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mrimer
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icon Twisty Little Passages (+6)  
Hi!

It's good to be back. I haven't been able to frequent the forum often, as life has been so extremely busy for a good while now, but I'm super excited to see all of the projects that have been happening here.

You might see me posting here and there, and to forestall any confusion and wondering about what I'm up to, I'll just tell you right here.

I'm in the early planning stages for a smaller-sized project. It's not a secret project, and it is more of a personal hobby project than a game studio project. I don't have time to develop another video game on the scale of DROD, but I can bite off something small and focused that I think might prove fun for a select group. It's not a video game, but it is about puzzles, and I know everyone here on the forum enjoys puzzles, which is why I'm sharing it here.

I'll start out by describing the project as an "RPG puzzle book". That's probably a description that makes sense and conveys the most information up-front in the context of the material we're familiar with on the Caravel Forum. [edit -- looks like I was wrong in my presumption -- apologies for being unintentionally vague here]

My working title for the book is Twisty Little Passages. It's a genre-blending project with deterministic combat at the core of a pencil-and-paper gaming, maze-exploring, puzzle-solving RPG adventure experience. I'd like to crowd-fund it on Kickstarter to produce, print and distribute an actual full-size, full-color hardcover book with top-notch RPG-styled illustration.

The project is in its early inception stages. It is mainly for personal enjoyment and for fans of puzzles, mazes, and RPGs. As you know, these are all things I'm quite passionate about. My main goal is not to make a ton of money off of this. My early anecdotal research is showing me there may be many other individuals like myself who would enjoy such a novel pencil-and-paper puzzle gaming experience, and I'd like to give something more back to the puzzle community that is constantly giving me so much enjoyment. If you're interested in puzzles, and you like mazes and pencil-and-paper RPGing, then you might like it too! I don't think any such thing exists, yet, and I feel inspired to create the very first one. (If you happen to know of any book like this, please share it, because I'd love to learn about it.) This could possibly become a real ongoing thing in future puzzle book design.

If there's interest -- not targeted at DROD players, per se, but rather among puzzle-fans and pencil-and-paper RPGers in general, I'll Kickstart this project to fund some great production values and provide you a great puzzle book.

I can share many more details on what I'm thinking if you're interested in learning more.

I'm inviting some individuals to participate in designing puzzles for the project. If you have a proven track record in designing puzzles, especially DROD RPG-like puzzles, and would like to collaborate with me on the project, please let me know. If you're interested in participating some other specific way, that's fine too! Please share how you'd like to get involved. I'd be excited to work with you and would appreciate your contributions.

Along the way, I welcome any ideas and suggestions you have to share. I'd like this to not just be a pet project, but a collaborative effort. You are quite possibly an individual who can make puzzles even better than mine, and who could help make this book really shine.

If you would, please take a moment and share with me what you'd like to see in such a book?

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 11-19-2018 07:22 PM]
10-25-2018 at 03:18 PM
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Dischorran
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icon Re: Twisty Little Passages (+2)  
Interesting, though without knowing more I might wonder how essential the art and binding are to the overall package.

From the description it sounds like Maze of Games http://www.lonesharkgames.com/maze/), with maybe a bit of the old Joe Dever sort of thing going on?

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10-25-2018 at 05:50 PM
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mrimer
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Thanks for the reference! I wasn't aware of that campaign and book. Wow, that's a pretty hardcore production there.

And I loved playing through a bunch of Lone Wolf books as a kid. :thumbsup

No, I'm not planning on writing a novel and don't plan on providing puzzles of all sorts. (I don't think we'll be trying to get Wil Wheaton to record either.)

There would be character progression but no dice rolling in the puzzles. It would be a more "Euro" experience, applying a board gaming analogy.

I have a specific class of puzzle in mind, focused on order-of-operations choices and resource management, like in DROD RPG. The visual layout of the book might feel a lot more akin to RPG campaign maps, e.g.,

https://www.bigbookofmaps.com/

(which I stumbled on just now). The difference would be that we would be designing a handcrafted puzzle for each map (or rather, providing an illustrated map to fit the puzzle) and bits of world-building narrative sprinkled in along the way, plus possibly a "MtG card"-esque level of content provided for enemies and items/artifacts.

