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Old 02-28-2020, 03:58 PM   #1
larsdangly
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Default Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

I'm got a lot of things going on with my TFT campaign this winter, but one component of it that has be totally jazzed is a gigantic (possibly infinite - I haven't decided where it ends, if at all...), complicated dungeon. Effectively, I'm making a proper 'megadungeon' a'la the ones you hear about for the OSR, except built from the first blank piece of paper for TFT rather than converted.

Perhaps the biggest decision I made early on was to do this strictly on hex paper, following standard TFT mapping conventions. This is a surprisingly big commitment because a lot of things you might imagine drawing on blank or square-gridded paper get mutated into something else when you are trying to follow the conventions of hex mappinng.

The second major decision I made was to map the whole thing at 1:1 scale; i.e., the smallest hex on my map is equal to 1 hex on a standard Melee battle mat. I have added a megahex overlay, which I also use to guide mapping of spaces that are 3 or more hexes wide in every direction (rooms, wide halls, etc.). This would seem to be harder than mapping at suggested 'labyrinth' scale, where 1 hex = 1 combat MH, but I feel like it is more than worth the effort. There are two major advantages: 1) I have the space and detailed outlines to very clearly indicate where I want things to be; and 2) my dungeon map is literally a direct map of what I will lay out on the table during play. This turns out to be really cool. Effectively , I'm following the convention in the new Labyrinth Hexes that came with DoD.

But pulling back and looking at what I'm producing, the really striking thing is how strongly I feel the urge to make things DENSE. I.e., something or someone interesting is getting plopped down at least every 10 MH or so in any given direction (often denser).

The reason doesn't have anything to do with TFT's dangerousness or the sizes of my map sheets or whatever. Rather, it is an outgrowth of playing for a number of months continuously where we use the MH tiles at the table, with religious consistency. There is a skill to using these things well, but once you get good at it you find that the experience of dungeon crawling is super immersive, and has a tense immediacy: The players and GM are very focused on the details of everything that is happening - almost like every minute of play is similar to the spooky action sequence in a horror movie. As a result, there is a kind of pacing of decisions, observations, encounters, etc. that feels right, and anything much more 'dilute' than that feels tedious and hard to focus on.

Anyone else out there doing something similar?
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Old 02-28-2020, 07:27 PM   #2
Tom H.
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

I like hearing about how people implement their sessions. Thanks for this.

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Originally Posted by larsdangly View Post
There is a skill to using these things well, but once you get good at it you find that the experience of dungeon crawling is super immersive, and has a tense immediacy: The players and GM are very focused on the details of everything that is happening - almost like every minute of play is similar to the spooky action sequence in a horror movie. As a result, there is a kind of pacing of decisions, observations, encounters, etc. that feels right, and anything much more 'dilute' than that feels tedious and hard to focus on.
Are you attributing this experience primarily to the encounter 'density' convention of your dungeon or is this an outgrowth of other factors?
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Old 02-28-2020, 07:57 PM   #3
larsdangly
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

I think it is intrinsic to the feel of play using the MH tiles. When we use them, we actively lay down everything new players see and remove what they no longer can see, paying attention to their light source, etc., whether or not something is officially 'happening' (i.e., an encounter). Because of that, the players are always 'on' - they never pause and turn to the GM to hear what happens next; instead they are always making immediate decisions about where they want to go and what they want to do or look at. I imagine people playing with Dwarven Forge have a related experience, but I think this is different because the scale of the tiles means you don't have to lay out a big 'set piece' - you can gradually add and subtract so that the table always represents the player's immediate environment. My experience is that when you do this, the GM develops an inclination to provide something - objects, puzzles, encounters, traps, obstacles, etc. - more or less every time the players advance significantly, so that their environment is new. That means your stocking of your dungeon takes on something like the pace of the PC's movement. Of course not everything you note is dangerous or dramatic, but it is still something that stimulates a reaction and influences play. The end result is a dungeon that is just stuffed to the gills with things.
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Old 02-28-2020, 08:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

I'm finishing up the next iteration of a rogue-like system for randomly generated solo dungeons. Think Death Test with decks of cards instead a booklet of numbered paragraphs. Also, no pesky intersecting hallways (!), only rooms with exits N, NE, SE, S, SW, and NW.

