Build a Darkest Dungeons & Dragons

It is fair to say that Darkest Dungeon has captured my attention and imagination in recent weeks. The game’s aesthetic vividly portrays how exploring dungeons and fighting foul monsters is a dangerous business. Heroes suffer physical wounds, yes, but it is the mental strain and suffering that often causes more complications and difficulty. It seems to be a wonderful concept to merge with an adventure in Dungeons & Dragons, and the good news is the foundation for building a Darkest Dungeons & Dragons adventure is already there in the latest Dungeon Master’s Guide.

How can the Dungeon Master add a new mechanic that forces additional strain on the players while still increasing the enjoyment factor for everyone at the table?

That question is tackled in this article!

Failure Is An Option

Before launching into the mechanics of building a Darkest Dungeons & Dragons, a topic that should be addressed is failure. Colleagues have written about failure in roleplaying games for years. Scott Rehm (The Angry GM) defined failure as “the loss of a goal or opportunity” and discussed common (“stupid”) myths about failure in RPGs. Mike Shea (Sly Flourish) educated DMs on how to move away from mechanics and rules that result in only “either success or failure.” I previously wrote articles on how to roleplay failure for monsters in an encounter to make those setbacks for the DM more enjoyable and engaging to the players. The collective wisdom on this topic indicates that players of an RPG should be ready, willing, and able to continue with the story of the game regardless of success or failure.

Darkest Dungeon Madness
The mind cannot withstand such an assault.

That means DMs should avoid creating scenarios that can only be accomplished in a single, specific manner while players should be encouraged to continue playing their characters if they win, lose, or go sideways. This means that failure should remain an option for everyone at the table. As a DM, help the players be ready for contingencies. During game preparation, DMs often consider how to react if the players decide on taking one action or another. As a player, I was more of a straight-line thinker and struggled when the “next move” in an adventure was not clearly defined. The DM can assist players by feeding them possible options if they are greeted with failure – often through a timely NPC – and reward players for responding to setbacks with creative solutions. This atmosphere will eventually redefine success from “we killed the monsters, saved the day, and collected a ton of loot” to “we all got together and told one heck of story.”

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Hearthstone Session #3 – Netdecking

When I first started to play Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft more often, I sought out advice on how to improve my skill in the game. The popularity of Hearthstone has resulted in many outlets to learn about the game, which I will detail in a later post. One option for players is to look at successful decks and use those decks in his or her games. This process is known as netdecking, which Urban Dictionary defines as:

The process of stealing a tournament winning TCG/OCG/CCG decklist from a discussion forum and replicating it. Implies a lack of creativity and desire to do nothing other than win in the player.

Stealing! Lack of creativity! Desire to do nothing!

Netdecking has a strong negative connotation among some that play Hearthstone while others are supportive of it. In the video below, I present my thoughts on netdecking and return to earlier points I made about watching professional players at a higher skill level than me.

eggoAlso in the video is a game with a new decklist I found from a Legend-ranked Hearthstone player on Twitter. In recent weeks, I have been mostly playing a Secret Paladin and I felt it was time for a change of pace. I considered running an Egg Druid decklist, but decided to stick with Paladin. The decklist for Eggo the Paladin relies on several low-cost minions to get extreme value out of each turn, make efficient trades on the board, and stymie the opponent with Taunts and Secrets. I struggled with the deck at first, but have used it to move from Rank 10 to Rank 6 over the weekend.

When the deck is running well, the Dragon Egg and Nerubian Egg create additional minions to swarm the board. Minions such as Abusive Sergeant, Keeper of Uldaman, and Defender of Argus can boost those minions to make them more of a threat, not to mention the Blessing of Kings spell. Eggo’s minions should be able to trade favorably with most things the opponent can throw down and it sets the stage for finishers like Mysterious Challenger, Dr. Boom, and Tirion.

