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Subject: Abstract Card Based Dungeon Crawler?? (WIP) rss

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Justen Brown
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I have about 100 design docs floating in limbo right now but one genre I always come back to is the dungeon crawler. Unfortunately, even the most abstract dungeon crawler has a million components that would be prohibitive to a new designer. The game I really want to build would be Fantasy Flight massive in its components and scope!

So this is my latest idea for a card based dungeon crawler that I'm really digging right now. The design goal is simple: create a fast, fluid shared deck game that's based around numbers and easy to read symbology like how Race to the Galaxy cards contain a sentence of text within a single symbol. It pains me as a longtime roleplayer not to add in dice but I want the mechanics to be tight and the only luck aspect to come from drawing the cards. The mechanics are inspired by Monster Maker (a long running Japanese card game/video game series) and Gloom, a storytelling game with a very neat theme and design based around transparent cards you lay on top of each other. I present to you...

All Treasure Must be Taken!! (tentative title)

Overview
In ATMT, players represent an adventuring company. As a faceless, omniscient businessman your job is to ensure your sponsored adventurer earns as much treasure as possible while subsequently throwing hazards to stop other adventurers. Each turn you'll build rooms that advance you deeper into the dungeon but leave you open to monster attacks. Winning the game will require careful card placement, a little bit of risk taking, and stacking the card pool against your opponent.

Goal
The goal is to earn as much treasure as you can carry. The game ends when all dungeon cards have been played. The person with the highest valued treasure at the game's end wins.

Dungeon Cards
Each dungeon card represents a room with a certain amount of distance labeled on it in meters. The greater the distance the faster you'll move but high value room have more monsters, traps, and other roadblocks that could potentially slow you down.

Reaching the End
A typical dungeon floor is 100 meters. When you reach the end you "cash in" your treasure. Cashed in treasure is set to the side and can't be affected by any cards (in other words, it's safe). You discard all your current dungeon cards, start at 0 meters, and begin again. Each new dungeon is increased by +50m. In effect, the further you are in the game, the greater the window for players to steal your treasure!

Hirelings
Your sponsored adventurer is a permanent card that represents your special abilities and can be used permanently. Hirelings function like adventurers but usually have a clause forcing them to be discarded after use unless you "pay them" by discarding treasure. Hirelings don't stick around if you're cheap so keep the gold flowing!

Mystery Cards
Mysteries are special cards that you place in the monster pool face down. When you place a room that has a mystery icon you pick up a face down mystery card of your choice and play it. Mysteries can be traps (kill off hirelings or summon monsters regardless of size) or boons (treasure chest: draw two treasures or destroy a monster in the pool).

Equipment, Spells, and Treasure
Equipment modifies aspects about adventurers when laid over them. Enchantments can modify your adventurers or increase the strength of monsters while curses debilitate your opponent's adventurers or monsters.

Some treasure and equipment have a weight value. If the weight exceeds your adventurer's strength then the difference is called "encumbrance." Encumbrance slows you down by that value. If your Enc. is 3 and you place a 10m room then you only advance 7m in that room! In general, high value treasures weigh a ton (solid gold statues, a chestful of coins). Some equipment (donkey cart) or enchantments (floating disc) increase your weight limit.

Playing Monsters
The center of the table is the "monster pool." Thematically speaking, it's literally a primordial pool where monsters and other mysteries spawn. Each turn a player can place a monster or trap in the pool. Monsters are given a numerical rating which is the maximum size of a room they can appear in. For example, a giant rat might have a rating of 5m while a dragon has a rating of 20m. The giant rat can appear in dungeons ranking 5+ meters while a dragon will only appear in 20+ meters.

When playing a room, you have to take the highest ranking monster your room can handle. Monsters are more or less roadblocks: you can't advance until they're destroyed. Some rooms have multiple monsters and each must be destroyed to move on. Some monsters have special abilities. For example, a thief will steal a treasure treasure while a succubus/incubus will charm a male/female hireling effectively shutting off their abilities.

