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Subject: [WIP] Deck-Building, Dice-Rolling, and Dungeon-Delving rss

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Jason
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I'm posting this with the hope it will motivate me to develop my idea for the current Solitaire P&P Contest.

I've been an avid player of roguelike games for the past 15 years or so, and I thought it would be interesting to try and port the experience to a board/card game. Aside from randomness and replayability, the main concept I'd like to re-create is that of becoming better the more you play the game; specifically in regard to understanding the behavior of enemies, items, and traps, and the interaction thereof.

The main mechanical concept is that both the player and enemies are each represented by a deck of cards which may be added to or taken from during play. For example, the player's starting deck will generally consist of cards like Combat I, Basic Magic, etc., which allow them to deal with enemies. When a player is wounded, a number of Wound cards will be added to the deck, reducing the efficiency with which they can fight.

The secondary mechanical concept is that of rolling dice to activate abilities on the above-mentioned cards. This is where the "become better as you play more" aspect comes in. Instead of each card having a static effect, it will have one to six effects, only one of which will occur depending on the roll of a d6. During each round, the player will roll a d6 for themselves and for each enemy, hazard, etc., in play. The player will then choose one of the rolls to be used with their own card(s), and the other rolls will determine which effects are activated on the enemy cards. That may not make the most sense, so here's an example:

I've got a hand of three cards; Combat I, Basic Magic, and Search. The only enemy in play is a Goblin Shaman. I roll two dice and get a 2 and 5. I look at my hand and see what a 2 or 5 will do if used with the cards I have. If used with Combat I, a 2 will give me one combat point; if used with Basic Magic, a 2 will cause my opponent to permanently lose one combat point. However, the 5 used with Combat I will give me four combat points. I know the Goblin Shaman is unlikely to defend well, but I also know it has a particularly nasty attack when given a roll of 2. So instead of taking the 5 for my own use, I take the two and give the 5 to the Shaman.

EDIT: I left out probably the most important part of this. The enemy action card is drawn after you choose which die roll is given to them. Thus, you may have a good idea of what they might do on a certain roll, but unless you've got a very good memory (or are cheating), you probably won't know exactly what they'll do.

If you can't tell, I don't yet have combat completely sorted out. The current idea is to have "combat points" which are compared. If an opponent's combat points are higher than yours for the round, you are wounded.

I realize there isn't much here to critique, etc., but any comments are welcome. One thing I would like feedback on is whether or not the possibility of having to manage several decks at once may be too much upkeep. If four enemies are in play, each will have their own deck, the player will have their own deck, and all of these may need to be shuffled or have cards added or removed each round.
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David Zumwalt
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Well, if I understand your rules correctly then I'd say you have too many options and cards for the monsters. The average monster probably only has a few options like 1) bite you, 2) claw you, 3) use a special attack, 4) run away, 5) surrender, or 6) ? Maybe each monster only gets ONE card, specific to that monster. For example the 3) on the Goblin Shaman card is "Casts Magic Missle". The player might need many cards for special tactics, spells, magic items, etc, but I don't see why each monster needs it's own deck. That's a lot to keep track of plus it would be expensive to print.
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Jason
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davezumwalt wrote:
Well, if I understand your rules correctly then I'd say you have too many options and cards for the monsters. The average monster probably only has a few options like 1) bite you, 2) claw you, 3) use a special attack, 4) run away, 5) surrender, or 6) ? Maybe each monster only gets ONE card, specific to that monster. For example the 3) on the Goblin Shaman card is "Casts Magic Missle". The player might need many cards for special tactics, spells, magic items, etc, but I don't see why each monster needs it's own deck. That's a lot to keep track of plus it would be expensive to print.

The reasoning behind each enemy having its own deck is that if each had only one card which listed all of the possible outcomes, the player would know exactly which die rolls not to choose after the first round of combat. The use of a deck of cards introduces randomness which results in the player not knowing the consequences of their choices until the top card of the deck is revealed.

