Although it might sound odd to think of Dungeons & Dragons as a board game instead of a pen & paper role-playing game, the truth is that there have been board game variants of the franchise almost from day one. As a young child I remember playing Dungeon! with my cousins on family get-togethers. I’ve played DragonStrike, the D&D version of Heroscape and even Dragon Dice. Dungeons & Dragons has come in many forms – from Spellfire to Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, but the board games seem to be some of the most memorable. Most of the board game for D&D came out in the days of First and Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and there was a noticeable lull in third edition. All I really have from that era is Dungeons & Dragons Clue and the collectable miniatures. With Fourth Edition, we’ve seen Wizards of the Coast releasing several board games bearing the D&D logo. Conquest of Nerath , for example, was a D&D take on Risk. The favorites in my household have been the “adventure system” games. Perhaps it is because of the inherent love for Ravenloft here, but we took to Castle Ravenloft like a fish to water.
Now Wizards is releasing the third game in the adventure system series and this time it’s based on Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf ranger created by R.A. Salvatore in the novel The Crystal Shard. Since then Drizzt has become one of the most recognizable characters in D&D history. Countless gamers have read about Drizzt exploits or found him as a hidden character in video games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, but now you get the chance to play as Drizzt and his legendary companions -fourth edition style. Peter Lee, of Wizards of the Coast, was kind enough o answer a few of my questions about the upcoming Legend of Drizzt board game and what we can expect to see in it.
Diehard GameFAN: Legend of Drizzt is the third in the “adventure system co-operative game” line from Dungeons & Dragons. What was the decision behind using Drizzt and the cast of characters around him for the newest game?
Peter Lee: The first two games focused on the villains of Dungeons & Dragons, so for this third game it made sense to celebrate the heroes. It’s fun to be able to play Drizzt and the rest of the Companions of the Hall for an afternoon. It’s a really strong theme as there are so many options available, more so than both Count Strahd and Ashardalon combined. The subject also appeals to a wider audience than the previous two as many fans of the novel line are not necessarily active D&D players.
DHGF: Was R.A. Salvatore, creator of Drizzt and writer of the current Neverwinter series, involved with the making of this game in any way?
Peter: His work definitely inspired the game. I got to sit down with him at GenCon this year and show him the final game with a couple of fans. One of the comments that came up during play was line of sight, or perhaps I should say, the lack of line of sight. The player playing Catti-brie wanted to fire an arrow at a creature two tiles away, but the twisting narrow passage tile that was between her and the monster would have blocked line of sight had Legend of Drizzt used the same rule system as in the roleplaying game. Most of the players thought she couldn’t fire her bow, and R. A. Salvatore exclaimed that if he were writing the story, she’d be able to bank the arrow off the sides of the cavern and hit the guy. The players were a little surprised to hear that there weren’t any line of sight rules and that Catti-brie could indeed attack the Monster – so the game supports the way Bob tells stories.
DHGF: The adventure system board games are based on randomly placed tiles for extra replayability. Castle Ravenloft started with dungeon/castle tiles and Wrath of Ashardalon was more of the same. This allowed tiles to be mixed and matched between the games. Legend of Drizzt is going a different route with Cavern tiles. How do these different from the previous ones and will this affect the ability to mix and match between the two games in any way?
Peter: As the novel line is frequently set in the cavernous Underdark, it makes sense that this game also takes place there. I changed the back of the tiles because the board looks odd when Cavern and Dungeon tiles are placed next to each other. (One day, we might do something crazy like Street Tiles for urban adventures or Forest Tiles for an outdoor adventure, and those would definitely look odd when combined into one tile stack!) For those brave Adventure writers that want to create a story that uses both sets, I recommend creating a two-part adventure where the first part is finding the way to the second location. For example, finding the Secret Stairway in the crypt is followed by the search for the real destination, a Lost Shrine of Moradin deep in the Underdark.
DHGF: All the Dungeons & Dragons adventure system games have used unpainted miniatures from the now defunct Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures collectible game (which I sorely miss). What was the reason behind recycling these pieces instead of creating new ones, as well as leaving them unpainted?