Perhaps my favorite moment from the weekend was beating a Priest (I have a terrible record against them) after they used all their clever Priest tools to negate my deck, only to have Tirion appear when I killed off their Deathlord and Tirion reappeared after their Shadow Word: Death because my Redemption secret was active. I always lose to Priest; it was nice to win one of those games!

In summary, expose yourself to experienced players that have likely spent a lot of time crafting decks and trying to make them competitive. However, instead of simply “stealing” the decklist, consider why the deck is effective. What problems does it cause for the opponent? What are the useful synergies in the deck, and how could you exploit similar synergies with other heroes or cards? By exposing yourself to new decklists and styles of play, the overall level of your strategy and understanding of Hearthstone is likely to increase.

Good luck!

Iddy Approved: Darkest Dungeon

Another game has broken the stranglehold Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has on me in recent months. That game is Darkest Dungeon, and you can download it right now for an affordable $25 on PC or Mac.

You should do that right now – or at least after you read the rest of this article.

Darkest Dungeon features many elements of a successful roleplaying game. The RPG formula works so well because it is based on the backbone of behavioral psychology. When a player is rewarded for a certain behavior, then they are more likely to engage in that behavior again – and again – and again. Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, Diablo, or the endless variety of mobile games that are Skinner boxes in disguise (I’m looking at you, Mola! Mola!), the formula of taking a character and leveling that character up through repeated quests and objectives is brutally effective. It works amazingly well! Darkest Dungeon takes those successful RPG elements and blends them into a system that constantly asks the player, “Is the potential risk worth the possible reward?”


The heightened tension created by these, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” moments is palpable. Darkest Dungeon is relentless as it even turns the RPG troupe of finding items in crates, cabinets, and bookcases into a risk/reward dilemma. For example, searching through a bookcase could yield valuable treasure, which can be used to upgrade heroes. But it could also result in the hero reading a book that contains a disturbing passage, which imposes an ongoing penalty that requires treatment to cure back in town.

The game forces the player to re-evaluate how he or she typically approaches RPGs. If the player simply searches through every crate, cabinet, and altar they find without any care for consequences, then they are left with heroes that are riddled with problematic quirks. Those quirks cost gold to treat, and gold is a precious commodity used to upgrade heroes, services in town, and is also needed to buy gear such as food and torches before each adventure. The player must balance managing the needs of their hero roster while also looking ahead to the next challenge in the dungeons.

Yes, there is quite a bit of middle management in the game and the reviewer from Wired offered, “Darkest Dungeon is a mean, capricious game. Success is a gambler’s thrill, addictive and illicit. It comes rarely.” Below I outline the reasons why I find Darkest Dungeon so enjoyable because “each expedition is a slowly unravelling disaster.” I conclude with tips on enhancing your Darkest Dungeon experience based on my time playing the game thus far.

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Hearthstone Session #2 -Managing Anger & Making Friends

In February, I climbed as high as Rank 4 in the Ranked ladder format in Hearthstone. It is – by far – the most success I have had on the ladder, and it likely boils down to three primary reasons. First, I am playing many more games in recent weeks, which has given me a clear sense of the current popular decks. Second, I’m learning how to best counter other popular decks while making better plays with my own cards – practice, practice, practice! Third, I was able to save up enough dust to create Archmage Antonidas, which is a Legendary card I did not possess. My Tempo Mage deck often ran out of steam in some games, and Antonidas is an excellent late-game closer.

The Tempo Mage deck is heavy on RNG (random number generator) effects. For example, the spell Unstable Portal gives the players a new minion card at a discounted mana cost. It could be ANY minion in the game. If Unstable Portal spits out a high-cost, Legendary card then suddenly I have a huge temp advantage over my opponent. However, Unstable Portal can pop out a weak minion (I’m looking at you, Stonetusk Boar!) and then the spell puts you behind your opponent. Tempo Mage decks are solid, but a few good RNG moments can make them great.

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