There's a rule here I'm trying to iron out that I think will add a great strategy element to the game. If you play a room that puts you at the same distance as another player then you can play a monster on their dungeon while using your room's value! I think this would also make a great rule for the rogue adventurer like you can steal treasure from players on the same level. In this manner you can balance staying ahead of the other players or deliberately play a card that puts you on their level to block them. Coupled with the retreat rules seen below, you can hound a player continuously at the expense of your own advancement.

If there are no monsters in the pool or no eligible monsters to be played either because they're too high level or you have a special card (for example, undead can't be played in holy rooms), you advance without harassment. Everyone could realistically agree to never play monsters but there are two benefits from doing so: 1) monsters block other players and 2) monsters are worth treasure for defeating them. The primary strategy is playing monsters too powerful for your own rooms while subsequently playing cards that A) hinder your opponents by weakening them while B) ensuring they aren't worth a lot of treasure as a result of their defeat. If you're really good, you can "stack" the pool so that you end up facing your own monsters.

Combat
I'm conflicted over whether I want a dice system or the idea I'm currently tossing around. I really don't want a dice fest although I love roleplaying games and tossing bones.

My current idea is based on the card game Gloom. My cards will be transparent so they can be laid on top of each other. Printed on the four edges of each monster are hearts representing their health. On the four edges of adventurers and hirelings are swords representing their attack. In order to defeat a monster, you have to lay your adventurers/hirelings on monsters so that the swords pierce all the hearts.

Weak monsters have few hearts on only on 1-2 sides. Strong monsters have multiple hearts on 3-4 sides. This is vice versa for adventurers and their swords (weak adventurers = few swords on 1-2 sides, strong adventurers = multiple swords on 3-4 sides). Multiple effects are obviously required to defeat stronger monsters and you can stack as many hirelings and spells as possible. Equipment increases a character's swords or adds swords on sides they don't have which is important. Attack spells automatically generate swords: for example, fireball has 2 swords on all sides while a lowly magic missile has 1 sword on one edge.

Running Away and Bribes
Sometimes you bump into a monster that's too much for you... or maybe you notice your opponent is weak and you want to screw him over. You can retreat from a room by discarding it. This moves you up the track, something you generally don't want! The monsters on that room are returned to the pool. You can play a new room to hopefully get a weaker monster from the pool.

Alternatively, you can "bribe" a monster back to the pool. Bribing a monster requires you to pay them with treasure. That treasure is laid on top of the monster and anyone who defeats it will get that treasure. Stronger monsters require more treasure to bribe.

These two rules were designed to make it impossible to have a set of unbeatable monsters clogging up your boards. The idea is that some monsters are such tremendous road blocks that it becomes cheaper to pay them off than it does spending your resources to defeat them. If a demon requires 5 of your hirelings or a bunch of spells to defeat (and hirelings require payment or they go away), then it may be economically more feasible to pay it than defeat it even if another player could possibly kill it later. Eventually that monster may accumulate so much wealth that it might come back to you when you're more prepared!

-----

Aaaand that's the gist of the game. I still haven't ironed out turn order and details yet. The general idea is that you always play your dungeons first before doing anything else. I want the game to be very meticulous and tightly controlled. It should seem chaotic but have a "logic" to it that experienced players can exploit. Like any good card game the luck aspect of drawing from a deck should reveal unexpected surprises but careful play and good decisions should mitigate or cancel unfortunate accidents.

Right now I'm working on an art style. The game is definitely campy and humorous, evoking that grotesque, cartoony feeling of 70s roleplaying games and "gonzo" fantasy art. I'm looking at Erol Otus, Belgian comic books, and underground zines as inspiration for the art. The actual mechanics of play will come soon after I hammer them out.
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One Armed Bandit
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Quote:
Unfortunately, even the most abstract dungeon crawler has a million components that would be prohibitive to a new designer


Right off the bat, I have to ask if you've played Dungeoneer?

