You are an old worn-out about-to-retire hero an you need one last score to enable a nice retirement. You have just descended the depths of the nasty Mount Skull and conquered the Demon Knight and plundered his treasure room. Now you must ascend back through the way in which you came. Seems an easy task right? But you are badly wounded, so this final stretch will be anything but easy. To make matters worse, the Demon Knight has not been defeated as you thought and he awaits you at the entrance!
Peril is a solo-play dungeon escape game that combines dice-management and a bit of storytelling. There are a few working parts going on, but essentially you are trying to stay alive and make it to the surface.
In this first Designer’s Journal I want to focus on the player’s character card and the way in which you deal with conflict resolution. I have gone through many different concepts in this regard. At first I simply was using dice. Players simply had to roll dice and meet or exceed a target number to be successful. Of course the player would apply stats and skills in order to modify the results. I found this to be way to luck based and I wanted the player to have more control.
Next, I turned to a favorite mechanic, deck-building. The player would draw x-number of cards and would have to use these cards to deal with conflicts that arose.
I guess now is a good time to explain the basics of the game. The player is attempting to work through an exploration deck that consists of three levels. The first level has 14 cards. The player draws a card and must decide to either resolve that card, or discard it and resolve the next card instead. The player must resolve the second card if they pass on the first. This is a nice push-your-luck element that adds a nice level of excitement and uncertainty to the game. So after surviving the first level you will take 7 new cards (the second level) and add them to the 7 cards in the discard pile from the first level and shuffle them together to create the next level of the dungeon. Repeat this for the third and final level, if you get that far. Make it through all three levels alive and you survive. Along the way you will loose equipment and gain new items. Each exploration card will present the player with a narrative and a couple of choices.
So after a lot of play-testing I landed on the concept of using a dice-placement and management mechanic to resolve conflicts. It gives the player the greatest control over their fate and forces them to make some tough decisions that later they will look back to and say, “I should have done that differently” or “That was a smart move”. Rolling dice or simply drawing cards felt too random and I think it would cheat players of the ability to connect to the character they are playing. They would just as easily blame the dice or cards for their demise as their own choices and I want to avoid that. I want the player to feel the failure on a more personal level if that makes sense. Still, dice are rolled and luck does play a part. Let’s delve deeper!
There will be a few characters that the player can choose from to play and each is very different. Being a solo-play game I wanted players to have options that created variety during play. I originally attached basic classes to each character like warrior and rogue, but for thematic purposes I decided to give each character an actual name. A name that the player could connect to. I thought that was a simple but important angle that will hopefully have the players taking the role of each character more personally.
Each character has three statistics that distinguish them from one another. Agility, Brawn, and Cunning. During play players will have to deal with all sort of threats. Sure there are trolls and goblins lurking about, but there are also traps, puzzles, and other characters to interact with. So being able to slay monsters is still important, but being able to talk to a goblin merchant or avoid falling rocks is equally so.
When presented with an obstacle, the player will be told which statistic is being tested. So for example if you are in combat with a ghoul you will call upon your Brawn. There are three different colored dice, each corresponding to a stat. You will have dice of each of these colors equal to your character’s stat values. So if your character has 3 Brawn, you will have 3 red dice. If you have 2 Agility, you will have 2 green dice, and so on.
So when that ghoul strikes, you must choose a die to roll. Rolling a red die is preferred in this situation, as combat almost always requires the Brawn skill to be tested. So you roll a red die. Now you must place it on a space on your character card. You will notice that there is a space with a number and a space with a symbol. If you place a die on a matching space (meaning you place a Brawn die in a Brawn spot) you place it on the symbol and you may add the the value in the connected square for a total sum. Squares are connected with a skull.
You will continue to draw new exportation cards and new obstacles will arise. Each time you will try to use the correct die to deal with the said threat. However, you only have 6 dice and likely you will be forced to use the wrong skill to deal with a task. When doing so you may place any die on any open slot, but must place it on the number and not the symbol. This means you do not get to add any value to the roll. Ouch! This creates a lot of tension as the player tries to save spots in anticipation of certain obstacles. Thinking short term can create nightmares in the long term.
So what happens if you fail a task? Well, you take whatever penalty the obstacle states or you may roll another die (Loosing one health token) and add the results to your previous sum. You may have to do this a number of times to pass certain enemies or tough threats. There is a catch. There always is…
You see your character is not just trying to stay alive. Yes, there are health tokens, however the real challenge is dealing with doubt. Your character is a seasoned veteran, but they are old and worn out and the seed of doubt is beginning to plague them. Certain encounters will have the player actually take a different type of token, a seed of doubt. You start with zero, but you will slowly gain them. If at any point your health tokens and doubt tokens are equal in number, you loose. Not a glorious death fighting a dragon, but rather your character falls into hopelessness and actually gives up. This is how you loose the game. It does not get any more gritty than that.
So back to your character card and your 6 dice. Every time you cycle through your six dice, you gain a doubt token! So rolling a bunch of dice in an attempt to breeze through the dungeon will only lead to your character curling up in a ball in the darkness to wait their own demise. Muhahahahahahaha!
Much more to come. We have just scratched the surface. Your character has equipment, encumbrance, random skills, and much more. Stay tuned!