I've just uploaded the almost-final rule booklet for Colossal Cave: The Board Game to BGG's Files section. If copyediting board-game rules sounds like fun to you, please give the rules a once-over and report any issues to me, by email and/or in comments here. Arbitrary deadline: 12:01 AM Friday morning.
I'm particularly looking for:
— Rules that aren't explained clearly
— Situations that you might get into where the rules are ambiguous (which might produce a clarification, or if all else fails, a FAQ entry)
— Any actual typos that slipped through the cracks (although there really shouldn't be any of these at this point)
I.e., it's more about taking a step back and looking at the big picture: Which rules have I taken for granted for so long that I don't even notice that I never explain them?
Here are the base game rules as a booklet, and here are the ADV550 expansion rules as a single sheet.
By the way, I remind everyone that the ADV550 scavenger hunt is still going on. And if you like blogs about the history of interactive fiction, you can't go wrong with the Digital Antiquarian. This week he's playing Ultima II.
I've finally started a Designer Diary!
Archive for Arthur O'Dwyer
16 Oct 2012
- [+] Dice rolls
28 Sep 2012
Things continue to slog along on the pre-production front. (And on the USB-stick front. I don't know what's going to happen with the USB sticks.)
Let's talk about something happy: the Little Bird!
(Spoiler alert: This post contains major spoilers for the first third of Adventure. Not Bear-level spoilers, though.)
In the original Adventure, the little bird is the first living creature you meet in Colossal Cave. For a brilliantly poignant take on the little bird's significance, go read Julian Dibbell's essay here.
The second living creature you meet, of course, will be either the fierce green snake or a grumpy axe-wielding dwarf — but the first creature you meet in the cave is always cheerful.Spoiler (click to reveal)OK, with enough practice and luck you can actually meet either the troll or the dragon first. But you can't meet the Friendly Bear without getting past the troll.
...And then you go and stuff it in a cage, where it sulks. That's adventurer behavior for you. (You're not very nice to the snake, either.)
So, what's special about the Little Bird?
* It's one of five items playable in the Cobble Crawl. (The others are the Black Rod, the Wicker Cage, the Little Axe, and the Empty Bottle.)
* If the Black Rod is in front of you, then you are not allowed to play or acquire the Little Bird. (This text appears on the Black Rod card, since it doesn't apply unless you're carrying that card.) The reverse does not apply; just as in Adventure, you're allowed to pick up the rod after the bird is safely in its cage.
* If you are not carrying the Wicker Cage, then you lose the Bird at the end of your turn.
* When you play the Wicker Cage, you may acquire the Little Bird for free (unless of course you're carrying the Black Rod). This rule wasn't in my first drafts of the Wicker Cage card; it was a fairly late-breaking modification, designed to get the Cage and Bird out on the table in a higher percentage of games. See below.
* The Little Bird defends against the Huge Fierce Green Snake (which normally ends your turn if you try to move into or out of the Hall of the Mountain King). If it's in your hand, you can reveal it to defend against the Snake; it remains in front of you until the end of your turn, at which point it'll fly away if you don't have the Wicker Cage.
* As usual, you can discard the Bird to counter "Lost in the Maze" (All Alike); it must be discarded if you're hit with "Tight Squeeze"; and it can be stolen by "Steal a Keeper".
Let's talk briefly about the Wicker Cage's "acquire the Little Bird" text, and why I added it after a few playtests.
I'll be the first to admit that the Little Bird isn't a very useful card. Its only real purpose is to defend against the Huge Green Fierce Snake, and that's not a powerful card (it just loses you a turn, in a place that you might want to hang around in anyway). Since Little Bird wasn't very useful, it was rarely played. And of course you had to play the Cage first. And since the Cage doesn't do anything except let you play the Bird, nobody would ever play it.
So we ended up in this vicious cycle: nobody would play the Cage, so nobody could play the Bird, so there was little reason to even hold it in your hand. So those two items would just cycle through the draw pile over and over, thus further diluting the number of useful cards players could draw.
The solution was to provide a way to acquire the Bird — and keep it on the table! With the new Wicker Cage text, the Cage and Bird would tend to "precipitate out" of the draw pile, thus increasing the utility of the remaining cards.
Also, the "acquire" power effectively makes the Wicker Cage into an item that defends against the Snake — but only if you play it into your inventory as a normal action first. This isn't super powerful, but it's useful enough that I'd do it if I were near the hand limit instead of just drawing an extra card. (Since "play one" really means "play or move or draw or deposit", one important goal of the design is to make sure that each card's expected utility is at least sometimes higher than the expected utility of simply drawing another card!)
