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Subject: Please critique my work in progress. rss

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Dave Clarke
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I'm working on a design for a dungeon crawler with a few twists, and I'd love to hear any comments / feedback / criticism etc - come at me!

The overview so far goes something like this:

It's semi co-operative in that heroes delve a dungeon & fight monsters together. However, the overall winner is the player with the most victory points at the end. Victory points are gained by collecting gold and loot. LOTS of loot. Loot is the real focus of the game.

Monsters almost always carry (and drop when they die) magic weapons & armour, plus gold and other useful / valuable stuff.

Loot is worth points at the end of the game, but only if you don't use it. If you equip a magic item, it's bound to you & can't be traded or sold. It makes your character better, but doesn't contribute directly to your VP total at the end of the game.

The heroes have a pooled health total - no individual hit points. If the party runs out of health, everyone is dead. This prevents player elimination and creates an interesting dynamic where you can be reckless & take a ton of damage, but the group will hate you for it.

Characters have action points (coloured cubes) of various types with which to take actions. Each character has a number of action cards, each with 2 options on them. These action cards are always available - there's no action card drawing or deckbuilding. When an action on a card is used, the second action on that card is not available until next round. Actions have an activation cost which is paid with cubes, and many actions can be improved by spending extra cubes beyond those needed for basic activation. Players take one action at a time until they all cannot or choose not to take any more.

Some actions have a monster icon on them, which is covered up by placing cubes & taking that action. Monster icons still showing at the end of the round trigger monster dice, which spawn and activate monsters. Typically, selfish actions like grabbing loot don't have monster icons on them, but the other action on that card does. So a selfish character is going to trigger more monster actions than someone who is helping the group, eg. by killing monsters & healing other characters. There's a lot of balancing to do here, but this is the basic idea.

Equipping loot (weapons, armour etc) grants a character more action cubes.

After a dungeon level is cleared there is a party phase where characters can trade loot, level up their action cards etc. I'm also playing with a catch up mechanic of sorts where players accuse each other of hoarding. The accused can offer reparations or call the accuser's bluff in some way. Wrongful accusations will have penalties for the accuser. This part needs much more work, and I want to get the rest of it working a little more smoothly first.

I think the main decisions for players revolve around managing loot & resources so that they're just powerful enough to clear the dungeon as a group, while keeping back enough good stuff in their private stash to sneak the win.

 
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Brendan Riley
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First of all, I might be the wrong target for this description, as I dislike semi-coops. We don't play CASTLE PANIC with a winner, for example. A couple quick thoughts:

- is the loot public knowledge when the monster drops it? If so, how is it hidden from others?

- I didn't see how it's determined who gets the loot

- The shared health pool is interesting, but doesn't make much sense, thematically.

- Is the fun in this game supposed to be in fighting the monsters as a team, or in getting the most loot for yourself? These seem counter-productive.

- finally, how is this game distinguished from Descent, Cutthroat caverns, or Arcadia quest, each of which seems to do some of these things very well?
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Dave Clarke
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Many thanks for the reply. You ask some good questions, some of which I can answer, others I'll have to think about - which was the point of my post

wombat929 wrote:
First of all, I might be the wrong target for this description, as I dislike semi-coops. We don't play CASTLE PANIC with a winner, for example. A couple quick thoughts:

- is the loot public knowledge when the monster drops it? If so, how is it hidden from others?


Loot cards drop face down, but some have some information on their backs. For example, you know you're choosing between a rare sword and an epic bow, but you don't know the specifics of what they actually do or how valuable they are until you commit to picking one of them up.

wombat929 wrote:
- I didn't see how it's determined who gets the loot


When a monster dies, its token might tell you to drop, for example, a Rare loot card, an Epic loot card, 2 miscellaneous item cards, and 6 gold coins. You place all that in the space where the monster died. Then, using a "grab" action a character can either: take one loot, two miscellaneous items, or all the gold from a space. There are currently only 4 spaces on the tactical board, so loot piles build up fast.

wombat929 wrote:
- The shared health pool is interesting, but doesn't make much sense, thematically.


