Thanks A Million!

Well, thanks 1,057,975 to be exact :)

Yes, the Dungeon Saga Kickstarter made over a million dollars all told, which was a pleasant surprise. A huge thanks to everyone who backed it and helped to make it a much bigger and more exciting project than it could otherwise have been. All that remains now is to get on and realise all those cool ideas.

I’ll let you know how I get on :)

Posted in Dungeon Sagas, Kickstarter | 16 Comments

There’s Your Dragon

dragonThe latest Dungeon Sagas update is the stretch goal for one last expansion, and this time it’s got a dragon!

Posted in Board Gaming, Dungeon Sagas, Kickstarter | 14 Comments

Hero Experience In Dungeon Sagas

As I mentioned yesterday, the experience system is linked to the rest of the Downtime process. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first a handful of points that came up in the comments from yesterday’s post and which I should probably stress first:

1) Downtime as a whole is supposed to be a quick thing, not a gaming session on its own. Depending on the number of players you have and their levels of analysis paralysis this might take up to 10 minutes. If everyone knows what they want to do then it will be substantially quicker.

2) The Necromancer (or equivalent role in your current quest pack) gets a Downtime session too. This is similar in concept, but offers different options to the Heroes’ one. I’ve stuck to Heroes here to follow on from yesterday. The principles are much the same.

3) This isn’t final. Ronnie hasn’t seen all of this yet and may have different ideas. However, I think this is about as slick as we’re going to get while including enough interesting choices. Even if some details change (and they’re likely to mutate a bit during playtesting anyway), this is the general direction you should expect.

So, having cleared that up, how does experience work?

Elf archer


As the Heroes do cool and heroic stuff they earn points of Heroics. In effect, these are experience points. The exact process for getting these is something I’m still fiddling with and islikely to change so I won’t bother with details. That said, my aim is to include three main elements:

  • Killing enemies.
  • Doing your thing.
  • Mini-quests.

Killing enemies is always a good thing. That’s obvious. Doing your thing is a way to reflect the fact that not everyone does killing effectively. Clerics, for instance, should mainly be getting experience for saving their friends, not slaughtering the foe. Mini-quests are exactly what they sound like: small side missions that a Hero can do while still taking part in the main quest.

So, the Heroes do their heroic thing and earn Heroics. What do they do with them then?



I don’t much like the term level, but you probably know what I mean by it so it’ll do for now. Basically, there are different grades of Hero. They start at 1 and move up from there.

A Hero’s level is used for a number of different things. One is to rate the power of the individual (and by extension, the group) so that they can be compared to the difficulty of the dungeon. This helps balance the Advanced game where you have a great deal of options and we can’t balance it by knowing exactly what both sides have and playing it a lot (which is how we balance the Core game).

I also want to use level for limiting access to certain items. This is slightly artificial, though not entirely. You go to the High Priest and he laughs at you when you ask for the fabled  Sword of Doom. “Who are you”, he says? “Only a real hero can wield this…”. In this way the Hero’s level can be seen as his overall amount of notoriety or fame. This can also be used to limit access to unbalancingly good items to keep the level useful as a balancing tool.

Perhaps most importantly, a Hero’s level limits his access to skill and stat improvements.

Green Menace

Improving Stats And Skills

These bonuses are listed in tiers which correspond to the possible levels. They are also split into race, profession and other categories. So, a level 1 Dwarf Fighter would have access to the level 1 Dwarf and the level 1 Fighter improvements. This allows me to ramp up the power of Heroes as they gain levels, and also to add character and uniqueness to particular combinations and professions. This keeps the Heroes interesting and different.


Spending Heroics

These can buy two things: level and improvements.

You can spend Heroics to buy whole levels for the Hero, gaining him fame and glory throughout the land as his stories are told and retold in taverns across Mantica.

You can also spend Heroics to improve your stats and skills, learn new feats and so on. This doesn’t make you more famous, it just makes you more dangerous.

The interesting part of this is that you have to choose what to spend them on. Nothing comes for free, so if you spend your points on level then you don’t get more dangerous, and vice versa.

There will need to be limits on improving level without ability as this would just get you into dungeons so dangerous that you’d never survive them. And that would be boring to play. Apart from that you have a free choice. This means that even if you start with two identical Heroes they can diverge from their very first spending of Heroics, making a vast number of individuals possible with just these simple rules.


Tying It Together

The above ideas link up with the Downtime stuff mentioned yesterday.

Let’s say you’ve just completed a dungeon adventure. Everyone’s a bit battered, but you completed the quest and are ready to spend your loot and Heroics.

You can always spend Heroics at the base cost for whatever level or improvement you fancy. However, depending on which location you chose you could reduce that cost. If you go to the tavern then you can spread the news of your heroic tale, buying everyone a drink or three while they listen. This would help to spread your fame and reduce the cost of a new level.

On the other hand, if you spend you time in the arena your combat skills will be cheaper. Clerics learn new spells more easily at their temple, thieves at the Thieves’ Guild, and so on. You get the idea. This is in addition to anything else those locations might do.

So while you can always advance a Hero, you need to think about whether your choice of location will impact this enough to make it worth picking to go to one place rather than another. Do you really need to buy a new sword?