I see projects like these have books that run anywhere from $50-100 in their respective campaigns, and I'd like to be able to come in well below that. I envision this as not *just* a resource for tabletop or hardcore gamers. I'd like it to be something that one might consider a fun diversion and could be a nice present to gift to a friend or family (adults, both old and young). I wouldn't expect children under, say, ten years old or so to "get" it.

Regarding art and binding, I think I'm agreeing with you that these are not essential to the overall package. Yet, at the same time, presentation is always essential to the overall package.

What thoughts do you have on the form the product takes?

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 10-25-2018 08:49 PM]
10-25-2018 at 08:40 PM
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ErikH2000
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Mike, it sounds fantastic. I would certainly contribute with a pledge once you have a crowdfund site up.

I like your decision to make it a physical book. There is something elegant about just communicating what the thing is by it being printed. The puzzles will be timeless. With no computers involved, they have to be.

It may he worth talking to Ed Pegg, who is a DROD fan and a hub for people in the world of published puzzles.

I'd be happy to work on a few puzzles if you'd like my help.

It's great to see you pursuing this kind of creative project again, Mike. I'm sure you'll make something amazing.

-Erik



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Animations I made: Always the Boss * Paliwal's Pecans * Office Hate * Sleepless Night
Some stuff I wrote: Top 10 Mazes You Canít Solve By Following the Right Wall * Let's Just Lie About Dieting * The Philosophical Reason for Running * Dare to be Mediocre!
10-25-2018 at 08:58 PM
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Dischorran
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Caravel chat has about as many guesses as people about what you have in mind. If it's basically an RPG style maze with point cost gates done up as a map, then yeah, art would be essential. Probably need to see a full example to grasp it.

I guess other points of reference that may or may not relate could be the Nikoli puzzles or Dungeon Heroes https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/127981/dungeon-heroes)?

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10-25-2018 at 09:42 PM
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mrimer
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Thanks for the words of encouragement, Erik! They warm my heart.

I am thrilled to include you in puzzle building. Please see my PM email presently.

Thanks also for the tip about Ed Pegg possibly being interested. It's an excellent suggestion. I'll definitely reach out to him to request a review prior to the campaign.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 10-26-2018 03:12 AM]
10-26-2018 at 02:57 AM
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mrimer
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Thanks for providing the mentions, Dischorran.

I thought for years on how I might make a DROD board game and couldn't come up with anything that felt natural and faithful to the original, without a metric grundle of fiddly pieces, but the language in the Dungeon Heroes description is similar to the core of one idea I was envisioning.

I referred to another idea I had as Archivists vs Patrons, where you and another player each try to simultaneously build a dungeon area while messing with your opponent's dungeon, while delvers periodically march through and wreck the place. You would acquire and spend time units for building and monster placement, similar to how this works in Stronghold, if you've seen that board game.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 10-26-2018 03:20 AM]
10-26-2018 at 03:17 AM
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mrimer
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BTW, I'm not trying to be secretive on this project. I want it to be crowd-funded after all, so please ask about anything you're interested in.

Puzzle concept
Here are a couple hand-drawn concept sketches I made on graph paper for tutorial levels. They depict some of my early ideas for puzzle content and how it might be presented on the page:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/6q2dhgevi4kmt5j/tlp_ch1_3_roach_warren.png?dl=0

Art style
I'd like to have level maps illustrated in the style of RPG campaign top-down maps, similar to this one:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/0rz74ynsudmxwqk/036lFAk.jpg?dl=0

Not all puzzles need to look like D&D-esque dungeon maps. They could be futuristic/sci-fi, wargame-style, steampunk, etc.

We want to play to the strengths of the media, so think of a great presentation in your mind's eye, and then try to capture that in words for illustrators to work off of, which would look great in a book.

What styles do you think would look good here?

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 11-19-2018 06:15 PM]
10-26-2018 at 03:31 AM
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Looks interesting. I think the biggest potentially tricky thing is managing all the floating information involved in tracking the world state (read: everything that isn't on the character sheet). Tracking which items were picked up, what monsters were killed, what doors are open, and so on is easy in a computer game, but in a pencil and paper context it requires either a huge tracking sheet (not ideal), writing on the maps themselves (very not ideal), or some sort of elegant abstraction that sidesteps the problem in a clever way.

