As a follow up to our recent interview with Colby, menwithdice.com had an opportunity to talk with the enigmatic Mr. Bistro and get some of the details we’ve been craving about Dungeon Run. I think this interview starts to delve into some of the information that folks were previously wanting. I'm particularly intrigued by the way he describes the coop / backstabbing elements - it reminds me somewhat of Cutthroat Caverns but I don't see anything like the shared loss condition. I'm looking forward to getting the rules for this as based on what we've seen thus far (which is, admittedly, not a lot) it sounds like something my group would absolutely love.
MWD: First of all, congratulations on Dungeon Run! What’s it like to see the fruits of what I’m sure was a lot of hard work becoming a real, tangible product?
MrB: It’s been such a long process that seeing all of the components of the game come together in a professional package is very surreal. But it’s a wonderful feeling as well. If it gives people a few hours of enjoyment while they laugh and kick their friends around on a kitchen table, then I’ll be very pleased indeed.
MWD: For those of us that missed out on the original print-and-play, give us a bit of background on the game. What is Dungeon Run all about? Any particular inspirations that you’d like to share?
MrB: Well, the two versions of Dungeon Run are very different. More like cousins than siblings. The original print-and-play was designed to be an amusing distraction for a player who needed a quick dungeon crawl fix, but didn’t have other players available. Like many player-against-the-game designs it was a test of a player’s survival skills, and they killed monsters, collected loot, and leveled up, all while trying to make it to the dungeon boss. You scored your performance afterward. It was purposefully generic, and I think pretty good for what it was, especially after my friend Malechi gussied up the graphics.
The new published version of Dungeon Run takes the dungeon setting and some of those traditional dungeon crawl principles, but twists them. Dungeon Run takes place in the world of Summoner Wars, where those who rule the world do so thanks to these nasty artifacts called Summoning Stones. The stones let users summon armies to them, and make them all around badasses. The Summoners rule and reshape the world they live in.
In Dungeon Run a stone has appeared in a ruined dungeon, where a malicious force summons monsters to it when his dungeon is invaded by adventurers. Each of the players wants that stone – and it’s the stone that drives the game. The dungeon is full of horrors, many of which reward players for working together to overcome them, but at the end of the day only one player can have the stone. So you have two things. The players are trying to survive against the game, but then they have to survive against each other. And when someone actually gets their hands on the Summoning Stone, all hell breaks loose, because at that point every player is gunning for the guy with the stone. But the player with the stone is prepared, because getting it turns them into a force to be reckoned with, and they gain new powers to let them battle their way back to the dungeon’s entrance.
MWD: Obviously taking a game from solo- to multi-player has to involve some significant design changes. What did that process look like? What did you want to keep, and what did you need to add?
MrB: Changing Dungeon Run to its current iteration ended up being an enormous task. I had to completely deconstruct the original game, then rebuild it, retaining the mechanics we knew we wanted to preserve. The original game was built around a single player experience, and that meant there were numerous aspects that simply wouldn’t work for a multiplayer game. For instance, there are few timing issues to consider in a single player game, since there are no other players waiting to take turns. In the original version, a player would take around a hundred turns in the course of a game. That just wouldn’t work in a multiplayer game. And of course I needed more character customization. I think people are really going to be impressed with how they can shape their characters.
MWD: It sounds like backstabbing will play a part in this game. What’s the cooperative/competitive tension look like? On a scale from Pandemic to Diplomacy, how much screwage can we expect?
MrB: Two things that Colby and I hold near and dear to our hearts are player interaction, and lots of player decisions. Dungeon Run is packed with it. Rather than force players to play a particular kind of game, the rules present players with a ton of options and then say, “Go for it.” Players can work together if they want, or they can go their separate ways in the twisting tunnels. They can have loose alliances, or they can kick, stab, and steal from each other at every step. There are lots of ways players can work together, and countless ways to hinder each other. So the question is, how does each player want to play?
The game starts with all the heroes in the dungeon entrance. If you want to wave hello and then start punching people in the face, you can. You won’t be popular, and retribution will probably be brutal, but you can do it.
MWD: I think the minis for this game are some of the sharpest I’ve seen in some time. That’s a big step up from print-and-play – what prompted that design decision? How did it feel to see the results?
MrB: We wanted minis from the get-go but it was an intimidating expense for a small publisher. In the end though, we knew we had to include them. Heck, really we just wanted to be able to play the game with minis ourselves. The real breakthrough was nabbing Chad Hoverter for the sculpting. Chad is a new face on the sculpting scene, and after seeing some of his previous work, Colby snatched him up for two Plaid Hat projects. Seeing characters I had designed turn into professional illustrations was cool enough. Seeing them turn into miniatures was mind-blowing.
MWD: What did you learn going through the design process? What tips can you give to other aspiring designers who are thinking, “Man, how can I get my game to this point?”
MrB: As far as being an aspiring designer, you really have to get out there and work on other people’s designs. Be a playtester. Meet people. Publish homebrew variants. Be prepared to spend lots of time on other people’s work. Colby’s a good friend, but that friendship developed while we were both out there doing whatever we could with other companies. That’s kind of how we met. As in any industry, having solid relationships and being able to network is important.
What did I learn in the design process? That when you’re making up names for fantasy creatures, do a quick Google search. ‘Cause otherwise one of your monsters could share a name with an adult entertainment website. Thankfully we caught that one early.
MWD: What’s on your game table at the moment?
MrB: We just got in some Road Kill Rally the other day – that’s always a good time. We’re playing Summoner Wars, thanks to the new Cloaks and Jungle Elves releases. And I’m also looking forward to a big Magic the Gathering showdown using the Commander/Elder Dragon Highlander format.
MWD: What’s next for Mr. Bistro? Any other projects that you’d like to share?
MrB: Hmm. Well I won’t say too much, since who knows where any project will go? I will say I’m working on something card-driven that is cooperative and involves ridiculous, explosive destruction on a global scale. Think E.T. meets To Kill a Mockingbird meets Red Dawn. But then I could be lying. And of course there’s the box in my game closet labeled DR2. I think that stands for Dancemaster: Rasputin.
MWD: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us – congrats again and best wishes for a successful launch. I know what I’ll be playing in August!
MrB: Tennis? Cribbage? Stop being a tease Scott.
Well, apparently it won’t be Dancemaster: Rasputin. Now who’s being the tease?
ScottB is a member of Fortress: Ameritrash, a passionate gamer, and a blogger on MenWithDice.com. Check it out.