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[Dungeon Crawl] I may have encumbered my system with to many cards...

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Joined: 11/13/2015

Despite a slew of dungeon crawlers lately I've always wanted to make my own. Unfortunately I've run into a problem with what I think is a 'trying to please everyone' route.

My inspirations for the system come mainly from Heroquest/Advanced Heroquest ... but my initial feedback on a desired dungeon crawler many said a GMless and randomly generated system like Warhammer Quest is preferable.

Although I feel I've meshed elements of both, the end result is ... lots of card decks, 15 to 20 in fact. Cutting out some decks cuts out an element of depth, which may or may not be a good thing. I'll go most of the main decks and see what you think.


Dungeon Deck: Simply enough, when you prepare to exit one room/passage tile to another you draw a Dungeon Card which shows you the new room to place. It also tells you what other cards to now draw. # Doors, # Environment, # Encounters ... it also shows a # Hazards that can be triggered and how many times the room can be searched (sort of Shadows of Brimstone scavenging style).

Door Deck: When you draw a dungeon card it may tell you to draw a number of door cards, which maybe things like 'A Wooden Door' 'An Iron Door' 'No Door' 'A locked Wooden Door' etc. This is probably one of those decks that may get the axe.

Environment Deck: A dungeon card may also say to draw a number of these cards. These are for randomly determining Heroquest style furniture to be placed in the room such as treasure chests, book shelves, tables, cupboards, etc (A card can than be discarded so you don't run out of furniture) ... mixed in are more 'ambient' cards like 'this room is very dark, -1 to hit' 'this room is flooded, -1 to move'.


Encounter Deck: Usually entering a new room will have you also draw an encounter card as told indicated by the dungeon card. These will typically have you place monsters on the new room tile to fight, although you may get occasional 'flock of bats is startled and flies about in your face' or 'You come upon a chained prisoner'.

Hazard Deck: As before a dungeon card also has a number of hazards, if a character rolls a 1 to move in that room marked with 1 or more hazards draws a hazard card and resolves it. Other events may trigger hazards too.

Treasure Deck: One of the results of searching is treasure, which is a reward for the players ... giving them a useful item or gold (I considered having hazards rolled into the treasure like heroquest originally did, as it provides the punishing the greedy mechanic).

Generally the player starts off with a few of these, than the rest of the decks are 'put away' so to speak.

Magic Decks (Air, Earth, Fire, Water): Four decks of spells for magic using characters, they choose an element to begin with and take so many cards from a deck (Alternatively there is just ONE generic magic deck to draw from).

Skill Decks (Combat, Strength, Agility, Knowledge, ?): More for advanced games. As the players win more games they can add skill cards to their character, which are basically the physical equivalent of the spell cards (It is either one single deck, with cards marked as being of a particular skill type, in brackets above, or each type has its own deck).

Starter Gear Deck: As well as the players getting specific starting gear for their character, they often also draw a few extra generic starting items to begin a game with (Could be torches, rope, provisions, etc). Some items are generic items are still character specific and players may trade with each other cards they cannot use for ones they can.


Equipment Deck: Used in advanced 'campaign' games, characters can use gold gained from treasure cards to spend on new equipment cards that enhance the player's character(Supposedly something like the North American version of Heroquest can be implemented where you have a simple purchase board/page in the rule book).

Artifact Deck: Like equipment but cannot be purchased, none, one or maybe at the rare outset TWO will be drawn over a game as major rewards for beating a game.

Chest Deck: Sort of a experimental idea deck I had. As mentioned in environment deck, treasure chests maybe placed on the board, when opened you'd flip a chest card which may tell you how many treasure cards to draw, that its booby-trapped, locked or even just empty. This was mainly because I imagined the traps on chests working different to normal hazards, but it might just be complicating things.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
Feature Creep

Mortimer wrote:
Despite a slew of dungeon crawlers lately I've always wanted to make my own. Unfortunately I've run into a problem with what I think is a 'trying to please everyone' route.

It's what's commonly known as "feature creep" in the video game industry. My old professor (who owns Victory Point Games) calls it "kitchen sink-itis"(you've got everything in the game...even the kitchen sink!)