Lastly, a bit of Bird trivia: In Crowther and Woods' original Adventure, the command FEED BIRD leads to the response "It's not hungry (it's merely pinin' for the fjords)." There is a second Monty Python reference in Dave Platt's Adventure 550, although it is very hard to stumble across by accident. Can you locate it?
- [+] Dice rolls
14 Aug 2012
You emerge coughing and gasping from a cloud of orange smoke to find...
Hmm, I'm not dead after all!
I haven't updated this blog in a long time, but that doesn't mean that nothing's happening behind the scenes. (It does mean that I'm spending a lot less time on CC:TBG these days than I was back in April; mostly due to my job, but okay, also due to a lacking sense of urgency.)
What's been going on since the Kickstarter ended? Well, we've wrapped up the artwork — not just the box art and board art but also the artwork for the location cards in the ADV550 expansion. Katy is starting this week on the 8"x10" Kickstarter rewards. Chris Kirkman of Game Salute has been working on getting all of the cards into their final Adobe-Illustrator form, which is something I can't do myself. That's still chugging along slowly. Chris has also converted the rulebook from my original "black rules" to a nice professional-looking booklet, which you can see in my last Kickstarter update. (This week, Chris is out at Gen Con.)
Lately I've been giving more than the usual amount of thought to the identity of the "Kickstarter exclusive" promo card. Yeah, I still haven't finalized it, despite (or really because of) having a ton of promo-card ideas that didn't make it into the finished base game. I realized last week that BACK would be a perfect title for the Kickstarter card... but what should its effect be? I'm thinking something like this:Quote:BACK (Reaction) Play out of turn at the end of any player's turn. That player warps back to the room in which he started the turn.That would have fun interactions with the Tasty Food and the Bottles (all of which require you to start your turn in a particular room to get a benefit, so anything that moves you at the end of your turn will mess with them). It would also allow you to do something like Xyzzy!–Large Gold Nugget–BACK to quickly snarf a treasure and retreat to safety.
On the other hand, it might make the expansion cards Nasty-Looking Ogre and Gooseberry Goblins too powerful and annoying. But it's just a promo card, and if it tilts the game too much one way or the other, you can always take it back out.
More worrisome to me is that this wording would mean you'd have to remember where you started the turn. So far, I've done a good job of reducing the amount of "hidden state" in Colossal Cave; the few cards that require you to remember things (Ogre, Goblins, and Red Rod) are played at the start of the turn and use the specific phrase "mark your current room" to indicate that you should remember where you started the turn. I could do the same thing for BACK—Quote:BACK (Reaction) Play out of turn at the start of any player's turn. Mark that player's current room. At the end of the turn, that player warps back to the marked room.—but that seems a lot less spontaneous and backstabby, plus a lot less powerful, since (to use the example above) if someone canceled your Xyzzy!, you'd have wasted your BACK card too.
I'll keep mulling it over. There may be a nice solution...
- [+] Dice rolls
30 May 2012
The Little Axe is one of the two items a computerized Adventurer can't afford to be without (the other being the Brass Lantern).
As you can see, the Little Axe hasn't changed at all over the course of CC:TBG's development; but, as with the Lamp, there used to be two of it. The original thought was that you'd be a sitting duck for Dwarves without it, so I'd better allow two people to have the axe at once. But that just opened up a whole can of problems: what if you "acquire" the Little Axe and two people have it in their hands? can you ever have both axes in front of you at once? can you reveal both of them to "defend against" a single Angry Dwarf?
(Of course in those days I was calling it "play to counter", not "defend against", but it worked the same way. I changed the wording when I realized it was unclear whether "play to counter" counted as a "play". (These days, it does not.))
So anyway, here's what's special about the Axe:
* It's playable anywhere except the Well House. Thematically, you get the axe when you meet your first dwarf, and dwarves only appear below ground.
* It defends against Angry Dwarf. This is actually a little interesting, because there are two different cards named "Angry Dwarf": one Action and one Reaction. The Little Axe defends against both of them.
There's one other name shared by multiple cards: Lost in Maze. No card currently interacts with Lost in Maze by name, but I'm seriously considering it, either for the ADV550 expansion or as a promo.
* Like any non-treasure item, the Little Axe can be stolen by "Steal a Keeper".
* Like any item, it can be discarded by "Tight Squeeze" or "Out of Orange Smoke", or voluntarily discarded to counter "Lost in Maze (All Alike)". This last property is interesting because the Little Axe is one of only two items playable in the Maze of Twisty Passages (All Alike); the other is the Empty Bottle.
