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Solitaire Gaming
From the Future

What Are Dungeons For?

Published November 10, 2022
game design Observation Deck

A little diversion from space-themed gaming but I promise I’ll tie it back together.

Matt Colville’s What Are Dungeons For? video discusses a number of game design topics framed around thesis that Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition only supports dungeon crawling as wallpaper”.

It is a solid video and while I made the mistake of looking at the comment it appears that Matt’s audience are full of mostly reasonable people who actually watched the video all the way through and digested the jist of his theory. (Matt also may be heavily moderating his comments, if so, kuddos.)

As someone very interested in game design I enjoyed this video and it prompted me to rethink a bit of my solo strategy going forward. Pairing the right game system for not just the right atmosphere or tone, but also my desired outcomes.

I think this is the reason I’ve had the most solitaire success with Starforged and the various 5150 RPG titles. Both do a very good job on the game design side of the house - the mechanics reinforce the designer’s preferred outcomes for your play. With Starforged the goal is to get you to undertake quests, make lasting connections with communities, and explore the unknown. In 5150 the goal is to earn Increasing Rep so you can retire comfortably. You do that by picking up jobs, taking out your opponents (either through interaction or combat), sell cargo, or delivering passengers. Then of course there’s Traveller which has no real reward<->game loop. Playing the game, going on the adventures, playing to find out” - that’s the game and engaging with it is the reward. For me at least I’m finding I need a more focused set of outcomes integrated into the game to enjoy it from the perspective of a solitaire player.