Two games I don’t write much about in this blog that I … well … I could:
Traveller CCG. You know, that game I’m the lead developer for and that is available in stores and online. By online, I don’t mean just our web site, there are huge, potentially, large online providers through which one can arrive at gaining cards.
But, that’s not this post. This post is about what I’ve been thinking the most about recently.
True Dungeon. Specificallyier, TD 2020 token development that has been going on for a couple of weeks.
Is TD more like an escape room, a MMO, a CCG, a Gorgriffspidrascorp, a pyramid scheme, or a RPG?
Well, this post, it’s going to be compared to a RPG. Eventually. I promise.
Someone playing common to rare level (sure, add in blues) is playing one game. Ultrarare and up is another game.
And, that’s how a lot of discussions on the forum, including some of the token development discussions, breakdown.
I’m not far removed timewise from being a starter pack level player. I’m also probably a .1%er TDwise at this point. One of my blind spots with TD is that I never fell into that intermediate range of rare level player who worked on getting incrementally better over years.
You don’t need tokens to play TD. You don’t even need to borrow tokens to play TD. You very well may have just as much or possibly even more fun than the 1%ers. Possibly.
But, since it’s token development that I’ve been thinking about, obviously going to talk about, um, er, hmmm, tokens.
When I go to analyze the proposed tokens for the next year, for commons to rares, almost all of my thoughts are around technical issues. Are tokens spelled correctly, have “proper” damage wheels, satisfy trade item creation in a reasonably balanced way, have poor name choices, etc.? I don’t so much care about balance as much as being within historical norms for what similar tokens do at these rarities because I’m not going to be running any of these tokens, anyway.
Oh, I should state or restate that TD is sort of like CCGs and MMOs in that more money gets you a nicer car. While some CCGs don’t bother hiding higher rarity = better card, others at least try to pretend that’s not what’s going on. TD makes zero effort to disabuse someone of the notion that higher rarity = better token. It’s a central part of the economy, which is why you see signs at the cons letting you know you can get an UR bundle for $250 (and more for more).
When I analyze URs, relics, and legendaries, my focus is more on game impact. But, in keeping with how there are far more players who don’t have UR builds than those who do and far more UR level players who don’t just end up with whatever legendary they want versus those who do, the game impact is the game being played by UR+ level players.
The first time I played with essentially an UR build, I realized I could just ignore any threat the dungeon had up until room 7’s succeed or lose your soul challenge. I pretty quickly realized that Normal was not the difficulty level I should be playing at because Normal becomes too easy with UR+ level tokens.
Hardcore may be my preferred level, but my experience with Nightmare is that a group that knows what it’s doing with UR+ level builds is not going to seriously be challenged. We had a full party (10) play a Nightmare run on a dungeon we hadn’t played before, and we had one newb borrowing tokens solo a fight because he could use the practice.
So, you get players who are moving up to UR, expanding UR, moving up to relic, moving up to legendary versus those who are already at the UR+ level they want to be at, and you get sharp divides on what a good new token is, on whether to reprint tokens or not, etc.
Power doesn’t creep with TD. It leaps and bounds. The builds of, say, 2015 are nothing to what is currently available. Even with limited slots, though the game expands slots by either making possible additional amounts in the same slots that already exist or by creating new slots, the numbers keep spiraling higher.
Now, that *has* been moving down into lower rarities. Red (rare) builds can be vastly more powerful than they were a few years ago.
But, one can see how on the one hand that most of the discussion around what URs should exist and what legendaries should do are completely irrelevant to most TD players and, yet, on the other see how the forums’ primary posters are the players who are affected by what happens at the UR+ level.
I’ve moved so quickly through the phases of a TD player who made the leap to purple plus that I’m already tired of the power jumps. It’s boring. I don’t care about another +2 damage in a slot that couldn’t do that before. I’m looking for … wait for it …
There’s a thread about build diversity and that means different things to different people. To some, that just means building an equivalently powerful build with different tokens.
I don’t enjoy power.
I enjoy variety of effects, variety of building RPG characters, CCG decks, TD characters.
So, sure, I want all of the tokens, just as I tend to get all of the cards for CCGs, because I want to make any build that amuses me. I want to play the ranger spellcaster build.
It just occurred to me that the point I’m about to make is way more interesting to other people than my rehashing how things work.
What are players competing against in TD when it comes to tokens?
Not the dungeon. There are 1%ers who play Greedy Sealed to max out treasure while still having that casual player level experience.
Tokens are all about players competing with each other.
TD is a collaborative game, but the more tokens matter the less collaborative it becomes.
