Explore DM-Less Dungeons With The Expedition Card Game

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There are few things in life more satisfying than a good session of Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, that satisfaction is treasured because there are so many things that can get in the way. The Dungeon Master might be busy. There isn’t enough time to schedule a full game during the week. The players still might not be clear on the rules. Several games offer a D&D-style experience that covers one of these issues. A few get two. One of the few that covers all three is Expedition: The Roleplaying Card GameThis card game packs all the story, combat and fun of a D&D session into the time it takes to watch an episode of something far less interactive.

“First,” said Todd Medema, co-designer of the game, “both my partner and I are software engineers. So, when we brainstormed “What can we do different than other games? What unique skills do we bring to the table?”, doing something with technology was at the top of the list. Of course, we didn’t want to make something just for the sake of making it.”

The card game offers four categories of abilities; Magic, Music, Melee and Ranged. Players build a small deck based on the character they select. The Dutiful Solider, for example, gets six Ranged cards, while the Alcoholic Diplomat gets three Music and three Magic cards. These abilities are played during combat rounds and require a successful d20 roll to trigger. They also have additional things happen when the dice come up as 20 or as a 1. Because it’s a cooperative game, the players choose when to take their turns, which makes buffing characters and timing less of an issue. The laid-back mechanics offer players a chance to get into their characters a bit. The Alcoholic Diplomat might read their cards with a bit of a slurred voice, while the Fretful Bard might sing a song about how much she’s worried to die. The light mechanics also encourage the table to interpret results into a different story, like a backfiring ice spell causing the caster to speak between chattering teeth for the rest of the encounter.

The secret to Expedition is the free app that’s available for Android, iOS and on the web. The app explains how to play the game, runs tense encounters and offers story branches for the players to choose. Players draw three ability cards face down, tap the app, and the timer starts. The longer the players take to play one of the cards, the more damage the monsters will do on their turn. The app might also trigger a surge, which cause players to spawn more bad guys drop loot or deal with other unexpected complications. Winning encounters gives players back their full health and allows them to draw Loot cards that help later in the game. All in all, a full game can take place in about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much in-character chat goes on during the battles. It’s little elements like the general humorous nature of the quests and evocative character names that pack a lot of roleplaying into a short period of time.

“We believe software can add a lot to the world of tabletop gaming,” said Medema. “Not only can it handle the math, but it can make games faster and easier to learn, and create the ability for unlimited, free, community-generated content. Just think about the experience of starting a new board game versus a new video game. With a board game, you have to carefully read a book of rules, constantly double checking yourself to make sure you’re following the rules properly. With a video game, you’re immediately dropped into the action, with the code making sure you’re staying on track, and slowly introducing you to new rules as you progress. We think that well-done apps have the ability to bring that easy to start nature to board games while keeping the social aspect that we love about board games.”

The app has a tutorial and two pre-selected quests, but also gives access to community building tools for anyone to upload quests to the app. The app also offers a custom encounter option for Dungeon Masters who want to run hybrid adventures that offer the choices of a full tabletop session with the app merely managing combat. Potential explorers don’t even need to buy the game right away; there is a print-and-play edition available to those who sign up for the game’s email list. Tedema also returns to Kickstarter next month to launch the game’s first expansion.

“Expedition is coming back to Kickstarter on August 17th,” he said. “We’re launching our first expansion pack, The Horror, which we’ve developed with the help of our community of players and quest writers. If you’re interested in supporting Expedition and our mission to introduce more players to RPGs, backing and sharing the Kickstarter on launch day would be a huge help!”

Watch and see how the crew on INT. Writer’s Room on  Twitch uses these rules to make their sketches work!

What is your favorite D&D character? Let us know in the comments.

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Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is  here, his Twitter is  here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

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