This is a common issue with early or first time game developers. It IS a bad thing, but it's not bad because it teaches the designer that they need to streamline and think really carefully on how they present their designs.

In the game I'm currently creating, there's a enemy/encounter deck, a loot deck, and a bullet deck...and I think that's a little much. Still, I can do a lot of things with these decks and I've engineered my game to allow for a diverse way of storytelling using the enemy/encounter deck.

You can try and combine some of your decks to streamline your game...your Door Deck could be a part of your Dungeon Deck and your Environment Deck could be a simple dice roll with results put against a chart for simplicity.

I can suggest other ways, but you know your game and how it functions so you know what changes are optimal.

Joined: 11/13/2015
Fat Trimming


The Door deck is mainly for some roleplay complexity, it could probably be dropped and doors can just appear on the Dungeon Card's room diagram.

Environment deck ... maybe it can be axed, with furniture just being part of the room like above ... this kind of makes things a bit generic, a particular room will always have X in. Although looking again at someones playthrough of Shadows of Brimstone, some of the ambience type cards could be rolled into the Encounter Deck, you 'encounter' a treasure chest maybe?

Treasure and Hazards maybe able to be rolled into one, still debating it, there is instances where I want a player to DEFINITELY draw treasure and others where they DEFINITELY draw a hazard.

I think Magic and Skill decks can stay, mainly because I (and I think my particular audience) likes to have those at hand and they aren't to much more intrusive on play (well, no more intrusive than having to look up a reference sheet or page in the rulebook?). But they may still get compacted in single decks each, especially Skill cards.

Equipment could probably go and be turned into a chart. Starting Gear is just an idea so far, so it might go as well. Artifact cards I think I will have remain, as they are even less intrusive, and I like the idea of player being able to 'physically' take a reward.

So between 6 to 10 decks now.

I suppose I could have some of them as sort of kickstarter (if I get that far)extra: Equipment, Door and Chest Decks, with expansion rules on adding them to the core game.

BoardGent's picture
Joined: 09/04/2016
Depending on your audience

You may not need so much trim. Some people like having a huge amount to look at, and, more environment customization makes it a much more replayable experience.
It will, however, probably be harder to balance everything out with so many elements to play around with. I'd say keep hazards and treasures separate though. You won't have to deal with working out how you want the percent split-up to go. Or, if you do roll them together, it might help you figure how punishing you want the game to be.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013

BoardGent wrote:
You may not need so much trim. Some people like having a huge amount to look at, and, more environment customization makes it a much more replayable experience.
It will, however, probably be harder to balance everything out with so many elements to play around with. I'd say keep hazards and treasures separate though. You won't have to deal with working out how you want the percent split-up to go. Or, if you do roll them together, it might help you figure how punishing you want the game to be.

It will have to come out in game testing. There are games like Arkham Horror that have tons of decks and chits and just feels too complicated while games like Eldritch Horror have a lot of decks and chits, but feels FAR more streamlined.

Joined: 11/13/2015
I think I have myself an

I think I have myself an idea.

The Dungeon Card as above shows a diagram of the tile to be placed. It also shows definite exits and possible exits (A passageway for example will have one definite exit, but a regular room might just have two possible exits).

Definite exits are marked with an entry right away. If the dungeon card calls for an encounter card to be drawn, on the encounter card it will have a symbol to add one or more (or none) of these possible exits ... maybe with symbols for locked doors etc.

In a similar way, basic furniture will be displayed on the tile diagram on the dungeon card and the 'environment deck' gets replaced with a more ... 'unique setting piece ...deck?' (name pending ... objective cards?) which is only drawn for major center pieces of the dungeon, this could include be a grand throne, a sealed tomb, evil altar, or a treasure chest (Maybe treasure chests like doors, will appear as a symbol on certain encounter cards, especially tough fights).

Joined: 08/21/2015
I agree that including exits

I agree that including exits and doors on the dungeon cards is a good idea.
I would then combine the hazard, environment and encounters decks, so that
the dungeon card need only indicate one type of object - which could be any of these things - the dungeon is dark and you can't see very much or clearly beyond your small circle of torchlight... So an object card could be a trap, a monster, a chest, or just an item of furniture. And these cards could have instructions to draw more cards from the object (or another-eg the equipment deck) deck if investigated/opened/broken/defeated. If that happens, you can put a marker counter/cube/chit on the object to show that it is used up (or what it is, if it is a piece of scenery)

I might combine the magic and abilities decks into one, or (being a long-time nethack fan), I might make the magic linked to specific objects (scrolls, spellbooks or potions). Or both.

