The Tactical Dungeoneer
Update: The Dungeoneer's Atlas
The Dungeoneer's Atlas has been an incredibly fun and rewarding project and I'm thrilled with its progress even though production has been slow-paced, largely due to Covid-19. The pandemic has meant a delayed turn-around time for prototyping which is compounded by the iterative design process. On top of that, the virtualization of this year's gaming conventions and closure of play tables at game stores present a challenge for play-testing. However, the work goes on and progress is indeed being made!
As of this post I am working on the 4th iteration prototype for the atlas, each version better than the last! The final deck will be comprised of between 60 and 70 geomorphed dungeon tiles that can be used as a stand-alone product for on-the-fly dungeon creation, GM planning, or in tandem with one of our Dungeon Keys (re-playable adventure sets specifically designed for use with the Dungeoneer's Atlas). If you're the creative type, we are writing a Keymaster's Guide to provide everything you need to know for writing your own Dungeon Key adventures!
So where are we with the Dungeoneer's Atlas? Changes since the last prototype include improved iconography for cleaner representation, new dungeon furniture to reinforce a stronger narrative, and some dungeon layout considerations to make navigating the dungeon itself more interesting. This last item is a bit more difficult to quantify without actual play-testing but is extremely important when dealing with geomorphed cartography, which can often fall short in creating interesting pathways due to the stitched nature of each tile's conforming edges.
Differences in the example iterations above:
1) The archways were removed from the upper passage. They just added noise without serving a good functional or narrative purpose.
2) The lines on the doors are thinner. There were two reasons for this change - I wanted doors to be more distinct from the walls around them, and I want to be able to be place them close together at room corners without them touching each other.
3) Added a random encounter to a prison cell. This was to provide something of interest for the cells, something worth exploring.
4) Made the 'trap' icon smaller. Many icons were made smaller for cleaner presentation and less crowding for when they appear close to one another.
5) The secret doors no longer have a box around them. This makes it much easier to place behind statues, bookshelves, and other dungeon furniture, and makes the 'S' itself more readable.
6) The statues are slightly smaller. The two reasons I had for this change were to help facilitate a cleaner "secret door behind statue" scenario, and to occupy just a tiny bit less map area in general. In this case, to widen the space between the two statues in the lower right corner.
7) Created an icon for 'armory'. This is more pleasing to the eye and is more self-explanatory than the 'A'.
8) Played around with rubble and floor crack placements. Minor adjustments to the aesthetic of the tile which tend to get dialed in over time.
Note: I chose this tile specifically because in addition to some tangible changes, it also demonstrates what I meant by "more interesting pathways". Even though the edges conform to the geomorph, the player cannot access every direction from any position on the map. This promotes a more purpose-driven exploration, at the cost that there may be inaccessible portions of this tile if it happens to fall on a corner. A trade-off well worth it!
Each tile goes through its own iterations, the modifications above being a tiny subset of the changes to the deck in its entirety. The 4th version of this tile will add rubble back to one of the prison cells, remove the crack from the upper passage, stretch the alcoves in the lower right corner to open the passage up a bit more, and I might remove the random encounter from the lower left corner passage. If the printed version with those changes feels right, that will be its final state. Otherwise, a 5th iteration would be in order. The truth is that we really don't know how well it looks until its printed on its intended media.
Generally speaking, we're entering the refinement phase. Most of the tiles are in good shape, requiring only minor tweaks. I'm guessing by the 6th or 7th iteration we will really have something to be proud of. I'm not yet comfortable with declaring a release date, but as development enters its final stretch we'll be able to think about fun stuff like marketing and how to handle order fulfillment. Until then, thank you for your patience!