____________________________
Once (adv.): Enough.
Twice (adv.): Once too often.
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

[Last edited by Pinnacle at 10-26-2018 04:28 PM]
10-26-2018 at 04:27 PM
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Xindaris
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I'm under the impression that some kind of physical representation of everything would be helpful for that problem. Like a little roach meeple that you knock down or take out of the way when you kill it, and potion/weapon tokens (I mean little cardboard circles) that you could pick up and put aside when the relevant item is taken from the board.

Heck, if you represented all of the items and monsters with tokens or meeples or cutouts or whatever, it'd be easy for people to make their own puzzle variations using the existing maps. I have no idea if this is part of the plan or not, though.

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10-26-2018 at 04:56 PM
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mrimer
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Great points. Thanks for sharing them.

I've been thinking the same things. Here are some ideas I've gone through for tracking progress and state on a map. I see there are pros and cons to each, so I don't think there is an "ideal" solution. (Please share one if you have one.)

Player circles or Xs out elements as they are interacted with
Pros: the only equipment you need is the pencil you're already using
Cons: destructive; becomes messy over repeat plays; difficult to see on glossy paper

(although, consider there are other very successful puzzle book campaigns that do expect the player to "destroy" them through normal use, e.g., https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rain-ludibooster/journal-29-revelation-interactive-book-game , which I backed)

Have spots indicated on the map, either partially on or next to interaction points, for marking checkmarks or Xs
* Pros: a bit cleaner and more visible than the above option; could mark numbers in sequence, not just a circle or X
* Cons: looking for checkmarks seems less thematic than X-ing out monsters and obstacles; still slightly destructive to the pages over repeat plays; still difficult to see on glossy paper

Tokens, meeples or cubes placed on or taken off the map
* Pros: book destruction not an issue, visually interesting, most visceral in 3-D, would probably facilitate more interesting photos
* Cons: more expensive to produce, ship and purchase, requires more storage, more setup and takedown, is less elegant to interact with (as the player might end up picking up and putting down their pencil repeatedly in order to remove meeples and tokens), would be vulnerable to bumping, requires different and more expensive binding (i.e., coil bound, or maybe saddle stitch) in order to play on a completely flat page surface

Print copies of maps
(say, from an included e-Version of the book, for repeat plays)
* Pros: book destruction not an issue
* Cons: requires a computer+printer or copier, more expensive for the player to play (esp. if printing color copies), less engaging than playing right in the book itself

(although...there are many e-versions of puzzle books, like Maze of Games, and players would have to print out any pages they're solving a puzzle on, otherwise mess up the book, and from what I can tell, that hasn't seemed to deter many individuals from backing those campaigns. But what do I know.)

A clear plastic foil/sheet placed on the map; mark it with a fine-tipped dry erase marker
e.g.,
https://www.laminationdepot.com/PVC-Clear-Binding-Covers-Qty-100?quantity=1&custcol_cover_thickness=3&custcol_cover_size=1&custcol_tissue=1
https://www.bulkofficesupply.com/Products/Expo-Ultra-Fine-Point-Dry-Erase-Markers__SAN1871774-BULK.aspx
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H7F1Z1P

* Pros: book destruction not an issue, easy to see, can easily write move numbers and whatever symbol you want on interaction points, quicker and easier to take back moves, can easily use multiple colors, could easily make other notes along the way right on the map, can save solutions, can swap out games in progress
* Cons: raises price to produce and ship additional material with the book by, oh, two to three bucks; using a marker alongside a pencil is more clumsy...unless the marker is sufficient by itself, which is a possibility

* Options: could provide a different/additional reward tier to include this stuff along with the book. Still, we might discover no one requests such an upgrade in practice. People often have a lot of this stuff sitting around their home already, and they could just as easily order anything they don't have from Amazon for a few bucks, which is about the same as we could provide it.

----

I like the idea of marking spots with numbers, in the order the actions are made. That would allow (a) undoing moves more easily, and (b) comparing one's solution with an answer key.

I think I like the plastic sheet overlay option the best of all these options because it's cheap and flexible, doesn't require a bunch of extra production work or cost, and it's simple to accommodate in multiple ways.

What option do you like best?

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 10-26-2018 10:10 PM]
10-26-2018 at 09:48 PM
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Xindaris
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While having tokens/meeples to move around is cool and allows for custom puzzles, it's perfectly understandable they're more expensive. Bearing in mind price, the "dry erase" solution seems like a really good one, especially since there's no reason a particularly ambitious player couldn't use that to make their own room variants or whatever.

