Dwya stood slowly, feeling the stiffness in his legs. A remnant of a half an hour kneeling quietly at the rough wooden door, it wasn't unusual.  Confident there was no one on the other side of the door to notice, he started patting the pockets of his leather tunic until he found one of his few remaining cigarettes, hunted around more vigorously for a wizard stick to light it, and finally cursed as he realized he didn’t have any.  The glowstick he used for lighting the room, while environmentally friendly, threw off about as much heat as an ice cube.  Where was a damn wizard when you needed one?


There was the muffled thud of a fireball going off in an adjoining room and the sudden clanging and harsh yells of combat.  Dwya decided that perhaps their wizard had better things to do than a minor magic to give him a light. 


He slipped the cancer stick back into a pocket and moved into a room they had previously cleared of a few goblins, beginning his sweep of the area that had been claimed by his team.  He paused suddenly, and then moved quietly to another door that he had spiked shut earlier, gently resting his ear on the rough wood.  He heard the same whisper of sound that alerted him in the first place, the sound of someone equally surreptitious moving in the other room.  What he didn’t hear was the guttural snarl of Orcish or the metal clatter of a High Orc, a Urakai, moving around in battle armor. 

He pulled the Amulet of Hud the Overlord had provided each of them out of yet another pocket, gazed into it, and saw a recognizable representation of the maze with small dots indicating the location of every human currently cleaning the place out.  The Overload had made it part of the game, and had told them that it was to prevent accidental conflict between the different teams during the contest.  Everyone knew, however, that those accidental conflicts happened fairly regularly, and Dwya had his own opinion.  Whoever won the competition would become one of the elite Phoenix Guard units that served the Overload directly, living a life of luxury when they were not on duty.  Dwya suspected that the Overload wanted to know that his people could cooperate when the need arose.  Speaking of which…


The man on the other side of the door spoke first.  “How’s it hanging, Dwya?”  Dwya recognized the voice, but he already knew who it was from the Hud.  It was Ergru, a thief on another dungeon crawling team.


“Well.  We’ve cleared out eight rooms at this point, recovered a few gems, a dozen gold pieces.”

“Nice, but I hear that Gulden’s team is really kicking all our asses.”


“Ya, heard the same thing.  But, you know the Overlord’s rules; they have to come out with enough gems to even be considered.  I happened to hear that they are collecting Sapphires.  I’ve also heard you have quite a few yourselves.”


“Could be” answered Ergru, cautiously, not knowing where the conversation was going.


“Well, I happen to have a Sapphire that isn’t going to help me much.  And I’ve heard you’ve picked up a Ruby.  My team happens to have collected quite a few of them." 


“And you want to trade?” asked Ergru, comprehension dawning.


“Definitely.  And all I ask in return is that you throw in a wizard stick if you’ve got one.”




Proving grounds is a Chainmail version of a D&D dungeon crawl, that is, a statistical abstraction of the movement and combat involved in such a venture.  Each player runs a party of adventurers who are trying to win a competition staged by the Invincible Overlord by clearing out a dungeon carefully stocked with Goblins, Orcs, Urakai and Dragons for the game.  In order to win, they must prove themselves generous, ingenious, and successful.  Generous by providing the most of a single kind of gem to the Overload, ingenious by collecting the most gold, and successful either by capturing the most rooms in the dungeon or surviving with the most heroes. 




 You're on the right track by reading these rules.  To play the game, you must have Java 1.5 installed (1.6 is preferred).  Download the ProvingGrounds.jnlp file and unzip it (location is up to you).  Double click on it; the lobby application should download and start automatically.  From the lobby application, select "configure games" off the menu.  Click the "new" button, and create a local ProvingGrounds game, leaving it as a DEMO game.  Save it.  Go back to the menu and restart the ProvingGrounds DEMO game (it will ask you if you want to overwrite the existing game; say "yes.").  Go back tot he menu and open the ProvingGrounds DEMO game.  You are ready to play.  If you're hard core, just go to the rules and have at it.  If you want a easier introduction, you can look a the Proving Grounds Starter Movie.  This is a 100M file and may take some time to download (you may want to save it instead of opening it directly in Internet Explorer). Also be aware that the game moves on and some of the information in the movie may be out of date.




