As tabletop gaming has moved into the computer age, Wizards of the Coast and its Dungeons & Dragons rule set has always been the pinnacle of getting that feeling of rolling the dice and advancing your character through a friend's dungeon campaign.
We have had games like Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Temple of Elemental Evil, and Neverwinter Nights (among others), and now a new D&D adventure is coming, this time using the new 5th Edition rules. Sword Coast Legends will take players back to the Forgotten Realms in a huge campaign for four players. In our play session at E3, we didn't get to see any of the campaign, but we did get to try out the most intriguing feature, the Dungeon Master mode, which will allow players to create their own campaigns. Imagine bringing in your old tabletop missions and worlds into the computer?
Neverwinter Nights can attribute its longevity to players wanting to create their own campaigns, but this version appears so much easier to use. We got to watch as one of the developers from n-Space used the tools to create and customize a town, rural and forest settings, and of course a dungeon. Templates can be created, everything is drag and drop, and just about everything can be customized.
In the brief scenario that was set up for us, we learned that an associate has gone missing. The developer, who was actually playing the dungeon master, created a contact in town, chose the race, class and name of the contact, and was able to create triggers that could begin or end quests. He also created a potion vendor in town, giving that vendor a cart for a bit of ambiance, and creating the inventory that the vendor would carry.
He then opened a new forest tile set complete with a rundown shack. Our quest would take us to this location, where cultists would be waiting for our party. He set up a trigger zone outside the shack that would start the attack once a party entered the zone. He also dragged and dropped the location of where the attackers would come from, the type of attacker and even any special attacks or spells the attacker would have. Inside the shack, we would find the body of our contact, which was also customized to end a quest and begin a new one. The body was also created to be examined, so we could see how he was killed.
Finally, the DM opened a dungeon tile set where we would actually get our hands-on time. He created two bosses, the first a spider god cleric named Captain Fancy Pants. He customized the look and feel of the cleric, the spells he could cast, as well as his level in relation to the average level of our party. In this case, he was created two levels above our party average, but the difficulty level could also be adjusted so the cleric could be 3 or 4 levels above the party.
We watched as the DM set torches, trap trip locations, secret rooms, the mini-boss cleric and the end boss spider god. The the fun began.
Four players jumped online - I played a necromancer - and we entered the dungeon to take on the DM, who could monitor his creation or play any of the characters he created. The DM couldn't modify things on the fly, so when the dungeon inhabitants killed us rather quickly, he went back and made a few changes and we tried again, this time being a bit more competitive against his minions. My necromancer had a scroll that was almost one shot, one kill, so the cleric and the spider boss were no match for our party.
Dan Tudge, president of n-Space, told me after the demo that the game will allow four live players to play against an AI DM. They are looking at the possibility of the DM being a player against four AI to allow for campaigning balance for real players, but that hasn't been officially added. He said the goal was to get Dungeon Master mode as close to a real tabletop experience as possible, while making it really easy to use.
n-Space is looking at ways for players to upload their campaigns and dungeons to share, and inquiries have already been made about using Steam Workshop, but nothing has been officially announced yet. "We'll give more details on sharing when we have them," Tudge said.
The game is scheduled to be released on Sept. 8 on PC, Linux and Mac, and will come to console later in Q4 this year. The company also plans to add DLC for the game later in the year, although contents and pricing details are not yet available.