How to create interesting dungeons (the TTRPG way)

TTRPG = Tabletop role-playing game (like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, The dark eye, ...)

One thing about MMORPG Dungeons that always irritated me (and that I hope, will be better in AOC) is that they are so focused on fighting (killing everything).
Of course there are bosses (or encounters) that have to be fought in specific and sometimes tactically challenging ways
but nevertheless it's usually about killing them and then taking the items they dropped.
And the term 'Trashmobs' is not used for nothing for the poor fellows in between bosses that are just standing around and waiting to be killed.

From the perspective (or at least my perspective) of a TTRPG gamemaster these are horrible dungeons.
Even in the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, when the game was more focused on fighting and killing there were at least traps and stealth options.
But these days it goes without saying, that a good TTRPG Dungeon has different kinds of obstacles that usually can be overcome in different ways.
Fighting is just one of them but there is also stealth and invisibility and persuasion and trap disarming and riddles of all sorts and much of it can be tackled in mundane, magical or divine ways.
Thats at least what I think it should be.

Of course there is a huge difference between TTRPGs and MMORPGs...
While a human GM can react to everything his players are throwing at him with his creativity and flexibility, in MMORPGs eveything you can do is part of a coded engine
and can only be expanded through weeks and months of work.
In addition, MMORPG-Dungeons are usually made to be replayable several times by the same players.
Thats not only a difference to TTRPGs but also a difference to Single Player RPGs like Baldurs Gate, Dragon Age or Witcher.
A cool riddle that would be fun in a Baldurs Gate Dungeon, could become stupid, when you do it for the 10th time in an MMORPG.

But that doesnt mean, that you should never do riddles in a dungeon or that there are no other options than just fighting.
One of my MMORPG Dungeon favorites is Diremaul North from World of Warcraft to give a positive example.
Usual WoW-Dungeons (especially in the later expansions) are perfect examples for "just kill everything inside" dungeons and you can play Diremaul North in exactly the same boring way.
But... after some time, players found out, that there is another way. Diremaul North is inhabited by ogres and reigned by their king.
When you kill the king but not his steward he will crown you the new king of the Diremaul Ogres and the more of the former bosses you DIDN'T kill the more 'tribute' you get from them.
There are even options to get temporary buffs and special beer from them.
To avoid killing the ogres you had to become a bit creative...
-use stealth to steal a key from a chest to open a door
-use lockpicking (rogue), a universal key (smithing profession) or explosives (engineering profession) to open another door
-use frost oil (hidden recipe of alchemy profession) to freeze an ogre
-avoid patroling ogres by carefully moving with the party or using mind soothe (priest)
-tailor an ogre-costume (tailoring profession) to fool ogres (ogres are not very smart)
Some of the things you had to do were oddly specific (you could only freeze one ogre boss with frost oil and nothing else for example)
and what was done there only scratches the surface of what I wish MMORPG dungeons would offer nowadays, but it shows the direction I would prefer dungeon content to go.

There could be traps you have to disarm by magic or in mundane ways...
Places where you would trigger so many enemies at once that they are nearly impossible to beat, so you should switch to stealth and distraction
Riddles that have variants or are randomly altered slightly to keep them interesting
Knowledge you could possess (passwords or bargaining chips) or potions/tools you could prepare that let you take otherwise closed ways.
Enemies that could be overcome in several ways.
And many more...

Comments

  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    Yulivee wrote: »
    Of course there is a huge difference between TTRPGs and MMORPGs...
    There are, and this is why things are the way they are.

    An MMO dungeon takes hundreds of hours to make as it is now. If the developer were to add puzzles, riddles, and multiple other means of progressing through the dungeon, that time would easily be bought up to many thousands of hours.

    This is as opposed to a tabletop dungeon that takes someone maybe a few hours to think up, and a few more hours to write down.

    Then there is the repeatable nature of MMO's.

    In tabletop games, your group may spend a few sessions in the dungeon, and then it is done. There is usually no need to go back to the same dungeon, and if you do go back, it will usually be in the state you left it in.

    In an MMO, people go back to the same dungeon day after day, sometimes multiple times in one day. As such, players will take the fastest path through the dungeon 99.9% of the time.

    So, since we are talking about a fairly significant investment in developer time, if players are only going to take one path through the dungeon, it is not worth adding the other paths through that dungeon.

    The upside of all of this is that it leaves a space for tabletop games, they fulfil a role that MMORPG's simply can't - and this is something we should be happy about rather than being something we should want to try and change.
  • WarthWarth Member
    puzzles and riddles aren't really feasible nor worth it.

    In TT Dungeons, you do them once which makes them interesting.
    In MMOs you do them dozen of times which makes them tedious
  • ShoelidShoelid Member
    Have you played the recent WoW expansion? There's a dungeon that includes a riddle in the middle:



    I like it because it's simple enough that it doesn't get annoying when done repeatedly, but it's difficult enough that every now and then it'll trip you up. I think that as long as the riddle is made with the knowledge that it'll be done hundreds of times over, it could be cool.
  • VhaeyneVhaeyne Member
    Shoelid wrote: »
    I like it because it's simple enough that it doesn't get annoying when done repeatedly, but it's difficult enough that every now and then it'll trip you up. I think that as long as the riddle is made with the knowledge that it'll be done hundreds of times over, it could be cool.

    That "riddle" was a joke of a matching game that was instantly trivialized by addons or the web trainer.
    DDO has had some decent riddles in the past, but they are only good if you go in blind with a group that is also going in blind, and has the patience to solve it for themselves. Which is rare even in DDO. A game about dungeon delving... Which I love when I am in the mood for it, but in practice people don't constantly put up with it.

