Dungeoneer Adventures: Designer Diary #3: This is not chess

Dungeoneer the RPG is fast paced and easy to learn, and yet is packed with depth and tactical game play. You can set up your game session in moments and enjoy playing for hours.

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warpweaver
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Dungeoneer Adventures: Designer Diary #3: This is not chess

Post by warpweaver » Wed Mar 21, 2007 2:02 pm

This is not chess.

Dungeoneer Adventures is not chess.
Chess has been done.

Thomas Denmark and I were sitting in a Thai restaurant in Larkspur, California. Pens were out, food had been pushed aside and the table was covered with paper. Graph paper, plain paper, paper with odd shaped regions drawn on it. Off to one side of the table was a curry stained cocktail napkin on which we had started jotting down our ideas.

There was an issue, a tough issue, and we were madly scrawling our ideas down in the hope of resolving it. Our problem was very fundamental to the game system and involved clarifying how space was represented in combat.

What were we going to do with ranged combat?
Was there magic ranged combat?
Did magic have longer or shorter range than melee range?
Does it make sense to use the melee stat for a ranged attack?
Did it matter?

In the Dungeoneer Expandable Card Game there is usually a single hero and 1-3 monsters involved in any given combat. Their location in a map tile is abstract; all you need to know is who is attacking you. There is no front rank, you cannot hide behind a tree and no one can help protect you from the enemies.

When there is a party of four heroes confronting a dozen monsters in a map tile, it's a bit of a stretch to ignore their relative location altogether. How, for example, could the gladiator protect the wizard from a bunch of wererats while the wizard prepares a spell to take down their captain? How can the assassin sneak around behind if there is no front or back?

For a while we played with a bunch of options. Minimaps, combat between tiles, uneven sized map regions. All sorts of stuff. It didn't work. It didn't feel like Dungeoneer. In Dungeoneer if you have a lot of peril, monsters attack you, if you don't, they won't.

We needed a different solution. We needed something that took advantage of the existing Dungeoneer mechanics, while making party vs. monster combat more interesting. What we came up with, eventually, was formation.

After some playtests, we arrived at one particularly important situation. A paladin and a necromancer huddled up and made use of the formation rules extremely carefully. They effectively shut down the dungeonlord and made the party practically invincible. Thus we came to a realization.

Formation could be exploited.
Formation was broken.
Worst of all, even with formation, party combat was not that interesting.

Darn.

It took a while, but while we were aware of the expression "back to the drawing board", we had to have the courage to go there. After reading an off-hand post by a developer of a not-to-be-named online game, I took the entire section on formation and deleted it from the draft of the rules. When this happened, a whole cascade of changes occurred. All the warrior template abilities had to be re-written, as thy were intimately interwoven with the now defunct notion of formation.

We were stuck. We needed something that could make mass combat interesting. Not only that, but with formation gone, many of the templates ability slots were now full of holes.

One thing I also knew was that we were not going back to a set of rules that had the heroes with different attack ranges and movement types on a grid.

We were not going back to an imitation of chess.
Chess is great.
Chess has been done.
In fact, if you take a look at many of the tactical games out there, you will see that chess has been done to death.

Staring at the now incomplete list of class and template abilities, I had an idea. What if each of the templates, and all three classes listed under that template could do a special thing, a maneuver in combat that the other templates were not as good at? What if any of the warriors (guardians, soldiers and gladiators) could fight for another hero in a melee combat? The following tactic was developed.

Defend:
o Description: When you declare a defend tactic, you interpose your body, weapons or armor between the enemy and a chosen ally.
o Effect: When you defend, you redirect a melee challenge aimed at another hero and fight the challenge instead. You are the new target of that particular melee challenge for all purposes.

Using the defend tactic, for the price of a single glory, each of the warriors could redirect a melee challenge that had been aimed at another hero towards himself. The front rank was born! It was not long after this that the basic list of tactics were finished. Each template has a signature tactic at which it is best at, but as we continued testing, we realized that to allow the most flexibility in combat, any hero could use any of the tactics.

With the new 'Descriptive Tactics' system, the combat phase in Dungeoneer Adventures allows for really exciting and tactically complex battles. But it does not imitate chess.
Not one bit.

Each hero has a nice set of interesting tactical choices every combat round. You never need to keep track of what 'space' you are in, just your choice of tactic. There is no need to even worry about the 'range' or 'area of effect' of a spell.

If the gladiator wants to keep the wererat off the wizard, he can, with a defend.
If the wizard wants to nuke the wererat captain at the back of the pack, he can, with a spellstrike.
If the assassin wants to sneak around at attack from behind, he can, with an engage.

