Brainstorming an Underdark Roguelike

I’m not sure what planet I’ve been living on that has not heretofore involved R.A. Salvatore books in my hands, but that has recently been settled.  A friend loaned me the first seven Drizzt books, and I’ve been blown away.  I love them – I love the pace, the cultures, the various types of conflict, and all the fun creatures Drizzt and company encounter.

As I read through these, I can’t help but think they have the foundations of a very fun Roguelike.  I’ve been giving it a little bit of thought and will brainstorm more before actually calling it a project, but I would love to see a Roguelike that takes place in the Underdark as presented in Salvatore’s books.  Searching around, I found one Roguelike from 8 years ago that started out with this foundation and then departed.   I honestly can’t figure out why you’d ever need to depart from the story and setting.

So, here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Start simple by only allowing Drow classes based on gender: Commoner, Rogue (nobles without a home), Weaponmaster, Wizard, and Priestess (the last three being noble classes). Noble females are physically and magically more intimidating, but males are given to different types of training and so gain advantages in hunting, combat technique, and survival.  I don’t know enough about commoners so might have to make things up.  Expansion races can include svirfneblin, duergar, human, and other higher races that might wander the Underdark.
  2. Focus on the darkness.  I really like this aspect of Salvatore’s stories… he does some clever things with the pervading darkness.  I’d love to see infrared trails on the ground I could use to track enemies.  Light bombs could blind your adversaries, while orbs of darkness can render even infravision useless.  Light might also be a benefit, as with Belwar’s magically list brooch.
  3. Include all the fun critters… the giant rats, goblins, cave fishers, hook horrors, corbies, myconids, basilisks, illithids, and more.  There is plenty of fodder in here for dual wielding drow weaponmasters imbued with the spirit of the hunter. 😀
  4. Keep the major cities, though they don’t necessarily need to be static.  Allow the player to wander around Menzoberranzan, train in the Academy, head out into the randomized cave areas to seek refuge in Blingdenstone.
  5. Tell a story upon death of a player’s origins, major feats, and ignominious end.  To that end, I’d like to see some quests baked into the gameplay so the player would have opportunities to lead raids (slaughtering elves, anyone?), battle wizards in their magical towers, rescue mining svirfneblin (or conquer their earth elementals), attain high priestess status and summon yochlol to fight, etc.  I’m obviously wanting to see a game where a player could actually live out a story like Drizzt’s, but I wouldn’t be opposed to someone choosing the darker path and seeking their house’s supremacy.

Will post more ideas as they come, but I’m interested to know if anyone else has given this some thought.  I haven’t played any roguelikes focusing on darkness, although I’ve played some that deal with stealth.  Anyone know of similar projects?

~ by roguewombat on November 16, 2010.

20 Responses to “Brainstorming an Underdark Roguelike”

  1. Sounds interesting, but be on the safe side, use the OGL and/or Pathfinder guts if you are angling this at all to be a D&D’ish Roguelike. The rights-bearing entities have a…reputation on this sort of thing. Incursion is the only other Roguelike going this route in general and the only more darkness oriented RL I can think of is Gruesome.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I hadn’t thought of licensing or actual game mechanics, but I’m not too familiar with D&D mechanics aside from my time spent MUDding through grade school and college. I presume by OGL you’re referring to I could easily go for that as most of my work is in the open source world anyways.

      I’ve checked out Incursion but can’t remember if I’ve played Gruesome. Will have to give it a shot this evening! Thanks for the leads. 🙂

  2. Yep, that’s the one and here’s, I think, the relevant page of the yet-untouched-for-computer-gaming Pathfinder—which is kinda key I suppose as there’s no OGL inlets I know of for 4th Edition.

    Aside from Incursion’s ongoing mega-rewrite, the only other OGL-oriented game out there I I know of in active heft is Knights of the Chalice, which is already done and released, and the sequel still cooking. Good stuff, I helped out a bit with the original and hope to do much more with the latter.

  3. I also had exactly the same though when reading these novels, and was surprised there was an underdark roguelike, then disappointed as I realized it was not really one at all. I almost started developing one to your exact discussion, starting with the drow society, but I got sucked into the Warhammer universe and have not since left.
    This would be an immense undertaking, and one I would love to see. I would just like to wander around Menzoberranzan and see the drow go about their business. I will be very very interested in playing a game like this. This would be a game that would really appeal to anyone who liked the books and roguelikers in general.

    • Thanks for stopping by and +1’ing the idea. I was honestly really surprised there hadn’t been a true-to-the-story Roguelike made of it yet… there’s just so much good material here, not to mention plenty of creatures and strange artifacts to find. 😀

      I’ll keep the blog updated if I actually dive into development… I’m toying with the idea of porting some of libtcod for use in FreeBASIC and making a series of smaller games that focus on the different game mechanics. I’m wrapped up in a FB game development competition atm, so it’ll be at least early next year before I can give some serious time to it.

      But in the meantime I’ll keep brainstorming and see where the thoughts take me. My follow-up post to this focuses a little more on player development mechanics in light of the abilities of characters throughout the books.

      Also, I remember your Starcraft RL and your 7DRL entries. Will have to give ’em another play through later today when I’m back on the PC. 🙂

  4. Quite welcome and happy license and material diving.

  5. Half a year has passed – did you start working on it? I like the idea… very much!

    • Oof, I wish. I got pretty busy with work and never got around to it. However, I do have a hankering to re-read the original Drizzt trilogy, so maybe I can at least go through it again and keep notes about how to build such a Roguelike. I’m sure I’ll get a game out of it eventually. 😛

      • I hope you will! I recently had the same idea and I’ve started working on an Angband Underdark variant, but I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it… It’s so much work!

      • Ahh, cool. Lemme know if you’re keeping a dev log somewhere and I’ll follow along. 🙂

  6. Well, I dropped off the face of the earth for a year.
    I’m playing Incursion now, a vaguely d20 roguelike, and the idea is still stuck with me.

  7. Reblogged this on zireael07 and commented:
    Basically, what I am also thinking about…
    I wish modding a roguelike was as easy as modding Baldur’s Gate or Naev…

  8. RogueWombat, would you be interested in contributing to the aforementioned roguelike, now known as The Veins of the Earth’?

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