Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spine of a Dungeon, Part 4 (part 3.5?)

Two close up versions at the bottom of the post, below the fold...

Well, the last step kinda happens during the third step - as your filling rooms with monsters, you might start to see how the monsters live and move around in their environment. Or as you work out a trap, you might see how it creates evidence that gives a clue to look for a trap and why someone set it.

Basically in this step, it's hard to describe because your thinking of how the dungeon lives!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spine of a Dungeon, Part 3

Next is a simple chart (a sort of simplification of the random dungeon generation charts). Roll a D6!
1-2: Monster. Treasure: 3 in 6
3: Trap. Treasure: 2 in 6
4: Trick. Treasure: 2 in 6
5-6: Empty. Treasure: 1 in 6 (treasure is either hidden or is itself trapped)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spine of a Dungeon, Part 2

Now in laying out the dungeon, I like my dungeons DENSE! I see no real joy in 60 foot corridors of emptiness over and over - never mind that I'm sure the diggers who made it really wouldn't want to dig a lot for no real reason. But maybe you do and you want to staple graph paper together to accommodate it - fair enough.

Anyway, here we roll on the chart...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spine of a Dungeon, Part 1

I upped the contrast on this a bit to make the path clear for ye, adventurer...
Doing AD&D recently, I've kind of struggeled with room layout. Fact is, as a human you can't really just 'randomly' assign rooms. To make the next room you always rely on some line of reasoning/thinking/vibe/theme, whatever. When really what I want for now is to be entertained - currenly I don't have a big urge to develop a big line of thinking/vibe/theme of dungeon design. Which makes it a bit hard to be entertained when the only generator is you.

Well actually the DM manual has a dungeon generator, but - it appears to produce things I wouldn't find entertaining (oh, another 60 foot corridor? Bliss!). Maybe I'm wrong on that and should give it a try one day to see atleast one result of it.

So what I ended up doing was to narrow it down to the basic structures...

More after the fold...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More reward for higher difficulty is...rubbish?

Might be wrong, but I think that's been pushed in game design (particularly around the mmorpg area) that more difficulty of play aught to equal more reward.

The thing is more reward for more 'difficulty' (where that difficulty is just higher enemy stats) can even be easier than before. Say instead the monster that would normally inflict on average 10 damage over a  fight to your 30 hit points and give 100 gold, inflicts 20 points on average and gives 200 gold. You can then go and heal. Well this is easier! What's the difference between healing off the damage? None and you got more gold? It's just easier than before! The only thing that could change that is a spike in damage (and dice pools tend to average out).

If reward actually tracked to higher difficulty perfectly, then unless there is spiking damage, there is no point, it would always be effectively the exact same difficulty as before, but with higher numbers (though it would cut down on grind, granted!).

Difficulty has to always be incommensurate to reward otherwise difficulty has not been raised. The only reward higher difficulty can really impart and still be higher difficulty, is the knowledge you did it on a harder difficulty.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The plausible escape: Are reloads jarring?

What'd be nice is if more games didn't rely on the reload button for death.

Far cry 2 (despite its flaws) did this really neatly where you had a buddy and if you went down, you had these great black out scenes of him carrying you and shooting enemies. It'd black in and out, making you want to see how bad things were each time (and also skipping some time in between to save you waiting as long, I suspect). After they saved you, they then had to get away themselves (they could get shot doing this) and to 'recharge' their save you had to go meet them in a safehouse.

This is just so much better than hitting reload!

To a small degree lord of the rings online does this as well, in that once an hour you can recover from being downed, so you never leave (ie, jarringly teleport to a recovery circle) where you got hurt.

A way of being beaten in the game, but without the completely story flow jarring effect of a reload.

Or; that's a question - are reloads and their effect on continuity potentially making games less fun for you?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Roleplay: Choosin' your battles

A post on 'story' in roleplaying, combat and the choosing of what combat you do and what combat you avoid. As usual I find I write more in reply to someone on their blog than I can just think of to just spontaneously say on my own blog. So I repeat my comment here:

It really depends on whether you're using the old 'you're strolling along and then monsters leap out in ambush' (which I myself have used far too many times). This cuts off any clue finding on the monster type and strength to a great degree. But even then as they wander you could describe the trails of giant rats or whatever the encounter is as they walk in, then they could pull back and consider another route IF there is another way to continue with 'the story' (ie, if they have to follow a story). If you don't use the ambush thing, you can open up opportunities to scout (wow, the ranger could actually...range!) and gather data on enemy numbers and apparent strength. Or even fighting just one monster in a too easy encounter, so the players get an idea of it's strength when they come in proper force.