Puzzles. Hardly any tokens (besides ones that increase HP or increase healing/curing/restoring) are relevant to puzzles. In fact, the game has moved away from creative uses of tokens because those are hard to adjudicate and numbers are better for token sales than unknown abilities, anyway. Puzzles are where collaboration matters the most. Tokens matter least, teamwork the most.
Combat. 1%ers have to worry about ruining other players’ experiences by one-shotting monsters (well, or the difference between I just did 50 damage and you did 3, at least). Tool up enough and you don’t need other players. I could solo a dungeon. I’m not sure what level I couldn’t solo a dungeon at, probably Nightmare because I’m kind of not that great at puzzles or combat or resource management. When everyone is using a starter bag, every participant in combat matters a lot. One character may crit for a bunch in one round but miss in another. As you move up the rarities, now it can get to “I guess I’ll Surge this Call Lightning for 80 damage. I don’t know. I could also just wander around the room aimlessly.” The other players will pick up the slack, to the extent that slack even needs picking up.
So, it’s no wonder the arguments are so divided. The players who have it all now don’t need better. The players who want better (or at least as good at better prices than the OOP secondary market) keep pushing for better – shocking, I know. We are really competing against each other because if I wasn’t competing against Jim, that archvillain, I could just play my 13 token Hardcore build with other pathetic Hardcoreites and never put in more than the $58/run (Origins) or $80/run (Gen Con) cost to play into the game.
Of course, it’s kind of funny that you could also just plan on playing with borrowed tokens all of the time and let others put money into the game while still being as OP as Archvillain Jim.
I said that TD would be compared to RPGs this time around.
In RPGs, character sheets are all about competing against other character sheets. This is how some games get away with not having character advancement – in reality, character advancement, as it pertains to the world (the GM’s perspective) isn’t really meaningful. Get more powerful, GM makes challenges harder. Target number simply moves from 10 to 20. Monster HP double. Oh, the competition isn’t just other PC sheets. It’s also against the “character sheet of the mind”.
We have in our minds the idea that numbers mean something and that our starting numbers aren’t at the level to have us crowned as coolest campaign cat.
For example, I’m still playing my Miya Herald. I didn’t start out with Kenjutsu-7 because, well, that’s not allowed, for one thing, but also because this is a campaign where you gain lots of XP over the years relative to where you start. Kenjutsu-7 was necessary to compete against other PCs – without K-7, I would be a drag on more powerful parties in combat. But, K-7 was also to compete against my perception that any serious Kenjutsuite is going to have at a minimum K-7 in 4e play (can have K-5 in 3e play). Am I in any meaningful way competing against the world? Maybe this wasn’t the best example as a living campaign has mod difficulties that become more difficult and stats get increased regardless as to how powerful your PCs are. Still, I could just play Miya in low mods and play IR-1 tables at battle interactives.
I’ve seen this with a variety of RPGs. The greatest complaining in a D&D 3e campaign I played in was by players complaining that their class mechanics weren’t as good as other classes. That’s not a player vs world, that’s a PC sheet vs PC sheet.
I’m rapidly losing interest in competing against other .1%ers in TD for awesome sauce builds. I can play Nightmare, the best monetary rewards level, with what I have. I don’t even need to try that hard. I could do a 15 token build and feel comfortable contributing at NM as long as I didn’t need to carry other players.
This is a potential long term danger. Once you get to a certain level of play, you see that constantly buying more doesn’t really buy you anything except bragging rights.
“I could get a Lamborghini, but I guess my Civic gets me to work.”
Meanwhile, the gap between the starter bag player and every other level just gets wider and wider and wider. Can see .1%ers already looking for a level above Epic to feel challenged, but that shouldn’t be the biggest problem. The biggest problem seems like that it’s completely unclear who should be playing Hardcore and who should be playing Nightmare. Supposedly, there are more players jumping from red to purple. Do they stomp on Hardcore? Do they stomp on NM? Do they get annihilated by NM because NM is made more challenging to compensate for better character builds?
The difference with a RPG, at least a home game, is that you can change the challenges to compensate for PC power imbalances. TD is more like a living campaign in that you are supposed to have standardized experiences by player choice.
Since I don’t post that often about TD, I’ll throw out another tidbit.
Where is the value that I get out of TD?
Not so much in playing, which is a rare experience and very inconsistent in enjoyment. It’s thinking about the game, collecting, considering deals that don’t get made, seeing my tokens of different colors that don’t stack very well and are far too slippery and heavy and wondering which to keep and which to hope to get rid of.
So, as frustrating as other people’s weird opinions are, it’s still pleasure I net accumulate from the arguments.