Again, what I’m after here is a simple and quick system that includes a load of character without being onerous to resolve. In my early tests this has shown to be very quick rules wise – people don’t get confused about their options. Where the time goes is in deciding which one of the many cool options they will do…

Posted in Board Gaming, Dungeon Sagas, Game Design Theory, Kickstarter | 29 Comments

Dungeon Sagas Development

DS layoutObviously, the end of the Kickstarter is just the beginning of the Saga. Though we’ve only got a few hours left I’ll still be posting up development notes over the next few weeks and I’ll be very happy to hear your comments on where we’re getting to. This is likely to be less frequent than it has been recently, so you might like to subscribe to make sure you get the alerts (the button’s on the right). Anything particularly interesting may get flagged in the Kickstart updates, though I can’t guarantee that. Also, as I’m the designer I don’t always know the ins and outs of specific production issues, dates and so on. That’s the Mantic guys’ remit. Happy to discuss the game design though.

Anyway, I’ve got some posts in mind and will upload the talk on experience in an hour or two. Is there anything I haven’t covered that you would like me to discuss in the coming weeks? If there is, then drop me a comment below and I’ll add it to the list.

Thanks  :)

Posted in Board Gaming, Dungeon Sagas, Game Design Theory | 28 Comments

Dungeon Saga Downtime

MolochGratuitous picture of big red guy :)

In the Advanced rules for Dungeon Sagas it would be nice for Heroes to have a life outside the dungeon, however abstracted that may be. As DS is not an RPG I’m not talking about describing the Barbarian’s rabbit stew in detail, nor fretting on how many copper pieces it costs for the Dwarf to get a decent ale in this village. I don’t think that’s necessary. However, some life between adventures helps round out the characters, explore the background of Mantica, and generally tells a better story – all of which are good things and worth doing

Another important thing that needs to happen between adventures is calculating any experience gained by the Heroes (and the Monsters). As we’re doing both of these at the same time they will overlap somewhat, and in fact may as well be integrated where possible and appropriate. Even so, to stop me rambling on for another small novel like I did yesterday, I’m going to split the experience bit off into its own article for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back to Downtime.

Salamander HeroWhat I mean by Downtime is the period between dungeon adventures, when Heroes need to heal, re-equip, train up, spend their loot and anything else they can think of. For me, this needs to be something that is characterful, an interesting decision, and fairly quick to resolve. I’s great if it can add to the character and the fun of the game, but it isn’t the whole game.

My current plan goes like this. After an adventure the returning Heroes have some basic stuff they get to do automatically. This involves at least some healing up and may involve experience (more on that tomorrow). These are necessary (but very small) bits of bookkeeping for the game rather than things you need to decide on. That comes next. Once you’ve done your chores then you can play :)

Downtime essentially means picking one place to visit or thing to do between two adventures. There are many things you might want to do. Some will depend on your character’s race or profession, some will cost you gold or other resources, some will make you gold, and many will be available to all. Some examples of Downtime options include:

  • Tavern (because it wouldn’t be a fantasy adventure without one)
  • Mystical Market (buying and selling special or magical weapons, armour, potions and so on)
  • Temple (making offerings to curry favour with the gods or atone for sins. Linked to experience for clerics and paladins)
  • Other Temple (there’s more than one god in Mantica, so may be more than one temple with different options for visitors. Some of these may take the form of sacred pools, fire pits, etc, depending on the faith)
  • Arena (linked with experience for any combat-based characters, but can also be a family afternoon out)
  • Thieves’ Guild (buying/selling dodgy gear, experience for dodgy characters)
  • Prison (may or not be a voluntary visit)
  • And so on…

By limiting the Downtime between adventures to a single place per Hero (though they could each pick a different one) the players have interesting decisions to make. By making all the options good in some way (though perhaps not all equally good to all Heroes) the decision becomes even more interesting.

To add another layer of interest to this, not all of the Downtime options will be available at every place the Heroes rest up. There’s always a tavern, but not always a sacred pool of water spirits. You can imagine the sort of thing. Again, this adds to the fun of the choice as you don’t necessarily know when you’ll see that option again. Will you buy magic axe for me while I go to the…

Individual options will allow specific actions, such as buying magical items or learning new spells. Some will be a choice from a list, others will be a dice roll. Basically, each option is there to add flavour, character and to give the Heroes a bit more of a rounded tale to tell beyond “I killed the monster and took the treasure”.

823f3772cf7c7ae74ef1a51ca082b9b8_largeOn a related note, there was a suggestion in the comments earlier about having a table or other means of dealing with the journey to and from a dungeon. If we end up doing this then it would most naturally integrate with this Downtime element. I can see pros and cons here. On the up side, it can add to the story and the set the scene. On the down side it’s an extra thing to do every time, and as we don’t want the main event to be pulled off a random table then whatever happens will only be relatively inconsequential. Heroes won’t die from this, nor should they gain great rewards, which makes me wonder how much point there is to it. What do you guys think? Is it worth including?

Posted in Board Gaming, Dungeon Sagas, Kickstarter | 101 Comments

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 | 39 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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