Prototype: A New Approach to RPG Adventure Mechanics
Adventure Mechanics Prototype
I will try to describe the Adventure mechanics concept as clearly as I can:
You have a dungeon. It is a container for interesting encounters. How many encounters? That depends on the size and difficulty of the dungeon.
Let’s think of an encounter as a card. A card can be overcome (completed) by interesting choices. Some cards are simple and require few choices, some are complex and have many choices.
If an encounter is a card then that means it could come from a source of many cards called a deck. A deck is for cards that share a similar theme. What kind of theme? Underground, ruined temple, under water, fire caves, spooky forest, whatever we desire.
This means that a dungeon can be created by picking a theme deck, shuffling it, then drawing the required number of encounter cards. The more cards, the longer and more difficult the dungeon. The less, the easier.
This also means that no two dungeons are ever alike. If you don’t know what to do in a particular dungeon you can’t call and wake me at home because I don’t know either.
Now the makers of Skyrim tried this approach with Daggerfall. Unfortunately, they were dealing with 3d geography from a set of templates and it all got very repetitive. So the lesson here is that if you have to navigate a virtual space, the random shuffle of cards is difficult to pull off unless you have a ton of cards. And this is precisely what Bethesda has been doing up to Skyrim: making smaller and smaller cards that fit better and better together to not look repetitive. Because I’m using text instead of 3d modelling, I think I can have more cards than Bethesda.
Now unlike a board game where you really are limited to physical cards, I’m using virtual ones. Which means a card can have something randomly interesting. Instead of being attacked by one orc, it can be 1-6 orcs. Instead of a door of difficulty 5, it can be from 1-10.
I can push this further by adding modifiers to the cards. If I were to take just three decorators, like say, a bubbling magical fountain, a flower with noxious fumes, and a strangely colored potion, they can be added to any card. So instead of it being a 10ftx10ft room, it’s now a 10ftx10ft room WITH a flower of noxious fumes. Without the flower it’s a pretty obvious choice to search the room for loot. But now, do you risk it? Will the flower effect you in some adverse way? You may now see that with 10 base cards and 4 modifiers suddenly we have 40 possible cards. Granted, finding a noxious flower in 25% of the encounters is pretty boring, but I hope you can see the beauty and possibility of a properly stocked system.
So this is what I need your help doing: testing this theory in practice. It’s a big one, because if the adventures are boring and suck, then no one will play Archmage Rises beyond the character creation screens. But if it is engaging and wonderful in the way ROGUE, ADOM, and NETHACK are, then people will play Archmage Rises for the rest of time. Or at least until the next Blizzard, Bioware, Bethesda, or some other company name starting with B is released. :-)