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Dungeon Crawl where combat isn't Peramount

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Redcap
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Think dungeon crawl, you are the hero, you gain levels, you work to defeat monsters, you collect gold. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Now think, one person has to be the DM, the Game Master, the Dungeon Keeper, the monster mover, the whatever you want to call it.

I have some unique elements to the game and will disclose them later (Holding off now not because I want to be secretive, rather not enough time or room to write right here.) but what I am looking for as far as help is ideas of how to make a dungeon crawl more about wise use of ones skills and less about glorifying the guy with the most magic weapons and strength. I want a game where the wizard is not only useful because of his fireball or his healing, but rather making tasks like lighting a dark passage way as important and fun as killing a dragon.

So in short, what skills or dynamics might be introduced into a dungeon crawl to help take the fun and focus out of only killing monsters (That will still be fun too) and more on using ones skills in a clever way?

Here are some of my solutions:

Award Experience for doing necessary tasks that are taken for granted, like healing. The closer to death someone is the more experience you will get for saving their behinds.

Putting more situations in the game that will kill the fighter-esque characters easier than the wizard type characters.

Skills that let you roll with your teammate in certain situations to give you the feeling that you contributed and were necessary in the completion of a task.

I am open for input...

simons
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What are your new obstacles?

I’ve always seen a dungeon crawl as just an excuse to kill lots of monsters. If you can turn it into more, great!

I guess the questions I’d ask are what is the point of your game, and what are the obstacles? In a normal dungeon crawl, the first would be “Get to the end,” “Grab the treasure,” or “Kill the boss,” and the second would be monsters, and to a small degree traps. What are the new obstacles (since if monsters are still the main obstacle, chances are the game will still be about killing monsters)?

And one more though, I’ve read discussions on RPG forums about why players so often tend to make combat-oriented characters, and the reason tends to be that combat is much more dangerous than non-combat situations. So, keeping that in mind, is there a way to change that equation to make non-combat skills just as life-saving (if not more so) than combat skills? How could you make Light as important as Lightning? What possible situations could you introduce that would be as frightening as a hoard of orcs?

A couple ideas I had (take them or leave them):
First, make the parties all-wizard, and give them a limited number of spells. Maybe make them choose between groups of combat and non-combat spells (so that you need a few lightnings to kill dragon, but also a fly to get over the pit). I always figure that when there is a resource scarcity, it makes things much more strategic (or is strategy what you’re going for?).

Second, (my inspiration for this is the video game "Left 4 Dead") put some kind of reason for your party to stay together. For example, make it easy for a single character to be pinned or overwhelmed (maybe they can kill only a couple monsters a turn and have few HP, but can be revived if knocked unconscious). I mean, to make this interesting, you would also need a reason for them to split up.

Third, put characters in situations where they could do a non-combat task OR fight a difficult battle (“Drat, the door is locked. The only way around is to cross through that creepy looking graveyard.”).

Fourth, make a dungeon that the generally cannot brute-force their way through, but give them other options (as to what, I'm not exactly sure, besides suggestion #3).

apeloverage
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I've been working on a similar idea for a while.

One way could be to make recruiting and trading with the occupants of the dungeon as important as fighting them.

Another could be to make getting lost a real possibility. The usual convention in dungeon-crawls is that the characters are perfect at mapping and having a sense of direction, and don't get turned around even after a fight for example.

Yet another could be to make finding food a major goal (which could partly be done by trading).

Redcap
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Getting lost is an

Getting lost is an interesting idea, maybe hard to implement but I will think about it.... I thought about it and know how to do it! Where a door is in a normal dungeon crawl the next room is right next to it. I am going to have it that a player makes a roll when leaving a room and has the chance of finding a side tunnel and coming out either where it lead originally, a different explored room, or somewhere else all together.

If they end up somewhere else they may lose a turn or two before they come out right. Characters with higher intelligence will be able to navigate better.

Also if the group stays together then I will let them add to each others roll when navigating. Hence making them want to stay together.

Monsters wont get lost, but may sacrifice a turn or two to "warp" from door to door. This will be equivalent as to using their many short cuts.

There will also be doors with intended confusing tunnels which will force the characters to roll higher when navigating.

I love the idea, you don't mind me using it right?

Now on to Simons comment:
I think making other situations just as dangerous as combat is the way to make it more strategic indeed. I am going to make finding light extremely important. If you can't see I am going to make it so that even the toughest warrior will just be stabbed in the back and die easy enough. Hence a wizard with a spell of light is more important than a wizard with a fireball spell.

Swimming important. You have too much armor on... well better take it off so you don't drown. Hence making weapon beefs something hard to do.

Eating... I don't know, hard to manage sometimes. Just one more thing you have to keep track of and the game play isn't suppose to represent more than a 3 hour period of time in real life. How much do you need to eat in 3 hours?

There are already traps in the game that focus on killing strong dumb characters easier than quick smart characters as well, so unlike most dungeon crawl games the traps are extremely troublesome and will have characters wondering whether or not there are traps. So the warrior character will never want to just rush into a room because he is afraid of getting hit by poison darts and the rouge is afraid of rushing into a room because it is dark and the wizard is afraid of rushing into a room because of the monsters.