The challenge in designing it is to find ways to make the adventure cohesive, to give actions consequences that extend beyond the current room and give a more satisfying experience than "a series of cage matches". I've made some good progress, and more than once I've had to stop going down a feature rabbit hole and back to getting something that I can call finished.

It's also unrealistically dense. But I think it's more fun than spacing things out and diluting the fun. There's a dungeon crawl tradition of monsters being packed in so tightly that they'd wipe each other out in less than a day. ;)
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Old 02-28-2020, 10:35 PM   #5
Tom H.
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

larsdangly:

Thanks for that explanation. It really helped to clarify the concept.

tomc:

Good luck with your development. It's so true. Creativity is more than just being able to come up with stuff. It' also trying to figure out how much to develop which avenues. It has to be an art. I would love to get Steve Jackson's insights on this.
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Old 02-29-2020, 02:57 AM   #6
Chris Rice
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

This is interesting. As I've mostly been using the playmats from LE I haven't really explored the Megahexes much yet. I can see that a Dungeon Delving experience with MHs could be quite different from D&D, perhaps leading to much more compact, interesting and deadly Dungeons.

In days gone by I'd abstract the rules when delving between encounter areas, only kicking them in fully when something happens like a trap, obstacle or monster.

Lars, are you saying you use the movement and initiative rules every turn in the Dungeon, even on turns when nothing significant is happening? If so, I can see why you'd need to have a fairly encounter dense environme, as you wouldn't want too many turns where nothing happens other than movement.

Perhaps you could do a write up of such a session, or part of one?
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Old 02-29-2020, 08:38 AM   #7
larsdangly
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

Yes, that's what I'm saying. But note that initiative is not an issue when there is only the party at the table (unless they decide to race each other to some goal, which I've not seen yet).

So, the way a 'turn' works is just based on the constraints on movement and actions. I.e., if everyone is walking calmly through some space, they will move in 2-3 hex increments. If nothing is going on, several turns might get resolved in a few seconds of real time, as players march their markers around the map. If someone wants to listen at a door or search a niche for something hidden, then they will spend the appropriate number of turns standing or squatting or whatever while others are free to move. If someone breaks into a run they might quickly move themselves 6-12 hexes.

The GM, meanwhile, is placing and removing tiles as spaces come in and out of view, commenting on things that are obviously seen, and watching carefully where people walk or run, i.e., in case they step on a trap or walk under a slime or something.

If you don't know what you are doing, all of this can seem overwhelming and might go slowly if people have 'decision paralysis'. But we have been doing this for hours per week for a number of months and are pretty good at it. The whole thing just flows, and play actually feels more brisk and engaged than the usual dungeon crawl mode of 'encounter; end of encounter; give the GM vague instructions about your next move; listen to GM until he or she tells you its time for another encounter; repeat'.
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Old 02-29-2020, 09:43 AM   #8
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

Quote:
Originally Posted by larsdangly View Post
The whole thing just flows, and play actually feels more brisk and engaged than the usual dungeon crawl mode of 'encounter; end of encounter...
Like a table top version of Diablo!
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Old 02-29-2020, 12:03 PM   #9
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Rice View Post
This is interesting. As I've mostly been using the playmats from LE I haven't really explored the Megahexes much yet. I can see that a Dungeon Delving experience with MHs could be quite different from D&D, perhaps leading to much more compact, interesting and deadly Dungeons.
.....
Perhaps you could do a write up of such a session, or part of one?
Yes same here. A map section would also be really interesting to see. Doesn’t need to be labelled or pretty, just to get a feel for what sounds like a fun way to play
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Old 02-29-2020, 12:25 PM   #10
larsdangly
 
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Default Re: Mega (or at least big) TFT dungeons!

I'll see if I can create an annotated set of pictures to document what 10-15 minutes of play looks like. I'm sure it will take 10x longer to document than it does to play!
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