With so many board games out there right now, and so many of them supported with expansions, player-created content is becoming a bit of a dying art. Certainly, when I was young, it was a given that you would only enjoy the contents of a box for so long before you started stuffing it full of your own scrawlings and game-breaking ideas. I expect you would struggle to find a second-hand copy of HeroQuest that hasn't been amended or “enhanced” by a previous owner. These days we make less of our own shit. Maybe we just have less time.
This is an exciting development. Come take a look.
DESCENT: SECOND EDITION QUEST VAULT
Fantasy Flight Games just flung this up a couple of days ago. It's in Open Beta right now, so there's the occasional glitch and I imagine the UI will be refined as the months go by, but holy shit if it isn't an exciting bit of kit already.
It's a Descent adventure builder. It's ridiculously easy to use. It formats everything into the recognised adventure format from the published games. And it's free.
Yeah – free. At first, when I logged in and started playing, I just assumed that the Open Beta was for everyone to use and then they'd charge when the thing was final. But then I re-read the blurb on the actual site.
“Fantasy Flight Games is pleased to announce the open beta of the Descent Quest Vault, a totally free online tool for Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition that allows you to create your own epic Descent quests, then share them in a worldwide library of user-generated content.”
I mean, that's pretty clear. This thing is free. And so we're being encouraged to make all our own stuff again, and share it with everyone else. Let's be straight here – Fantasy Flight Games just gave us a free ever-expanding expansion that allows us to make the Descent games we've dreamed of making. It's so customisable that individual adventures could easily contain rule amendments and even introduce new mechanics.
I've already started making my first adventure. It's called “The Mourning Hour” and will be about a group of adventurers grieving for a dead friend. I've always been interested in adventures that feel like they take place in the downtime between the type of adventures we more commonly see. I'm thinking about how I might best incorporate a “grief” element into the little encounter that will take place in this graveyard. I might ask for willpower checks at regualr intervals, as the heroes try to keep their emotions under control. I might even have the memory of the dead friend physically represented on the map as the encounter unfolds. I don't know yet. I can do anything, so I'll try anything and see what works.
I've started putting the map together, as you can see. Before any of this gets finalised, I'll get the game out and play around with the physical pieces to make sure it works. The builder works beautifully for just drafting out an idea, though. You can edit and re-edit until you're satisfied – it's not until you publish the quest that other players will see it. From the screen in the picture above you can construct the map, adding objectives and monsters, simply by clicking and dragging. You can add info to elements of the map with a right-click. It's all completely intuitive and hassle-free. Before you build a quest you tell the builder which game components you own, and only those will be displayed. If you're lucky enough to have a big collection of Descent's First Edition and also have the Second Edition Conversion Kit, you'll have a massive amount of monsters to click and drag into your story.
But I think the page above will be the meat of the whole thing – particularly the “Special Rules” tab. I'm hoping that people really push themselves here. Sure, give us some nice flavour text, and give us some well-balanced battles, but introduce some exciting new elements too. Like – why not have a Jenga tower beside the map board, and have the players pull a block every time a monster successfully attacks some structure they were tasked to defend? I dunno. That might be terrible. I just hope people try out some interesting ideas. After all, most games are just a bundle of components and a few pages of text explaining how to use them. We've just been given some blank pages – we can mod this game like crazy now.
Here's a video Fantasy Flight released to explain how the whole thing works. If you have Descent Second Edition there is NO REASON not to get involved in this. There are also a couple of new official adventures up there already, so go check it out and pick up your freebies at the very least.
Next week will be a photo special, as I take a look at beautiful boards in board games. I'll show you pics of some of my favourite boards, and we'll have a think about what makes a board beautiful. I will also recommend a game for you to buy. I mean, this column didn't encourage you to spend even one penny today, and that's unacceptable.
Stay dicey! (I'm bringing this back for 2013.)