Any other ideas? You have given me a lot of food for the fire! Thanks!!!

JuggernautJ
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Joined: 02/14/2009
Crawling

One thought re: getting lost. Many excellent Dungeons of days-gone-by had a room or two which would CAUSE misdirection. The simplest instance might be the old "Octaganol Rotating Room" trick in which a room with up to 8 doors noticably (or not) rotates so that the directions are askew.
Ex: You enter an eight sided room with four doors from the south. You head north but unknownst to you the room has rotated 90' clockwise. You actually exit the room going East...
Another old trick is to have a series of identical rooms that are random teleporters. Upon reaching the center of the room the group is teleported (seperatly or together) to a room elsewhere on the map. If the do not realize what has happened the will continue their "map" (erroneously) as if nothing had happened.
In each of these instances it might be the most intelligent characters (or players...) who realize the error of their ways... perhaps a Ranger who always knows where North is or a Wizard with a Compass Spell.

Without making TOO complicated a Magic System you may be able to achieve a certain degree of diversity and usefulness.

I would not want a system where-by there are a set number of challenges and particular spells to overcome them. In that case if you have five challenges and chose the wrong spells for two of them you may be pretty much hosed. In the pit/fly example above (no offense intended) what would you do if you DON'T have a fly spell. Perhaps you mistakenly used it earlier to procure eggs from that Pteradactyl nest?
You might also run into a situation in which experienced players learned the mandatory spells and always divided them up between their team mates or allies.

What if you used some form of Magic Specialisation Classes to determine spell selection? Perhaps different types of Magic Users (Shaman, Druids, Necromancers, Clerics, Elves, etc ad infinitum) each of which gets a list of diverse spells based on their afinities (Primitive Magic, Nature Worship, Death and Undead, Priestly, etc and respectivly).

Within each class of magic might be the solutions to several of the challenges encountered and it is up to the Player to figure out how to use that skill or ability successfully. A Shaman or Druid might turn into a bird and cross the aformentioned chasm with one end of a rope to get the party across. A Cleric might rely on divine providence to allow him to Walk on the Wind. The possibilities are endless.

And, no doubt, so are the design permutations. Have FUN!

Redcap
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Agreed with the skills and

Agreed with the skills and the nullifying of obsticles and the memorization of required skills, my game is a little different however.

So quickly how this game is unique is that the DM laying the tiles isn't looking at a mission book, rather the DM himself has skills that change along with the players. So he may start with the skill to lay pit traps for X amount of points, but if ever a character got the fly spell the DM would have to adapt and vice versa or just try to lay pit spells where the character with fly wouldn't be hitting them. So Say the DM keeps using poison traps, well you will see characters (when opportunity permits) start choosing anti-poison spells and skills. The skill of the player will not be in memorizing the levels, but rather how fast they can adapt their style of play and their characters.

Also I have actually implemented a system like you said where certain classes get certain types of spells and skills. So you won't see a warrior with fly spell, poison resistance, and bash ability. So it goes to playing to your strengths.

So I love your feedback, and strangely enough already had most of your points planned for. So what I am looking for is unique ideas like the spinning room, or other skills that might go under appreciated that I can make important and fun to use.

Final Note* I just gave you a very complicated and detailed game mechanic in about 2 sentences, so if you see any flaws in the mechanic realize I didn't spell out all the subtleties. Still looking for more feedback on creative non combative (or maybe combative) skill ideas . :)

apeloverage
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Joined: 08/01/2008
Redcap wrote:I love the idea,

Redcap wrote:
I love the idea, you don't mind me using it right?

No, go ahead. I was going to implement it in a completely different way anyway.

apeloverage
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Redcap wrote:Eating... I

Redcap wrote:
Eating... I don't know, hard to manage sometimes. Just one more thing you have to keep track of and the game play isn't suppose to represent more than a 3 hour period of time in real life. How much do you need to eat in 3 hours?

If you make the game represent a longer time, there are a lot of non-combat elements which can become more important. For example sleep deprivation, food and water (one of the original Cleric spells was Purify Food and Water), shelter.

InvisibleJon
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Adventuring is hard work =)

Redcap wrote:
Eating... I don't know, hard to manage sometimes. Just one more thing you have to keep track of and the game play isn't suppose to represent more than a 3 hour period of time in real life. How much do you need to eat in 3 hours?
In normal life, I eat at 7:30 AM, noon, and 6 PM. That's a 3.5 hour interval and a 6 hour interval. When doing hard work I certainly drink a lot more water, and I typically eat more too.

Adventuring is hard work. You're carrying lots of equipment. You're performing strenuous tasks, like leaping over pits and fighting for your life against monsters. You're staying constantly vigilant for surprises and traps...

A little break to rest, eat, and drink every three hours seems appropriate to me. =)

All that leads to a mechanical suggestion: At the end of each turn, each character loses one health or a unit of food.

Of course, you could just ignore food. It is, largely, an unneeded piece of fiddly upkeep. it only serves to create a semi-critical concern for a member of the party to address.

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