In a fantasy game, you can have a reason for anything I'll probably go with some kind of blessing / curse that joined the fates of the heroes, meaning that they live & die as one. I know it's a bit absurd, but this isn't going to be a deadly serious game. It's also quite possible that this won't survive development - I'm still early in the process with it.

wombat929 wrote:
- Is the fun in this game supposed to be in fighting the monsters as a team, or in getting the most loot for yourself? These seem counter-productive.


There will be some team based problem solving in order for the heroes to survive, with extra spice coming from the fact that it's not always in the best interest of the individual to work for the team - it's a balancing act. As you slay more & more monsters, piles of treasure start to mount up, and you don't know exactly what any of it is, so there's the Skinner box element of constantly being rewarded for what you're doing - many modern mobile games have this down to a fine art so I'm looking to capture some of that flavour.

wombat929 wrote:
- finally, how is this game distinguished from Descent, Cutthroat caverns, or Arcadia quest, each of which seems to do some of these things very well?


I'm aiming for a lower price point than Descent & AQ for sure. Components will be a mix of cards, boards & tiles with a few dice, but I'm not planning to have miniatures. In my head, the finished game will be a mix of fast tactical skirmishing with deterministic combat, euro style resource management, set collection, bluffing & luck pushing in varying quantities! The dungeon crawl aspect isn't the main focus, and it shouldn't feel like any of those games.
 
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James Arias
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I like the loot as VP idea ... was looking at that in my own dungeon crawler, but the tradeoff there was to hoard your loot for VP or trade it in to upgrade your mundane gear (so in a party of friendly players only interested in a team win, everybody would trade in).

The "locking" of "slotted" items forces some risk/reward/FOMO decisions. Could you discard an item to replace with another, or is that slot forever occupied? Might lead to some "too cool to use in case I have to trade it" or "what if I find something better".

I also need to work out a method to "fairly" distribute loot when there's not enough of it to go around. WHQ did this via Leader discretion and nobody gets 2 till everybody has 1, haven't decided if I like that.

How many decks is this game going to have?
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Dave Clarke
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crazybyzantine wrote:
I like the loot as VP idea ... was looking at that in my own dungeon crawler, but the tradeoff there was to hoard your loot for VP or trade it in to upgrade your mundane gear (so in a party of friendly players only interested in a team win, everybody would trade in).

The "locking" of "slotted" items forces some risk/reward/FOMO decisions. Could you discard an item to replace with another, or is that slot forever occupied? Might lead to some "too cool to use in case I have to trade it" or "what if I find something better".

I also need to work out a method to "fairly" distribute loot when there's not enough of it to go around. WHQ did this via Leader discretion and nobody gets 2 till everybody has 1, haven't decided if I like that.

How many decks is this game going to have?


Thanks for your comments James - much appreciated.

A big design challenge for me will be to balance the game to discourage too much hoarding. If everyone holds back their good stuff, the heroes should fail as a group (this is where my pooled health points come in). I see this being the central challenge of the game for the players as well - hoarding potentially wins and loses the game, so finding the right balance as a team is essential. I'm getting close to finishing my first full prototype so I guess I'll find out soon if it's a workable idea.

I'm going to allow the option for "locked" gear items to be replaced when an improvement comes up, but the replaced item still won't count for VP. Probably.

I'm aiming to swamp my players in loot - "not enough" should be the least of their worries As I said, I'm working on a way for players to redistribute things if they believe someone to be hoarding too much.

