Friday, December 16, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Skyrim

No, I didn't draw it - but I should have.
Drats - I missed my Thrusday Dungeonspiration deadline again.  I should be ashamed.  But I have an excuse.  I blame Skyrim.

Skyrim is awesome.  It look great.  It plays great.  Dragons drop out of the sky in an attempt to punk you all the time.  And what's better - there is not a cluster of people around the world hating you because you were late for a raid.

As I play, I see vistas to describe, horrible traps to throw my players into, and quests to get them involved with.  I'm totally inspired, but somewhat deflated by the knowledge that every single one of my players is playing Skyrim too, and so all this cool new stuff won't be new by the time I regurgitate it into a campaign.

It seems like everyone I know is playing this game.  I wouldn't doubt that there has been a worldwide drop in blog posts since 11/11/11.  A friend's girlfriend also mentioned that there will most likely be a dip in the number of births 9 months from now. The game is riveting, and when our table-top group gets together, we sit around talking about what we did in Skyrim.

Which makes me think: Skyrim is bound to have an effect on table-top game design.  Admittedly, I wasn't paying attention to tabletop or video games in the early 2000s, but 4e has long been lauded as an attempt to make D&D more WOW-like, and from the little I know about WOW - that definitely seems to be the case.

So what will be the effect?  There is not a lot new or groundbreaking about Skyrim - it's primarily the execution that is superbly done, coupled with a great advertising campaign.  A Skyrim billboard still sits on I35 out of Dallas heading for the suburbs.

I'm not much of a game designer. I'm not good at picking apart Skyrim for it's interesting mechanics - aside from maybe it's lock-picking mini-game.  So I'll post the question to everyone:

What effect do you think Skyrim will have on table-top game design - or even just mechanics or idea integration into existing games and people's campaigns?

And yeah, I know some of you have not played Skyrim.  Ya'll feel free to fuss about us other time wasters down in the comments below too. :)

- Ark


  1. The world is a great sandbox, but the dungeons are all pretty linear. The quests are often simple fetch quests, but there is the whole civil war thing that pushes it out of the old black & white, paladins vs orcs territory.

    I think a lot of what it does well, it does well because it's appropriate to the medium. I mean the visuals, night and day cycles, weather, hunting and gathering are hard to do in a game we're imagining in our heads (and playing as a group).

    Traps work well because they're visible and if you're careful you can see and avoid them. The lockpick mini-game is about as perfect as I can imagine for that. Also, skill improvement based on use makes a lot more sense when the computer is doing the bookkeeping.

    I don't know what repercussions it might have on future tabletop trends. It doesn't have classes so maybe a pullback from all the sub-sub-sub-classes. More oldschool style: yeah you're both fighters but that doesn't mean you have to use the same tactics.

    But then, you start as a unique hero with potent powers which might lead to more of the same epic gaming that is common.

  2. Sorry for the rambling/pontificating, but ooh ooh another idea: how about a swing towards being more acceptant of random encounters (less worried about balanced set pieces). As you mention, dragons attacking me when I'm totally unprepared, completely encumbered, catching butterflies is one of the things I love about the game.

  3. And so the pony invasion of Rather Gamey continues... ;)

  4. @Telecanter - The linear dungeons don't bother me - since thee are like 17 million dungeons. If there were only 10, I'd want them bigger and more involved, but with 17 million - I only have so much time. :)

    I like the skill system and absence of classes (or rather - class hoping with stones) - but yeah, the advancement system via use would probably be a book keeping nightmare.

    And the random encounters are great. Our group discovered that all great Skyrim stories start out like this - "I was doing X, when a frikkin dragon attacked . . ."

    @Erin - I suppose I should rename the blog to "Rather Poney."


    - Ark

  5. I suppose I should rename the blog to "Rather Poney."


  6. I played it for a while and came away with impression that it was more or less RuneQuest with the pseudo-Greek stuff swapped with a psuedo-Norse skin. It's got percentile skills that improve as you use them, and then there's the, er, questing for runes.

  7. Skyrim is an enjoyable diversion, though its pretty standard for non-electronic RPG fare. But with the current state of ERPGs, it's a breath of fresh air.

    There will be no discernible impact on RPG design(other than homebrewers kitbashing a clone out utilizing their favorite system) imo, but new PLAYERS will certainly use it as a frame of reference(and possibly it'll be mentioned as inspiration in RPG books, since they're now incorporating vidya gaems in their reference sections :-)). Oh, and of course,there will be the memes to reckon with! :-) *CURVED SWORDS*

    @kelvingreen: spot on!

  8. @Erin - Well, maybe on International My Little Pony day.

    @kelvingreen - I was thinking more Top Secret - but yeah. :)

    @velaran - Yeah, I've been going over the mechanics and there is not much that hasn't been done before. The story structure is very much like like good old fashioned modules - and specifically like the SAvage Worlds Plot Point System (

    As a frame of reference, yeah, that's where the big impact will be I think. I'm already seeing it in the way I am preparing for games and thinking about a campaign as a whole.

    - Ark

  9. I'd love to see someone figure out a way to tame the bookkeeping beast that is use based advancement. I think that's the key to breaking free of class based gaming.