Sorry for the total lack of updates lately; I've been moving, and working, and also working on my port of David Platt's Adventure 550 to the Web. It's finally playable now, at http://quuxplusone.github.com/Advent/play-550.html. But there are a lot of bugs remaining to be found. If you find one, please let me know! (If you report a bug, please include the "magic number" printed at the start of the game.)
One neat thing about Adventure 550's axe: The game recognizes commands with embedded commas, such as DROP KEYS, LAMP, AXE. And, like Woods' version (although I didn't realize this until very recently), Platt allows you to type LAMP GET instead of GET LAMP. You can combine these two parser features to construct the dwarf-killing supercommand AXE THROW, GET. (Try it!)
- [+] Dice rolls
My last post discussed some of the major changes that went into the Glistening Pearl–Jeweled Trident interactions to improve the gameplay of CC:TBG. So I thought I'd follow up with an example of the same sort of thing that's still going on with ADV550.
The older version of "Nasty-Looking Ogre" is on the left; the new and improved version is on the right.
I explained a while ago how about half of Adventure is concerned with the water-bottle-plant-oil-door-(trident-pearl)-eggs-troll-bear-keys-chain puzzle arc. Well, the Nasty-Looking Ogre is smack in the middle of Adventure 550's own mushroom-sword-ogre-ring-bridge(-sceptre-safe) puzzle arc. And I'm still struggling a little bit with how to express this very linear puzzle sequence in a way that doesn't make certain items totally underpowered.
What I started with was this: The mushroom makes you super strong, which very naturally translates into an increased hand size. You can discard the mushroom to acquire the Singing Sword. The sword defends against the ogre, and also lets you acquire the Mithril Ring. The Ring, in turn, has some beneficial effect at the Volcano View.
I really liked the mechanic (new in ADV550) that you see on the Ogre card. It's useful in the case that Alice wants to prevent Bob from playing a treasure in his current room, or if you combine it with an Angry Dwarf reaction card (which stops the target from leaving their current room), it's a clever way to kill someone. Both the Nasty-Looking Ogre and the Gooseberry Goblins use this new mechanic; their original card texts were identical except that the Ogre affected people in the Giant Room whereas the Goblins affected people in the Volcano View or the Valley of Stone Faces (either room, since I already had an inkling that these cards were underpowered).
But indeed, these cards basically never got played. They were too special-purpose. Nobody ever goes to the Giant Room, let alone spends a whole turn there. And since the Nasty-Looking Ogre was toothless, that meant that the Singing Sword wasn't very attractive either — because why would I waste a turn to put down an item defending against an attack that would never come?
So in the latest revision of my ADV550 prototype, I've modified both the Ogre and the Goblins. They can now strike anywhere. (Even in the Well House, which is actually a great idea. The absence of ways to kill players in the Well House was pretty annoying.) This should make the Singing Sword and the Dragon's Teeth much more attractive. Now that I think of it, perhaps the Mithril Ring will join the Golden Eggs as a treasure that's really easy to acquire. But that's okay too.
Playtesting also revealed that the old wording was actually confusing to players. Two different times, I had players attempt to play the Ogre at the end of another player's turn, after he'd spent the turn in the Giant Room without moving. You'd think "Play... when another player starts their turn" would be pretty unambiguous, but clearly it wasn't working. So I'm hoping that the new wording will be less prone to misunderstanding.
Sorry for the short sentences and perhaps the lack of clear explanation of all my thoughts in this post. It's past midnight here... no, past 1 AM. Wow. Definitely time to turn in. And tomorrow we'll see if the Kickstarter breaks $15,000. If you're reading this and you haven't pledged, you better hurry up — the campaign ends in less than 23 hours!
- [+] Dice rolls
19 May 2012
The Jeweled Trident is the only treasure playable in two places. There's no deep game-mechanical reason for this; it's just that I couldn't decide whether it ought to be playable in the Giant Room or the Misty Cavern, so I put both on there.
In the original Adventure, the jeweled trident is located in the "cavern with waterfall" that you reach by going through the rusty door north of the Giant Room (which incidentally explains the power of the Oil Bottle in CC:TBG). This room happens to be pretty much directly above the "misty cavern" north of the Oriental Room; the implication is that the "strange splashing noises" you hear through the mist are in fact the sound of the waterfall finally reaching bottom. The geography of Adventure has a few of these pleasant little surprises for the careful observer.
