A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A crazy idea that will presumably be discarded quickly

In the "crazy idea that probably won't survive past this post" department...

I still like the previously mentioned idea about having some of the game elements having visual elements that integrate with the gameplay. It would be neat if this could persist through to the temple as well, but how to enable that? As I mentioned previously, in a much earlier version, the temple was assembled from a series of room cards, each of which showed a room from an adventurer's perspective, along with several exits and perhaps a testable "feature", like a rope or a pressure plate. Imagine that the temple is constructed as you explore -- you look at the card, place it on the table, pick an exit (let's say you pick "West"), draw a new card and place it to the left of the room card you had previously explored. So yes, somewhat like the most recent version, this temple would be randomly assembled. However, also like the most recent version, your search through the temple isn't a completely random walk: if you've accumulated the right clues, you can know what sorts of features you are looking for, eg a clue might tell you that pulling a rope will open a hidden wall to reveal the map room.

Here's the first departure from the previous version: in that version, there are 8 temple tiles (cards), each of which depicts 1 of 8 features; in this new version, there would be many more cards, and each feature would be present on multiple cards, BUT would be somewhat more overt on some cards than on others. For example, there might be several cards that have a "rope" but on some it's right there in the foreground, while on others it's very hard to see. This slightly abandons the conceit that there is one and only one "solution" to the temple -- in this version, whenever you notice a rope on a room card, you declare that you'll be testing the rope, and if a rope reveals the map room, then the rope you pulled was the "correct" one -- the game makes no distinction between them (*). Since multiple cards may have the same feature, you may want to spend some time scrutinizing each card to see if you can find the feature you're looking for lurking in the shadows of the artwork.

But how do you deal with the problem that this creates, whereby the longer a person looks, the more likely he is to find what he wants? There are two possible ways: the first is to add a timer. This is boring and uninteresting; in game design, it's always better to steer your players with incentives as opposed to limitations. The second is the crazy idea part -- make the temple a real-time free-for-all. To wit, players are all simultaneously exploring the temple. So while you're looking around in the "Treasure Room" hoping to find a hidden pressure plate, the other players could be frantically hopping from room to room, trying to catch up to you, or exploring other aspects of the temple.

This will create LOTS of issues; here are just a few:

1. Originally, players could enter the temple at different times; if you discover the temple and want to make a run for it on limited info, you can, but other players can linger outside the temple hoping to acquire more info before coming in after you. That's easy to emulate here; players announce when they're ready to enter the temple, and only after everyone has entered does exploration start, BUT, for each additional turn that you spent outside the temple relative to another player, you must wait 1 minute before you begin exploring.

2. Movement from room to room could be quite chaotic. To slow this down a bit, maybe each player must count to 4-Mississippi before passing to the next room, so you can't "sprint" across the temple simply by flipping cards. Challenges and traps are probably also a natural way to force players to slow down.

3. Vicarious exploration: This could actually be helped in this scheme; you are the only one who is allowed to look at the card for the room you're in, and when you leave that room for another, you place the card face-down on the table. (Not sure how to resolve having multiple people in the same room at the same time).

4. Rules enforcement: This is the toughest part; how do you guarantee players are following the rules regarding challenges, solution card lookups, etc, when everyone is going through the temple at a mad dash? Typically oversight from other players is the most reliable way to ensure that a given player has complied with the rules of a game; this becomes a challenge when play becomes simultaneous. Maybe some events pause the action temporarily while a given challenge or lookup is being resolved.

5. What about the enemy? Not too sure what their role is; the most obvious thing is to make one of the players be "the enemy", but I'm reluctant to go that route.

(*) If this turns out to be truly thematically unsatisfying, we could always introduce an action-at-a-distance effect, eg you pull the rope and look at the solution key for the "rope" feature, and it says "Map Room = Crypt", and now it's revealed that the "Crypt" room card is the map room, so now you have to go and find the crypt, or get over to it if it's already been revealed.

I think this is ultimately a different game than Lost Adventures, unless the whole rest of the game also became a real-time game (which could be cool as well, but likely too chaotic), but it would definitely successfully simulate the mad dash through the temple in a satisfying way.


  1. Whoa... crazy!

    One thought - about the face down cards with one person looking at a time - the first person to get there gets to look first, and a straggler looks second. That's the cost of being behind! This might not work so well with the idea of hiding features in the artwork though.

