Getting Along Famously

I’ve spoken before about different styles of co-op play and what I’d like to see in Dungeon Sagas. Well that was a while ago now, and things have moved on. At the moment, the Core game works like this:

  • The game has two sides: the Heroes and the Necromancer. If you’re playing it with 2 players then it’s head-to-head. This is like the original Dwarf King’s Hold with one side replaced by a group of Heroes.
  • Three or more players = pure co-op for the Heroes. As I defined the term before, pure co-op is everyone on the same side winning or losing as one. There is no infighting and everyone gets along famously. One player is the Necromancer and everyone else shares the 4 Heroes between them. How you split them up depends on how many people you’ve got playing. I’m sure you can work that out.
  • The Advanced Game adds wrinkles. Exactly what these end up being depends on where we get to in the Kickstarter. Assuming, for a moment, that I’m left with a relatively free hand, this will include a variety of experience options for Heroes, and one of the ways they will earn that experience is by completing mini-quests. Whilst the Heroes will still need to co-operate to beat the Necromancer, they will also have some incentive to do their own thing. I personally think this introduces an interesting tension and adds depth to the play and the characters. It will, however, be entirely optional.
  • AI may get added to control one or other of the sides. Again, this depends on the KS getting far enough. It would certainly be possible to write rules to play the Necromancer or the Heroes as AI. You’ll never get as interesting a game as you would playing against a real person, but it’s an option. The most amusing (to me) effect of doing both of these would be playing one AI against the other 😉

So far, in playtests, we’ve had the Hero players working well together, ganging up on the Necromancer (and they need to). They have still lost some of the games when the Necromancer has played well, as is appropriate. Once you’re past the initial couple of training scenarios (these are more concerned with illustrating rules rather than being “fair”) then the idea is that the two sides should have equal chances of winning. No free ride for the Heroes 🙂

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41 Responses to Getting Along Famously

  1. garathon66 says:

    Good stuff Jake, the KS is full of crazy ideas about co-op and AI. I’m getting ahead of things here but in the advanced rules, will you be looking at more than 4 hero games? I’m thinking (again) here of Super Dungeon and I know my group like to pile the heroes in, and the difficulty can ramp up accordingly. Obviously, there becomes a point where it slows things down and makes the game a slog rather than fun- but just wondering if it’s something you’re considering?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Once we’re into the realms of Advanced games you can imagine dungeons designed by the Necro player. At that point the “power” of the dungeon is what’s important. That will be met by an equal value of Heroes, and in theory (I haven’t tried this yet) that could be either more or less than 4. This would require a base cost per Hero, plus a cost for the number taken as there is a value to more Heroes. The sum, here, is increasingly greater than their parts.

      All possible though.

      • Matt Price says:

        This, along with creating hero AI for solo play as the Necro, will take some crazy balancing and playtesting… Now I’m really glad the kickstarter has reported shipping won’t start for a year. I’m worried that won’t be enough time!!

  2. PikaRapH says:

    “The most amusing (to me) effect of doing both of these would be playing one AI against the other”
    I’m looking forward to it ! Jake, if you manage to do this, you rock 😀

  3. Matt Price says:

    So you could play as the Necromancer, and the heroes would be on AI? That’s outstanding!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Well I like playing the Necromancer, so that would interest me as a solo version. Of course, the Hero and Necro AIs won’t be exactly the same, so it is quite a bit of extra work. Fun though 😉

  4. Mi7 says:

    Nice too see alot of game modes great idea!

  5. Hi, Would it be possible to play using the Advanced Rules with less then 4 Heroes, maybe having less Undead in the Dungeon?
    When there’s less then 5 players at the table I prefer it if everyone controlled the same number rather then one player controlling 2 heroes and the others 1 hero, also fits the ‘roleplay’ aspect of advancing your (only) character.

    • Matt Price says:

      That’s what he’s hoping for, if you check his comments above. How cool would this be? But crazy hard to get the balance right…!

  6. This game looks crazy cool, but there are a few similar games out there already. So i think AI or solo is a must, also i think opening game a bit wouldn’t hurt. So in between dungeon crawling trip to town or village and random encounters as tables or decks, random adventures generator and monsters form Kings of War would be cool too. Knowing Mantic from other games i bet U will do it better than WH Quest.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You’re right, there are some other similarly themed games. But then, how many WWII games are there? 😉

      All of your expansions are on my list of stuff I’d like to put in the Advanced rules. Some are already being worked on…

  7. Danny says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how the core game works, Jake. I’m very much looking forward to reading and running through the Alpha rules when they are released later this week and I’m also looking forward to watching the Alpha rules game play run through with BoW.