In Colossal Cave: The Board Game, I've conflated the two caverns into the single room "Misty Cavern", even though you can't directly travel from one to the other in the original Adventure. I wish I could say that this was for some clever reason, but really it was just because I had conflated them in my mind when I was drawing the original map. They're both caverns, both misty, both somewhere back in that area of the cave... so I just put "Misty Cavern" on my map and drew in the connections I remembered.
Dave Platt points out another very subtle geographical connection: that between the mist in the misty cavern, which "rises up through a fissure in the ceiling," and the mist in the Hall of Mists, which is "quite thick" in the vicinity of the fissure that separates you from the diamonds. In Platt's Adventure 550, if you JUMP the fissure instead of crossing in the proper way, you'll plummet to your death... and your possessions will land in the "cavern with waterfall"!
Okay, enough about mist. The other interesting thing you'll notice about the original Jeweled Trident is that its special power originally took effect in the "Shell Room"!
Yes, my very first prototype of Colossal Cave: The Board Game had one more room than the current version. The Shell Room was located north of the Complex Junction, and literally the only thing you could do there was acquire the Glistening Pearl using the Jeweled Trident. (The original Pearl, like the Bear, was not playable anywhere.) And the Shell Room was a dead end, which meant there was really never any reason to go in there.
In retrospect, it took me entirely too long to conclude that the Shell Room was a really stupid idea. But fortunately I did. The Glistening Pearl moved to the Complex Junction (and became playable, as discussed in that post), the wording of the Jeweled Trident's power changed slightly, and everyone lived happily ever after.
* The Jeweled Trident is playable in either the Misty Cavern or the Giant Room.
* Like any treasure, it is acquireable via "Pirate Booty" in the Maze of Twisty Passages (All Alike).
* If you are carrying the Jeweled Trident when you start your turn in the Complex Junction, you may acquire the Glistening Pearl as well.
* Like any treasure, it can be discarded by "Har, Har!", or by your Death, or voluntarily to counter "Stop! Pay Troll!" It is one of the ten treasures discarded by "Don Woods Never Existed".
* Like any item, it can be discarded voluntarily to counter "Lost in Maze" (All Alike).
- [+] Dice rolls
11 May 2012
Sorry it's been so long since my last Designer Diary post. I've been spending a lot of time working (you know, at my actual job), and also devoting a fair bit of time to working on a port of Dave Platt's "Adventure 550". That's coming along slowly; you can see my progress here. It's definitely going to be more than a one-week project, but I still hope to get it done before the Kickstarter ends. Ah, deadlines. I remind everybody that my port of "Adventure" ("350") is complete, and you can play it online here.
As for Colossal Cave: The Board Game itself... I've been emailing back and forth with Chris K. of Game Salute (a.k.a. BGG user and Twitterer dicehateme) about design stuff. He intends to try some different card designs and see how they look. In particular, maybe there'd be more room for art on the cards if they didn't have those big monocolor headers ("ITEM", "TREASURE", etc), but just colored borders or icons in the corners. These are all quite possibly very good ideas.
Fellow BGGer Ryan Moses (Magus And Princess) should be posting a [geeklist=102808]He Says She Says[/geeklist] review of CC:TBG extremely soon, like tomorrow or Sunday.
To me, the most interesting thing about his preliminary comments was that he claimed the game took 20 or 30 minutes. I would love this to be true in general, but in my experience it can easily run beyond an hour — even beyond two hours, if you have a player or two who's prone to analysis paralysis. "Hang on, I'm still reading my cards." "I want to look through the discard pile (while everyone else waits)." And so on.
There are game-mechanical ways to address the slow-player problem. For example, I could make the discard pile face-down, to prevent people from looking through it. I could reorganize the phases of a turn so that you "move one", then "play one", then "draw one"; that way you have plenty of time to read the card you just drew. Even more drastically, I could get rid of the "acquiring" mechanic altogether. But even the smallest of these changes is unattractive to me. If you can resist the siren call of analysis paralysis, it adds quite a bit of spice to the game when you draw a card that forces you to re-evaluate your whole turn.
So Ryan's claim that his family could indeed play the game in 30 minutes (repeatably!) was heartening. I'll continue looking for minor improvements that could streamline the game and make its length more consistent, but even if I find none, it's doing all right.
- [+] Dice rolls
07 May 2012
We've finally reached the item that started this whole series: the Iron Keys.
The Iron Keys haven't changed at all in the development of CC:TBG, so this will be a short entry for once.
* They're playable in the Well House.
* You can acquire them via the action card "Stock Up!"