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10-26-2018 at 10:03 PM
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mrimer
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That's a great point regarding homemade puzzles.

I'd like to see this kind of puzzle take off, with players making up a bunch of custom puzzles to share with the community at large.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.
10-26-2018 at 10:07 PM
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Chaco
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Just putting in my two cents here, I think another way some cardboard-token games have dealt with game objects being killed, used or consumed is to have two sides, one with the alive monster, full potion, etc. and one with a dead monster corpse, empty potion bottle, etc.

For something like DROD's invisibility potion, I imagine the token would probably be picked up from the board and placed in the player's "hand", then later on whenever it wore off, it would be flipped over and the empty potion token left in the player's hand.

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10-27-2018 at 01:52 AM
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Dischorran
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Tokens could be printed on a couple book pages to be cut out, resolving plenty of problems.

But really, the more I'd have to track stats, the more I'd wonder why it's not computerized in the first place. Plus, the more complicated it is, the easier it is to screw up, and it's not as if I have feedback that I've done so (leveling up in particular is going to be a nightmare). Plus, everything for a map pretty much needs to fit on a two-page spread, which would seem to limit complexity.

Since this seems to be largely growing out of DROD:RPG, the complaint I've had with it is "what do I get out of this that I don't get out of Desktop Dungeons?" It needs to play hard to its strengths of being a hand-crafted puzzle, which I would think means exactly one solution to a given map, and ideally some creative gimmicks to the later puzzles. I could envision something along the lines of "this monster can only die in trap X, but an attack hurts you N points and pushes it opposite to the direction of attack." Maybe think about arbitrary graph traversal instead of a dungeon grid to take advantage of hand-drawn maps?

I guess I'm basically thinking it could work as a maze book variant along Robert Abbott lines - I think disoriented and RuAdam have adapted some of his ideas to DROD?

But really, I'm not known for my judgment, so yeah. Maybe I'm way off of what you're thinking.

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10-27-2018 at 02:07 AM
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mrimer
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quote:
Dischorran wrote:
the more I'd have to track stats, the more I'd wonder why it's not computerized in the first place. Plus, the more complicated it is, the easier it is to screw up, and it's not as if I have feedback that I've done so (leveling up in particular is going to be a nightmare). Plus, everything for a map pretty much needs to fit on a two-page spread, which would seem to limit complexity.
All valid points. I've considered the idea of a simple companion app whose purpose is to serve to keep track of your action sequence and your stats at each step. Also facilitating easy turn take-backs.
quote:
It needs to play hard to its strengths of being a hand-crafted puzzle, which I would think means exactly one solution to a given map, and ideally some creative gimmicks to the later puzzles.
If I understand correctly, you're saying that the power in the puzzles will become stronger with only a single solution. That's a point worth considering. It feels right in this context.
quote:
Maybe think about arbitrary graph traversal instead of a dungeon grid to take advantage of hand-drawn maps?
Can you point me to an example of what you're thinking?
quote:
But really, I'm not known for my judgment, so yeah. Maybe I'm way off of what you're thinking.
No, I appreciate your feedback. Observations like these can only serve to make this a better project.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 10-27-2018 03:45 AM]
10-27-2018 at 03:44 AM
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quote:
mrimer wrote:
Can you point me to an example of what you're thinking?
I'm thinking something like Ticket to Ride as opposed to Clue. Pay to move between one city (i.e. room) and another instead of yet another grid or hex based system. Seems like it could lend more flexibility to matching layout to artwork and feel less artificial as well as being more unique than your basic role-playing map system. Plus, if you really want a grid, it's not as if you can't make one out of nodes and paths.

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10-27-2018 at 05:13 AM
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mrimer
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quote:
Dischorran wrote:
quote:
mrimer wrote:
Can you point me to an example of what you're thinking?
I'm thinking something like Ticket to Ride as opposed to Clue. Pay to move between one city (i.e. room) and another instead of yet another grid or hex based system. Seems like it could lend more flexibility to matching layout to artwork and feel less artificial as well as being more unique than your basic role-playing map system. Plus, if you really want a grid, it's not as if you can't make one out of nodes and paths.
Yes, I like this idea. I envision notions of the grid will be more of a stylistic nod to RPG maps, where thematically appropriate, than to apply hard and fast movement rules.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.
10-28-2018 at 01:08 AM
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mrimer
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Update:

We've been playtesting some early and more advanced puzzles. It's a fun experience for everyone and we're learning some good lessons about how to design levels and present information in a way that is convenient and keeps the player in the flow of solving the puzzle.