    I’m still trying to get a feel for what direction this game is taking,..tactical miniatures game or fully fledged adventure game?

    I very much enjoy playing DKH, its a great tactical miniatures game in which I find a lot of excitement and replayability. Though It doesn’t include elements of adventure, exploration or character building, which as a tactical miniature game, I don’t expect. From what I’ve read of Dungeon Saga, it seems to be heading more in this direction, but not a long way.

    Will Dungeon Saga incorporate adventure, exploration and character building to a large extent?

    I see that during the base game, heroes can become legendary…which seems to be saying that they are either level 1 or level 2. Not that there is a long process of slowly building your character in strength and ability as you climb some form of level ladder over the course of dozens of games. I understand for the core game, having a more simple and easy approach is desirable. Will the advanced rules include character building to a degree where we can climb a level ladder that will provide more than 2 differing power levels for heroes?

    Exploration of a dungeon is something that helps create an exciting atmosphere for players and really lends well to the feel of “Adventure”. Exploration I feel, depends greatly on the players not knowing what will be presented to them when they open a door to a new area or room. Will Dungeon Saga, in either the core or advanced rules, provide exploration elements? An example of this is the Warhammer Quest mechanic of drawing Dungeon Cards to reveal the next portion of the dungeon. This mechanic is good for an AI dungeon, but there is no reason why this couldn’t be tweaked to also work for human opponents as well. Even having areas of a dungeon revealed (as opposed to each board section being revealed) would add a strong exploration theme.

    Adventure in a dungeon, to me, brings thoughts of fighting monsters, finding treasure, finding and avoiding/defeating traps and even successfully navigating difficult features (like jumping a chasm as a simple example). Clearly, monsters will be fought and treasure will be found. I have read a few small snippets that mention traps…to what extent are we likely to see traps and dangerous features/tasks and will characters have abilities or similar to help them to find/defeat/ avoid traps and navigate dangerous dungeon features?

    Will magic in Dungeon Saga be a simple case of attack spells and healing, or will we also see more utility style spells…buffs and debuffs etc?

    From what I’ve read and from pics I’ve seen, it seems that the action tokens from DKH will still feature in Dungeon Saga. One of the things I have difficulty getting my head around, is how the action tokens will be applicable to a group of heroes, I feel that it would limit the scope of the players ability to freestyle their hero. As they work now, it seems that some heroes may have to miss (sacrifice) a turn, so other players can succeed at a lengthy task with their hero. Will the action tokens change significantly? Will they still be one move and one attack? Perhaps with the slight possibility of a Follow On? Will each hero get their own action tokens or will each side still have to share action tokens for the activation of their miniatures?

    Will ranged weapons work exactly the same in Dungeon Saga as they do in DKH? I have to admit, I’m not particularly fond of the mechanic of counting board tiles to determine range. I think counting actual spaces offers a fairer and more consistent method whilst also offering a better base for the application of modifiers.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Tac miniatures or adventure? Both. Which one depends on how many are playing and how much of the Advanced rules you use. I’d like the final game to be capable of being played in more than one style. That said, it also depends a lot on the players’ own views as I doubt those terms are immutable.

      Exploration is built in with a slightly different mechanic to the laying random tiles one. That works fine in games which have no real world player opposing the Heroes. When you have then you can use them to do more interesting things. The core of this is doors. When you lay out a scenario, you only lay out the tiles up to a closed door. What’s behind the door stays hidden until someone opens it. At that point the necromancer player lays down whatever is up to the next door. Typically there won’t be many stages, but you get the idea.

      When you get to the Advanced rules the Necromancer can build the dungeon himself, and this will include where he puts doors. At this point the Heroes really will be going into the unknown as they won’t have been able to peep at the scenario map first. They can see a bit, and guess at where things may go, but they won’t know till they kick in the doors. For me, this is another huge benefit of having a Necromancer player rather than using AI for them. I think this makes it far more exciting to play the Heroes.

      I’m putting up an article later today about the differences between Core and Advanced rules. There’ll be more in that.

      The full array of spells will include all sorts of things, both buffs, rebuffs, healing, attack, etc. Personally, I think it’s often the utility spells that tell the best stories. Zapping stuff is useful, but not very exciting.

      Action tokens are not used for Heroes in DS. The Necromancer has a set of cards which are different, though they do a similar job.