The deck size of any given enemy will be relatively small, probably five or six cards on average. Two standard decks would cover about 20 enemies. Also, most action cards won't have an outcome for all die rolls. For example, a Goblin Shaman might have a couple cards like this:

Card 1:
1: opponent -3 combat
2: +2 combat
3: +1 combat
4: -
5: -1 combat
6: -1 combat

Card 2:
1: opponent paralyzed
2: +1 combat
3: +1 combat
4: -
5: -1 combat
6: -2 combat

The idea here is that the good and bad outcomes for each enemy will be similar across cards, but different. In this example, the player will learn that higher rolls are bad for the Shaman, lower rolls are good for the Shaman, and fours are neutral. Another enemy may have its best outcomes on fives and sixes, and be neutral on ones or twos.
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Tim M-L
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My initial reaction is that deck building games are at their worst when the deck is small. I just don't believe a person can reliably randomize a small deck.

Beyond that, I would tend to agree that each monster having its own deck would be tedious and unnecessary. Perhaps a limited number of decks for a few different classes of monster would work. So, you would have a humanoid deck for the goblins, ogres, and skeletons, an unintelligent deck for blobs and insects, a sneaky deck for lurkers and mimics, and a monster deck for the dragon and medusa. These could accommodate variations by triggering special abilities that can be unique to individuals. This also allows you to make decks of a more reasonable size that can be randomized and less predicable.
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Jason
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Thanks for the feedback.

I think the archetype decks could work. Instead of special abilities and variation being built into individual decks, there could be special outcomes which occur and refer to individual enemy cards. The only trick there is to keep the player from knowing the exact outcome while still being able to influence it in some way. Perhaps the die roll chosen by the player for themselves could determine which special outcome is chosen. Hm...

My experience with Dominion suggests 16-20 cards is sufficient for easy shuffling. Does this sound about right for the size of an archetype deck?
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Sturv Tafvherd
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binaryeye wrote:
My experience with Dominion suggests 16-20 cards is sufficient for easy shuffling. Does this sound about right for the size of an archetype deck?


In my experience with Dominion, players typically don't riffle-shuffle their cards anyway. Usually they would do alternative methods of randomizing the deck ... like dealing the cards out into 2 or 3 piles repeatedly. I'd agree that 16 cards is probably the best minimum.


I find the general concept intriguing. However, the two suggestions I would have are:

(1) Treat each deck not as the action for just one character, but as actions for the entire group or party.

(2) Try it without the dice first. Put just one or two actions on each player card, and the player gets to select one. The monster cards would always have just one action on the card.

It may be enough that the adventuring party gets to select their actions from a hand of randomly drawn cards, and then the monster's response is limited to a single randomly drawn card. The player might select their best combat card, but "waste it" when the monster card that turns up is a weak one anyway.

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Tim M-L
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If you get rid of the die result chart on each card, you can instead put different orders to different monster classes on each card. So, you could have a card where fire based creatures are strong, ice based creatures are weak, and everyone else just does their default. This opens up the possibility for a much larger selection of monster classes and for any given creature to be in multiple categories.

If you want to keep the idea of distributing dice between the hero and monster, perhaps the die could just indicate the number of cards drawn and all cards are applied to all monsters. So, if you are facing a set of monsters weighted toward the classes fire and darkness, then you might risk giving them the higher die if you know the monster deck has cards that give negatives to those classes.
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Jesters Ghost
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I like the concept. I think having deck "types" that timlillig suggested is probably the way to go.

Elemental, Humanoid, Undead, etc.

Then each enemy is one or more types. you turn over the cards for each type the enemy is fighting, and apply the die roll to all the cards.

Maybe each enemy has a "special", which can occur randomly on all the type cards, if you need to differentiate them further. But try it without that first, as it might be that the combinations of types is enough.

That doesn't seem too heinous a turn:
Roll 2D6.
Assign one for you, one for the enemies.
Turn over cards for the enemy type(s).
Resolve combat.

You can limit your types based on how what you want the worst case scenario to be. If from playtesting, it seems that players don't want more than five enemy decks to handle at once, that's your limit of types.

From the sounds of things, you were planning to handle enemy damage the same as player damage - shuffling "wound" cards into their decks?