Fabuous theme heavy dungeon crawler, plays with just cards and a handful of dice.

That being said, you do have some really interesting ideas on how to approach this, and I like it.

I am leery of the transparent cards though.
Transparent cards are VEEEERRRRRY EXPENSIVE.
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James Hutchings
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I'm not sure, but wouldn't a dungeon crawl theme encourage people to feel like the game 'should' have a bunch of stuff that it won't have?

The game is presumably going to lack wandering monsters, detailed player skills, player levels, a 3 dimensional dungeon...or if it has these things it'll lack something else that someone will feel is essential for a 'real' dungeon experience.

The other danger is that you keep thinking of things that it should have, until the game collapses or you do.

Maybe if it was...I don't know, an ancient Greek odyssey or something, people would come to it with fewer expectations that can't be met.
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Justen Brown
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palmerkun wrote:
Quote:
Unfortunately, even the most abstract dungeon crawler has a million components that would be prohibitive to a new designer


Right off the bat, I have to ask if you've played Dungeoneer?

Fabuous theme heavy dungeon crawler, plays with just cards and a handful of dice.

That being said, you do have some really interesting ideas on how to approach this, and I like it.

I am leery of the transparent cards though.
Transparent cards are VEEEERRRRRY EXPENSIVE.


I've heard of it and it definitely interests me. I'll have to check it out once I get some spending money.

I don't know how cost prohibitive transparent cards would be. I've seen a quote on a few professional grade printers and they range from $3,000 to $8,000 plus ink and cards as add on costs. I've sent away for a quote from a printer on what 1,000 two color, UV gloss (to keep the images from fading) cards would cost and I'll work from there.

The transparent cards are just something I really like they aren't necessary at all.

apeloverage wrote:
I'm not sure, but wouldn't a dungeon crawl theme encourage people to feel like the game 'should' have a bunch of stuff that it won't have?

The game is presumably going to lack wandering monsters, detailed player skills, player levels, a 3 dimensional dungeon...or if it has these things it'll lack something else that someone will feel is essential for a 'real' dungeon experience.

The other danger is that you keep thinking of things that it should have, until the game collapses or you do.

Maybe if it was...I don't know, an ancient Greek odyssey or something, people would come to it with fewer expectations that can't be met.


Hmmm, yeah dungeon crawler probably isn't the greatest term. It could easily be rethemed into a grand adventure game. Like, every character has to journey for 100 days and each card represents X amount of days on their journey. I don't want any dice or chits except the markers you'll use on the day/distance tracker. The table should be only cards.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Check out Dragon Storm and Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt for two examples of card based RPG type exploration/quest games with relatively easy mechanics. Also RuinsWorld has that sort of feel.

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Sturv Tafvherd
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Actually, considering the random NPC spawns / random rooms ... it reminds me of MageKnight : Dungeons ... adventuring companies that are competing against each other.

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Justen Brown
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Boring Sunday evening, Superbowl is no fun so I sketched a couple card ideas and polished up the rules. The game is no longer entirely dungeon based so I'm renaming the dungeon cards "quest" cards for now. These rules or numbers aren't finalized as I'm currently building a prototype deck.

Components
Three decks: Treasure (52 cards), Quest (52 cards), and Adventure (104 cards). There are 8 character cards: warrior, inquisitor, alchemist, tourist, burglar, robot, organ grinder, and mathemagician. The adventure cards are broken up into 34 monsters, 20 enchantments/curses, 20 mysteries, and 30 hirelings.

One tracking board and four cute wooden blocks to mark distance.

Setup
Each player selects a character card to represent their permanent adventurer and a colored marker to denote their position on the tracking board.

Each player draws five cards from the adventure deck and places one monster (face up) or one mystery (face down) into the pool. Then each player draws back up to five cards.

Each player draws two quest cards and discards one. Reshuffle the discarded cards into the quest deck.