      Ranged attacks used range rulers (short and long) which is like counting squares, but easier 🙂

      Counting tiles offers design options that no other method does: using level design to create ranged choke points as well as physical ones.

      • Danny says:

        Thanks for all that info Jake, very interesting stuff and I’m looking forward to reading your article on the differences between the core and advanced rules.

        I’m very excited now for the exploration elements in the game. What you have described sounds excellent!!! I was dreading that there may not have been any exploration in the game.

        I’m also glad that the spells available will be diverse, allowing for a greater range of tactics/play style and injecting some fantastic flavour. I hope Danor’s staff can handle the heat 🙂

        I welcome the change in determining range for ranged weapons. Using range rulers also has the neat little side benefit of concurrently determining line of sight!

  8. Danny says:

    Oh, and +1 for an AI dungeon 🙂

  9. William says:

    Will you be able to find and use treasure, including weapons and armor, that are not potions or scrolls, during the time you spend in each dungeon, or are you only able to equip new items in between each dungeon? What I’m asking is, will this be more like Descent first edition, or more like Descent second edition?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A mate of mine got Descent when first edition came out and I played it once or twice then. I’ve not played it since, or second edition at all, so I can’t tell you how it compares.

      In the Core Dungeon Sagas game you will find a more limited palette of items, but it will include weapons as well as potions, etc. The Advanced game will expand on this. We’re still discussing exactly how far to go with the items. They do have a habit of flooding this sort of game (“Oh look, another +5 Holy Avenger”), and making them a little rarer adds to their value.

      • crimsonsun says:

        FFG keeps the Decent rules on there website as a free download, if you ever you wanted to look at them. I’ve never played it myself but it has a lot of elements that really appeal to me, just FFG are a serious pain to buy from in the UK.

        I do hope the magic items/Treasure and in fact lots of aspects of the game are done in a very almost but not quite that far munch kin style tongue in cheek fashion..

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Thanks Crimson. I know people with the game, I just haven’t felt the need…

          I think Munchkin does Munchkin well enough for it not to be repeated here. And my sense of humour is far less National Lampoon than theirs.

      • William says:

        In Descent first edition, you find chests and treasure throughout each dungeon, and you can equip the weapons and armor as soon as you find them and use them in the same dungeon that you find them in. In Descent second edition, you cannot do this. There is no treasure, and you only get items in between each dungeon. You said that you can find weapons and armor, but you haven’t said if you can immediately equip them in the dungeon that they’re found in, and use them right away. Also, is there going to be treasure throughout each dungeon, or just at the end of each dungeon? Thanks in advance for clearing up this very important distinction for me.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’m not sure I can clear this up at the moment. You see we’ve had a lot of discussion about gold and treasure and exactly how best to include it. I think the most likely answer is that it will work slightly differently in the Core and Advanced game. One of the whole drivers for the Core game is that it is set and so can be closely balanced. Things like items changing in the middle of a scenario cut across that, so it’s likely that items will be equipped only between adventures. However, people that are playing the Advanced game are after something slightly different, and so may appreciate a more flexible approach.

        • William says:

          Thank you for the clarification. I will not be participating in this Kickstarter. You are making a game that is too similar to Descent second edition, which sucked all the fun out of playing these types of games by not including the thrill of acquiring combat resources that you can use right away. In all the best dungeon crawls, there is treasure and weapons and armor to be had that you will logically equip as soon as you get them. Sacrificing this critical game element for the sake of ‘balancing’ the game makes the game unplayable for me and my entire game group. Good luck with your game, but I will wait for something that has a better grasp on logical resource management. It makes absolutely no sense to have to wait for in between each dungeon to equip new weapons and armor.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Sorry to hear that William. You’re clearly very passionate about that one detail. You are, of course, entirely free to take part of not as you see fit. However, I think you have taken my answer of “the final decision has not been made” to equal “no”, which it doesn’t.

          Whilst the Core game is unlikely to contain lots of items and allow them to be equipped as you go along, the Advanced game may well do. That would certainly be what I would push for personally. Now what I think is a good idea at the moment and what ends up in the final version are not always the same thing for a variety of reasons. However, I wouldn’t write it off just yet. You might want to stay tuned to see where we get to in the next few weeks.

  10. Psychopomp says:

    Will the Advanced rules have an option for the Dungeon Master as traditional RPG game master/story teller as opposed to pure adversary/opposing player? Something like the Warhammer Quest GM in full roleplay mode?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That’s not something I was planning. DS isn’t intended to be a full RPG and I’m not sure what this role would add. Wouldn’t it just take away most of the fun from the Necromancer?

