Friday, December 27, 2013

Post Holiday Musings

I hope you all had a great holiday season, and will have a safe and happy New Year to boot! It was a pretty good Christmas here. Now my wife and kids are halfway across the country enjoying some time with her brother and his family. So, here I sit in a quiet house with the next couple of days all to myself. In order to fill the deafening silence that now permeates the house, I've devoted some time to watch some Deep Space 9 (I'm nearly done with season 6, and therefore the series as a whole with only season 7 left to watch) and getting my copy of Descent 2nd Edition and the expansions organized (I just picked up The Trollfens expansion today). As is typical, DS9 got me thinking about my set of sci-fi rules that are in a constant state of revision and re-configuring, and organizing Descent got me thinking about another project that I've long thought about: designing a D&D inspired board game in the vein of Warhammer Quest.

I love dungeon crawling board games. Ever since I first played Hero Quest, I've been hooked. Warhammer Quest is still my all time favorite dungeon crawler. The tables that allowed the party to discover what happened to them whilst travelling to and from a dungeon, and what happens to them in town along with tables and charts of encounters in various locations made for a great time. Plus, WQ is deadly. Getting a character passed the first Battle Level is a badge of honor. Still, the game does have its flaws, the first being that is it so blasted deadly that it's hard to hold some players' interest after losing yet another BL1 character early on in a dungeon due to a random encounter with 1d3 Minotaurs! Anyway, I've got a ton of dungeon crawler board games from HQ and WQ to the D&D Board Game (and expansions) that were only released in Europe to the new D&D games, to Descent and its multiple expansions and some lesser known games like Darkworld and Dragonfire. That's not even counting the mountain of D&D minis and the unpainted minis. With all these games at my disposal, surely there would be a way to draw them all together to make one helluva dungeon crawler?

First off would be the rules. I would like leveling to high levels to be possible. Since its a board game, it needs to play fairly fast, which is oftentimes a downside to many dungeon crawler board games. There will be charts and lists to simulate random encounters. Plus, and this is the big one for me, the system should be able to handle both GM-driven and solo play.

Why solo play? For starters, it turns what can often times feel like a competitive game with one player running the monsters with the rest trying to defeat or outwit the GM's monsters and such into a cooperative encounter with all players getting to feel the danger of playing a character whose life is in constant peril. Plus, since my wife isn't big on these kind of games, and my sons are still a bit too young yet, solo play is often times the only way I can play.

I'm thinking of going with a d20-based system mixed with some of the class ideas found in Descent. This will allow for a variety of classes and allow the level of scaling that I prefer. Monsters would be the standard D&D fare, but some powers and such would have to be tweaked not only for solo/random play, but to also speed things up. Such as spell lists for monster spellcasters would have to be truncated/modified to in a set of powers. The same goes for certain powers like a vampire's bite.

Treasure would be randomized, likely using a modification of the random treasure tables I wrote up for Swords and Wizardry. Some items that have little use in the dungeon or that are hard to use in solo play will have to be left out, but by and large most items would be fine to use.

The dungeon tiles would be pulled from the various sets that I have, but I'd likely end up using WQ's since all the cards and tiles are already right there and ready to use.

Now, with all this musing, you'd think I'm starting to get something more substantial on paper, right? Wrong. I've tried working this idea for a long time now. While its something that I'd like to someday get off the ground, it's nothing more than mental calisthenics right now.

My primary focus in my writing is my sci-fi rules and setting. Work continues, and due to the quiet and alone time I'll have this week, I hope to make a lot more progress that I've been able to over the last couple of months.

So, with that, I'm going to get back to work. Until next time...

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