Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: The Legend of Drizzt Design & Development by Peter Lee

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Legend of Drizzt Design & Development by Peter Lee

Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (The Legend of Drizzt): "The Legend of Drizzt
Design & Development"

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he Legend of Drizzt™ Board Game is the newest addition to the Adventure System. In this Design & Development article, you'll see what's new in this follow-up to Castle Ravenloft™ and Wrath of Ashardalon™.

Heroes and Villains

One of the first requirements of an Adventure System game is a cast of characters. I wanted The Legend of Drizzt Board Game to be a celebration of the entire line of novels written by R. A. Salvatore, so the Champions of the Hall were obvious choices for the players' Heroes.
Each Hero must be exciting to play, because players interact with the Heroes more than any other aspect of the game. Having Heroes based off characters from the novels requires that the characters feel right. Drizzt is a whirlwind of flashing blades, while Regis skulks around and explores nooks and crannies.
To illustrate the best fighters, three of the heroes have a new mechanic: stances. A stance is a choice you make that allows your abilities to shift throughout the game. Bruenor can hide behind his shield, or forgo defense to hustle into battle. Cattie-Brie can be extremely accurate or extremely deadly.
The villains of the novels are nearly as important as the heroes, so characters such as Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle Baenre needed to appear. Choosing the secondary villains was much harder. I first needed to figure out what monsters the heroes would battle in the game.

Multitude of Monsters

Drizzt has fought a ton of monsters, so I had a lot of choice in selecting the creatures to include in the game. Although drow were an easy addition, it was much tougher to figure out the rest of the foes to include. My first instinct was to add King Obould and his horde of orcs, but we just introduced orcs in Ashardalon. Instead, we went with goblins, which provide a nice counterpoint to the drow and serve the entire Adventure Series well.
After selecting the Monsters, I made changes to the Monster deck. One comment about Castle Ravenloft was that the Monster deck is too predictable: explore a tile, place a monster. In The Legend of Drizzt, we included a few Monsters that don't appear exactly three times in the deck. This change allowed me to include a few large miniatures that aren't villains. It felt right for Drizzt to turn the corner to discover a lumbering troll or drider. Also, for the first time, the Monster deck includes events. Instead of always discovering one monster, you can find a hunting party of monsters or no monsters at all.

The Underdark

Many of the iconic locations in R. A. Salvatore's novels are in the Underdark, so I felt the majority of the game's Adventures should be set there. This setting required a new style of art for the tiles.
In Wrath of Ashardalon, we introduced a few tiles that had game mechanics, such as the Long Hallway. Since one of the core elements of this game is exploration, in The Legend of Drizzt, I added even more mechanics to tiles. The simplest tiles, such as the Long Hallway or Secret Cave, introduce small benefits or disadvantages. Other tiles, such as the Volcanic Vent, don't have explicit rules on the tile, but they have links to the Encounter deck that triggers an effect.

First Time Play

It can be daunting to sit down to play an Adventure System game for the first time. One way we helped the first-time player was to divide the card decks into a starting version and an advanced version. Most of the people reading this article can dive straight into the advanced version, but if you're teaching new players, the starting deck helps.
Alternate Ways to Play
For this third release of the Adventure System, I wanted to provide alternate ways to play the game. The villains in R.A. Salvatore's novels are compelling characters, so I introduced competitive play through Artemis, Jarlaxle, and Athrogate to support the stories and offer new mechanics.
The competitive Adventures feature some exciting events that occur in the novel line. One such adventure features Artemis, Drizzt, and Cattie-brie escaping from the Underdark. Artemis has no obligation to keep the renegade drow alive, but Drizzt offers some protection. In other words, Artemis doesn't have to outrun the Monsters, just Drizzt and Cattie-brie.
In addition, a few adventures don't include an exploration mechanic. Instead, you build a set of caves and try to stop waves of Monsters. In the Adventure featuring the drow's attack on Mithral Hall, the heroes must close off the tunnels that the Monsters are using. In another adventure, the Heroes are simply trying to defeat the most Monsters in a competitive way.

A Final Anecdote

At GenCon this year, I was lucky enough to show this game to R. A. Salvatore. We didn't have a lot of time, so I chose the Heros' powers so we could start playing immediately. Bob played Regis, and he spent much of the second half of the game darting in and out of the Secret Cave, a tile where you draw no Encounter cards. At one point, another Hero was hit with the Fall through the Cracks event, a card that removes your Hero from play until the start of your next turn, at which point you emerge on the start tile. Bob remarked that it was the perfect card for Regis! I then happily pointed out Regis's Hide utility power card, which does something very similar. It was a long road to get the Heroes to feel like the characters from the novels, but I think the effort was well spent.

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