Lastly, I'd combine the treasure and equipment and starting item decks, that is, have treasure just another type of item that you can find. For starting equipment, you could either give each player certain specific cards and shuffle the remainder. You could even take out and shuffle a pre-defined selection of items to randomize some of the starting gear. I might actually keep the special artifact deck separate though.

So the process would go like this: you enter a room (draw a dungeon card) then decide to approach one of the objects marked (draw an object card) - it is a black stone box with nasty runes on the outside (draw three object cards if you want to open it). You decide to open it, and draw the three cards - a ghoul, a gargoyle and a giant beetle. You fight the ghoul and defeat him - his card says you may draw an equipment card. You fight the gargoyle, and defeat it - the card says that once you defeat it, it screams and something appears - draw another object card.
And so on...

n8ath2o's picture
Joined: 03/24/2016

When I'm designing a game I always imagine it in the simplest terms possible. Anything I want to include beyond that can be released as expansions.
This allows players to
#1 - spend less money for a new game.
#2 - Have time to master the basics before incorporating advanced sets into it.
#3 - It allows you to make corrections and alteration before going public.

If you think everything is perfect and no corrections or alteration will ever be needed, Expansions can be released at the same time as the original.

Just like in sales... K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). This system has worked in marketing for a century, let it work for you to.

Joined: 11/13/2015
I do tend to naturally go for

I do tend to naturally go for complexity ... there is something set in me against making things to simple ... I just want that right amount of crunch I guess ...

In fact its when I go back try and simplify my ideas I get abit stuck on how to do it.

Joined: 10/21/2016
n8ath2o is right.

n8ath2o is right. I think that every part of the game is needed, should be kept. Every part that isn't should go out in expansions or you must find a good way for people to easily understand it in the small sliver of time they have when they are noticing your game.

If you overload the game with various different cards, and if they have no direct real life correlations, it won't attach to people's minds well. You need to KISS their asses. You need to keep everything simple, make it simple enough that they can get absorbed, and then show them what the game is about.

The amount of individual ideas on the pieces is proportional to how long the learning and emotional curve is. To help make the curve a bit weaker and keep its depth, you must make those parts easily understandable. I think special dice(s) and possible non-card ways to showing the game would do well, for each part of information would be more easily categorized when learning.

Joined: 05/11/2010
I think what you have done,

I think what you have done, is early on you ran into a problem where you needed another deck, and made another deck. It may have been the right decision then, but after that point, EVERY time you ran into a problem, you decided that the solution was another deck. I am actually interested in a more complex and varied dungeon crawl game, so you may have the right idea. But there are other solutions to some problems than new decks.

For example: instead of collecting treasure and items separately, as long as all of your items have a treasure value, then you can just draw from the items whenever you are meant to collect treasure, and put it in your treasure pile.

Another example: you say that the skill cards are the physical version of spells. Why not simply reuse the spells? They can have an alternate effect when used as a skill vs as a spell. Maybe some of them are used for only magic, some only physical, and some can be used by either.

Another example: You say sometimes you want to insist a player draws treasure and sometimes you want to insiste they draw a trap. But this is easily accomplished with a mechanic like: "Draw until you find a trap"

Example numero quatro: chest cards could be a treasure card. When you draw it, instead of collecting the treasure like normal, it lets you look through the deck for more treasure. But maybe if you turn up too many hazards, the chest springs a hazard of it's own.

As an experiment and to help break you out of that mindset, see if you can redesign your game with a single deck. No, that's probably not how this game should be. But it might be a nice constraint to unlock some other ideas for you. After that, try to determine what the ideal number of decks will be for your purpose.

I think that you should try to please as many as you can, but ensure that the complexity is in the right place. I think if you go too far to try to emulate digital games on tabletop you may lose what makes tabletop special. There should be more depth and engagement going on in the players' heads than in the components.

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