Players agree on who goes first and play rotates counter-clockwise. Why counter-clockwise? Shut up, that's why.

Play
Each turn plays in the following manner.

1. If there are no monsters in your play area then you must play a quest card. Follow all rules on that quest card. You can only play one quest card per turn.
2. You may play any number of adventure cards in your hand.
3. Engage a monster OR run away OR bribe a monster. You may engage any number of monsters per turn. Your adventurer may engage multiple monsters according to the number of swords on their card.
4. Draw back up to 5 cards. Draw 2 quest cards and discard one.

That's the gist of it. Majority of the rules are on the cards themselves. If you land on a floor occupied by someone else then you can give them your monster (I call this "What the hell is that?"). Most hirelings will perform a single action per turn. Further actions or the use of their special abilities requires payment or else you discard them. You also have to pay them at the end of a quest (100 miles) or they're discarded.

Once I get my prototype up it'll be a balancing game of making sure play is speedy. Expanding on the sword/heart concept, a single character can engage multiple monsters on all sides. For example a warrior has swords on all four sides meaning he can fight up to four monsters. Combining this aspect a player can set himself up to defeat multiple monsters with the right combination.

Anyways, a couple of quick concept sketches:


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James Hutchings
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jaybeethree wrote:
There are 8 character cards: warrior, inquisitor, alchemist, tourist, burglar, robot, organ grinder, and mathemagician.


The warrior seems out of place to me, because the rest are getting away from 'vanilla fantasy'.

EDIT: On the other hand, it might be good to have an option for the 'guy who just wants to play something normal'.
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Nate K
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Sounds like fun! And if transparent cards end up being too cost-prohibitive, there's an easy fix. Just have all monster hearts and all hero swords along one edge of their respective cards. The hero cards have to lay alongside the monster cards in such a way that there is a sword across from all the hearts. If that makes any sense. I can see it in my head, but I'm not sure I can properly describe it without visual aids, and anyway it's not as cool as transparent cards.
 
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Meaker VI
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I like your combat mechanic idea; especially that it makes it simple to attack and makes it so you can have monsters that are immune/resistant to some attacks without explicitly saying so. For example, say your slime is flagged in your mind/spreadsheet as "immune to fire" - if all your fire-based attacks have swords along the bottom and right, then the slime won't be damaged by a fire-attack.

kurthl33t wrote:
Just have all monster hearts and all hero swords along one edge of their respective cards. The hero cards have to lay alongside the monster cards in such a way that there is a sword across from all the hearts.


I was thinking this as well (or having hearts along two adjacent sides), but I appreciate the greater opportunity for variety and complexity (and just straight confusion) resulting from putting the hearts on every side. Putting hearts on all sides and then placing your attackers around the monster could be a solution. Specifically allowing/disallowing players to manipulate the cards' orientation relative to each other would also be important.
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Justen Brown
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After having a bit of an epiphany last night, I've settled on how I want to handle combat.

To keep things relatively clean, characters will only have attributes printed on their left and/or right side. For monsters, the left side of the card is attributed to their front and is typically strong while the right side is attributed to their flank which is typically weak. For heroes and hirelings, the sides of the card generally refer to the weapon they are holding. There are three "ranks" of strength: 1-3 is weak, 4-6 is strong, and 7-9+ is "Oh, God!"

Defeating a monster works as before: you have to match a hero's swords to the monster's hearts on all sides. I don't plan on using transparent cards anymore so this is where ranged weapons come into play! Normally, only a single hero may fight a monster on one side. But, if a hero has a ranged weapon, they can support a melee hero by laying on top of them. That ranged hero may also attack another monster on the other side, however, they can't be supported without canceling their support to the other hero. Ranged attacks can't be used unsupported, too.

To put it simply, you stack cards on top of each other so that their icons are showing. You can't stack twice or else the icons will overlap. Here's an illustration to show you what I mean.


In this example, you would defeat the monster because your swords match his hearts.


In this example the monster would survive because it has an extra heart.