The problem with story is it often starts to be put ahead of player choices, ie "What if they choose the wrong route, TPK and ruin the story!? Gah, screw giving them a chance to screw up the story, I'll just make sure every encounter is doable and intervene if that goes wrong!"

Story tends to push an agenda of reducing player choices/the effects of choices to zilch, because like no plan survives contact with the enemy, no pre written story survives contact with the players. Not entirely, anyway.

I mean really this isn't something any edition of D&D covers at a mechanical level - ie players using limited information gained on enemy forces to decide which battle they will head into and which they will avoid. So when it's not mechanically covered...there's kind of the inclination to ignore it. Which leads to needing doable fights, etc.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The whole experience of 1 to 20.

Really this applies to any level based RPG, so whatever level range it has (ie, 1 to 30, whatever is the top level).

I was reading a post of a play account and it struck me how the very short term here and now appears to be a game in its entirety. And heck, I'm talking a possitive play account here, not someone who hated a game from playing only one session of it, but is talking about liking it.

What'd be interesting is like those iron chef or 24 hour game design things people run, have something like a level 20 in 20 sessions (or less) thing, with any system that uses levels. A whole bunch of people just design each adventure to really push as much potential XP as possible while trying to still use the XP system without hacks. Like one of my previous posts, but amped up even more!!!1!one!

I think the accounts of play would be cool! Though it might spoil the 'we played for three years and only got to fifth level!' type play for people who previous dug that.

The main point is, instead of talking about the game using one single session as an example, you would talk about the game from an entire 1-20 stand point!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'I am alive' - faux climbing tension?

I was watching the above demo of 'I am alive' (it's in the first four minutes) and here's a thing: Although it was a demo, it has you climbing and using up your stamina bar.

But really all those climbs are set pieces - the designers and playtesters have played through that and know the exact amount of stamina that will be lost.

It's not like in, say, nethack, where a particular area of dungeon is randomised and you know part of the random elements and so can strategize, in such a case the randomisation might very well mean its not survivable. Or it is, but maybe your strategy wont be good enough?

Here, if I'm understanding it, its a fixed, predecided climb with no strategic element (you just push in the right direction). Well, apart from hitting the extra effort button furiously.

Though I guess you have to see the right direction coming in time. Maybe when you play, especially for the first time, it's hard to know those right directions to climb and that's the uncertainty point that gives game?

Or the raw illusion of doing it all then badum, badum your stamina meter is down and OMG quick bash that button and...

Except it isn't a tension moment where things are going wrong. The designer set it to be that way.

Well, it was the tutorial level and also maybe the combats the real dealio, eh?

'I am alive' intrigues me!

Whoa! What a fart, man!

Heard a review of 'I am alive' the other night. It sounds basically like puzzle combat - who to beat in what order and by what means, as well as stealth and even pure bluff (hold up a gun with no bullets, get a fear reaction anyway!). Sounds like it's been in development for a long time but finally came through, though people are whinging about the graphics. But as one youtube poster said, "Playing games for their graphics is like watching porn for its plot." Or at least for hard games - for casuals and/or people who just want to be flattered after an unflattering day at work, maybe its graphics rather than engaging game play (through difficulty) that you want.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Save or Lie

Reading here about D&D 5th edition

On the other hand, the save or die mechanic can be incredibly boring. With a few dice rolls, the evening could screech to a halt as the vagaries of luck wipe out the party. A save or die situation can also cause a cascade effect. Once the fighter drops, the rest of the party's inferior AC and saving throws can lead to a TPK.
Seems to tie back to my post 'How did death become boring?'

Never mind that you could actually set up a fund for your next character from the prior storing some loot somewhere.

But this 'it's boring'? It just seems to be a code, a way to get around saying 'I don't like losing'. Wait, more than that "I don't like losing, but I do like the flattery of seemingly coming up against a save vs lets have a save vs deathhhhhhhhbutonlyifyouhavexamountofhitpoints! Yeah, I'm totally up against a save vs death, all right! Badass!"