I've also been experimenting with different book formats. At this point, I can say that applying a wire binding to the book (not spiral binding) makes for the best experience. The pages lie completely flat without effort, and you can have a two-page spread that lies flat and looks great. I like this option best because we don't want anything about the form of the book to get in the way of an enjoyable play experience. Wire binding lets you place the book down, say, on a table, and play naturally just like with other tabletop or pencil-and-paper games. It feels much nicer to play this way than (as a contrasting example) a solo-play RPG book you have to hold in your hand while you're writing stats (maybe on another page in the book) and possibly also rolling dice.

Using laminated sheets and dry-erase markers works really smoothly too for repeat plays.

Do you have any thoughts to add about what would be the best form factor for the book?

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 11-01-2018 05:02 PM]
11-01-2018 at 04:26 PM
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mrimer
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Update:

I've been working actively with Kieran on creating puzzles for this project. We have a dozen puzzles completed so far and they all feel very nice to me. I can put in a plug that Kieran's puzzles are all excellent! I see the next phase in puzzle design as fleshing out the difficulty curve and exploring some alternative elements we haven't focused on much so far that should be fun to include in this type of puzzle.

I believe we've settled on a book format and page layout that will work very well. Puzzles can be solved right on the page and play is straightforward and fast. You can use a dry-erase marker directly on a laminated page, then wipe and replay an area multiple times without any issues. For the type of puzzles we've been producing, I can now argue that they're as convenient to play on paper -- even more, with respect to certain aspects -- as on a computer.

If you like designing DROD RPG puzzles (I'm looking at everyone that's published an RPG hold in recent memory) and would like to create a puzzle or two for this project, the offer's still on the table for you to contribute. Based on our current experience, designing and playtesting doesn't take a huge time commitment (Kieren, please correct me if I'm wrong). Puzzles are limited to a single sheet of paper, and these can often be formulated in an evening. The DROD RPG level editor has been used to good effect in designing puzzles, though it's not necessary by any means. For instance, I've produced all my puzzles by hand. At our current rate, we might be wrapped up on puzzle design by the end of the year, so please speak up asap if you'd like to have your work included.

I've reached out to multiple artists and illustrators. We're ready to go with a few -- whom I think are all excellent fantasy artists -- to produce art assets for this project as soon as we're ready to start on that part. I plan to start contracting illustration work when we're a bit further along in the puzzle design and have the setting and narrative a bit more hardened. Likely in 2-4 weeks. I expect the finished product is going to look really good!

-----

We seem to be moving pretty fast on generating content, and I'm happy to keep sharing updates if there's interest.

Based on the volume of conversation on this topic, I'm wondering how much interest exists on the forum. (Edit: actually, I should create a poll for this.) If you're simply content to wait and see what the finished product ends up like, possibly because you're fully confident we'll create something awesome, that's fine. However, if you do have interest, I would like to encourage you to share your thoughts and desires here, especially if there's anything more you'd like to know or if you think the project would turn out better if steered a certain way, and so forth. This isn't a secret project or anything, and being crowd-funded, I think the project will turn out best if there's an open dialogue and we're providing a novel creation that people think they'll enjoy.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

[Last edited by mrimer at 11-19-2018 07:23 PM]
11-19-2018 at 06:49 PM
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Jacob
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I may be late to speak up, but this sounds very cool. I will be interested in contributing, even if it is just some puzzle ideas.

____________________________
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11-21-2018 at 12:17 PM
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mrimer
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quote:
Jacob wrote:
I may be late to speak up, but this sounds very cool. I will be interested in contributing, even if it is just some puzzle ideas.
No, it's definitely not too late. Glad to have you! Collaborating with you is always a joy. I'll PM you.

____________________________
Gandalf? Yes... That's what they used to call me.
Gandalf the Grey. That was my name.
I am Gandalf the White.
And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.
11-22-2018 at 01:12 AM
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Caravel Forum : Caravel Boards : General : Twisty Little Passages (Crowd-funding project for a puzzle RPG adventure book)
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