Monday, April 07, 2008

man, this dream I had

Last night I dreamt I was at a game convention at the Illini Union, in the rooms that the Conflict Simulation Society (RIP) used whenever the Foreign Language Building was unavailable. 4e had just been released at this convention and the open gaming room was full of people looking through their new core rules. About half the room was moaning and groaning, declaring the new edition a "dud" and a "rip-off". One oldster was going on about how he bought his first D&D set for ten bucks on '75 and he just dropped over a hundred bucks on "a thousand pages of crap". [Fun fact: this online inflation calculator indicates that ten 1975 dollars equals over forty bucks in 2007.] Meanwhile, many other people in the room were frantically rolling up new characters, preparing to play the moment they had a party up and running.

In my dream 4e wasn't even the big talk of the convention. Instead, the most popular item by far was a new computer game being played in a room full of laptops. It was a crappy little browser-based jobbie kinda like Urban Dead but with graphics like Ultima III or an old Intellivision game. In this game you started out as an extremely puny dungeon monster. My initial character was a rot grub. You wandered a huge dungeon inhabitied by other players' monsters, sneaking/fighting/negotiating for food, water, and treasure, building or locating a lair, and setting traps. The twist was that every time you leveled, you mutated into a new monster type. I was on the worm/serpent/wyrm track, so when I got to level 2 I turned into a small but poisonous snake. Another guy next to me was on the dragon track, and had leveled up to a stegosaurus, while a third dude had started as a "dungeon cow" and worked up to minotaur, then a D&D-style "iron bull" gorgon. Periodically, the server would generate a party of random AI adventurers who laid waste to the dungeon until the players teamed up to drive them off.

If anybody has heard of a game like this, with the "turn into a better monster" feature, please let me know. If it doesn't exist and you're a game programmer, please steal this idea!

The dream ended when I overheard someone in the hallway say "The MC for the Blogging and Gaming panel no-showed. Who can we get on such late notice?" That's when I knew I was dreaming and woke up.


  1. Final Fantasy Legend did this; you improved by eating meat dropped by other monsters.

  2. Re: the relative cost of OD&D.

    I recall seeing a page somewhere online that included a scan of one of the first printed reviews of OD&D from some wargaming fanzine from back in the day. Besides totally failing to get the point of the game, the reviewer expressed bafflement at its exorbitant price.

    Of course, 1975's Empire of the Petal Throne was even more expensive: $25.00, which is over a hundred bucks in modern cash.

  3. Sounds a little bit like the upcoming Spore, except for the fantasy trappings.

  4. Re: the relative cost of EPT

    Of course, 1975's Empire of the Petal Throne gave value for its $25.00, and rather more than over a hundred bucks of most modern games.

    Re: "turn into a better monster"

    I nominate Maxwell Atoms for character design, esp. if his new pitch The Dungeonhood doesn't get picked up.

  5. I believe the game is text-based, but Grendel's Revenge sounds very much like your dream game, Jeff:

  6. Anonymous9:20 AM

    Not exactly the same, but anyone remember "Mail Order Monsters"?

  7. At one point, I woke up with a web address in my head. When I typed it in, it was just some guy with a lot of pictures of his motorcycle. I'm hoping Kurzweil's Singularity turns out better than psychic Google ads.

  8. Oh, hell yeah do I remember Mail Order Monsters! I usually ran a photosynthetic slime.

  9. Never understood why Mail Order Monsters wasn't remade at the height of Pokemania. I myself preferred to play a T-Rex, Blob, or Lionbear.

  10. Jeff, I dream about this game EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!

    OK, exageration, but I'm totally with you on how cool that would be.

    Madcentral games has a varianet of their Dungeonworld play-by-email game where you run a monster clan delving out a dungeon. The tech is pretty antiquated though.