The Dungeon consists of a set of rooms connected by doors.  Each player has an entry room around the periphery of the dungeon.  Subsequent additions to your group will appear in this room. 

As the dungeon is first entered, you know the general layout of rooms, but not how they are connected to each other.  As you enter rooms, you will “see” everything in the room and will slowly discover information about the rooms adjoining it.  Once a group is familiar with a room, they continue to know what happens in it, so you gain a general understanding of the dungeon’s layout as time progresses.




A room that is occupied by a player at the end of the turn becomes “owned” by that player.  This is significant because you may move through rooms you own during the turn, while moving into a room you don’t own ends your movement.  Keeping a clear path back to your starting room is critical for new hires to join your group.  Movement is stopped if the room has been entered during the turn by someone other than your group.


Rooms you own, even if not occupied, continue to allow you to find out about the rooms they are connected too, at a slightly slower rate (every other turn).  You can also see traps and spiked doors in rooms you own as small red dots and "S" and "T" tags on the room description. 


The player with the most rooms at the end of the game gets a 10 gold reward from the Overlord.

Rooms occupied by another player are indicated by squares with that player's color.  Rooms with creatures are indicated with red circles.  If you know the detailed information about the creatures in a room, and they have a gem, it is indicated by a yellow dot in the middle of the red circle.

The currently selected room (room shown in the "in room" pane) is colored pink.



The player list shows the players, current Gold, and current number of gems.


Turn results, leader boards, combat results, order feedback, and an accounting of how you spent and received gold are shown in the lower left hand corner (tabbed pane). 


"Special" actions are shown in the upper right hand corner, and include buying equipment, hiring new heroes, and bidding on leader boards.  These can occur every turn but:

  • Equipment is replenished randomly (33% chance per turn) and if there is no equipment, you     cannot buy any
  • Heroes for hire are replenished randomly (33% chance per turn)
  • Only certain leaderboards can be bid on each turn; they are highlighted (for instance, on the above turn, Buy, Order and Tie can be bid on)

Hero details are shown in the "orders" pane, which shows details on the hero selected, their equipment, their current "retreat policy", whether they are in "guard" mode or not, and allows you to enter orders for your heroes.


The Hero Ladder shows all your currently active heroes.  Click on one will automatically select the room that hero is in. 




The first turn of the game, you select your party.  You have 100 gold to spend; any you do not spend remains for your first turn.  You may add party members of whatever class you would like, improve statistics, and purchase equipment (from a limited set) up to 100 Gold pieces; you may also bid on leaderboards.  The first turn, leaderboard placement is completely based on your bid (and random on a tie); it can be advantageous to start high on the leaderboard. 





The game ends when the last room is entered.  There is also a 20% chance each turn of the game ending after there are only five unexplored rooms left.  There is an additional 20% chance each turn of the game ending after turn 30.


When the game ends, the gems owned by a player are tallied up.  To be considered in selecting a winner, the player must have the most of one kind of gem.  Ties are decided by the tie leader board (see the leader board section of the rules).  Typically there are only enough different kinds of gems for half the players to be considered, but if one player has the most of more than one kind of gem, it can be even fewer.


When all players that have the most of one kind of gem are selected, an additional 10 gold pieces are awarded for having the most rooms and having the most surviving party members.  If players tie, both players are awarded the gold. 


Then total gold is tallied.  The player with the most gold wins,  Ties are decided by the Tie Leader Board. 




Player parties consist of a group of heroes.  Heroes can typically move or trade with another player's hero each turn.  They can also equiping or  unequip items, but these do not count as actions.  Certain character classes have special options as indicated below.


