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Subject: Unpacking the Box - How Legends Untold works rss

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Hugh Ducker
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This will hopefully be the first in a series of posts about how Legends Untold works as a game and how we came to design it in the way that we did. Between Kevin's (CEO of Inspiring Games) vision and my desire to make the game as smooth as possible, whilst retaining the vision and depth Kevin wanted we went through many iterations to get where we are at.

Concept of the game
The concept behind Legends came from a lifelong love with Tabletop RPGs, board games and card games. The Love? - the social interaction, telling a story, being heroic - the usual stuff. The frustration? - never having enough time, overlong combat, GM preparation time, lack of players...

Legends was designed to deliver all the best bits of an RPG whilst removing as many of the frustrating elements as possible. The core concept to the game was to have a fun RPG experience with a preparation time of 5 minutes and a game that you can finish within an hour.

The play area
Giving Kevin's desire to give as much game as possible for the money, with a large amount of replay-ability, our first design decision was to try to and make the game in a "Roguelike" manner. Designing it as a card game, this meant that we split the parts of the game into separate decks and would let the players draw each bit of the map as they went. This meant that a single map of 10 locations with a single start locations could be drawn in 9! different ways. That's factorial 9 or 9*8*7*6*5*4*3*2*1 = 362880 ways. However having lots of different possible maps isn't interesting unless each time you go through that map you encounter something different.

Card Types
So we split the cards that make up what you encounter in your journeys into 6 main categories: Barriers, Obstacles, Foes, Discoveries, Loot and Events.

Barriers are there to block your progress or prevent access to parts of each location that might hold further interesting things to find. Having Barriers seal off parts of the map gives the player's choices; do you spend time and effort getting through the barrier or do you push on and take the simpler path.

These we split into two types: Traps and Trials. Every dungeon or cave system needs traps to capture or damage the unwary. We also wanted the exploration of the map to be more than just about monsters to fight and traps to avoid. So we included trials for the party to get past; difficult climbs, deep chasms, poisonous fungi; anything that could impeded your progress and give you a choice of "do we go this way or do we find another path?"

No cave or dungeon is complete without hazardous creatures within it. Wanting to have intelligent denizens of our world was important, but also making them more than a generic enemy was part of Kevin's vision. So rather than just having the same goblins as mindless foes, we endeavoured to describe a community and background to our creatures.

As our goal was to make the game as much about exploration as anything else, we wanted to have strange encounters with intelligent beings within the cave system (how we tried to achieve this we'll come to later) and odd curiosities to find.

When we looked at Loot we decided to do it differently. Kevin's vision was for a low fantasy setting rather than Paladins and magic swords from the start. So we decided that loot was useful things you found within the caves. It would be temporary but good to find and separate from the permanent equipment that your heroes gained.

Lastly we wanted the environment to be dynamic rather than static. We wanted doors to slam shut, bats to fly about the caves and rivers to flood. These we classified as events and created a time system to give you a sense of urgency that as you spent time in the caves things would happen. Using your time was important and running out of time should be bad, but not necessarily an end to your adventure.

Between these 6 types of card and the locations that make the map we tried to create a living environment for the heroes to adventure through.

Lastly we wanted a simple system for resolving things. We found a 3-4 six sided dice give us the best balance of ranges to test against. Mostly the players would hit that sweet spot from 8-13, but sometimes epic success (Triple dragons!) or epic failure (All 1s!) was just the luck of the day.

Next we'll move onto "Building a Character"
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