It's not the reduction in risk/difficulty (big woop if someone wants to play an easy game), it's the apparent denial of such reduction that I'm shooting at. You can see the references to a 'good GM' throughout the post. The code is, a good GM works the apparent threat factor of a save vs death, but then never applies it (unless, using the old humbug 'the players do something really stupid'). It's all working on the illusion of death, but never delivering an actual capacity for it to occur. Classic illusionism.

Just drop the concept of save vs death. Or use it. There is no die.

Friday, March 2, 2012

First Person Shooters: Shooting while walking backwards?

In every first person shooter I've played, walking backwards (and maybe side straffing as well whilst walking backwards) has ALWAYS been a useful tactic?

I just wonder how effective it is in real life? I mean, the world/the battlefield isn't exactly smooth, polished plastic like most floors in video games are (no matter what skin is placed over the plastic).

Wouldn't you stumble? Or aim poorly while considering walking backwards blind or even if you worry about stumbling right in the midst of bloody combat?

It's a bit like a double jump: Silly, yet pivotal to certain tactics.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Waves of giant centipedes, with murder in their (many) eyes!

Ohh, he looks frisky! Image taken from here

Recently I've wanted to ensure that when I craft a dungeon, it actually, definitely contributes to the overall advancement to the next level/the overall advancement to level 20 (ie, a full session of D&D/a full campaign).

So I invented an encounter - actually a few but I'll describe the first for now - for a roughly third level party. Basically it's a tunnel down which pours waves of giant centipedes, their fangs dripping with fatal venom! I like to think some goblin shamans actually know spells to charm and heard the centipedes, so they become the goblins private army. The shamans like to send them out, even at long range, to potentially kill things so as to take their stuff and the killed things meat (to eat!). If things go wrong, the shamans run away down escape holes and grumbling, start rearing their next swarm of giant centipedes! Yes, the encounter respawns over time!

Actually, I'll just post a one paragraph rant on that - perhaps a respawing encounter seems screwy somehow? What seems more screwy to me is where the PC's utterly destroy say a group of monsters, but at the same time there is always another source of XP points/another group of monsters. Isn't it a little contrived? How did the first group of monsters come about? What made it? And what made the second group come about? Or the third? They just come out of thin air - which is respawning, but worse, without any nod of fictional causality and renewing process at all. I really prefer there being some boss type who set up the encounter, who sneaks away like a coward to set up another one latter. To me this is better than 'There are more monsters to slay for XP because...because shut up! There just are!'

Anyway, back to the subject. The goblin shamans send the centipedes out to kill. The centipedes get into melee on the third round, being at 160 feet, then close at 10 feet, then melee (they move fast!). Really the shamans would be better off waiting for the prey to get closer, but they kind of expect they wont and will get away, so they jump the gun. Also they think no one could hit at 160 foot range!

They come in waves, the first is a single wave. 1 giant centipede per party member.

After that the players have the option to back off and go somewhere else, or to try and press on, which will trigger...

Five waves,  one every two rounds (ie, one on the first round, one on the third round, one on the fifth round, etc). Again it's 1 giant centipede per party member.

Again the PC's could fall back, or press on to get another five waves as above.

After that, the goblin shamans forces are spent and they are sent scurrying for their lives down escape shafts too thin for them to take all their treasure with them (if they have any - flip a coin!).

The big deal is that this is 16 giant centipedes per player, at 31 XP each. 496 XP in the end, which is about 5% of what's needed for a third level fighter to get to fourth level.

And the thing is, if I were crafting rooms (like putting actual creative effort into making each room), it might take about eight rooms to have the same effect. That's putting effort in but not really getting anywhere in terms of advancement/finishing an overall campaign of this darn game I've never finished a 1-20 campaign of before. I'd like to finish one campaign at least before I die, and without pouring my heart out into a ka-billion little rooms which don't add up to much.

So that's why I invented the wave rooms! Good solid XP injection and then I don't have to worry as much that my crafted rooms aren't really advancing anything much.

But, what if the players don't attempt the wave rooms! Good question, and that's an answer for another post!