Solo DnD 5e is hard!
After being introduced to the world of solo roleplaying, it's been part of my weekly (sometimes daily!) habits. Whenever I get a spare moment and a burst of creativity, I like to pull up my solo adventure where I left off and roll some dice. And it's one of those things I can do during a long car ride as well thanks to digital dice and something like Notion. (And a good solo adventure makes for some really nice Actual Play Fiction. Yum.)
I'm pretty heavily invested in Dungeons and Dragons, which means that I've tried to play it solo multiple times. I tend to find it rather difficult to do, however. This thought almost exclusively refers to the fact that creating monsters is tedious and time consuming. "But Tavon, there's a bunch of monsters already created. Just use those!" Well, I don't know what monsters I should use! I've never DM'd before so I pretty much only know the monsters I've fought and the popular ones, which is typically not a very expansive knowledge of the various threats that I could throw at myself.
This is why sometimes like The Dead Don't Sleep is great, and it's also got a bunch of other things that make it a great solo tool.
What is The Dead Don't Sleep?
The Dead Don't Sleep is a essentially random dungeon generator that provides just enough storyline for a solo dungeon delve with tons of replayability. It's written by Paul Bimler (of 5e Solo Gamebooks), who has a ton of other supplements and even some fantasy fiction! In fact, whenever I try to play DnD solo, I initially put the characters through this adventure. I don't have to do a lot of roleplaying if I don't want to, but I know enough about the circumstances that I can try out a few things. I've mentioned The Dead Don't Sleep once before already in my post about creating Gideon Jura in Dnd 5e. It truly is something I go back to all the time.
The Dead Don't Sleep provides quest hooks that you can select or roll randomly from and the tables and tools necessary to generate a dungeon randomly. There are random tables for hallways, doors, traps, and other dangers. As you progress, you have a chance to uncover (random) clues that you piece together to form a story. Each clue is assigned a letter helps dictate how the dungeon will eventually end—or you can just pick an ending yourself. It's super flexible and very, very easy to use.
Strong Hit: The Encounter Table
Earlier I stated that creating monsters is the most difficult task of playing Dungeons and Dragons solo for me. If I could easily tweak a monster or create one on the fly without worrying about the CR being too low or high, this wouldn't be an issue. The Dead Don't Sleep takes care of that for me with an extensive encounter table.
Some soloist like to play with a small party of two characters, while others go at it completely alone. The Dead Don't Sleep provides encounters for both types of players. Additionally, it has encounters for pretty much every level! If you play with one PC, there are encounters up to level 20! If you play with two PCs, they go up to level 15. AND! They have two difficulty settings per level: easy/moderate or challenging/deadly. There are at least 4 encounters per setting and each is paired with a die roll, with the lower numbers being easier and the highest number being the hardest for that category. This allows you to either play completely randomly or pick and choose exactly how you want your dungeon to play out.
Miss (Kinda): Not 100% Standalone
When I look at reviews, if there's nothing negative, something more than likely is. So, if something does have a negative—no matter how minor—I gotta disclose it in the review.
The Dead Don't Sleep has about 95% of what you need to actually use it all by itself. There's an understandable amount that refers to the Monster Manual, as there are no stat blocks listed in this supplement.
It does, however, reference a product from the DMs Guild: the Monster Manual Expanded. Sucks for me, as I couldn't use the monsters mentioned in this supplement without forking over money for a book I'd probably only use for this. Luckily, there are plenty of Monster Manual monsters to pick from so it's not useless by any means. I'm not a DM but I've heard of this book a bit so I'm assuming it'll be in many people's libraries already.
Secondly, it does reference some things from the Solo Adventurer's Toolbox (made by the same person), and it doesn't fully flesh out the dungeon building mechanic in some areas. But I also really, really heavily support getting the Solo Adventurer's Toolbox, so... go get that, too. Trust me, there'll be a review for that soon.
Also, it's mostly undead monsters, so if you plan on playing this character in a longer adventure or campaign, this supplement doesn't give you a good breadth of circumstances to test the character around.
Those things are truly minor and don't detract from my love of this supplement. In fact, beneath the Encounter Table is a table that lists the CR of the monsters, making it very easy to swap other monsters in as needed.
Fun fact: my Ironsworn: Starforged adventure—Rise and Shiningstar—was influenced by this supplement! I can't say it enough: I love The Dead Don't Sleep, so I knew I wanted to have my own version of it for Starforged where I can test out new character concepts and ideas.
In getting ready for this review, I saw that there's another adventure just like this! I've seen the associated links in the description for this product for some time, but I think now is the time to play through them all. It should be fun!