Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pocket Dungeon Crawl

Last Sunday I posted some thoughts about creating a "pocket" dungeon crawl, substituting cards for the Four Against Darkness tables. This morning I whipped up some components and ran through a short dungeon.

Here is the complete set-up.

To the left is the dungeon, composed of 12 encounter cards. I actually made 20 cards (of 2" squares of cardstock) with various monsters / encounters. There was one boss (a mummy), several vermin and minions (beetles, rats, evil priests, hyena-men, and skeletons), a weird monster (chimera), a few special events and features (a wandering hermit, a lady in white, a blessed temple, and a cursed altar), and some empty rooms (which the heroes could search). I randomly selected 11 cards and laid them out in a grid. I added the boss to the last row, mixing it up so I did not know which card it was.

The heroes traveled from one card to the next. In order to create a more winding path, I added a roll to move from one row to the next. A 4-6 indicated that a door led forward, otherwise the heroes had to move left or right. The little sticks between the cards indicate that there is no door. I used a meeple to indicate the heroes' position in the dungeon.
The dungeon with all encounters revealed
It actually took 10 encounters to find the boss (during the dungeon, the heroes had a quest to kill all the monsters so I went back to a couple of rooms that I first missed). I found the size of the dungeon to be ideal.

I also created character cards.
Character cards using tokens to mark wounds
You'll notice that I only had two characters. Through my experiences with my solo RPGs and skirmish games, I found that I prefer a 2-person party. It makes record-keeping a little simpler. However, it also creates a tougher challenge for the party. I compensated by starting them at level 2. Rowan the paladin (warrior) also started with heavy armor. I created a new class for Jacor - a priest, which is kind of a combination of cleric and wizard. He also started out as level 2, with a full complement of cleric and wizard spells. He may have been a bit too powerful, but he managed to use all his spells during the adventure.

I played out encounters on a separate battle board. I don't have minis for all the different monsters so I used meeples. In this encounter, the heroes are fighting skeletons.

Every turn, each figure (both heroes and enemies) could move D3 squares. Because I randomly determined the starting square for each enemy, they would come at the heroes piecemeal. It added some tactical thought to the game.
A tactical mistake! I left my priest in danger!
 Eventually, I decreased the size of the battle board to a 6 x 6 square grid.

After Action Analysis
So what do I think about this experiment?

What did I like?

  • It streamlined game-play considerably because I did not have to shuffle through a bunch of tables. Each encounter card included all the info needed.
  • Playing out the encounters on the battle board added tactical thinking to the game. The heroes could use careful maneuvering to reduce attacks on themselves but could in turn reduce the number of enemies they could kill on one turn. More decisions made for a better game.
  • The Four Against Darkness combat rules still worked well on the battle board. I was considering different combat rules but 4AD is fine.
There's only one from my perspective.
  • While actual play is streamlined, there will be far more preparations needed. It was a pain making all those cards (albeit I did them by hand). Once the cards are done, however, they can be re-used ad infinitum.
Cons for Some People (but Not Me)
I did not find these to be issues but others might.
  • There is no mapping with all the delightful, odd-shaped rooms that you find in 4AD. To me, however, the size and shape of the room is not important. What's key is the story that unfolds, and that comes from the encounters. One positive of mapping is that it creates decisions (e.g. do I go right or left?). I tried to replicate this by using a grid rather than a straight line of encounters. For me, the 4 x 3 grid worked.
  • No treasure! I didn't bother with cards or dice rolls for treasure. As I discussed before, I don't really enjoy treasure hunting. I'm considering of adding a treasure table to be rolled on after completing the dungeon. It will indicate if any special items are found.
Overall, I consider this experiment to be a success!

Now to start work adding to / upgrading the components.

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