In this example you defeat the monster because your hero is being supported by the ranged attacker. If the ranged attacker fought by himself, he wouldn't defeat the monster because he only has one sword. Ranged weapons can't be used unsupported and melee weapons can't be used in a ranged stance.

Equipment works on a similar mechanic but you place the item underneath your hero with the icons showing. In this manner, a weapon is either in your left or right "hand" and adds to your strength. If the hero in example 2 had a bil-de-bec guisarme-voulge with 1 sword, he would have defeated the monster because he would have 2 swords total. Some equipment has different attack values based on the "hand" you equip it on. For example daggers are a melee attack in your right hand and a ranged attack in your left hand.

Now here's some concept art for a gnoll.



No, not the gnome-troll hybrid conceptualized by Lord Dunsany and popularized by D&D. These gnolls are a mixed breed between a giant and a knoll (you know, a grassy hill). It's scientifically proven that giants go through a similar puberty cycle as humans. When a male teenage giant grows bored they... uh... "entertain" themselves as any teenage male would. Now, there isn't much of a market for gigantic Kleenex's so a giant's... erm... "product" is tossed in a hole where it seeps and grows.* The gnoll is the result of this beautiful event.**

Gnolls are essentially sentient hills with humanoid parts. They spend 99% of their really, really long lives asleep waking only to eat, relieve themselves (have you ever wondered why some soil is better suited for crop growing than others near it?), or stretch their legs with a light jog which usually involves the wanton destruction of personal property. The average gnoll grows at a rate of one square-meter per day at rest. There are quite a few tall tales about farmers and townsfolk going to sleep and then waking up to find themselves hundreds of miles away from home.

Gnolls are blind but can sense anything touching the ground up to a dozen miles away. They're vegetarians and can clear entire forests in hunger. Gnolls can't reproduce and that fact makes them very envious of any creature that can bump the nasty. It's said that the only way to awaken a gnoll prematurely is with the squeals and vibrations of embracing lovers on the bare ground. Contrary to a normal night with a pleasurable partner, you should probably get dressed as soon as possible when the earth begins to move.

*The Center for Monster Research would like to apologize for that mental image. Sometimes science can be scary, confusing, and super disgusting.
**Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No, literally, have you seen a beholder's eye? It's beautiful! Just don't tell that to the beholder.
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James Hutchings
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Here's a similar idea from Theodor Kittelsen.



EDIT: This is in the public domain, so don't worry about legal issues.
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Kevin Eagles
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Man, I love your artwork!

Eagles
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Justen Brown
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Thank you. I would love to hire someone more professional but the kind of art I would truly want would cost a small fortune.

It's been a slow week. Tomorrow I plan on whipping up a couple of card templates in Illustrator and begin finalizing the 8 characters. I have some concept art for two that went through some changes.



Warrior has become "Dapper Duelist" and robot is now "Jazzbot." Dapper duelist fights with a pistol in one hand and a rapier in the other giving him mastery over melee and ranged combat. Combined with his smart suit, neat mustache, and suave debonaire he commands the battlefield and his hirelings. His abilities include "...Turn and Fire!" which allow you to flip a monster card upside down (which may give you an edge in combat) and "Southern Hospitality" whereby, once per turn, you reduce the cost of a bribe or hireling by 1 coin.

I don't know what Jazzbot does. He's jazzbot and wins by default.
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Nate K
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jaybeethree wrote:
He's jazzbot and wins by default.


Amen.
 
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The Galaxy is Just Packed!
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You may also want to look at Quest: A Time of Heroes for a card-based fantasy RPG-esque game.
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Steven Green
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Like the concept, but once you have a hero and hirelings that can match ALL hearts with swords, daggers, bows etc, you win all battles?

How do you get around this?

And won't a particular combo then become the norm when you play?

like i said, i like the concept, but the fighting aspect seems limited and will become stale quickly, unless you find a way to overcome these faults.arrrh
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