Random Dungeon Sagas

DS tilesAs you may have seen on the (huge) Kickstarter update 40, random dungeons are in, and they look like being a lot of fun. The random element can really capture the whole exploring the unknown feeling, with the potential for nasty surprises to be lurking round every corner. It’s also bit more anarchic and less finely balanced – so the dangers may be even greater than normal. There’s no way of knowing. Not a game for those of a nervous disposition.

In terms of rules design, the enormous number of different game modes, variable characters, random dungeons and so on offer a particular challenge. This is how do all these disparate elements fit together? 

In the good old days when roleplaying games were in their infancy, there was D&D. This was a pretty simple game. In contrast to this, there was Chivalry & Sorcery (C&S). This was not a simple game. However, it wasn’t the intricacy of individual rules that made C&S so complicated, it was the lack of integration. For example, in their book on magic they listed many different types of prestidigitation, and each one worked differently. This was great for adding character to the different spell casters, but required a huge feat of memory to get it all right if there were several types within the adventure. Whilst C&S always had its devotees, and while I rather wanted to play it too, the major impact it had on me was as a lesson in how not to do something. 

I’m sure some of you will tell me I’m being unfair, and that may be true. This is all said with the fuzziness of decades between me and it, and it’s a form of nostalgia. Like all nostalgia, close inspection may make it disappear. Either way, it’s a lesson I apply to all of my designs, and with Dungeon Sagas, because of its similar theme, I feel it even more strongly than usual. 

Heroes 1As all these new elements have been added to the Kickstarter (thanks to the generosity of all you guys!), I’ve been pondering how to integrate them all into one smooth system. Clearly some bits fit more closely than others. For example, creating your own characters and resolving experience gains for characters are a good fit and will be closely related. Some parts will simply be the same. Any experience system bleeds into what happens in the downtime between adventures, so that’s linked too. 

Building dungeons is a different subject. The random layout of dungeons is more than just placing rooms – it’s got to populate them too. The AI systems need to integrate with the ways that dungeons are built if I want to be able to include more character for the creatures that inhabit the dungeon (which I do). You can’t tailor AI to fit the behaviour of specific beasties if you don’t know what they are in advance, and random doesn’t suggest that you would. Or can you? I think I can see a way around this too. The AI and the dungeon generation (both planned and random) need to link up and impact on one another, so they will.

I’m thinking of using a split deck with one half being the layout of tiles and the other part being the creatures in it. Both halves would include a core set of cards that was always used (base tiles from the Core set on the one hand, giant spiders, rats, possibly traps, etc on the other). Each new tile we add in a quest pack would have a new card to go with it to add into the mix. Quest packs would have their specific race set of cards to add to the base set. The Advanced game that introduced these rules would have the card set for the Undead. 

This means that you will be able to tailor things to an extent, so you’re randomly drawing from within a specific group rather than all the possible critters (or tiles or traps or whatever). This makes it possible to tailor the AI deck in the same way and have them dovetail properly :)

Undead 1In practice, I’m thinking that you will draw a card to lay out one or more tiles (depending on how big they are), then draw a denizen card to see if anyone’s home. Finally, an AI card will tell you what they’re up to and how they react to their peace and quiet being disturbed by a bunch of rowdy adventurers. The doors will separate different sections of the dungeon as they do normally (almost as if it were planned). 

Finally, while I’ve been thinking of this, I realised that it would be good to be able to tailor a random dungeon to fit any group of heroes, with the cards responding to their level of experience as they go along. In normal Necro-built or pre-set scenarios you have to make the Heroes fit the level of difficulty of the dungeon. Random generation flips that on its head as there is no fixed dungeon to use as reference. Instead the Heroes themselves become the reference point and the cards can adapt to give the Heroes a good run for their money whatever their level. 

As this is all still in development these rules aren’t final. I just thought you might like a suggestion of the sort of things I’m aiming to include and the kind of way these can all be integrated without making the rules hugely complex. Once this has all been worked through in detail and played a few hundred times I think we’l be able to make it rather slick and incorporate a great deal of character in relatively simple processes. Which is what we want :)

Posted in Board Gaming, Dungeon Sagas, Game Design Theory, Kickstarter | 18 Comments

Updated DZ FAQ

It’s a smaller update than I’d hoped, though it does cover all the zombie questions plus (after much fiddling with new use cases) an important change of ruling on the energy shield. I’ve also remembered to colour code the changes. At least, I think I’ve got them all. Might have missed some of the early ones.

Next time I think I’ll split it into 2 versions: with and without the discussion. That might make it rather smaller ;)

DZ FAQ is here

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Build Your Own Heroes

The latest update announced a rather exciting upgrade to the Advanced rules if we get to $600k: build your own Heroes. This is a big expansion and one that I’m really excited about. It’s certainly something I’ve been itching to get included, and I’m very happy to see it on the near horizon, fast approaching. 

Obviously this means you can pick from a wide variety of races, professions, stats, feats and so on. That’s not where it stops. It also means being able to choose what kind of Dwarf fighter you have – there’s more than one. The whole process can also be merged nicely into the progression tracks and options for the Heroes so that they advance logically along the path you set out of them at their “birth”. 

Naturally, balancing this will be a challenge. However, the wider array of abilities and specialisms I can get into the rules the less it’s about being a direct comparison between one Hero and another, and more about how to assemble a group of Heroes whose unique abilities complement each other best. Adventuring parties won’t want several duplicates, they’ll want a group of highly skilled individuals. 

And yes, all these rules apply to both evil Heroes and Monstrous Heroes too. No reason they should miss out on all the fun, and no reason to stick to “good” Heroes and “bad” Monsters :)

So what sort of options do you want to see when you generate your Heroes?