That's not going to work with type decks, and I think that would be too much hassle for players. It's probably easier for enemies to just die if you win, just make it harder to win (ie. you have to beat their combat point score by X to kill it).

You could, I suppose, have a "boss" deck, for the end of level/dungeon monsters, which works the same way as the players deck, and when you win you just remove the wound cards from it, but even that might be a pain if done repeatedly in a game.
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Jason
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Thanks for the input!

JestersGhost wrote:
I like the concept. I think having deck "types" that timlillig suggested is probably the way to go.

Elemental, Humanoid, Undead, etc.

Then each enemy is one or more types. you turn over the cards for each type the enemy is fighting, and apply the die roll to all the cards.

I read the suggestion as each card having different types. So for example, the drawn "action" card has effects for the types animal, fire, celestial, and animated. One enemy has the types animal and underground, so the animal effect triggers. Another enemy has the types fire and animated, so those effects both trigger.

I'm pretty sure this will work, even while retaining the dice choice mechanic. Instead of having only types on the cards, there would also be die roll values. Both the type and die roll value would then need to match the enemy type and chosen die roll to trigger. This is essentially the same as my original idea, except that instead of all of an enemy's effects being distributed among a few cards in one deck, the effects of all enemies are distributed among many cards in one deck.

JestersGhost wrote:
From the sounds of things, you were planning to handle enemy damage the same as player damage - shuffling "wound" cards into their decks?

That's not going to work with type decks, and I think that would be too much hassle for players. It's probably easier for enemies to just die if you win, just make it harder to win (ie. you have to beat their combat point score by X to kill it).

Yeah, I've realized using a deck-building mechanic for enemies will be too much work for the player. I may even scrap it for the player and use some other health system.

JestersGhost wrote:
You could, I suppose, have a "boss" deck, for the end of level/dungeon monsters, which works the same way as the players deck, and when you win you just remove the wound cards from it, but even that might be a pain if done repeatedly in a game.

That's an interesting idea. It would definitely make the boss fight seem special. I wonder if it may be too much of a mechanical break, though, after handling enemies another way for the rest of the game.
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Jesters Ghost
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So what happens when you draw a card that doesn't have types for the current enemy?

It sort of takes away the element of knowing enemies, doesn't it? In your original example, you wanted a player to know that a certain type of enemy is stronger with low numbers, say, so you could pick which number to give them based on that.

Multiple typed enemies then become difficult because they may have conflicting ranges.


Handling the boss fight like the player shouldn't be much of a break, since it's the same as the player's been handling their own mechanics.
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Jason
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JestersGhost wrote:
So what happens when you draw a card that doesn't have types for the current enemy?

Likely nothing. If multiple cards are drawn for each enemy, this shouldn't be much of a problem. My current idea is for enemies to have levels, and the number of cards drawn will be based upon that level.

JestersGhost wrote:
It sort of takes away the element of knowing enemies, doesn't it? In your original example, you wanted a player to know that a certain type of enemy is stronger with low numbers, say, so you could pick which number to give them based on that.

Multiple typed enemies then become difficult because they may have conflicting ranges.

Yes, I suppose it takes away the aspect of knowing specific enemies and instead becomes knowing characteristics of enemies. I think this still keeps with the roguelike inspiration; for example all ogres move slowly, but some are able to cast spells, etc.

JestersGhost wrote:
Handling the boss fight like the player shouldn't be much of a break, since it's the same as the player's been handling their own mechanics.

True enough. I wasn't really planning on including bosses, but I may try it out.
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Tim M-L
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binaryeye wrote:
JestersGhost wrote:
So what happens when you draw a card that doesn't have types for the current enemy?

Likely nothing. If multiple cards are drawn for each enemy, this shouldn't be much of a problem. My current idea is for enemies to have levels, and the number of cards drawn will be based upon that level.


My suggestion, and this was not stated very directly above, was to give each card a default value for other categories. This could be 0. So, you could have a card called "dripping walls" that triggers special abilities for water creatures, +2 for slimes, +1 for undead, -1 for spiders, -2 for earth creatures, and 0 for others.
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