Right now I think there's only 4 decks of cards; one deck for each level of loot rarity (Rare, Epic, Legendary), and a deck of miscellaneous items (potions, rings, gems etc). There's a monster deck in my prototype, but for production I'd like to go with a bag of tiles for the monsters - approximately Carcassonne size. This is to save space on the table, and also because tiles are cool

There's probably space to add a "room" deck to spice things up, but my current idea is to have a turn tracker that looks like a dungeon map, with icons on certain spaces that indicate safe areas, environmental hazards, events, bosses etc. I'd like to have different trackers representing different dungeons, for variable game length & difficulty, and other conditional stuff. That's an idea for later in the process.

PS - Your microbadge is correct, Tom Baker is indeed the best Dr Who there ever was
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Kevin Johnson
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wombat929 wrote:
- The shared health pool is interesting, but doesn't make much sense, thematically.


DaveClarke wrote:
In a fantasy game, you can have a reason for anything I'll probably go with some kind of blessing / curse that joined the fates of the heroes, meaning that they live & die as one. I know it's a bit absurd, but this isn't going to be a deadly serious game. It's also quite possible that this won't survive development - I'm still early in the process with it.


I agree that the idea is interesting, but I see a more pragmatic problem. If somebody has used most of the group's hit points (and presumably hoovered up most of the loot), what's the incentive for the next player not to also be totally reckless and cause everyone to lose?
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Josh
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kevinj wrote:
DaveClarke wrote:
In a fantasy game, you can have a reason for anything I'll probably go with some kind of blessing / curse that joined the fates of the heroes, meaning that they live & die as one. I know it's a bit absurd, but this isn't going to be a deadly serious game. It's also quite possible that this won't survive development - I'm still early in the process with it.


I agree that the idea is interesting, but I see a more pragmatic problem. If somebody has used most of the group's hit points (and presumably hoovered up most of the loot), what's the incentive for the next player not to also be totally reckless and cause everyone to lose?


Here's a thought:
What if the players each have their own hit points, but there is a secondary shared resource. For example, they are carrying some number of very fragile McGuffins as cargo, and these McGuffins will break during the course of combat.
If they lose all of the McGuffins, then they lose the game together. Game Over.
But characters can still individually lose/die, which makes the overall game more difficult for the group.
And then there's still an ultimate winner who has all the loot at the end, but only if the whole group survives with a minimum of McGuffins in their cart.

Player Elimination is certainly not desirable in a game like this, but if it's quick and light then they shouldn't need to wait very long for the next game.
(Love-Letter-esque?)

 
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Brendan Riley
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kevinj wrote:
...what's the incentive for the next player not to also be totally reckless and cause everyone to lose?


This is the inherent problem in competitive coops -- the "if I can't win, nobody will" player.
 
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James Arias
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wombat929 wrote:
kevinj wrote:
...what's the incentive for the next player not to also be totally reckless and cause everyone to lose?


This is the inherent problem in competitive coops -- the "if I can't win, nobody will" player.


The opposite of kingmaking ... can't remember what they call this tactic, other than "The Red Button / Nuclear Option"
 
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James Arias
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DaveClarke wrote:


I'm going to allow the option for "locked" gear items to be replaced when an improvement comes up, but the replaced item still won't count for VP. Probably.


I like. Forces tradeoff of keep for VP and use of the item, vs. dump it for a more useful item that may or may not be better VP, plus I lose the VP of what I dumped. Everyone says comparisons of 2 things not using the same units are good

Quote:
Right now I think there's only 4 decks of cards; one deck for each level of loot rarity (Rare, Epic, Legendary), and a deck of miscellaneous items (potions, rings, gems etc). There's a monster deck in my prototype, but for production I'd like to go with a bag of tiles for the monsters - approximately Carcassonne size. This is to save space on the table, and also because tiles are cool


LOL I went opposite, Tiles for items and cards for Monsters and everything else. Tiles are cool, just harder to shuffle, and if they're big hard to stuff into a draw bag. Lots of games go overboard with card decks (DungeonQuest, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Dungeon! I'm looking at you all).

Quote:

PS - Your microbadge is correct, Tom Baker is indeed the best Dr Who there ever was


Most definitely!
 
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