With the descriptive tactics system in Dungeoneer Adventures, you can charge, flank and assault your foes in any number of ways. Anything you can think of doing during your combat phase can fit into the system.

Best yet, as long as you have a glory to spend, you always get a meaningful bonus for describing a combat tactic. Yes, always.

Onwards to Glory!
bye for now,
richard pocklington

SteveB
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Post by SteveB » Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:52 pm

I've been lurking (and following the game's development since it was initially announced), but this topic got me to start an account.

What a great idea...and convincing argument! You are right--chess has been done to death. I don't need another game that uses squares or hexes. And as much as I love minis, I'd rather have a good cinematic fight.

I imagine this will be perfect for PBEM games some of use older guys have to resort to.

BTW, any chance you can increase visibility on this game? Nothing on the 'Dungeoneer' page but a flyer, and evidently no one checks this forum for news if the lack of posts can be used as a measure. What a shame, because you are on to something here...and I'm ready to own a copy!

Steve

goodmangames
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Post by goodmangames » Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:58 pm

Steve, I'm glad you're interested in Dungeoneer. There are 1000+ views of the first designers' diary, so I think people are definitely looking. As the game develops and gets closer to publication we will have more to show off. In the meantime, the designers' thoughts are some of the best things to showcase!
Joseph Goodman
Goodman Games
www.goodman-games.com

Osrandil

Post by Osrandil » Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:24 pm

SteveB wrote:I imagine this will be perfect for PBEM games some of use older guys have to resort to.
That is exactly what comes to my mind. This "peril thing" left me cold. Maybe I have not understand it correctly (I am no native speaker), but nowadays it seems hard to find a new rpg that is not giving the players some control that traditionally only the game master had.

But actively discouraging the use of maps and miniatures, making them virtually useless by design, is something completely different. I never quite understood why role playing games are frequently called "tabletop games" as if they were some kind of overdetailed, tactical miniature game.

At least, Dungeoneer seems to be a perfect choice for online play, it might be much more. I am looking forward to read about the next tradition questioned in depth by the designers.

Alle the best!
Osrandil

Thomas Denmark
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Post by Thomas Denmark » Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:55 pm

Osrandil wrote: That is exactly what comes to my mind. This "peril thing" left me cold. Maybe I have not understand it correctly (I am no native speaker), but nowadays it seems hard to find a new rpg that is not giving the players some control that traditionally only the game master had.
Peril is not some indie RPG reinvention of GM/Player role. It is simply a valve that controls GM power. The more dangerous activities the players engage in, the more power the GM has to inflict monsters, traps, and other nefarious things on them.

Instead of the GM being able to attack with any monster from a monster manual at any time, he has to manage his resources more tactically and strategically. So it makes the game more of a, well, game.
Thomas Denmark
www.studiodenmark.com

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Argamae
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Post by Argamae » Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:59 am

Instead of the GM being able to attack with any monster from a monster manual at any time, he has to manage his resources more tactically and strategically. So it makes the game more of a, well, game.
I think this concept really has something to it! Normally you find it only in board games (like DESCENT) but to see it appear in a roleplaying game is something of a novelty. But it also does pit the GM against the Player Characters in a more open fashion...
The lucky guy who gets to translate DCCs into German!
Done so far:
DCC#1, DCC #11, DCC #28, DCC #17, DCC #17.5 :)

Banesfinger
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Post by Banesfinger » Tue Apr 03, 2007 4:50 am

Wow, our group is keeping a close eye on this game. Your design direction is looking visionary; in how you meld CCGs & RPG (while staying away from the ‘chess’ style so many other games are falling into).

You seem to have broken the mold on so many RPG ‘sacred cows’ that we are eagerly awaiting to see how Dungeoneer handles:

- Classes or Levels
- Die mechanic (e.g., 1d20 + stat + skill = Target number)
- XP points

warpweaver
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Post by warpweaver » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:59 pm

Banesfinger wrote:Wow, our group is keeping a close eye on this game. Your design direction is looking visionary; in how you meld CCGs & RPG (while staying away from the ‘chess’ style so many other games are falling into).

You seem to have broken the mold on so many RPG ‘sacred cows’ that we are eagerly awaiting to see how Dungeoneer handles:

- Classes or Levels
- Die mechanic (e.g., 1d20 + stat + skill = Target number)
- XP points
Thanks for your enthusiastic support!
These questions will all be answered soon in upcoming posts here.

We are working hard to make DgA a really playable game.
So many other RPG's on the market are full of tables and charts, but they are really just clones of one another.

Dungeoneer Adventures is meant to be a whole new type of RPG, one in which the roleplaying and the game are totally integrated and the focus is on quick, cooperative, play and most importantly constant fun!

Onward to glory!
bye for now,
richard pocklington

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