Pick #92: Yet Another Dark Dungeon!

Dark Dungeon is a wonderful name - so wonderful that there are various games bearing it - sometimes to my chagrin, as they are confused with my own Dark Dungeon. Still, most are good games in their own right, and this site is dedicated to Dark Dungeon in many forms, so... here's another one!

This Dark Dungeon is a fairly recent Flash implementation of the game you might know as "Rogue" or "Hack!" which used to be played on Unix mainframes in the 1980's. Actually it's nice, and plays smoothly. Enjoy.


Change the Name of the Game?

 The full color print proofs of the new rulebooks are in, and look cool! Apart from the color illustrations on nearly every page, there's one other big difference with the black and white edition... the name of the game. It used to be "Dark Dungeon 2nd edition".

Now I'm rooting for Angels & Dragons. Why? Because there are at least three other games with nearly the same name, and at least one this game is quite often confused with. The other games are nice in their own right, but this one is very different and deserves it's own attention. Hence a new name: Angels & Dragons.

But I'd like to ask you too, before I release the revised full color version on DriveThru.
What do you think? Is Angels & Dragons a good new brand name? Let me know!

And for all of you who bought the earlier edition, yes, you'll get a free pdf update in full color. Of course!


New Rulebook in Color?

Against my planning, I found myself redoing the whole Dark Dungeon rulebook in full color. Here are some samples. Would you think you'd like that?


Pick #93: Star Wars meets Reality

Suppose the soldiers, creatures and droids from Star Wars appeared in our own reality. What would that make for a picture? That's what the work of French photographer Cedric Delsaux is about in his Dark Lens series.

If you don't know about it and you're a Star Wars fan, you might be jarred. If you like documentary photography, you may be jarred aswell. Enjoy in wonder, and join me in a nother thought: what would a Star Wars role playing game be like if we allowed it to mesh in with our reality? Naturally, Star Trek regularly went into its past, into our own time, but Star Trek has a different feel. What about Star Wars? Boba Fet in a parking lot, Imperial troops in Iraq and Shanghai, Darth Vader in Dubai. What intriguing stories can you spin from there?


Pick #92: What does a real sword weigh?

Have you ever wondered what a real suit of plate weighs, and whether you can move around in it if you're not like Lou Ferigno? Or have you ever wondered whether two-handed swords were really as cumbersome and heavy as the older GM guide said in Dungeons & Dragons? Thirty pounds for a sword seems rather hefty to use - that's about the weight of a bicycle. Because, what's the use of a big weapon or powerful armour if it badly slows you down?

Well, here are a few writers who bust the myth. They just tried it on and did their historical research. Plate armour was really made to be easy to carry. Maybe it's not as comfortable as spandex tights for the X-men, but it's surely workable. And two-handers? The well-balanced ones were easy to wield, they say, if you know how to. The less balanced ones were probably never meant for fighting, and if these were used at all, they would only have been used at executions. And how much do they weigh? A few pounds.

Check out what I Clausewitz and J. Clements at ARMA have to say about it. You might also have a look at the extensive information by the Metropolitan Museum in NY or laugh about the Dragon Preservation Society take on this one. If you're not handling swords every day, they may give you a few eyeopeners. They did for me, when I first read them!

Drawing by Urs Graf, borrowed from Dragon Preservation Society, picturing what a true 30 pound sword would look like.


Role Playing 101 #15: Story Gaming in your Dungeon

Last issue I discussed how you can see a Story game as a particular kind of Dungeon. Of course, you can also see the dungeon as a particular kind of story. Even better, you can combine the two different game types - sparking one of the other.

You might already be doing this of course, putting story elements in your dungeon, or perhaps little dungeons in your story. Even if you do, doing this consciously can make it much easier running your game.

Quests: a Story in your Dungeon

If you are more comfortable with dungeon, endless corridors with dangerous denizens, and fiendish subterranean complexes, you'll probably want to start there. Your party would explore a mythic under-earth place, perhaps with some sort of overall goal in mind - perhaps not. Often, you'll just delve toward the deepest level like in a game of "Dungeon Hack" or its modern variant "Diablo".

