Dogma! The Old School D&D Game

Dogma is a fast and furious (and very silly) D&D variant. Here’s a quick description:

Right on! My group sometimes busts out the old-school DMG for a few rounds of what we call Dogma. You roll 3d6 6 times, those are your stats. Decide on class. Roll for hit points. Roll for money. Buy some gear. Bang, you’re in the game. No backstory, no bullshit, just pop, there you are.

The GM uses the random encounters and dungeons in the back of the DMG. If you make it to third level, you get an alignment and a name (you even get to pick your own name!). If you die, you just immediately roll 3d6 6 times, etc, until you pop back into the game again.

The DM’s role is to abide by the decisions of the almighty Gygaxian algorithms, and to discourage players from actual role-playing until they’ve ‘earned it’ at third level. In practice, Dogma is fast-paced and not entirely unlike a game of fantasy Quake. In the right hands, it can be very, very funny… well, funny if you’re a dork, anyway!

Perl Helper Programs

I’ve written a 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons character generator in Perl. Run it with no command-line arguments to generate a character automatically or put stats on the command line in this order: str, int, wis, dex, con, chr (so 1st ed!) and it will tell you what race/class/gender you can be (including multi-classes and with level limits!)

I’ve also written a version of the Appendix A Dungeon Generator – its not perfect (basically not all the monster stuff is complete) but it does do all the rolling for the map and do all treasure types as well as being a computerised dice roller and general all-round piece of usefulness

Both these programs require Perl to run. You may need to download Perl for Windows or Perl for Unix

Our First Game

Our first bout of Dogma took about 3-4 hours and had the following results:

Characters that survived are marked with an aserisk (*).

Human Fighter 3 (Ongar the Bloody)
Gnome Fighter 3 (Trome the Delver)
Human Fighter 1
Dwarf Cleric 1
Human Theif 1
Human Cleric 1
Gnome Theif 1
Human Fighter 1
Half-Elf Mage/Theif 1/2 (Went Insane)
Human Fighter 1
Half-Elf Cleric 3 (Bloodmoon)*

Human Cleric 1 (Lucas the Weedy)
Human Cleric 3 (Peter the Good)
Human Fighter 1 (The Nameless Sacrificial Barbarian)
Human Cleric 1 (Gash the Bleeder)
Elf Fighter/Mage 2/1 (Ithias the Almost)
Human Cleric 1 (Twat the Useless)
Elf Illusionist 1 (Shit the Shittest Character Ever)
Dwarf Fighter 1 (Average the Dwarf)
Human Fighter 1 (Quickly Killed the Armourless)
Human Fighter 1 (Quickly Killed the Armourless II)*

Approx 5 (?) that were rubbed out (literally)
Half Elf Fighter 1
Human Fighter 2
Half Orc Fighter 3 (Gornag)*

More from the Pioneers

From Jacob Hawkins, one of the inventors of the game:

Hi there!

I was referred to your site by Luke Trerice today. When he and some of the other Dogma originals came down for my wedding this last weekend, he told me that there were folks out there getting interested in Dogma and finding out stories of the original games. I was in shock, to say the least. I never thought this idea would ever spread past a few nights of amusement.

Anyway, the original Dogma players were Dan Focke, Shane Lidman, Fritz Donnelly, Sol Weil, Sam Lett, Ben Flint, Luke Trerice, and myself. Frankly, I can’t remember who all was in on the first game, because it was rather something that had sort of evolved. As most D&D players, we’d all developed a pretty wide range characters with a range of levels over years of playing. Some of the members of the group (Fritz and myself most notably and vocally included) really disliked how high level games involved so much magic. Other members of the gaming group didn’t like bothering with the low level stuff at all and preferred starting characters at 3rd level and up. Personally, I always thought the best gaming experiences and the funnest games are at low levels. When we would start a new campaign, I would often be a proponent for us not only starting at the beginning, but starting with 3D6 and taking the scores in order. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to claim any responsibility for Dogma – I don’t know if any one of us can do that. Like I said, it just sort of evolved. It’s earliest roots come from a campaign that we did as we tried to build our characters up to run the Temple of Elemental Evil, with the infamous Elven thief Fishbreath Poohair played by Sol Weil, and the series of characters that Shane went through before we ever made it (an interesting side note to this is that once we arrived at the Temple of Elemental Evil and began going through the book’s campaign, we decided that the adventures we’d had up to then had been much more interesting and fun and so had our characters leave the Temple).

If I recall correctly, I think that what could be considered the first real game of Dogma came into being one night as we were planning for a night of Shadowrun. A number of us had gotten together already and were waiting for the others to show. As with any night of gaming, the AD&D books were lying around as we always used them for writing surfaces (writing surfaces…heh…there are other good jokes among the group about writing surfaces – Dan Focke can be attributed with those). Anyway, as we’d usually do as we waited, we’d page through the books, just messing around. And one of us (Fritz, I believe) came up with the idea of running a fast game of AD&D while we waited for the others. Roll 3D6 6 times, put the scores in the order of the attributes on the sheet, and that pretty much decides your character class for you. No Paladins or Rangers here! Choose your race, roll for gold (which would oftentimes decide your equipment for you) and we were off! By the time the others had arrived, we had gone through numerous characters and were falling on the floor laughing. I could be wrong about this and this might not have been the first time – but it was the perfect game to play while we waited for Shane or Dan to have a cigarette break or waiting for folks to arrive.

