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Subject: The Nature of the Dungeon Crawler rss

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David Griffin
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There are a lot of games which are related in some way, direct or tangential, to the idea of the dungeon crawler. I kind of think that dungeon crawlers in general seek to mimic the feel of a good roleplaying game with a good DM, but tend to fall short in this respect because you can't [yet] put an actual human being's judgement and imagination inside a deck of cards or even an app.

Nevertheless there are a lot of different games in this general zone from Descent (which try's hard to mimic a RPG and even has a DM of sorts, though he can be more of an opponent than a DM) to Myth (which only LOOKS like the combat resolution system of a RPG).

I find when a new one comes out, I'm attracted to the idea but it's always interesting to see what this new game offers that isn't offered by others. Is it portability? Dice? Epic feel? Narrative quality?

If you're actually exploring a dungeon (like Descent or Shadows of Brimstone and not Mage Knight), how is the dungeon portrayed? SoB has very pretty tiles but very little of the matters in the game. Is there even a map (none for One Deck Dungeon or Roll Player)? Do we want one? is it pretty? Is there a narrative about what the rooms look like (as a DM would give you)?

What are your ideas of what you'd like to see in a Dungeon Crawler?
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james napoli
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It's a good topic for this community. i would say that there several posts a week for gamers looking for a DnD style experience in a boardgame and i would have to imagine there are even more who come here and to post and read the existing posts about them.

here are my very rough thoughts on the subject in no particular order.

The game should be fun.

i would like my rpg in a box have these features:
-campaign

-character growth and leveling

-varying character abilities so that playing as different characters can give you the roleplaying aspect

-figures you can move around and position for tactics in combat

-ability to play without a gamemaster

-A story with a sense of adventure

-Exploration and interesting choices

-rolling dice or some other mechanic that can build some tension and add some level of chance.

i havent found a game that does many or all of these things very well. With that said, a modified version of Runebound 2nd edition was fun b/c there was a story that unfolded, you progressed your character and there were decisions to be made.

Mage Knight has excellent mechanics and while providing and an interesting challenge, never really satisfied me with a the sense of adventure or overall fun factor.

Descent, i admit i havent played enough to judge, but is almost just too tactical and lacks the adventure and story telling i would want in game.


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Jeremy Lennert
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carbon_dragon wrote:
I kind of think that dungeon crawlers in general seek to mimic the feel of a good roleplaying game with a good DM, but tend to fall short in this respect because you can't [yet] put an actual human being's judgement and imagination inside a deck of cards or even an app.

Are you sure?

I think the defining aspect of a DM'd roleplaying game is collaborative storytelling--shared control over a narrative. I see few DM-less dungeon crawlers that appear to spend much energy pursuing this aspect (except in the general sense of "player agency", which all games do), and many that completely ignore it.

Rather, I think dungeon crawlers are usually focused on a collection of mechanics and tropes that were popularized by RPGs, but are not essential to them: tactical combat, loot, XP/leveling up, ability trees, and the like. (Maybe also cooperative gameplay with role specialization.)

And I don't think any of those things have any particular need of a DM. In fact, I think DM-less board games and computer games often do them better than traditional RPGs.
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Pelle Nilsson
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darlok wrote:
It's a good topic for this community. i would say that there several posts a week for gamers looking for a DnD style experience in a boardgame and i would have to imagine there are even more who come here and to post and read the existing posts about them.

here are my very rough thoughts on the subject in no particular order.

The game should be fun.

i would like my rpg in a box have these features:
-campaign

-character growth and leveling

-varying character abilities so that playing as different characters can give you the roleplaying aspect

-figures you can move around and position for tactics in combat

-ability to play without a gamemaster

-A story with a sense of adventure

-Exploration and interesting choices

-rolling dice or some other mechanic that can build some tension and add some level of chance.



The game this describes is Ambush!. The only thing missing is the dungeon crawling.



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Andres Montanes-Lleras
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darlok wrote:
-ability to play without a gamemaster


While I agree with everything you said, for me, this is the big one. I was fascinated by RPG when I was growing up, and bought several D&D and Dragonlance materials, but I never got to really enjoy them, basically because the few friends I had who were interested in playing wanted me to be the gamemaster, and I had no desire at all of doing that.

Nowdays, I have moved almost entirely to solo gaming, and usually games that do not require a gamemaster tend to be solo-able, so that is also a big plus for me.

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Laura Creighton
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I think that Mice and Mystics does this rather well. Worth checking out if you haven't already.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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I've been thinking about this question for about 8 years now: What do I like about a "Dungeon Crawl"? And mind you, even though I'm just seeking MY own opinion, I actually find at least Two Divergent answers:

1. "I like the way my character becomes better at combat." Whether it's by leveling up and going through skill trees, or finding gear and magic items. It's the main reason I like computer games like Diablo. The theme/story might have helped me not get bored while I leveled up to the level cap; but I'm still playing just to explore the skill tree and the gear combos.