Peter: Ultimately, I need to provide the best value to the fans. If Legend of Drizzt included painted miniatures, the price would need to be radically higher or the number of miniatures would need to be drastically reduced. If this game cost between $120-$150 dollars, it would not be an easy purchase to anyone but the most invested D&D fan. When choosing the miniatures, I’d pick the best sculpts that have ever been done for D&D Miniatures. These minis are all out of print, some of them for years, so these games provide a new D&D fan a great way to amass a bunch of staple D&D monsters. (As an aside, these aren’t all old figures, as some heroes were never done before. For example, Jarlaxle, Catti-brie, and Regis are all new sculpts.)
DHGF: Are there specific stories from the Drizzt mythos that will be revisited in Legend of Drizzt, or are these all new adventures?
Peter: The Adventure book is definitely inspired by the novels. I take a few liberties with the stories to make a better game and to not completely spoil the novels. I can’t really reduce a 400 page novel into an hour experience, so the adventures often highlight exciting battles from the book. For example, the first adventure, Exile, is inspired by the book of the same name and features Drizzt’s journey from Menzoberranzan to the surface.
DHGF: Since Legend of Drizzt uses established characters from the Forgotten Realms universe, how hard will it be for someone to get into and enjoy the game if they are unfamiliar with these characters?
Peter: It’s not any more difficult than someone playing Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon. In fact, it might even be easier than the characters from the previous games. The heroes are strong archetypes – that’s what makes them so engaging to the reader. By staying true to the character, you make it easier to understand how the character relates to the others in the story. Regis has an ability that makes it less dangerous to scout, so he’s more prone to go off on his own and get into trouble. Wulfgar has a lot of hit points, so the players are rewarded when he takes a front and central role in combat.
DHGF: Legend of Drizzt introduces stances to the adventure system. Can you explain how these will work?
Peter: Three of the characters have stances, which are tracked by a small token. It allows you to have one ability active at a time, allowing your character to react to the board. Each stance power is represented by a card, either an at-will power or a utility power. Once active, some stances provide an ongoing upgrade, while others allow a single use reaction that requires you to remove your stance token until you activate the power again.
For example, Bruenor has a stance that uses his Clan Battlhammer Shield, making him harder to hit in combat. If he needs speed, he can instead use Hurry Up! to get a bonus to speed. Instead of attacking, he could ready an attack with his Counterstrike Stance, which allows him to attack a Monster that engages him during a future Villain Phase.
DHGF: What are some of the new monsters players will encounter in Legend of Drizzt?
Peter: Obviously, the Drow are one of the main foes in the game. To have Drow and no Spiders would feel wrong, so this game includes a Spider Swarm. (I didn’t include a basic spider because of the one in Castle Ravenloft.) This game introduces a few Monsters that would have been Villains in a previous game; you might run into a Drider or Troll in any game! I wanted a foe that the Drow would boss around, so Goblins became the other major foe.
DHGF: Will Wizards of the Coast ever release new adventures for any of these games, perhaps ones that mix and match pieces from each game? If not, do you have any tips for owners of these games on how to create their own adventures for them?
Peter: We’ve released a couple of online adventures for the previous games, and I’m sure more will happen. Until then, there is definitely a strong community creating their own content for this game, especially on boardgamegeek.com. I love it when this happens, and so for Legend of Drizzt, I added a few tokens that have no actual use yet in any adventure, allowing the creativity of the Adventure System fans to flow.
To create your own adventure, create a direct goal with one or two neat new mechanics, and then play it out a few times. After you get an idea of how the adventure works, reinforce the parts you like and change the elements that don’t work.
DHGF. Is Legend of Drizzt the final adventure system game or will there be more to look forward to in 2012 and beyond? I personally would love to see a Spelljammer or Planescape game.
Peter: There will definitely be things to look forward to, but that’s all I can really say at this time… Talking as a fan, the one I’d really love to do is a deluxe game dedicated to the first Dragonlance trilogy, but I’m having a hard time imagining how to pack so many dragons into a tiny box and it would be hard to have the “Dungeon Tile”Â exploration mechanic fit with the story of the game.
Legend of Drizzt will be released on October 18th with a MSRP of $64.99. Check back here in a week or two for our comprehensive review of the game. To learn more you can visit the official Legend of Drizzt website.