of one!

Action will alternate between the two groups on a mutually agreed-upon basis. Because switching between groups every time a new tile is entered can become tedious, players frequently agree to let each group take two or three turns in a row before the action shifts to the other group.

Exploration Actions

Turns in Exploration Mode are assumed to last roughly a minute each, more or less. Most Actions the party can take in Exploration Mode can be completed in a one-minute turn, or can be broken down into one-minute turns. A few more tedious or complex Actions may take several turns, though this isn’t important if the party remains together as a single group. If the party has split up, however, or if some characters want to do other things while one of their companions is engaged in a multi-turn task, the groups or individuals not directly engaged in the longer task may take Actions while the longer task is completed. If any of the party decides to leave the dungeon tile where the longer task is happening, it will be necessary to divide the party, as described above.

The Exploration Mode Action Table lists common actions Heroes take while the game is in Exploration Mode, and how long they take.

Exploration Mode Action Table

Action Turns

Walk from one dungeon tile to the next (usually 4-6 squares on the map).


Get out a torch or lantern and light it.


Gear up for combat (put on helm, ready weapons and shield), or stow weapons and shields afterwards.


Pick a typical lock or disarm a common trap.


Search 4” of wall or 4 squares of floor or ceiling for secret doors or other hidden features.


Climb a ladder or staircase from one dungeon level to the next.


Sketch a few tiles’ worth of dungeon onto a map.


Open an unlocked treasure chest and quickly survey its contents.


Carefully sort the contents of a treasure chest and distribute the contents among the party members.


Assess a wound and administer skilled first aid (stitching cuts, removing arrows, applying splints or tourniquets, etc.).

3/HP of damage

Build a stable campfire and get out field rations for a quick meal (assumes fuel for the fire is at hand).


Clear campsite (remove brush and debris, etc. Duration assumes all campers are contributing; double the number of turns if making camp is done by half or less of the party).


Set up an overnight camp suitable in a clearing (build a campfire, tether horses or mules, lay out bedding, prepare to cook a simple meal, etc. Duration assumes all campers are contributing; double the number of turns if making camp is done by half or less of the party).


Break camp (Put out campfire, stow gear safely, ready horses or mules for travel, etc. Duration assumes all campers are contributing; double the number of turns if making camp is done by half or less of the party).


Cast an Exploration Mode spell
(e.g., Discern Enchantment, Commune with Spirits, Heal)

Per spell notes

Ending Exploration Mode

Whenever anything dangerous happens, such as an encounter with an enemy force or the triggering of a trap, the game shifts from Exploration Mode into Crisis Mode. In Crisis Mode, time and space are measured much more precisely, according to the Crisis Mode rules that follow.