Exploration and Discovery

When thinking back at fond memories of playing Dungeons & Dragons, I almost always recall sessions and situations where a greater goal was completed. The moments that have stuck the most in my head are the ones where the group completed a quest/mission that had meaning, and ultimately smoothed out the rough edges of a longer story. I bring this up because as I journey through my own personal goal of becoming a better game designer, I want to find ways that provide for this experience in a more meaningful way.

Around the time that I started work on Monster Vault : Threats to the Nentir Vale in 2010, I was exploring the more philosophical foundations of RPG design principles. What I had learned from mentors and experience alike, is that exploration and discovery are just as important (if not more) than system architecture. With a simple change in tone and message, you could inspire readers to paths you never considered prior.


Fast forward to today. As we approach the release of Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook, it fills me with excitement that readers might find that same familiar spark. So, I pose to you these questions:

What was your favorite moment of exploration? Did you ever have a revelation as you discovered something that just made the story click?  Finally, what is the single most important thing that all adventurers should bring with them into a dungeon?

About the Author

Matt James is a freelance game designer from Washington, DC. In addition to many articles in Dragon and Dungeon magazine, his works include Soldiers of Fortune (Open Design/Kobold Quarterly),  Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir ValeInto the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook, and Lair Assault: Attack of the Tyrantclaw. Follow Matt on Twitter at www.twitter.com/matt_james_rpg

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