2. "I like the story and how characters fit into the world." And it's not just my story, I like learning other people's characters and their stories. It's why I only had a level 30 to 35 Bard in Everquest for the four years that I played it. That was who I am in the game. I met plenty of other characters who hit level 50 (and later, level 60), and some became friends; some became enemies; and some wondered how this lowly level 35 bard was acting as a gatekeeper for two of the major "Dragon Raids".

I call #1 as Roll Playing. I call #2 as Role Playing.

 
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Pelle Nilsson
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lacreighton wrote:
I think that Mice and Mystics does this rather well. Worth checking out if you haven't already.


I have played a few chapters with my kids and it is a nice game with excellent minis and story, but I think the game system is a bit too slow and could provide more choices and surprises.

We also play Hero Kids now and then, and it does require me to be GM, but on the other hand I am almost a GM keeping track of all rules and enemies when we play Mice & Mystics as well. Hero Kids is mostly just a tactical boardgame, with a tiny bit of roleplaying, but the good thing is that even with a very simple and fast combat system you can have more fun things happen since the GM can have surprises planned (or scripted in an adventure) and enemies are not quite as predictable as in Mice & Mystics.
 
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David Griffin
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Antistone wrote:
carbon_dragon wrote:
I kind of think that dungeon crawlers in general seek to mimic the feel of a good roleplaying game with a good DM, but tend to fall short in this respect because you can't [yet] put an actual human being's judgement and imagination inside a deck of cards or even an app.

Are you sure?

I think the defining aspect of a DM'd roleplaying game is collaborative storytelling--shared control over a narrative. I see few DM-less dungeon crawlers that appear to spend much energy pursuing this aspect (except in the general sense of "player agency", which all games do), and many that completely ignore it.

Rather, I think dungeon crawlers are usually focused on a collection of mechanics and tropes that were popularized by RPGs, but are not essential to them: tactical combat, loot, XP/leveling up, ability trees, and the like. (Maybe also cooperative gameplay with role specialization.)

And I don't think any of those things have any particular need of a DM. In fact, I think DM-less board games and computer games often do them better than traditional RPGs.


Well when I was DM'ing, I found that everyone had DIFFERENT reasons why they were playing so the idea that people are getting different things out of dungeon crawlers (carpetbag term) isn't too much of a shock. Indeed collaborative storytelling is the center of roleplaying. But in a dungeon crawler with some narrative, you're telling the story collaboratively with the game system. At least I think that is the goal for some people.

Myth for example has almost NO lore. That is sometimes offered as a flaw in the game. The implication is that lore is important to a dungeon crawler and thus people, at least some people, might be looking for the narrative they get in a RPG.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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carbon_dragon wrote:

Well when I was DM'ing, I found that everyone had DIFFERENT reasons why they were playing so the idea that people are getting different things out of dungeon crawlers (carpetbag term) isn't too much of a shock. Indeed collaborative storytelling is the center of roleplaying. But in a dungeon crawler with some narrative, you're telling the story collaboratively with the game system. At least I think that is the goal for some people.

Myth for example has almost NO lore. That is sometimes offered as a flaw in the game. The implication is that lore is important to a dungeon crawler and thus people, at least some people, might be looking for the narrative they get in a RPG.


Yup, I got the same thing when I was DM-ing. Some players were there to tell a story and collaborated with others on the story. Some were there for the tactical combat -- and this was before we got to the nitty details of 3rd Ed's grid. Some were there in an odd "hybrid" -- they wanted to upgrade their character to the point where they feel like Legolas, or Gandalf, or Drizzt; (and once they get there, they eventually lose interest)

The key for the me as the DM was figuring out how to make the group's experience work together for everyone's enjoyment. The traditional RPG, after all, is a long term commitment.

That said, the RPG, in my opinion, should really just be a framework or a toolkit for everyone to use together. It's the gamers who are driving the game experience. And that's part of the problem when people try to make that fit a computer/video game or a boardgame. It's hard to capture the creativity/imagination of people when you're limited to the assets of a computer or a boardgame.

The best experiences I had in RPGs is when people think outside the box, or in other words, creative solutions to the problem. It's like Bilbo out-foxing Gollum in a riddle contest. It's like Harry tricking Ron into thinking he had drunk a luck potion. It's like Dr. Strange trapping Dormammu in a time loop.

Without that creativity, I believe any roleplaying game turns into a "grind" ... a tedious cycle of the same basic mechanics. "I'm killing monsters" so that "I can level up" so that "I can kill more monsters" so that "I can level up higher" so that "I can kill even more...."

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy those grinds.
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But after one or two sessions, I'm ready to just put that game back on the shelf. On the other hand, the only thing that would hold me back from a game of Mouse Guard is that we need to prepare the next portion of the story, because the story has changed.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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carbon_dragon wrote:
Myth for example has almost NO lore. That is sometimes offered as a flaw in the game. The implication is that lore is important to a dungeon crawler and thus people, at least some people, might be looking for the narrative they get in a RPG.

I feel people ask for story/theme/immersion from all kinds of games, not just dungeon crawlers.