You can do hero orders by using the drop down menu in the hero order panel, or, to move a hero, by selecting the hero in the room display list or hero ladder list and then left clicking on the room to which they are to move (must be adjacent to the room the hero is in).  The hero's movement is indcated with a red line.  You may move a hero as far in rooms you own as you want, but once the hero has moved outside your zone of control, they stop.


Heroes fall in four categories, Fighters, Clerics, Wizards / MUs, and Thieves.  Clerics and Wizards can cast spells, using spell points, which can be recharged by resting.   Thieves can do several sneaky thief things; pay attention, because many of them are critical. 


Heroes have several characteristics that vary in capability from 2 to 12. 


Heroes can equip themselves from a communal stockpile and can carry small items, like gems.  They can equip/unequip as many times during the turn as they want.




Strength (STR)

Amount of damage that can be done, usually multiplied by a weapons factor.  Someone with 10 Strength and a Sword (0.8 weapons factor) can do 1-8 points.  Weaponless, they do 1-2 points.  There are also some items that require a minimum strength to use or carry

Intelligence (INT)

Maximum amount of mana for a wizard.  Wizards save vs. 3D6 to maintain spell prep during attacks.  Maximum damage caused by traps set by Thieves.

Wisdom (WIS)

Maximum amount of mana for a Cleric.

Dexterity (DEX)

Likelihood of hitting opponents.  Likelihood of finding and opening hidden caches of gold for thieves.

Initiative (INIT)

Order in which attacks will happen in combat. 

Hit Points (HP)

Amount of damage the hero can take

Spell Points (SP)

Remaining mana for casting spells


Hero type



Bread and butter melee machines; +1 to hit, + 1 damage.  Typically need a balance of STR and DEX. 


Can’t use edged weapons.  Can cast a Cure Light Wounds (CLW) to heal 2-7 points of damage.  Automatically casts one CLW in combat to keep a party member alive with 1 hit point. 


Can’t use armor or shields, can only use a dagger or wizard’s staff for a weapon.  Wizards have different spells as outlined below.


The swiss-army-knive of the group.  Can only use daggers, cannot use armor or shields.  Can find hidden gold, set traps, steal gems from other players, spike doors.  Typically want a high DEX and high INT.


Actions available to all classes include:


Trade Gives an item from the thief to an individual in the same or adjoining rooms; typically used to trade gems with someone.
Equip Move something from the player's stockpile to the hero
Unequip Move something from the hero to the the player's stockpile (where it can then be moved to another hero)


Actions available to Clerics only inlcude:


CLW Can cast a Cure Light Wounds (CLW) to heal 2-7 points of damage on someone in the same room; this counts as an action for the cleric and person being healed


Actions available to MUs include spells.  Spells can be very powerful.  They fall in two categories, regular spells and battlemagic.  Regular spells are done as a player order.  Battlemagic spells are cast automatically if the MU enters combat. 


In order to cast a spell, the Wizard must be equipped with it, with the exception of the "Noise" and "Lure" spells.  They may only be equipped with one Battlemagic spell at a time, but are unlimited in regular spells.  Spells require different amounts of Mana.  Wizards regenerated 1 Mana point up to their maximum for each turn they rest.  If they are hit in melee before they can cast battlemagic, they must save at 3D6 vs. INT to avoid breaking spell prep.  Spell prep takes three combat rounds. 


Wizard Spells


Wizard Eye – 1 mana point

Sees into any location selected and any adjoining rooms; disarms any traps set in that room (but doesn't affect spiked doors)

STR Buff – 2 mana points

Increases the STR of everyone in the room by 2 for 2 turns.  Stacks. 

DEX Buff – 2 mana points

Increases the DEX of everyone in the room by 2 for 2 turns.  Stacks. 