* They defend against "The Grate Is Locked!", which prevents movement between the Well House and Cobble Crawl.
* The Golden Chain isn't playable unless you're carrying the Iron Keys (although it's acquireable by other means).
* Like all items, the Iron Keys can be discarded by "Tight Squeeze", voluntarily discarded to counter "Lost in Maze" (All Alike), or stolen by "Steal a Keeper".
Because "The Grate Is Locked!" can really mess up your endgame winning plans, the Iron Keys are a good item to have near the end. If I got a "Stock Up!" in the late game, my first choice would still be the Brass Lantern, of course; but my second choice would probably be the Iron Keys.
Update on my "Adventure" port: The dwarves are moving now, and several other bugs have been fixed. There's still something funky with the Persian rug's initial appearance.
- [+] Dice rolls
07 May 2012
Kickstarter update #7 rolls out the first official look at some of the ADV550 expansion cards.
Leave me some comments so I can answer them!
I did a lot of work on my "Adventure" port last night; the SCORE bug is fixed, but now the dwarves apparently aren't moving right, which means the pirate never meets you, which means he never runs off to place his chest in the maze, which means you can never find the chest, which means the game is still unwinnable. But I'm working on it!
- [+] Dice rolls
06 May 2012
Also over on the Kickstarter page, people are suggesting that I do more with light and darkness in the game, or more likely in the ADV550 expansion. Here's all the light/darkness stuff that's in the game so far:
* The Well House and Cobble Crawl are in the light by default; everywhere else is dark.
This is a simplification of the original Adventure's geography, of course. In the original Adventure, both the Plover Room and Volcano View were in fact lit (by an eerie green glow and a volcano, respectively). But since in my adaptation the Plover Room is representing the Plover and Dark Rooms together, and Volcano View is representing everything on the far side of the troll bridge, I left them dark. Besides, this makes for an easy rule to remember: the cave is all dark, except for the first two rooms.
* A carried Brass Lantern gives light to the whole room.
Incidentally, something I didn't mention in the original Brass Lantern post: The very first prototype had two Brass Lanterns!
Originally I'd thought that the Lantern and the Axe were so important that we needed two of them. Makes sense, right? in Adventure you'll carry the lamp and axe with you for every move of the game, except to enter the Plover Room. But having two indistinguishable copies of an item turned out to be really confusing and fiddly when "acquiring" that item, so eventually I took the plunge and did away with the second copy of each. There are enough ways to acquire the Brass Lantern that it usually stays on the table for most of the game anyway, even if there's just one of it now.
* The Platinum Pyramid is playable only in the light.
Perhaps a good way to reiterate this on the card is to make it say "Playable in: Plover Room (lit)", in addition to the current card text.
* The promo card "Kleptomaniac Adventurer" is playable only in darkness; it allows you to steal any item (even a treasure) from a player in the same room as yourself. (Under cover of darkness, you see.)
* I'm planning a promo item "Cloak of Darkness" that overrides the lighting effects of "terrain" or of the Lantern; you could don the cloak, move into the Well House, and drop somebody in there into a Bottomless Pit. This item would probably be "Playable: Anywhere (dark)".
The ADV550 expansion doesn't add any more light/darkness interactions, although a few possibilities come to mind:
* Joshua Sauer asks whether ADV550's "luminous crown" could be a light source. It's true that this walkthrough uses the adjective "luminous", but the sources I have call it an "iridium crown", and it's definitely not a light source; Dave Platt's code still just special-cases the lantern to see whether the player is in the light.
* I still haven't added the basilisk or the "highly polished metal plate" to my adaptation of ADV550. Perhaps in addition to defending against basilisks, the plate should reflect light: if there's an adjacent lighted room, then the plate's room is lighted too. Both with this idea and with "Cloak of Darkness", I have to be wary of introducing infinite loops into the lighting algorithm...
* If I had to pick a light-giving item out of the text-adventure mythos to add as a promo card, it would be Zork's "elvish sword of great antiquity", which glows blue whenever danger is near. (Yes, it's a blatant ripoff of Bilbo's sword from The Hobbit.) In gameplay terms, maybe "danger is near" whenever your hand size is 3 or less.
Actually, that's a nice mechanic; I'll probably draw up that "Elvish Sword" card now. Even though I worry that it'll be too easily confused with ADV550's "Singing Sword". Well, for a promo card, that's no big deal. (And even though the sword in Zork is never a light source; I just checked.)
Well, writing this post has just given me three or four new ideas. I'd better go prototype them, eh?
- [+] Dice rolls