Monday, April 30, 2012

On Niches and Hunches

by Theodor Geisel.
Dungeonteller is a niche-protected game. 
I've been careful not to distribute similar powers among more than one class, or to design magic items that swipe a signature class feature. Only fighters can sweep two targets. Only paladins can heal. There are no mass-kill spells like fireball to make fighters redundant at higher levels. Rogues are better at sneaking around than anyone else, and no silence or knock spell is there to make their skills less valuable. The things your character contributes to the party mean more if other classes can't do them too. This isn't the one true way, it's just a design choice I made to make character classes more iconic and easier for young or casual players to grok their character's role in the party. And it's that use of role, as in "the job I excel at", rather than as in "a dramatic part I play", that my young players seem to be most concerned with. Within E. M. Forster's scheme of "flat" and "round" characters, I'm more interested in fostering "flat" play, where your character's role is explicit from the start and doesn't require much growth or interpretation beyond the choice of power-ups as play advances.
I've played games where character development is front and center, and those are fun, too -- I should blog about our d20 Modern campaign sometime, called The Wild, The Beautiful, and The Damned, as a counter-example. It ran for three years and, the campaign journal is about 60 pages long. Must be around here somewhere...


  1. I must confess Doug that when you released the game I immediately lost interest as soon as I saw the "teller" part of Dungeonteller, as I have no interest in story-telling style games. But you've made me do a double-take with this post and I love your design philosophy.

    Bugger the bland everyone can do everything way, I want characters who excel at what they do and don't have to compete with other classes to do so. I don't want parties of interchangeable Jack-of-All-Trades out-competing each other over who can juggle the most balls.

    I will have to actually read your rules this time. Thanks.

  2. Glad you're giving them a second look. I'm not a fan of old-school mechanics, but I do have an old-school outlook about the importance of giving each character class its own territory.


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