So, I’d like to say that my initial playtest of “The Dungeons of the Catan Horror” … or whatever nonsensical title I’m going to give the game … was a success. The thing is, I really haven’t had much of an opportunity to test it. Not extensively, anyway. I started putting together a board on … Friday, I think, but I haven’t had time for more than a couple encounters.

Let me put it to you this way: solo play is hard, and I was trying to play by myself. One of the most difficult parts of Dungeons & Dragons is getting a competent and confident Dungeon Master, never mind the difficulty of organizing a competent group, … and so playing by yourself combines those two difficulties into a single, enormous difficulty.

Ever find it difficult to decide whether to go into the Forbidden Swamp or maybe the Forest of Peril? Think it’s hard to get moving when you’re in a group setting? Try deciding to do it for yourself. I built a 1st-level elf ranger, and I gave him a wolf beast companion. Then I trekked into my very first randomly-generated dungeon by myself.

Two encounters left me and my companion nearly dead, and so I retreated from the dungeon and rested before making a second attempt. Using my basic rule of “if you leave the dungeon, you start over,” I entered a brand-new, randomly-generated dungeon, and nearly lost my elf ranger in the very first encounter. I fled the dungeon, forced to abandon my dying wolf companion.

It was after that I realized a couple of the basic mechanics that needed tweaking. Sure, the combat is difficult enough at this stage, especially if your character is entirely by themselves (even with a companion). Experience ought to be awarded at the end of an encounter, and a treasure parcel ought to be awarded after each milestone.

I have a basic idea for how to implement the Perception skill in a dungeon/encounter environment. Before entering a new room, the players are allowed a single Perception roll to determine the room ahead and the number of enemies inside. If they fail, they begin the next encounter as though they had simply marched into the encounter. I’m thinking once they’ve made this crucial Perception check, they can use Stealth.

Dithering Idium — Incidentally, part of the reason I excised Stealth from the skill list in Norvendae is because I’m of the belief that to use Stealth effectively, one must have awareness of potential enemies. Without Perception, Stealth is useless, and rather than requiring both, I eliminated the latter and retained Perception. With the proper awareness, anyone may attempt stealth — training or no.

I also came up with a way to determine the levels of enemies in a dungeon. The first floor contains enemies between levels 1st-3rd. If you enter the dungeon as a 1st-level character, all enemies will be 1st level. If you enter at 2nd level, one enemy will be of 2nd level, two or more will be of 1st level, and so on. The dungeon will try to “scale” to you inasmuch as it is able.

The second floor will contain enemies of 4th-6th level, the third floor will have enemies of 7th-9th, and so on, and so forth. Using basic addition, you’re more or less expected to face between one and three enemies of your level. This is actually more difficult than it sounds, especially when you’re a “newbie” at the levels we’re talking about.

When you first enter a floor, beginning when you’ve reached the “appropriate” level, you can face between one and three enemies of your level. This is harder than it sounds, believe me. They can have up to three times as many actions as you do, and their attacks and damage will scale faster then yours. If you played TES: Oblivion, unmodded, at its higher levels — think of it like that.

The main difference, of course, is that you can continue playing at lower levels until you’re tough enough to face bigger, badder enemies.