I think of games about storytelling as being an additional step beyond that.
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Joel Velez
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carbon_dragon wrote:
There are a lot of games which are related in some way, direct or tangential, to the idea of the dungeon crawler. I kind of think that dungeon crawlers in general seek to mimic the feel of a good roleplaying game with a good DM, but tend to fall short in this respect because you can't [yet] put an actual human being's judgement and imagination inside a deck of cards or even an app.

Nevertheless there are a lot of different games in this general zone from Descent (which try's hard to mimic a RPG and even has a DM of sorts, though he can be more of an opponent than a DM) to Myth (which only LOOKS like the combat resolution system of a RPG).

I find when a new one comes out, I'm attracted to the idea but it's always interesting to see what this new game offers that isn't offered by others. Is it portability? Dice? Epic feel? Narrative quality?

If you're actually exploring a dungeon (like Descent or Shadows of Brimstone and not Mage Knight), how is the dungeon portrayed? SoB has very pretty tiles but very little of the matters in the game. Is there even a map (none for One Deck Dungeon or Roll Player)? Do we want one? is it pretty? Is there a narrative about what the rooms look like (as a DM would give you)?

What are your ideas of what you'd like to see in a Dungeon Crawler?


I would actually like to see less in my dungeon crawls. Most of the new releases are trying waaaaaaaaay to hard to be more than just a dice chucker. I kind of like the simplicity of: See-a-thing/Fight-a-thing/Level-up/Repeat.

I understand that people want dungeon crawls to be more like RPG's but they are just different beasts. I think it's okay to want to play something more story driven versus something more tactical. The reciprocal is also true; sometimes you just wanna hack-n-slash versus having tons of dialogue with long story arcs.

Maybe this accounts for the popularity of Arcadia Quest and Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia. Simplicity of setup and play, optional campaign.



 
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Good thread.

Fwiw, The original Gygax D&D games, from which dungeoncrawl came from, had no lore whatsoever -- or even a campaign! He'd call up some friends, they'd gather up, and he'd pretty much wing it during the afternoon and evening. He didn't even think there was demand for modules, and the first ones were based on the D&D tournaments (!) which were all tactical and getting through a series of encounters. Since the same module was run by different gamemasters, it had to be straightforward so each gamemaster would run the dungeon the same way. This led to pretty much tactical fighting, and "tricks and traps".

More reading for the D&D enthusiasts! : http://dmdavid.com/tag/from-blackmoor-to-dungeons-dragons-th...
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Adam D.
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For my part, I agree with a lot already listed (leveling, etc.) but I also really want to know there'a a sense of purpose behind what's happening in the dungeon. The stuff where you open a 10' by 10' room and there's... (roll d6 and consult chart) feels boring.

The concepts behind arkham horror card game and mansions of madness I think are a hint of what could be possible if streamlined and improved, but setup is a problem, and needing an app is not optimal imho.

Anyway, fun to speculate.
 
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I dont want to say too much on this yt because one of my designs is a dungeon crawler and Im not ready go reveal it yeg 😁 With that said, one of the most important elements in dungeon crawlers for me is growth, improving characters, making them unique, facing bigger and badder enemies for phat lewts. This is the core of my dungeon crawler, a game wih deep and rich growth.
 
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Benjamin Sperduto
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I've always felt that dungeon crawler board games are more about delivering the tactical combat experience and stat progression/loot acquisition of RPGs. Straying too far from that gets you into the type of abstraction that board games don't do well. Now, you can dress all that tactical stuff up with story elements via a card system or something like that, but it's always going to feel a bit "railroady". Descent, for instance, had lots of RPG window dressing, but all of it was underpinned with very specific game mechanics. Even in the campaign option, you didn't really get to "choose" how you confronted the Overlord beyond customizing your gear loadout and stat progression.

Unlike RPGs, board games generally have very few mechanisms in place for improvisation. They provide very specific situational rules that preserve the overall balance and design goals of the game. Sure, you can change all that and do what you want, but you might break the rest of game in the process. With RPGs, the system's basic resolution mechanic is usually flexible enough that you can apply it to any situation the players might throw at you.

All this is a long way of saying that adding story and character elements to a dungeon crawler board game is probably always going to feel unsatisfying to some extent.
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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Sam and Max wrote:
Good thread.

Fwiw, The original Gygax D&D games, from which dungeoncrawl came from, had no lore whatsoever -- or even a campaign! He'd call up some friends, they'd gather up, and he'd pretty much wing it during the afternoon and evening. He didn't even think there was demand for modules, and the first ones were based on the D&D tournaments (!) which were all tactical and getting through a series of encounters. Since the same module was run by different gamemasters, it had to be straightforward so each gamemaster would run the dungeon the same way. This led to pretty much tactical fighting, and "tricks and traps".

More reading for the D&D enthusiasts! : http://dmdavid.com/tag/from-blackmoor-to-dungeons-dragons-th...


The book Playing At The World that is recommended in that article is indeed very, very good. Also all of the Conan books mentioned (and most other ones by REH) are also good (and only reason I read them is that I read about them in Playing At The World a few years ago).
 
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