Noise – 1 mana point

Creates a scary noise in a room, making it appear occupied.  If cast on an occupied room, it has a 50% chance of distracting occupants (this only affects orders, not defense).  Cast on an empty room that is not spiked, it makes the room unowned (that is, it will stop movement, prevent retreats, no longer count toward total rooms owned, etc for the original owner).  This spell doesn't need to be equipped.

Lure – 5 mana points Creates a squeaking noise in a room that sounds like lots of rats, which is the only source of food for the monsters in the dungeon.  50% probability of attracting monsters from adjoining rooms the next turn.  Monsters that move into the new room will not fight each other; if a room has too many monsters, they may scatter again the following turn.  This spell doesn't need to be equipped.

Firebeam (Battlemagic) – 2 mana points

Does 1-10 points of damage on the enemy with the most hit points,  Armor has no effect. 

Fireball (Battlemagic) – 3 mana points

Does 1-6 points of damage on all enemies in the room.  Armor stops fireball damage down to a minimum of 1 point of damage.  Shields have a 50% chance of stopping all fireball damage.


Additional Thief actions are outlined below.  If thieves do nothing during a turn, they will automatically search a room for hidden caches of gold.  They will know if the room is tapped out if there are no caches left. 


Thief action


Steal Gem The turn a thief enters another player's owned room, they may try to steal a gem from that player's stockpile (only from the stockpile; gems in hero's possession are safe).  3D6 vs. Dex.

Spike Doors

Prevents entry into the room for a turn and blocks "noise" spells; 2D6 vs. dex roll to succeed.  you will get a message that “spikes have been knocked out.” 

Set Trap

Sets a trap in the room that affects everyone entering the room (other than members of the same group).  Damage is 1 – Thief INT / 2 for the first player, then the max damage decreases by one for each subsequent player.


Posture – Heroes can be in a Guard posture. This causes them to absorb more of an enemy group’s attack.  See combat.


Retreat Policy – Heroes can be have one of three retreat policies.  Retreat will only occur if there is a place to retreat to.  A room can be retreated to if it is not conflicted (no battles during the turn and no "noise" spell cast), not spiked, and not occupied by someone else’s group (or dungeon dwellers).  Retreat locations will be selected in the following order:


  •        Room occupied by someone else in the party
  •        Room controlled by the party
  •        Empty room

The retreat policies are as follows, from most limiting to least limiting:


  •       To the death – don’t retreat

  •       To first death – retreat on the first death (ignoring cleric save)

  •       On attack – retreat if attacked (after first melee round)




Combat consists of players and creatures attacking in initiative order.  They attack individual in the order in which they entered the room.  Since entry into a room keeps others from entering, there is at most two players, or one player and some creatures. 


For instance, a party with two fighters and a cleric enter a room; the fighters have a 5 initiative and the cleric has a 7.  When the party is moved into the room, the fighters are moved, followed by the cleric.  The cleric will attack first, as he has the higher initiative.  However, monsters in the room will attack the fighters first, because they entered the room before the cleric.

Attacks occur as follows:


If the hero is a wizard with Battlemagic, they will attempt to prep and use it.  Battlemagic is prepped prior to entering a room and therefore will fire the first melee round.  Prepping a second cast take 3 turns.  If the wizard is hit prior to releasing the spell, they must do a 3D6 save vs. Intel or the prep is broken and the must re-prep (note this is true the first turn if an creature or enemy group has a higher initiative than the MU and therefore attacks first). 


Heros without battlemagic swing every turn.  Their DEX + chance adjust must be greater or equal to the defenders DEX to hit.  If they hit, they do STR * weapon effect damage. 


Damage is absorbed by armor.  Light armor absorbs one point of damage heavy armor absorbs three points of damage.  However, heavy armor reduces dexterity by two.


If a hero is killed, and the party has a cleric, the cleric will cast a Emergency CLW which will keep the hero alive with 1 hit point left.  They may only do this once during an attack.  If individuals in a group with someone saved by an Emergency CLW are set to “Retreat on first death,” they will retreat despite the save.