This was the best of both worlds for the members of the group. Those of us that loved playing at lower levels had a terrific time. And at the same time, it was ridiculous enough to be tremendously fun for the folks that usually liked playing at high levels. I loved it for the fact that it made you wary of Kobolds again, and you didn’t dare take on a Goblin unless you had at least one other character with you – and it was still likely that one of you would die. While our gaming group -had- played a lot of Paranoia in the early 90’s, we never took Dogma quite to that extreme that Chris Kirk wrote about as far as backstabbing other members of the party goes. Now, pickpocketing other players…that’s another matter entirely…and frankly, Dan’s thieves (no matter -what- level) always seemed to be pickpocketing other members of the party.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I’m excited to see that other people have picked up Dogma and are playing it. It’s amazing fun and forces you into greater levels of creativity (particularly if you try really hard to keep the party unified) than playing regular D&D.

Take care,
Jacob Hawkins
Santa Barbara, CA
formerly of Tumwater, WA

From Chris “Goose” Kirk who made me aware of the game:

You should give props to Lucas Trerice of Olympia, Washington, USA for the idea – I got it from him, and AFAIK, he’s one of the inventors. He’s brilliantly eccentric… and he’s also the Dogma pioneer who brought a sack of chickens to the dungeon and used a 10′ pole to prod them ahead as he walked to check for traps. After some particularly insistent prodding, the DM ruled that the chicken ran up the pole and pecked him for 1 point of damage – which wouldn’t have been such a problem if Luke hadn’t rolled a 1 for his hit points…

The first time we played Dogma, we realized that you get EPs for killing something AND EPs for taking treasure off a corpse – 1 EP per gold piece, if memory serves, so it can be quite significant! Those times when we actually defeated a monster (and, going by the random encounter charts, that was rare), the DM would roll on the treasure table and suddenly there’d be this HUGE pile of EPs. Like, automatic second-level!

The joke, BTW, was that you’d always have to slice open the stomach of the monster to find the treasure, no matter how ludicrously outsized (“that kobold had a full suit of plate in his stomach!”), as per standard Gygax procedure.

Anyway, so what happens more often than not is a mad scramble for the treasure. As soon as one PC wacks another and takes possession of the treasure, boom, they level, and then the other PCs try to kill him and take the treasure, until there’s only one left and the other players are busy rolling up new characters. Since you don’t get an alignment until third level, it’s all kosher!

This may be part of the reason why we still have never had anyone actually make it to third level…

Anyway, I’m so glad someone else has discovered the joys of Dogma. I’ve been meaning to write up a complete description of it – it’s just too much fun to keep to ourselves. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse for hanging onto those crap py old 1st ed. books!

Christopher (Goose) Kirk
Olympia, WA, USA

Here are a few more Dogma nuggets for you…

A brief correction from Luke about the chicken story in my previous email:
That chicken did two HP of damage! It got a crit, which was the only way Pat [our DM] reasoned that it could do damage, and thus it had to do double damage, and, well, those two were it. After a solemn moment of sheer disbelief, Sven avenged my death and slew the mighty feral cave chicken (now worth XP, since it had proven lethal) and ate it. Unfortunately, he didn’t specify that he was going to cook it, so Pat rolled on the random disease and infection table, and he appropriately (though coincidentally) came up with a terminal stomach infection. Which also killed the orc that ate him in the next dungeon room over.

Luke also had this Dogma tale about someone making third level:
The very first time we ever played, when we were inventing Dogma, my friend Dan Focke had a thief make it to third by picking everyone’s pockets and using purchased war dogs to kill drow. Once he did, he turned tail and ran, ordering all his dogs and hirelings to follow him, thus taking the arrows in the back for him. Only he made it out alive, and now he waits in “town” for enough characters to make it that we can have a real adventure. His name was Lepritic Arse, and I think he had to adopt chaotic evil or something (all Dogma characters eventually are, anyway).

I think a truly demented DM is a requirement for Dogma, and my group is extremely fortunate to have the extremely demented Pat Mapp, owner of Olympia’s own Danger Room Comics, as our DM. I’d never previously imagined that there were so very many ways to describe a kobold getting killed by a longsword. If Dogma is similar to a game of Quake, consider the importance of high-quality graphics… and the pen-and-paper equivalent of great computer game graphics is fantastically imaginative descriptions of flying entrails. It may not be strictly necessary, but it does make things slightly more fun!

Pat also had this to say:

Do I have something to add? Do I indeed! You just tell ’em about Luke’s CHICKEN OF DOOM!!! I know, it’s not exactly a rules embellishment, but I think it represents a good approach for the DM: Everything in world can be a weapon against the players (especially if they try to be tricky)!

You may wanna make special mention of the way it’s randomly laid-out: A “town” with ten (eight?) terrain types surrounding it – each one leading to a “dungeon”. Distance is measured in the number of encounters (i.e., the dungeon is 1d4+1 random encounters away).

Personally, I believe the DM makes best use of the random dungeon generation rules by waiting to do it until the players are making up their first characters. Insist that everyone have their characters ready before they begin. This creates a built-in incentive to kill off the pcs (to give more time to prep the dungeon). It also has the added bonus of keeping the DM from planning out too far in advance – you have to constantly be generating more of the dungeon.

This set-up can actually work in the DMs favor. You get to do all the role-playing you want to, while making the players stick to the rules (usually I do this via flavor-text and combat dialogue). Gah! So many things to think about!

Share your Dogma stories! If you play the game, mess with the rules or just want to tell me what a loser I am:

4 Replies to “Dogma! The Old School D&D Game”

  1. I stumbled across this site a couple of years ago and adapted the rules for HackMaster. Dogma! and HackMaster were meant for each other. We played it a couple times as summer diversions from our regular campaigns. After our last campaign ended, we decided Dogma! was a great way to get started on our next one. We are 4 games in and I just wanted to say thanks.

  2. Pingback: Dogma! -

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