I had another round of playtesting for Dungeons of the Catan Horror last night, which brought up two very important questions: first, was what type of interactions can the player have with local rulers and settlements, and second, where do they fit on the scale when we talk about level-based interactions?

Since we’re using The Settlers of Catan as part of our base game, I had an idea for how to answer the second question, which I’m going to tackle first — where do interactions within settlements, and with their rulers fit on the scale of level-based interactions? I decided to do something wild and count the number of pieces one Catan player receives. Fifteen roads, five settlements, and four cities.

Cities are functionally “upgraded settlements” — they produce more resources, and they’re worth more victory points in the end of the game. My thought is that while every road and settlement is worth “one,” cities are worth “two,” when it comes to calculating the size of a particular ruler’s territory, otherwise considered their “level.” Two roads plus two settlements at the start of the game means they’re 4th level.

It’s then plausible for an audience with a local ruler to become a 4th-level Challenge when we talking about influencing their budding empire right out of the box. Medium difficulty for a Diplomacy check should put you at a respectable DC 19. Mind you, that’s a DC 19 for a successful Diplomacy check. I’m working on failures now…

…As for the complexity of those Skill Challenges, I figured it was as good a time as any to consult the Catan reference cards. I noted with no small amount of joy that all of the constructions or purchases require between one and five resource cards. (More on “one” in a moment.) It seemed to me that if we’re dealing with resources, complexity should mirror cost. Therefore, a settlement requires ten successful Diplomacy checks.

That’s no mean feat, let me tell you. Influencing the construction of a road, on the other hand, requires a mere six successful Diplomacy checks. And now, getting back to the idea of one resource card — Catan normally permits the players to trade freely amongst themselves when it’s their turn. A player may negotiate a trade of resources between the active Catan player and any of the others on a one-for-one basis.

Any number of Resources may be traded between the active Catan player and others, but each Resource traded at once increases the complexity of the Challenge by one, up to five. Five Resources is the maximum number that can be traded at once, any more require additional transactions, to be initiated by the players.

Diplomacy is your primary skill for interacting with the local rulers, but I’m working on a standard method of incorporating additional skills into the Challenges to spice them up. Specifically, I’m thinking that a player may choose to spend a healing surge to make a check with a secondary skill, to improve their probability of success with the primary skill (Bluff, History, Intimidate, Streetwise, et cetera).

Until such a time as the players have succeeded in influencing the ruler to upgrade one of their settlements to a city, they can seek an audience at any of the ruler’s settlements. Once the ruler controls at least one city, they will only grant audiences in a city under their control. It just makes sense, really.

It occurred to me belatedly that only the active Catan player should grant audiences. The local rulers really have other important duties to attend to, and it also helps to make sense of roads and settlements “popping up” overnight. Really, they’ve been in the works for at least three weeks, and it just so happens that the players persuade them to “commit additional resources to the project.”

The first question, “what kind of interactions can the players have with the local rulers,” will be answered throughout the next several posts on the subject.