Design Diaries Table Top

Board Game Design Diary – The Levels

I said I was going to be talking about this next, and I think it is important to talk about this now as next week Design Diaries might be light because it’s the week before Halloween, which means all the Halloween topics, because, obviously. This is part 5 of my design, and probably one of the last generalized ones before I start to get into more minutia.

The Premise

The Characters

The Bosses

The Guilds

The Levels

So, I’ve talked about how on a level you have a big boss battle, but that isn’t the only thing on the level, in fact, while the boss battles are probably going to be the most tactical part of the game, I want to really focus on story as much as I can, and that’s where the other part of the level comes in to play.

On a level, there are going to be a number of locations or things that you can do as heroes, and you can decide how long you want to take doing them. I want this part to really feel like it’s fairly open to what you can do, though, you’ll probably want to do everything. With the levels I’m hoping to create a tension of not being able to do it all and having to make the choices on how your character levels and develops. Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do.

  • Quest
  • Deal with a Level event
  • Fight Monsters (aka Level Grind)
  • Shop
  • Recruit to Guild
  • Interact with NPC’s
  • Interact with PC’s
  • Research Level Boss

That’s a lot of things that you can do. Now, you don’t always have all of the choices though, maybe there aren’t any quests or NPC’s on a level, but there are a lot of monsters to fight, it’ll depend on the design of the floor. Let’s take a look at all of these (order of me taking a look at them not guaranteed) to see what they all do.

Research Level Boss

So what do this get you, it helps you be able to know what sort of combat the boss is going to throw at you. What sort of weapon it has, what sort of minions it has, those are going to be the easy things to get that you can get from just a quick glance. Spend some minions or your hero here once and you get that, but the more time you spend, the more information that you can get, including knowing specific attacks. All of this is going to make it easier to solve the puzzle of the boss battle.


It is what it says it is, there will be a few different store options that you can go to, though. There will be an apothecary for your healing items. An armorer will be where you buy armor, and a blacksmith or weapons dealer will get your weapons. There will also be information brokers. This is going to be somewhere that you can information, it might be about quests for the floor, it might be information about other guilds in the world, about the boss of the level, but there’s going to be some information and it’ll depend on the level that you are on. Also, not all shops will be available on all floors. Finally, with the shops, there are going to be things to buy for the heroes, for sure, but there will be also group buys or group upgrades for the guild itself, these will be more generalized things that you keep track of on your guild board.

Fight a Monster

This is something that is going to be very different than your big boss battles which will use tactile grid movement. Instead, this is going to be much simpler, and the reason that you’d do it is for XP, money, or loot. This one is going to be simple, whether it is guild members or the heroes fighting.

Recruit to the Guild

Recruit to the Guild, this is fairly simple as well, not much risk in it either, so no worries about losing anyone. What you’re looking at here is going to be some things like the guild morale and how many times you’ve been there and recruited. It’ll be a simple matrix that you won’t know the first time you do it, but after that on each floor you’ll know how many you’ll get next time.

Interact with NPC’s

Interacting with NPC’s is going to be useful for a number of reasons. They are going to be a bit like the information brokers in that you might get a lot of things from them. It might be a quest, it might be world lore, it might be about the floor boss, or what sort of monsters there are on the floor, it might be information that’ll be useful about levels coming up, or hints to what sort of events might be coming up. The difference between an NPC and an information broker is that an information broker is going to have specific information, versus an NPC, which you might not know what information you’ll end up with. I also want to introduce an idea here with quests that might be added to upcoming floors, or the information that’ll be useful in the future. If it’s a quest, it’ll add in a card to that upcoming floors quest deck.

Interact with PC’s

This one is going to be trickier, but I want this to be where a fair amount of emotional weight from the story comes in. It is going to be dealing with the PC’s and their personal problems, and just some of the problems that would exist because of being stuck in a game. This is also going to be a story element that I want to be able to tie through multiple levels. It’ll be story elements that get added as things you can do on multiple floors and might even lock you into an action because a PC might come back and seek you out again on another floor as part of the emerging storyline.


Going on a quest is going to be interesting because there are going to be some small quests and some big quests, a big quest might use up multiple rounds to complete as you push forward and through it. A quest might have some monster fights, it’ll have some other challenges, but it’ll be about using resources, actions, cards, and what not so that they can complete them. Generally you’re going to be pushing forward on these as a hero, but you can send guild members. Guild members won’t be able to unlock a skill for a hero to use later, but completing them will improve morale for the guild.

Level Events

Level events are going to be interesting and also another spot for story to start to develop because a level event could be the MMORPG saying, hey, the first guild to do this gets a bonus or a hero gets a bonus. Or it could be something between PC’s that had ramifications on the world. So I’ve talked about the guild board, but we’re also going to leverage a status board, so if you have a given status, that might be something happens for sure and you have to send someone to do something, or it might mean that something is now closed off, and Level Events, if they are done, are going to be handing out a lot of those, same with the PC and NPC interactions. But generally a Level Event, compared to a quest, is only going to take one round to complete, unless it’s a persistent level event. And level events will be a kind of timer for how long you should stay on a floor, but any repeatable or non-event events will get added back to the event deck, so that you never run out of events to do.

Those are my current ideas for what can be done on a floor. There might also just be a rest action. This would be less for the heroes, unless there is some condition that has been applied by the boss from a previous floor that you need to shake, but generally going to an apothecary would do the same thing and give you more options as well. The reason for having a lot of actions to be done is for the action economy and replayability of the game. The fact you won’t see everything and that you won’t talk to all the NPC’s or PC’s, that’ll mean that there will be new things you can do every time, if you decide to play it again. Now, it won’t be limitless, but most likely if you come back to it, you’ll have forgotten most of what might be coming.

So, what else would you want to do on a floor? Obviously, some of the actions are built more for the guild members to do than the heroes, so how should I balance it out so that the choice is still difficult as to who to send to that location? Those are questions that I’m still asking myself and that I’d be interested to know what people think on them.

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