What I’d Like From Dungeons & DraGOns

It is difficult to contact companies with product ideas.

Sure, I mean, I get it. I wouldn’t want to be spammed by clueless lunatics either (hey! what did I just say about me?!). And there could be legal issues? The person will have written documentation proving they came up with the idea. So. Yeah. I see how it makes sense.

… but do you ever wonder that maybe you’re missing out on gold? People go to a lot of effort to crowdsource ideas. Maybe letting people email you their clueless lunacy is the smart play.

Oh, and for the record: my ideas are fair game. If you can use them better than I can, I am thrilled. A little recognition would be nice but, hey, do what you want.

My products, possessions and kidneys, though – don’t steal those.

Anyway, today I came up with about ten ideas for products/services. About half were best done by existing companies, so I sent them off as best I could. But, like I say, it’s hard. This idea was last on the list and I guess I ran out of patience.

So, Wizards of the Coast: this is my incredibly roundabout way of contacting you.

I imagine WotC is looking into the runaway success that is Pokemon GO. I imagine most companies are. But WotC have a nerdy fanbase and a connection to the Pokemon franchise so surely it has to come up over coffee at least. Here is what I, as a random D&D- and PokeGO-addict, would like to see from Dungeons & DraGOns:

  • Keep the random encounters. Replace Pidgey with goblins. Replace Zubat with anything other than Zubat omg.
  • Keep the PokeStops. Maybe they don’t give supplies, maybe they do, but lots of places to visit would be great.
  • Keep the gyms. Make them dungeons instead. I have ideas on how this could work.
  • I like the eggs, so keep that somehow. Maybe magic arrows that need to be walked to be attuned. I dunno. It doesn’t have to make sense, right?

So far, so derivative. What would DraGOns have that GO doesn’t?

  • PokeGO is all about aimless wandering. Keep that; it’s great. But also include quests. What would quests look like? Maybe WoW-style grinding (“kill 12 kobolds because I am busy with my tax return” or something). Maybe “go to this random stop ~3km away”. That last one would be great. It would add to the exploration – a key part of D&D.
  • None of this hurl-a-Pokeball-at-a-perfectly-healthy-Rattata business. You have a sword, a bow and/or a magic wand. You better be able to use them.
  • Dungeons, in place of gyms. Dungeons would be like pocket dimensions embedded in the landscape (just like in D&D). They would be procedurally-generated and complex. Low-level noobs could explore the first few rooms. Powerful noobs could dive deep into the dungeons, finding cool monsters and epic loot.
  • Random catastrophes. An earthquake shuts down all dungeons – quick, everyone must (collectively) complete 10m quests. The kobold population BOOMS – quick, every get to whacking. There’s a magic storm – quick, everyone cast fireball because it does double damage now. The king is dying – quick, everyone donate money and gear for some reason.
  • Party play. GO lets you both beat up the same Exeggutor at the same time. Cool. DraGOns would sync the dungeon raids so you enter as a single party. Compare this to attacking the same gym from different sides somehow. Or however it works in PokeGO.
  • Non-random catastrophes. Tie them to national holidays or something. I dunno. I just really like this idea.

That’s ten features to get us started. Anyone have anything they want to add?

Creativity and Pokemon Go

Can Pokemon Go increase your creativity? Absolutely. Learn how to get the most out of it:

I mentioned how Pokemon Go can help and hurt creativity. There’s something interesting about this. The ways it hurts creativity all relate to smartphone usage. But the benefits come from way the game works. If Pokemon Go were a disembodied app, there would be no downsides.

In any case, Pokemon Go’s boost to your creativity is strong. So now you have another excuse to download it.

A Horrible Cosmos: Combining High-Fantasy with Lovecraft

A great way to enrich your roleplaying experience is to take your setting and mix it with a new one. D&D and Pathfinder tend to be high-fantasy: a world where no one is skeptical about magic. No one doubts the existence of gods. Humans live beside impossible creatures.

Where the fantastic is normal.

I’m a fan of Lovecraft. I love existential horror – that is, horror that threatens your view of the universe. If we discovered that evil, bloodsucking vampires live among us, I would rejoice. It would be a relief to find something objectively evil for the first time in human history. No moral grey areas – killing a vampire is a good act. Phew. The simplicity would be refreshing.

That’s different from learning that Lovercraft’s vision is true. The universe, beyond the tiny speck we inhabit, is impossible to comprehend. No matter what humanity achieves, no matter what utopias we build, our species is destined for dark, ignoble extinction. There are forces beyond our understanding that could wipe us out without effort. We survive by floating unnoticed as pond scum on the surface of reality.