Stories typically enter such a setting as little "quests". In a room you may chance upon a patron asking your services, or on a dying creature with a treasure map, or even an enemy demanding something special before you may pass. Each of these encounters may spark off little stories, or puzzles, depending on how you use them. These are quests.

Quests only become stories once you also insert scenes. Computer games do this all the time, as "cut scenes" between the action. But these are seldom giving any choice to the heroes, or their players. What you want in a game is some freedom of choice, and choices that matter.

Scenes are a kind of Encounter

Your quests will be small stories, with a beginning and an end, and some developments in between. Each development is a scene - and each scene, is a kind of encounter taking place somewhere. A story can take different paths, and you might want to think up new scenes as you go along - but they can all take place in your dungeon. You just need enough space to have your story in.

Suppose your heroes encounter a band of orcs, who have a prisoner. That's your opening scene for the quest - a encounter with the orcs. Once the heroes freed the prisoner, and either killed, captured or chased away the orcs, the prisoner is very thankful and reveals he was searching a treasure here. He had a map, but he had to hide it while the orcs were chasing him - that's scene two. The heroes may now navigate to where the map may be or first do other things. But once the heroes get to the point where the map is, you can trigger scene three: it's now guarded by a horrible wandering monster, or perhaps it has fallen down a treacherous chute. Once the heroes have the map, they will be able to study it, and this might be scene four. It could be for example, that the heroes now recognize the area of the map, and realize it is a very dangerous area they have run away from before. This may spark of an interesting discussion of whether they want to go there at all.

And so you could spin your little story on further, while in between your scenes the heroes explore the dungeon and have their regular encounters. You may find that your players live up every time a new piece of the story appears, and that it gives new direction to your adventures.

Scenes are Challenges

Each new story element should pose some sort of choice, or challenge. Perhaps the heroes find that the prisoner they freed was part of a team he betrayed, and that that team is also out looking for the treasure. Suppose they now encounter that other team - whose side will they choose?

Also, each scene could end differently, and the story could bend in many ways. The map could end up damaged, or stolen, the prisoner wounded mortally, the orcs might return later in greater force. You don't have to tie down the storyline beforehand (better not!), and you don't have to be strict about where things should take place either. You can also insert a new development of a quest whenever you feel the game slows down, or the players need some change of pace.

An Overall Storyline

Once you are comfortable with quests, or perhaps before, you may want to have an overall storyline to your dungeon too. This may be a main quest, that drew the heroes into your dungeon in the first place. Perhaps they look for a long lost treasure, a long lost race, or a prisoner that was taken in deep. Perhaps they want to defeat an ancient evil that hides on a deep level, and now sends out it's minions to terrorize the world above - this is naturally the classic dungeon theme.

An overall storyline would have at least one opening scene - but you might have one for each new session you start, just to remind your players why they are there. An opening could be an encounter with the minions of the evil mastermind - an assault, a surprise attack, or even a negotiator, or a victim.

During the game, you would have developments. The heroes might beat an important minion, or lose a good friend. They might find a special weapon to fight their enemy, or discover a map proving a new route to his lair. They might befriend new allies in their quest, or free prisoners with new information. Each of such scenes will not only add spice to your dungeon, it will give direction to your game and your players. Most importantly it will enrich your game and make it more fun.


Pick #91: 24-Hour RPG Competition

Have you ever contemplated writing your own role playing game? Chances are, if you've stumbled upon this blog, that you have. Have you ever considered writing one within 24 hours?

With some regularity, the guys at 1kM1kT have a competition to do just that. In fact, there is one now, as I write this during November 2013. You can win 30 sterling in vouchers to meet "your gaming habit needs", and all you have to do is lock yourself up for 24 hours somewhere and write that game.

If you think it's not possible - you may be surprised - I participated four times, and I was both proud and surprised of what I could do in such a span of time. It's quite a boost to see what concentration and time-limits can do for your creative brain. Later versions even became full fledged commercial games of which I'm proud - like the cooperative card RPG Ringworld Zombie.

Even when you don't feel like participating, or if you have no time to do so - you might want to look at the results of others' efforts, and be amazed with at least some of them.