Friday, April 4, 2014

Dungeon Crawls Are ... Fun?

Well it's happened.  I never thought it would, but it has.  I am officially enjoying a dungeon crawl as a player.  I didn't think it possible.  After all, there's no story.  The only roleplay involves the brief asides the various characters make toward each other and a few of the decision points.  Yet it somehow feels satisfying, despite the fact that everything takes longer than in a videogame.

Setting aside my surprise at enjoying such light and airy entertainment, I then wondered at how it could possibly be better than a videogame.  Our miniatures and maps were hardly equivalent to a videogame's splendour and it's not like I'm one of those imaginative visionaries who creates an epic visual environment within my own head.  So why did it perfectly hold my attention?

Well, for one thing, we all got along.  Being in a social environment and playing in a team that genuinely gets along, complete with gentle IC ribbing and playful asides, is wonderful!  I've never gotten into multiplayer videogames despite people's assurances that this could be fun because I've always worried that they would be full of goons.  That's what you get for growing up female.  Not only do you lack multiplayer experiences from your childhood (since few girls play videogames and my game console was a Sega Master System anyhow which lacked many multiplayer games) but you also hear about how a whole bunch of credits live on the Internet wanting to pick on girls.

The latter point likely being true, judging by the number of anecdotes I hear, though I tend to be pretty lucky and could always play LAN-style anyway so it shouldn't really hold me back.

Anyway, random tangent aside, I realised that roleplaying games actually have something videogames don't ... a different set of pacing.  Videogames move so fast, especially this sort of fantasy game, that you can barely take a breath to enjoy one thing before you're whisked off to the next.

As an example, we entered a room with an incongruous trash pile to one side.  We ignored it.  Then the next time we passed we used Detect Magic and Detect Evil on it.  When we were about to leave, one of the players stared at the section on the man with a thoughtful look in his eye.  "You want to search it, don't you?" I asked.  Yup, he does.  Pulling back the trash, he reveals a treasure chest.  My PC saunters over to unlock it and ... is attacked by a Mimic.

Now think about this same situation in a videogame.  You don't eye off potential time wasters in a videogame.  I would just rush through that trash pile to see if I picked up anything OR there'd be a OOC button indicator over the trash pile which, being one of the few action commands available on the level I'd undoubtedly press OR I'd just run straight past it.  There's so many other goodies in the next bit that I'd largely forget what I'd passed.

Now it'd be different in a game like Outlast where you don't *run* anyway.  You cower and slowly slink about.  But in an action-based fantasy game?  You'd rush about!  So, while both are certainly good, they deliver different experiences beyond a pen-and-paper game's laggy combat (imagine waiting a minute for a swing to resolve in a videogame).

I also adore Pathfinder alchemists.  I don't know if I'll ever play anything else.  I've been a sorcerer and a rogue several times before yet have always found them too limited.  With an Alchemist I have some cool levels of damage output, some flavour options (explosive, cold, acid), a few spells to choose from and some neat little skills - especially Disable Device.  While I never feel overpowering, I do always feel relevant.  It's great!


  1. Congratulations!!

    I've never really understood why some people are so down on dungeon crawls, I've always enjoyed them, aside from group issues on occasion. Sure, surface adventures can be a nice change of pace.

    I think you've done a good job of articulating many of the reasons it's worked for me.

    1. I've never understood why folks would treat dungeon crawls as second rate adventures, but I never really thought I'd get into them myself just like someone might appreciate, even admire, a good investigative game without necessarily enjoying them. I'm happy to find that I can enjoy a whole other game type as well.

  2. Of course gaming with a great GM always helps. =P

    It's always awesome to see someone genuinely enjoying any aspect or style of roleplay.
    I personally view dungeon crawls as a highly interactive board game (especially when running via map), but allowing many more options and possible results than most traditional 3-6 player adventure games (Think Talisman or Super Dungeon Explore).

    1. Also, love this weeks post but was really hoping to see the the techniques, tactics and skills post you mentioned last week (that I totally wasn't going to poach idea from).

    2. Refresh my memory ... been a long week. What was it I was going to write about?

    3. "Next week I'll mention some of the techniques, tactics and skills I've noted in some of my former GMs (especially my current one, really) which I would love to learn."

      Was how you signed off the previous weeks post (Linky here: )

      Hope you feel up to re-reading some of you're own work :P

    4. hehe, that's what I get for being all tired. Normally I'm better at catching those things. Ah well, something to start posting about.

      I can see why you would be interested to read about it....

  3. I definitely agree that the freedom of P&P makes for a much more interesting exploration experience than CRPGs can usually offer. CRPGs dictate your options so strongly (this is interactible in this specific way, this is background) that it can leave things feeling quite shallow outside the combat portions. In P&P, you can try absolutely anything. Unscrew the hinges on that door. Dig through that wall with a rusty spoon. Take bucket after bucket of water from the well next door and use it with ice magic to make black ice all over the floor, before knocking on the door of the orc barracks with an arrow. Shout really loudly to attract the attention of two rival monsters nearby, then hide.

    1. I wrote an enormous screed about this because that's how I roll.

  4. Hurrrraaah! Congrats Shannon! I am really glad you gave that sort of game a try, as it really seems from your blog that you are more interested in story driven games.

    I do enjoy a good crawl the point I invested $$$ in Dwarven Forge terrain to make it look cool. The crawls can lack the overarching storylines and character development that non crawl adventures have, but the fun of it is "the game." That being said, games are what you make them to be, and the challenge is introducing aspects that you enjoy into any game you want to run or play in.

    The fun is the game:
    Crawls share quite a bit with boardgames. The play area is finite. You make decisions, solve puzzles, manage resources, negotiate rewards, and hope that everyone makes it out alive. With a good Dm/Gm/Judge/Referee, it can be a mood filled, creepy, exciting and dangerous time.

    If you are open to a crawl, there is one last step you might think about taking in your rpg career to be well rounded.

    Have you ever tried Dungeon Crawl Classics (or any old school rules game?) It requires a bit different mindset than any modern sort of game. There is a certain sort of *freedom* in them that you don't get in D+D type games from 3.0e on.

    David S.
    Minnesota, USA

    1. I'd be open to giving it a go. I've try fully narrative-based games and they worked out all right. Why not go for the full crawl ahead? So long as I had a skilful DM, that is. When you're heading out of your comfort zone, you want to be able to know your opinion is at least in part on the style of game and not DM missteps.