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Designer Diary: Questor – Fantasy Dungeon Exploration for All Ages

Ben Stanley
United States
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Néstor Romeral Andrés recently approached me about developing a game to be included with the launch titles of his new nestorbooster service, a Kickstarter-like tool for gamers to pre-order designs that see production if they reach a funding (i.e., "fueling") goal.

I have always enjoyed working with Néstor: He publishes two of my own beloved designs, the customizable abstract strategy wargame simulation Symbol, and the fast, portable, scalable, fun and challenging stock market game of brinkmanship Nyse. He also publishes the expansions for Symbol, Symbol². He is the consummate professional and always a joy to collaborate with, offering brilliant ideas and dedicated craftsmanship with stunning, beautiful, custom components for every game he publishes.

What Makes Questor Unique?

Néstor has long wanted a dungeon exploring game in his catalog, so together we refined and enhanced a wonderful, unique little game I designed with my children in mind: Questor. Questor is exceptional in three specific ways that were the foundation concept of this design of mine:

-----(1) Players could compete as in a traditional game or decide at the outset to play it fully cooperatively (or one player can puzzle through it solo).
-----(2) Each player has a different objective than any of the others.
-----(3) Because the objectives of the players differ, the actual play styles and strategies for the players differ.

A lot of games have hidden roles with unique victory conditions, but I know of very few with known roles with unique victory conditions. One of the few is Chaos in the Old World, an excellent and entertaining design, but a lot darker, longer, and more component heavy than what I was designing. I wanted a game that I could play with my children and we would all have a great time, every time. If they are too young to enjoy competitive gaming, we can play cooperatively; they can pick the hero to play that has a goal and style they like, and not have to worry about random choice or not understanding the objective and having to get help as they might in a game with secret roles.

Picture of the original prototype, which used the smallest and simplest components possible

And as I noted, the play styles do feel quite different. The Warrior character, for example, is after fame for slaying foul dungeon beasts, and relies on combat, a little luck of the dice, and deciding when to go where others would like him to and when to strike out on his own. In contrast, the Rogue is seeking fortune, and she must focus on efficient movement and avoid helping other players as she tries to claim two treasures and escape. The Mage is instead intent on gaining knowledge and wants to see the entire dungeon explored, so he often has to make the most carefully planned and strategic decisions to incentivize other players into doing things that will help him with his goal. And the Healer is hoping to join each of the other players at some point in their quests, and so must rely upon timing and persuasion skills, as well as determining when to aid others and achieve her objectives in return.

And all of that can happen in a fast, fun, enchanting, and entertaining game. The theme really shines with the beautiful, laser cut and custom heroes and monsters Néstor has planned for the game.

Any Interesting Challenges During Development?

There were a few changes as the game was refined. I had originally planned to have a custom etched die to roll and reveal the orientations and presence of monsters on dungeon tiles, but relied on a standard die and a dice table in the prototype and playtesting sessions. Néstor had a truly brilliant idea to dramatically simplify the placement of the dungeon tiles without requiring a custom die at all, which freed a lot of resources to keep the costs of the game as low as possible and allow for more elaborate pawns and tokens, which do much more for the game's appeal. That's one of the advantages of working with a math genius on your games.

Prototype art for a custom die for the game, replaced in the published version with a clever numbering scheme on the tiles themselves
that indicates where to position the tile in response to the number rolled on a standard die

Similarly, I used double-sided dungeon tiles in the prototype to track when players had used a "dig" action to change the number of available paths in one area of the dungeon. Néstor again developed a way to keep the game more affordable and allow for more luxurious elements in other places by offering dungeon path markers that went on the existing dungeon tiles and reflected the change.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge of the game was coming up with a name that we both loved! Néstor said the play reminded him of the old video game Gauntlet (in which four heroes with different powers explore a dungeon), but several dungeon crawl games, including some recent releases, have that word in their titles. However, the Elf hero in that video game is named "Questor", and I liked that title because it rhymed with Néstor and was a nice tribute to an old arcade classic. The name stuck.

We truly hope you and your family love this dungeon-delving gem as much as we have bringing it to you.

Benjamin D. Stanley
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Subscribe sub options Wed Jan 9, 2013 8:01 pm
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