Posted in Dungeon Sagas, Kickstarter | 67 Comments

DZ FAQ Tomorrow

I’ve done some work on the DZ FAQ today and would like to do some more on it tomorrow. Rather than putting up two updates within 24 hours of each other (and confusing everyone) I’m going to do a slightly larger one tomorrow.

I know I said I’d put it up today, but I think this makes more sense.

Thanks for your patience.

Posted in Deadzone, FAQ | 2 Comments

Bad Guy AI In Dungeon Sagas

753ac589e0aa4aa66c5b475a7cc1c194_largeI’ve had a few questions about this, mostly focussing on whether the different factions in the expansion packs will have different AI behaviour or not.

The answer is simple: yes, they will.

Don’t worry about that. Goblins will be sneaky and cowardly, zombies will be dumb, the guy at the top of the page will be burny. It would be strange if they weren’t.

I’m not entirely sure how this will work in detail, so I can’t tell you for sure yet. However, I can say that I won’t be happy with AI being the same for everything. Getting the character of the different races in there is important. Essential, in fact. For me, being able to add more character into the faction is the main benefit of an AI deck. Might as well turn that one up to 11 ;)

MortibrisNow there are a number of approaches I can try for this. Some involve more stats, most involve being clever with cards. (Well, the latter could be replaced with tables in the book, though I think that’s a second best option.)

At the core is likely to be a deck of cards to turn one/some of when it is the AI’s go. This will define its reaction(s). At least, this will be the core piece of working out its reaction(s). The clever bit is in how the different types of model interact with the different cards, and this is where the important design choices come in. It’s tempting to get complex with this, and so I’ll be resisting that urge and searching for a more elegant way to get varied behaviours into a simple process. Having just done zombie and Martian AIs for Deadzone and Mars Attacks I have an idea of what I want to do here. The DS AI is rather more complex than either of those systems in what it needs to simulate as they were both monocultural systems. Still, they were useful practice.

In order to decide which if the options fits best I’ll try several on the table. There’s no substitute for playing these things through. And, being AI, I can always be sure of an opponent when I need to test something ;)

Posted in Dungeon Sagas, Kickstarter | 19 Comments

Numbers Always Lie

Ben dug out an interesting report on the value of gaming as a whole (in the US). It’s interesting stuff.

For me, the most troubling thought is not that CCGs are worth almost twice the total of other types of gaming put together (though that does trouble me). No, for me the most sobering notion comes when you compare those numbers to this report.

Can you say “niche”?

Posted in The Business of Games | 15 Comments

A Brief DS Alpha Update

I’ve been a bit overrun with various craziness for the last week, so haven’t posted as much as I’d like. The following is a sort of roundup of answers to common questions. There’s so much discussion and suggestions on the FAQ page (thank you everyone!) that my answers are getting lost. This should make things easier to find.


Dungeon Sagas Alpha Update 1

  • Doors
    • The Necromancer cannot open doors.
    • When you are smashing a door, it cannot outnumber the Hero and Heroes cannot outnumber doors.
    • Doors do not suffer the modifier for being attacked from behind.
  • Piles of Bones (PoB)
    • A model (from either side) can stand on top of a PoB. A PoB cannot be used to resurrect a model if a model is standing on top of it.
    • PoBs are removed when they are used to resurrect a Skeleton Warrior (whether the model survives or not).
    • PoBs always produce a Skeleton Warrior, regardless of what may have crumbled to leave the PoB. I may be able to include different “flavours” of PoB later that can raise different things. But that’s for later.
    • PoBs can stack on top of each other in the same square.
  • Scenarios
    • In all scenarios, the Necromancer cannot have more than 4 Skeleton Warriors on the board at one time. Mortibris really has better things to be doing than faffing about with Skeletons. He’s trying to decipher the Book of Valedor so he can conquer the world!
    • If a scenario has a set of doors, place the tiles with the Heroes on and all tiles on their side of the doors. Place any models and counters on these tiles. Do not place any tiles or models that lie beyond the closed doors.
    • Models that lie on the other side of a closed door are not in play.
    • The Journeys are not intended to be balanced. They are training scenarios designed primarily to give you practice with the core mechanics. This worked better when the battle was lopsided. Don’t worry if the Necromancer struggles a bit. He’ll have his revenge!
  • Dwarf Feat
    • He may still take Free Strikes while using his Feat. 
  • Outnumbered
    • A model is outnumbered if it is in the front arc of more than one standing enemy model.
  • Range Rulers
    • The short one measures 4.5 inches.
    • The long one measures 8.5 inches.
    • Width isn’t critical.
    • Spells say which one they use.
    • Bows use the long ruler.
  • Shooting
    • You can shoot a model that is adjacent to an enemy model, assuming you have a clear line to see it.
  • Feet of Stone
    • A model with this spell effect on them still has a front arc and may still make Free Strikes as normal.
    • The negative modifier for this spell does not apply when resisting Burn.
  • Wizard Feat
    • Cast any two different spells (either Minor or Major).
  • Necro cards
    • Cards that allow you to act with a number of models also allow you to raise Piles of Bones. Each PoB counts as 1 model for these purposes.
    • You cannot interrupt the Heroes before one has had a Turn.
    • You can raise a Skeleton as an interrupt and then act with that model during a subsequent interrupt or your turn. You may not raise and act with a model in the same interrupt/turn.
  • Break Away
    • This is a consequence of a model’s movement, not a separate action.

In addition to this I need to update the Hero cards as I’ve been improving them. That will be in a later post.

There have also been a lot of more general comments about adding detail in various ways. I’ll just point you at my previous answer to this.

Posted in Dungeon Sagas, FAQ, Kickstarter | 66 Comments