    @Yulivee I mean no harm by the following opinions:

    In MMORPGs puzzles will never be important, people will look things up before they waste any valuable time on a riddle. When you play a Table Top RPG there is a social agreement that none of the players are going to look up solutions to the module ahead of time (if you are playing a module) or the players just don't know if the DM is using his own material. When there is no way of looking up solutions to puzzles, no one knows how to solve them and the content has to be run correctly.

    Your main post does a really good job of describing DDO. Which is a game I would recommend to anyone if they did not care about a fairly blatant P2W cash shop. The problem is, as much love has I have had for the game over the years, as both a table top and MMORPG player. The game never had a huge following. It is a niche game in a now niche genre (MMORPG's).

    Another thing to consider is that even in DDO the player base avoids the types of dungeons you are talking about unless their is a item they need in a "Puzzle heavy" dungeon. People will make solo builds where the way they handle traps is to jump around them. Don't get me wrong, when you are in a group trying to solve a puzzle in a MMO like DDO for the first time. It is magical, but that shit is rare even in the game that was designed around it. I just can't see TT philosophy's working well for MMORPGs, unless the game was made from the ground up to be that. Even then it is "Dicey".
    CctsKnC.png Verra-similitude
  • The Dire Maul example, I think this would be very cool to do like once or twice before it loses it's appeal.
    Stuff like that is fun for achivement hunters/RPers but having every dungeon have some kind of alternate path will lose it's appeal real fast since, like others stated, it's not a one off thing like in TT's but you're going to do the dungs multiple times anyway over the games lifespan.

    Personally I'd be happy with with mobs and bosses change their patterns every run, I've hated how you can literally time every raid boss attack in wow cause it's always in the same order..but they, that will piss of the world first crowd so there's that :# .
  • BiccusBiccus Member

    Personally I'd be happy with with mobs and bosses change their patterns every run, I've hated how you can literally time every raid boss attack in wow cause it's always in the same order..but they, that will piss of the world first crowd so there's that :# .

    I’m sure It’s already said this to be the case.
    “ Bosses are scripted and make decisions dynamically during boss fights.”
  • I missed that, thanks!
    That's kinda rad
  • McShaveMcShave Member
    One thing that must be considered as well is that dungeons are open world and open pvp. Do you think you would have time to do the Mists puzzle from Shadowlands while a group is right behind you trying to kill you and take your stuff?

    I am 100% for removing trivial "trashmobs" between bosses, although you cant completely remove them and not have a boring experience. Steven has mentioned that there will be traps to disarm and secret areas to find, each requiring your party to have a specific primary archetype to spot these things.
  • bloodprophetbloodprophet Member, Braver of Worlds
    The Secret World was good at this stuff when it launched. Now it is a shadow of a shadow of its self.
    Rogues and mages are supposed to be able to find hidden doors and traps with out of combat abilities here in AOC.
    Most people never listen. They are just waiting on you to quit making noise so they can.
  • YuliveeYulivee Member
    Some interesting aspects and examples. But I get the feeling that there is a bit too much focus on the 'riddles' that were a mere example for the core question I tried to raise with this thread.
    I tried to express something like "Do you think dungeons in MMORPGs are usually too fight heavy and AOC should try to give more variety (for example some of the things I listed) ?"
  • VhaeyneVhaeyne Member
    Yulivee wrote: »
    Some interesting aspects and examples. But I get the feeling that there is a bit too much focus on the 'riddles' that were a mere example for the core question I tried to raise with this thread.
    I tried to express something like "Do you think dungeons in MMORPGs are usually too fight heavy and AOC should try to give more variety (for example some of the things I listed) ?"

    Dungeons in AOC are basically large open world labyrinths to farm group mobs, bosses, and resources in. I don't think there is very much room for non fight related content. Maybe some quest mobs might be in dungeons, but that is about all I can see.

    It is just a different style of game.
    https://ashesofcreation.wiki/Dungeons

    The reality of this places is going to be that you are going to be fighting other groups the whole time for resources. These are going to be very competitive open world areas.
    CctsKnC.png Verra-similitude
  • maouwmaouw Member
    I like cooperative code-breaking, in small doses. Especially when it unlocks something big.
    For replayability: The best I've seen is to randomize the code, have players cooperatively figure out pieces of the code, and then they brute force the rest.
    (Note: my favourite code mediums have been: ordered activation of runes, placing particular items on certain pedestals, portal maze)

    For the multiple-routes idea you can make it replayable by making each path change after someone passes through it, so the efficiency of any of the paths is always in fluctuation.
    example:
    • First group enters the room and there's a huge puzzle. Finishing the puzzle reveals a giant crystal in the middle of the room. The group can move to the next room and the doors close behind them
    • Second group enters the room, there's now a crystal in the middle of the room. Mobs spawn and the group needs to collect monster souls to charge up the crystal. When the crystal is charged, they move forward and the doors close behind them.
    • Third group enters the room, there's now a charged crystal in the middle of the room. Break the crystal to spawn a mini-boss. Defeat mini-boss to progress. They move forward and the room is now a huge puzzle again.

    For speedrunners, this would add a layer of preparation - they'll intentionally fail certain stages to set up for 'the most efficient path'.
    This also allows you to introduce shortcuts that specific classes can unlock for their team, but it's not guaranteed whether or not you'll encounter the shortcut on a given run.
    I wish I were deep and tragic
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