Shadowdark looks back at dungeon crawls with a look to the future

The most popular way of playing dungeons is the “Dungeon Crawl”. This playstyle is known for players exploring a location, encountering traps, and characters often dying unexpectedly. shadowdark, a game that has currently raised almost a million dollars on Kickstarter, it aims to offer the classic crawling experience with a ruleset shaped by design ideas in the nearly five decades since D&D started.

“I find [dungeon crawling] brings the game back to the things that we as gamers really understand,” said Kelsey Dionne, designer of shadowdark. “There’s a lot of gritty humanity to being a dungeon crawler wielding sword and torch one blunder from disaster. Invisible monsters, dwindling resources, the quest for treasure and glory… we understand these struggles implicitly because they reflect our daily lives. Bringing the game back to the dungeon makes it more real in a way. Dungeon crawlers aren’t superheroes; They are scrappy, imperfect humans who, despite their flaws, are still trying to do something greater.”

The game removes many of the rules that can make getting started in RPGs a challenge. While its look and feel are inspired by early editions of D&DDionne uses elements from players who have entered the game through the latest installment. The shadowdark Coming out at a time when many D&D players are trying to explore other games is the kind of luck an adventurer can only dream of.

“I’ve been working on it shadowdark for about three years,” said Dionne, “four if you include the time since I first commissioned the art that has helped inspire her. I grew up with old-school style D&D, and by the time I became a pro in the industry, 5E was the system of the time. I had a lot of fun designing and publishing for 5E, but I also missed some of the gameplay elements that emphasized the dangerous dungeon crawling that I fondly remembered as a kid. I started to wonder why we only looked to the past for dungeon crawling systems and what the original versions of those were D&D would look like if they were designed in modern times with modernized updates. The idea really stuck and blossomed over time shadowdark!”

One of the major setbacks in shadowdark focuses on creating characters with random dice rolls. Character stats created the old school way by rolling three six-sided dice six times and placing them in order. But that randomness continues when class ability acquisition is also determined by rolling on a spreadsheet.

“The randomized progression allows players to stop worrying about the perfect build and let go of a fixed idea of ​​who their character is,” said Dionne. “It really does end a lot of mental anguish, to be honest. It gives players permission not to know everything about their characters right away and enjoy the process of finding out. You can embrace the moment instead of holding on to a previous backstory or concept decision! Also, as Random Roll Tables have shown us, unexpected results are the greatest fuel for creativity. As we try to make sense of the new input, all these connections and ideas pop up to help us explain it and make sense of it. It’s like dreaming in real time. The story lives by itself.”

Old-school players often favor a sense of vulnerability in their characters. Later editions of D&D Jump into fantasy hero mode with cool skills and spells right away. Older versions of the game can be harder to find, and often contain design choices they don’t agree with that they’ve forgotten since they last played decades ago.

“I hope old-school gamers will find this shadowdark solves a lot of the little issues that stumble new players and doesn’t follow a particularly consistent/intuitive path,” said Dionne. “For example, shadowdark uses a d20 to determine all action resolutions, and rolling high is always better. This is certainly not the case in older editions of D&D performing actions with mixes of d6, d20 roll-under, percentile dice, and in some cases even THAC0 combat mechanics. So Shadow Darks Numerous modernizations are quality-of-life upgrades that make everything easier and more intuitive. We had to rebuild a lot of things from the ground up to push these changes throughout the system while keeping the feel of an old school game!”

Modern gamers often look to older editions to see the history of the hobby. Earlier games better reward a deep investment of time and study that these players don’t have. shadowdark keeps the pressure up by adding elements that keep players under pressure such as: B. Concern for light sources and holding hit points.

“Classic elements really emphasize risk calculation and creative problem solving,” said Dionne. “All iterations of D&D Of course you have, but it becomes the main focus in classic editions because characters are fragile and fights aren’t meant to be fair. I think the real and constant sense of danger and the thrill of overcoming it in a moment of well-deserved triumph is the biggest draw for modern players who are drawn to the classic style of play.”

shadowdark has already shown strong support for the game. The full promise for Kickstarter includes three zines packed with new classes, systems, and of course dungeons, as well as pre-made characters and additional adventures. The free quickstart offers potential backers the opportunity to start playing now.

“Kickstarter’s success makes me believe I’m on the right track shadowdark!” said Dionne. “There’s a big community for it now and my plan is to focus on making adventures and content for them. It’s my favorite thing to do, so it’s really a dream come true here!”

shadowdark is on Kickstarter until March 30, 2023. Digital fulfillment is expected to begin in April 2023, with physical books currently expected to reach backers in July 2023.

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