Now that’s scary.

So, can we add Lovecraftian elements to, say, D&D? The answer is obviously yes, as the official setting has done exactly that. The Far Realms is a Lovecraftian location full of Lovecraftian monsters. But adding elements is easy – can we take it further?

As the Angry GM pointed out recently (and what got me thinking down this path) is that there is a fundamental mismatch in the settings’ themes. D&D is inherently optimistic – all fights can be won, all evils can be vanquished and characters can literally ascend to become gods. Lovecraft is ultimately pessimistic – victories are unlikely, costly and barely delay the inevitable destruction of the world.

When you combine the two, something has to give. Angry gave a great example in the above post about a Lovecraftian campaign in D&D. But, as he said, he compromised the pessimism. The threat was defeated, which means it was beatable. It seems like a small compromise, but it’s a compromise of a core principle.

I liked his setting. It got me thinking. Here’s my take on the same problem.

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Death on the Tabletop

Death. Chances are, it features heavily in your games – after all, your PCs rack up quite the body count, don’t they? But what happens when PCs are on the receiving end of death? What happens when their saving throws just don’t quite save the day?

Well, they die. And maybe it’s forever. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that – it keeps the stakes high and lets your player roll a new character. But sometimes writing out a PC forever is not the right move. If your players are new or particularly attached, death might not need to be the end.

Like all tasks as gamemaster, this is a balancing act that requires buy-in from the players. Some players might prefer to hang onto their character where others see this as cheapening the game. After all, without consequences there is no drama, no tension.

No matter how you handle death, it is an important part of your campaign. It pays to understand how death works in your world and how you can use it to your advantage.

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Hero Hunter: A Data Analysis Game

Vigilantes are bad for business. Crime used to be the most profitable game in town, back before that “superhero” started interfering. No one knows who she is. No one knows how to stop her. All who have tried before you have failed.

But you are patient. You’ve started making notes of her appearances. Sightings, response times. It isn’t much, but it might be enough. If you can figure out her base of operations, you’ll be one step closer to dealing with her once and for all…


So, yeah. I wrote this game in R. I doubt I’m the first to do that but, hey, it’s weirder than using Python.

This is a mock-up of a game where you test your data analysis skills against a vigilante crimefighter. As a villain on a budget, you’ve gone for the low-hanging fruit. You’ve paid local thugs to commit crimes and time the hero’s response. A simple strategy, but effective. How long can the superhero’s base remain hidden from your patient, data-driven eyes?

Answer: not very long, as it turns out. Even with such noisy data, the neighbourhood in question stands out like a series of rapid response times.

This is not a finished product. Future versions will be trickier, I can promise you that. I have a few ideas on how to take it further – if you have any, feel free to share below. But in the meantime… enjoy! The data is attached below, as is the R code for generating it.

GitHub: Hero Hunter



Idea Fragment: Ship Defender

I have this idea fragment of a ship in deep space, fending off attacks from waves of enemies. In defending itself, the ship can either disable enemies or destroy them outright. It can salvage disabled enemies and use them to build more weapons to defend itself. And so on and so forth.

That’s where the idea fragment ends. Ideas can be rich and detailed, but idea fragments? They tend to be short, vague, more of a feeling than a blueprint. Still, I was curious to see what this looks like.

I chose to build this as a board game. The idea fits that medium well. There’s no reason this couldn’t work as a tabletop RPG encounter. Who knows – maybe this idea fragment will find life as exactly that. Still, for now, this is the direction it has taken me.

This is not going to win any awards in Germany. It doesn’t have longevity or replayability. If you aren’t bored after five minutes, I’m impressed. Still, none of that matters. It is a board game about a ship in deep space that fends off attackers, and uses crippled enemies to build better guns – exactly what the idea fragment described. And it only took me about an hour to throw together.

This is not a finished game, though it was never intended to be. But as an exercise in creativity, it was pretty fantastic. I took a half-formed notion and ran with it, reaching a milestone. Moving things from thought to screen is good practice and it feels great. The end product is almost irrelevant.

Having talked it down so much, I will say this about it – it’s simple to learn and not a bad way to kill five minutes. I had fun mucking around with it. And with a few more idea fragments, extra features and balance tweaks, this could be a lot of fun. But for now, I’ll just leave this here. Criticise it, steal it, change it.

You have an idea fragment of your own. I don’t know what it looks like or what it entails, but you have one. Everyone does. So why not follow my example and bring it into the world? It’s going to be better than this and besides, you’ll feel awesome afterwards.

Game board: Ship surrounded by enemy approach vectors

Game manual: shipdefender_manual