Combat continues until someone retreats or one entire group is eliminated.




There are, in addition to hero orders, player based actions during a turn.  There are three; hiring, buying equipment, and shuffling the leader boards.


Hiring turns allow you to add additional heroes to your lineup.  You are bidding directly against other players for each new hire, with the winner depending on amount bid, place on the order leader board, place on the tie leader board, and place on the hiring leader board (see below).  If you win, the new hires will appear in your starting room.


Buying allows you to add equipment to your general party stash, which can then be used to equip your party by using "Equip" orders.  You must spend gold to buy equipment, and gold equals Victory Points.  Equipment is selected in the order the player is on the buying leader board; for you to get an item, no one higher on the leader board can select it.


Shuffle the leader boards allows you to change your position on the leader boards by bidding gold for each board that is up for grabs that turn (highlighted on the "leader board" display).  Each player has an move up value and a defend value.  Your move up value is initially equal to the gold you spend.  Your defend value is also initially equal to the gold you spend.  Shuffling occurs iteratively from the highest member on the board to the lowest.  If someone has an attack that is greater than the next member's defense, or has an attack that is equal to the next members defense and is higher on the tie board, the two players swap places.  One is added to the loser's defense, and one is subtracted from the winner's move up value.  Iteration occurs until no swaps occur.  For instance, assume that the hire board has player 1 - 8 in order from top of the board to the bottom, and that player 2 and 3 bid 2 gold, and player 5 bids 3 gold.  On the first pass, player 5 will swap with player 4, player 3 (who is lower on the tie board) will not swap with player 2, and player 2 will swap with player1.  On the second pass, player 3 (still with a 2 move up) will swap with Player 1 (who has a 1 defense because of being bumped down one).  Player 5 has a move up of 2 (having lost 1 point when he moved up last iteration) and player 1 will have a defense of 2 (bumped down 2). If player 5 is higher on the tie board, he and player 1 will swap.  Now we have player 2 in first with a 1 move up and 1 defense, player 3 with a 1 move up and a 1 defense, player 5 with a 1 move up and a 1 defense, player 1 with 0 move up and a 3 defense, player 4 with a 0 move up and a 1 defense, and the other three players in order.  If player 5 is lower on the tie board than player 3, no one changes position and the shuffle is over.


There are five leader boards, each arranging the players in a sequence. 


Leader Board


Move Determines the order in which player moves, spell casting, etc occur.  The player in position 1 will do all their moves first, the player in position two will do all their moves second, etc.  Since you cannot move into a room someone else moved into, this means people higher on the move leader board will always move to a new room first.
Hire If you are in the "green" (top third) part of the board, you get +4 gold on your hire attempts.  If you are in the yellow (middle third), you get +2 gold.  If you are in the red, you get no bonus. 
Buy Determines the order in which players buy items on a buy turn.  The player in position 1 will do all their buys first, the player in position two will do all their buys second, etc.  Once an item is bought, it is in not available to other players (unless there are more than one of them available).
Order If you are in the "green" (top half) of the board, you get +1 on bidding on any leader board other than the Order board.  Note that to get the +1, you must bid.
Tie If players tie when bidding on a board, the player higher on the Tie board wins.  Also, when determining winners, the Tie board is used to determine the winner in number of gems and in total Victory Points



  •   Enter dungeon, equip new party members
  •   Change Guard Posture
  •   Change Retreat Posture
  •   Cast "Noise"
  •   Cast "Strength Buff"
  •   Cast "Dex Buff"
  •   Cast "Wizard Eye"
  •   Spike doors
  •   Trap rooms
  •   Equip
  •   Movement
  •   Combat
  •   Cast "Lure" (takes affect next turn)
  •   CLW spells
  •   Stealing Gems
  •   Trades