      • Psychopomp says:

        It adds full creativity to design dungeons as story elements and challenges tailored to the players’ characters and interests without recourse to some idea of ‘winning’ against them. 5+ years of running Warhammer Quest in such a fashion proved to me that it’s very fun and rewarding indeed.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Ah, I see what you mean.

        • Psychopomp says:

          I’m just becoming worried as I follow the blogs and interviews that your are independently re-inventing the always-adversarial nature of Descent. It’s this element of the game that’s kept Descent from really taking hold amongst our ‘old hands’ WHQ veterans. There’s always this sense of an ongoing campaign suffering if the ‘bad guy’ player goes on a winning streak.

        • crimsonsun says:

          One comment in regard to the fact that in decent there is a ongoing campaign suffering if the bad guy does well. I am sorry but to me it sounds like, and I may be wrong the people playing the heroes just plain don’t like losing. Why should the bad guy have to lose for a game to be fun?

          Personally, I want to be competitive as the bad guy and have as much chance of winning a dungeon as the other Hero players have. If me winning makes the game not fun for the others involved then it is likely more a case of my attitude being wrong (or there’s) than a flaw with the game.

          My only concern is how difficult balancing the bad guy against the Heroes abilities will be, as no system is perfect and even when employing a points system there will be various combinations that prove to be hugely more effective than if used individually. While the Heroes abilities and items can be quickly and easily have a errata written for them when abusive combinations come to light, the art of Balancing the tools at the bad guys disposal will always be a far more difficult one.

          The most obvious example of such a possible abuse is the use of staggered pit style traps that need to be traversed (I am assuming, hoping expecting that dungeons have traps and parties have ways of navigating them) and ranged weapon monsters, in such a way that every new platform the players navigate to exposes them to a new set of ranged monsters, then make it even more tricky by only allowing one party member to traverse to the new location at a time and the expected lower defensive stats of ranged attack heroes and you could have a nightmare situation that is still pointed fairly lowly because the traps are not that dangerous and neither are the monsters themselves.

          crimsonsun

  11. tiborvadovan says:

    A random quest/map generator would be a most welcome complement to the AI for the necromancer, making it possible for a bunch of heroes to take on the evil forces without awkwardly having to decide what the map setup would be.
    I smiled a bit when I saw the inclusion of character specific goals. In the light of the previous posts concerning coop games, I can certainly understand why you like this idea: it introduces a certain element of “individualism” that would allow each player to do “his own thing”, in effect making it almost “semi” cooperative in that sense, which you admittedly appreciate more than fully coop.
    Of course, I don’t actually mind this (in spite of not liking semi-competitive elements) since those rules can be played out in fully cooperative fashion anyway: pursuing an individual goal makes a character stronger, thereby also making the party stronger in the long run. So, as long as the party can benefit strategically (or tactically) from those “individual” goals, it does not break the fully coop game model at all (in fact, other coop games like arkham horror of defenders of the realm also do this). It just offers more options during gameplay which is great.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Random map generators (and dungeon populators) are complex things to do well and are never as finely crafted, as interesting or as balanced as ones made by real people. It would be nice to include one, and as you say it would be very useful alongside Necromancer AI. We’ll have to see how we go.

      Balancing the importance of the mini-quests and the main scenario objective will be the challenge here.

      • PikaRapH says:

        Maybe a way to explore : in Claustrophobia, players draw a random tile and place it (1 of the players choosing orientation) at the end of the map they’re exploring, as tailes are only 1 room, it’s easy to play. Here, it could be a dice roll to choose which direction the tile takes and if players draw a room or a corridor.

  12. Pingback: Dungeon Saga – Last Few Hours! | DeathWatch Studios

  13. Rasmus says:

    I just got my KS pledge yesterday, and played the first 3 missions ( A+B+1) with a few mates, and I have to say, you have done some great Work on this game, thanks Jake

    I read through the AC and it look good to, but could you make rules for a vampire boss???

  14. Paul Murphy says:

    Hi, great game, IO works wonderfully well, but a quick question. You only use the invisible overlord cards in the deck, never the normal ones. Do you limit the card numbers as the normal ones? And when you play a card that cant be used e.g. support/wizard when the only model is a skeleton warrior in front arc of dwarf. why would you move and allow free attacks?

    love that game!!

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