    Just popped to mind: Have the group go through the temple together, flip a card and have it be a race to find a particular element. Like Set or something. being the first to find the right thing could be somehow better.

    Variation of that, put several different items on each card, clues from earlier in the game let you know which items you need to 'collect' (find on cards). Each player is allowed to find/claim exactly 1 (or at most 1) item per card, so if I call "Rope!" then you cannot. I mark that down or take a Rope tile or something. When I've collected the proper set, I claim "I've found the Grail Room!" and I show my set and my info or whatever to prove it.

    Another, unrelated note... 1 minute is a really long time. If giving players additional time, do it in increments of seconds, not minutes! I learned this when originally designing Brain Freeze.

  2. I'm actually liking that "Variation of that...: paragraph. Maybe in order to claim "Grail Room" you have to be IN a room with a particular feature (which you would know from the clues), and you claim Grail Room INSTEAD Of claiming a feature. And you can probably do it even if another player has claimed a feature already.

    To encourage a rapid feel, you could say that the last player to claim something gets nothing (a mechanism borrowed from party games like Apples to Apples) - or you can reward players who got to the temple first by claiming items in a turn order (the sooner you got to the temple the earlier you get to pick items)... which may be too good for the person who got there first, but that could be dealt with, perhaps with a rotating turn order (say player 1 becomes P2 for the next card, and P3 for the 3rd, etc)

  3. Good points Seth. I know Zev was at one time advocating a temple exploration phase in which there's only a single moving piece, and players take turns controlling it. I like the alternative idea of having everyone in the same room at the same time, except that they all have something to do. And it's thematically reasonable; in almost all of the films, Indy and the villains are all in the same place in the temple at the same time at at least some point.

    I guess my concerns would be, besides the issue of how to resolve which way the group moves, what if someone wants to break off from the group and explore on their own (ie to sneak off and look for something they believe the rest of the group may have missed), and more importantly, will it still feel like a race or a mad dash?

    What I think I most like about a "real-time", or "simultaneous" approach to the temple, is that it should limit the length of the temple phase. So after a 90-120 minute external phase, the endgame doesn't then last another 45-60 minutes -- it brings the game to a speedy conclusion. Of course, it will have a different feel from the external phase, and that tonal shift may be unsatisfying to some (many?) players -- "we started out playing a strategy game, and then it ended with a gussied-up version of slap-jack!" Not sure.

  4. Consider the Last Crusade - the different factions didn't split off or race for the grail. So maybe it's acceptable, even appropriate, to have the players progress through the temple together.

    As for 'which direction to move the pawn' ... I don't see why there wouldn't simply be a linear path of cards, encountered 1 at a time, until someone claims that they've found the grail room or whatever.

    Of course, this is all academic, as I agree with your assessment: this would be a different game, not Lost Adventures.

  5. Re-reading this post and the comments...

    I still like the idea of a Dixit-style Temple 'exploration' - a linear path of cards encountered 1 at a time, and for each card, each player gets to claim single thing - either a particular item (rope/lever) or a particular feature ("I think this is the Grail Room, I'm testing it"). This could be a real time thing, where the first player to call a particular thing precludes other players also calling that thing. Or it could be based on some kind of turn order. Or players could simultaneously play a card face down, then reveal - they would have cards for each item that could be claimed.

    Of those the thing that sounds the most exciting to me is the race-to-call one, though then you have potential problems with ties I suppose.

    In any case, as you reveal this path of cards and player claim things, eventually a player will have claimed the correct stuff to find the grail room. Maybe if the cards run out and the Grail room hasn't been found, then the Enemy has found it.

  6. That video I linked - you could start at 16:00 and see what I was talking about.

  7. I like the continuity with the encounter system if players are trying to be the first to "claim" features of interest on the cards. My primary concern with this approach is that it's hard to see how to preserve the effect whereby players have to choose whether to spend more time outside the temple acquiring info or to race into the temple and try to run the temple with partial information. Maybe that's not as important as we've always thought it to be, and could be set aside, but I don't see an easy way that a simultaneous exploration could still have that effect.

    (Incidentally, the original idea, of a real-time simultaneous temple phase, looks like it's essentially being done in Queen's new game "Escape"...)