Of Dungeons and Dungeoneering: Sword Coast Legends Interview With Dan Tudge

We were recently given the opportunity to scope out the upcoming Sword Coast Legends, a role-playing game from the director of Dragon Age: Origins. Set in the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Faerun (there's supposed to be a funny letter here somewhere), the game is set to play very much like Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age: Origins did with a host of modern improvements to the combat and flow. 

We got with Dan Tudge to talk about the upcoming RPG. Read on! 

Dan, you've previously worked on a massive-budget title like Dragon Age: Origins. What's the budget like with Sword Coast Legends and how has it impacted your direction of the game?

While smaller, the budget on Sword Coast Legends is certainly not insignificant. Smaller “independent sized” teams do require a higher level of discipline but generate a greater level of agility as a result. Discipline with scope, while often painful is essential to maintaining quality. A smaller, more agile team can now evaluate design decisions that may have taken days or weeks on a project of Dragon Age: Origins’s size in an afternoon. Having a much smaller team also means that everyone on the project can communicate directly on a daily basis. It’s nice!  

For those Baldur’s Gate and single-player fans among us, what is the scope of Sword Coast Legends' single-player campaign? Can we expect something as large in scope as BG, or is the campaign going to be a smaller one?

While we’re not giving away the overall length of SCL quite yet, we are aware that a lengthy campaign is key to an RPG that fits within the legacy of the Baldur’s Gate – we’re honoring that tradition. In addition to a lengthy critical path, there is also a significant amount of story driven adventure with side-quests, companion quests etc. If you add everything up, you’re in for quite a lengthy adventure. 

One of the biggest draws of games like Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age is the diverse personalities of the characters who join your party. Minsc and his beloved hamster Boo from Baldur’s Gate II come to mind. Can we expect another cast of interesting and sometimes colorful characters?

Absolutely! Memorable companions and their relationships with each other is a key pillar of Sword Coast Legends and as a result we have created a great cast of characters. One of the things we tried to do is capture personalities and race/class combinations that players haven’t really seen in D&D CRPGs of the past. If you look at some of the companions we’ve revealed so far, like Illydia and Larethar, we think you’ll notice how unique they are. 

We know that the game will take place in Sword Coast. Can you tell us more about the setting, such as the time period in which the game takes place?

We haven’t divulged too much about locations but I can tell you that you’ll be spending some time in Luskan, the Evermoors and may even make a journey into the Underdark.  In terms of a time period, I can give you a hint; we mentioned The Dead Rats in one of our first look videos who are one of Luskan’s “current” gangs. 

There seems to be a major focus on developing the game's Dungeon Master mode. How versatile is the system? What is the learning curve for dungeon mastering?

From its initial inception we wanted DMing in Sword Coast Legends to have a low-barrier-to-entry while still remaining robust. DMs will be able to create a fun and challenging experience for their party within a few minutes. However, if players want to spend hours crafting a massive campaign, they can do that too. 

How will you make it so that the 4-player dungeoneering doesn't feel like a versus competition against the dungeon master?

I won’t lie, it’s very tricky. Just like on the tabletop DMs in Sword Coast Legends will have a whole-lot of power, balancing that power is really what DM Threat is all about. DM Threat rewards DMs when they provide an awesome challenge for players and limits the totally out of whack griefing they can do.  Of course, we don’t preclude adversarial play if that’s what the group wants to do. 

What's to stop a Dungeon Master from "griefing" players? You know, creating a trap that kills everyone in the party instantly. "Rocks fall, everyone dies."

As I mentioned previously the threat system exists to help maintain encounter balance while giving the DM some fun tools to use in real time. We also do things like control spawn distance and limit threat spend on per area basis that help balance the experience. While it’s entirely possible for the Dungeon Master to “grief” players and create overly challenging situations, the DM’s experience would also be much less fun. 

Will there be some sort of persistence in the characters players role-play? Will it be reserved to a single multiplayer campaign, or can characters continue throughout the course of several campaigns?

Yes! We have gone to great lengths to ensure your characters move through the different modes of gameplay – you can take the character you played in the story campaign into someone’s DM campaign. 

Well-written D&D campaigns like Baldur’s Gate revolve around actual role-playing (as opposed to games like Diablo, which are more of a “everybody wins” Monty Haul-type affair). Will the DM mode accommodate this level of advanced play? 

While we’re not discussing the specific details of DM Campaign Creation right now I can tell you that we’re very aware of the importance of “role playing” in Sword Coast Legend. Campaign Creation will allow for much more than just create encounters with monsters. 

One of the most rewarding parts of a pencil and paper D&D game is the sense that you’ve mapped out a complete story. Are there any mechanisms that allow the DM to form an overarching narrative as players make their way through a campaign? 

We are ensuring that DMs can tell their story (that’s key to D&D) and while I’d love to tell you more about DM Campaign Creation right now, I can’t!