So here we are making Halls of Teknor. This dungeon crawler that’s a homage to both classic fantasy games and 90s action figures. This adventure for two or even one player. That means solo! Where is all this coming from?
It started in 2020. Like most of us I spent those early dark and scary weeks locked away from others and from ways of doing my hobbies with others. The mind drifted and the eyes shifted to finding something new to do. To the internet. I rediscovered old Games Workshop things. At first just for the nostalgia, Then with the idea of “What if I can play one of these on my own just to kill time?” The first was Blackstone Fortress, then the original Warhammer Quest, then many others big and small. The seed was planted but it would take another event to make things click.
Actually that is not where it starts. It was 2014 and I was fresh out of game design school. I grew fond of doing pixel art and a friend of mine was making a turn based strategy as programmers do, ugly but technically functioning. We started working together and I got to make the art and setting anything I wanted. And what I wanted was to homage the action figures toys I had as child. Something silly but solid. Like the Ninja Turtles or Toxic Crusaders. Mutants vs Robots! Green skin versus pink metal!
We titled it Mutant Gangland and I started drawing characters. Give them names and tiny origins. People seemed to like it and the game sold well. There were plans for expanding but because Life my friend and I amicably parted ways. We left the Mutant Gangland but did the Mutant ever leave me? No. Ever since I made and released paper model kits of the tanks and robots that wandered That World. To my surprise they also sold.
Back to that scary year of 2020. When I saw internet friend Dick Poelen making great 3d sculpts of other people’s designs. He made a Ninja Turtle and I was smitten upon sight. What if we made Mutant Gangland toys? Action figures were too large. What if we just made some tiny rubber (keshi) figures? Let’s just start printing and see what comes out. Dick just picked two characters and started sculpting. I posted the test prints and someone said something I cannot believe I did not think of. “Please make a skirmish game with these”.
Skirmish games? Where players take turns fighting each other on a small turf with just a few fighters? That is PERFECT rhyming with what we did with Mutant Gangland! I was excited, cooked up rules for a quick prototype and tested it with my partner. The game was fun after some iterations but it was also a mistake. Because even if I like skirmish games I had lately grown to LOVE solo games. All that Warhammer Quest and Heroquest. All the quests! That was what was in my heart now! with all that fresh solo dungeon experience it had to be a solo dungeon game and it had to be a mutant gangland game.
There were two other big inspirations. In our house we love the old Dungeonquest, A brutal board game with push your luck mechanics. Then there is Bloodborne, A brutal video action game with push your luck mechanics. The longer you walk around with all your treasure, the higher the multiplier bonus for cashing in that treasure. My game had to have this.
The world of Mutant Gangland is a far future with its own history. Its own strange artefacts. Having a setting that is not the western fantasy associated with many dungeon crawlers gives me an opportunity to make items that are weird. There are mechanics with that. When you find an item for the first time it is strange and does nothing. Only when you cash it in at the shop will the shopkeeper tell you what (they think) it is. From then on, whenever you find it again it will have its true name and abilities.
So where is the mutant theme in the mechanics? It’s still in construction. I’m playing with giving (and taking!) the player random powers every time they level up. We will see how players will like that.
That’s where we are now. We are far from done but after many sessions and changes I have something I feel really good about. If you wish to stay informed, please consider joining my newsletter.