Blood, Sweat, and Tears - E5M1: 2Fort

Match 6, Dungeon Mastered by master of the Feywild himself, Jon Green, was a resounding... game! Ok, so like any untested map, it had its shiny moments and its failures. Which is exactly what we're here to dissect.

The major downside to this is that it lost a lot of the FTDM flavor, with a total death count of seven, and no stolen flags. Necessary steps here might be giving up some of my sacred cows from Team Fortress.

The Good
So what worked? Well, it definitely had the feel I was going for! Watching the match, it felt a lot like watching a Team Fortress game with D&D characters instead of TF classes. The items I thought actually worked pretty well - they were a big part of the TF feel I just mentioned. The Rocket Launcher and the Turrets did exactly what I wanted, and the skill riders seemed to work well. I designed the flags to be difficult to capture, and... they certainly were.

The Bad
Let's look at this element by element - starting with the keystone of the map, the Flag. Without a single capture, it's obvious that I made it too difficult to move it across the map. This is evident in a few different areas: getting to the flag in the first place, the distance involved in getting it to the goal, and the limitations of a turn-based system like 4e. A flag-bearer might sit around for seven turns, crossing their fingers against death, before having a chance to do anything.

The passage to the flag was too long, given the fantastic defense both teams were pushing. Same with the underwater passage. As for the items, watching one guy gather every "don't-kill-me" item was a little frustrating in what is first and foremost a deathmatch. Also, adding what are essentially TF "classes" on top of D&D classes is somewhat redundant.

Things that have little to do with the mechanics, but a lot to do with being too vague with the map design - it was very confusing exactly where the flag square and goal square were, as well as the odd altitudes and unmarked difficult terrain.

Another interesting artifact of the map design was that with spawn rooms (which in TF, are utterly safe from enemies), there's the possibility of "spawn-lock" as brilliantly evidenced by Team Rock Band's webs.

The Mods
Hopefully, I'm not going too far in easing the flag capture, but it's the keystone, ya know? We're looking at multiple incremental changes. First, as a major tenet of all FTDM maps, we want the map to be smaller. By removing the spawn rooms, I've tucked the flag room and water passage closer to the action. I'm also going to reduce Throw to a Minor, and make it a Minor to take the flag from a team member.

So I have three different thoughts on the items:
  The one issue I personally had with the items can be fixed just by switching them up. Remove the three "don't-kill-me" items, reduce them to eight items, and add - get this - the Translocator from Unreal Tournament. David Flor (@brainclouds) has a map in the works, and I'm not ashamed to steal a couple ideas from it. Also, as iconic as the backpacks are to Team Fortress, everyone was picking one up on spawn - might as well just give them out at spawn a la E2M2 or E7M1.
  Remove them entirely. As it turns out, the dungeoneers already have a class, powers, and a focus - no real need for TF classes on top of that. Boost the strategy in a game very focused on tactics.
  Leave the 'packs, but give generic, over-the-top, and transitory effects. Examples: +10 damage on next damage roll; +5 to next attack; +5 defense against next attack; etc.

Several of the elements that slowed down the game and caused confusion were visual map elements. While moving things around to reduce map size and make it easier to get the flag, I'll be clarifying as much as possible. Another element that I'm pulling from Flor's map is the jump pads. This'll make it much easier to get across the map without special movement modes.

Spreading the spawn points around a bit should prevent spawn-lock, but there's a power Jon and I tossed back and forth that would also work: Who's House? My House! - where as a standard action, anyone can dispel an adjacent zone in their base. Hopefully with the updated map that won't be necessary, but it's still in the back of my head.

You'll see all of these changes... soonish on the map page itself. But hey, if anyone has any thoughts, criticisms, ideas, etc - comment, comment, comment!

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