Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Sunken Torchlight


Call it a late night, kinda sleepy revelation (I wrote this at 1am), but I'm feeling a strong connection (in my own head, nothing official I'm sure) between Jon Marr's Sunken City Omnibus (DCCRPG) and the Torchlight computer game series.  Perhaps it's the way both games start in a small town, and the adventurers must gain fortune and glory at their own peril.  Perhaps it's the stylish and colorful art found in both the DCC sourcebook and the computer game..

... or perhaps its the fact that I've been playing a lot of Torchlight 2 this week on top of preparing for tonight's game of Perils of the Sunken CIty.

Truly, it could be any of these factors.

As I shake off the general malaise that accompanies late night blogging, I see some fun similarities between these two pieces of gaming awesomeness.  

The Sunken City Omnibus is a series of four adventures (three 0-level funnels and one 1st level quest) for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game.  Tonight's session will mark the second time I've tried running Peril's of the Sunken CIty, the first time ending in a TPK with a party of tween gamers calling the shots.  

Each adventure begins with player characters using a set of magic stones to teleport themselves to different sections of a massive ruin situated in the middle of a great swamp.  Only the greatest of heroes can prove their worth and return to tiny Mustertown with fortune and glory.  While the omnibus is organized into just four adventures, given the sending stone mechanics, resourceful judges could run whole campaigns set in the Sunken City, bolting on published adventures or their own creations.  

Torchlight (and later Torchlight 2) follows a very similar path.  There is a small town, a dangerous wilderness, and countless dungeons to explore.  An action-RPG like Diablo, Torchlight stays away from grim and gritty dark fantasy and instead embraces bright and cheerful steampunk elements.  Characters battle their way deeper and deeper into great dungeons and use Town Portal spell scrolls to return home when they have had their fill of questing.  

Town Portal spell scrolls, sending stones, same mechanic!

The overall style of each game, tabletop and electronic, is definitely where I draw the closest connections.  Jon Marr's adventures are fun and witty, an enjoyable departure from the dark fantasy themes associated with other RPG products.  Sure that giant catfish may devour your 0-level weaver whole, but as a player you are still going to have a great time.  Whether it's battling crocodillos (crocodile/armadillo hybrids), or allowing opossum men to join the party, playing through the Sunken City Omnibus, epecially Perils of the Sunken City, manages to feel light and humurous, without tipping towards over-the-top silly.  

While I wouldn't call Torchlight "humorous", it's certainly a bright and cheerful action RPG.  Whereas games like Diablo 3 and Dragon Age are set in dark and twisted worlds, constantly beset upon by demons and foul magicks, Torchlight is outright relaxed.  The minions of darkness are all there, but the game never feels bleak.  My one character's animal companion is a papillon, but it could just hvave easily been a panda or hawk or something else.  

If you don't know what a papillon is, Google the image.  Terribly vicious looking creatures, right?  In the game I can turn my papillon into other creatures by feeding them fish I catch at watering holes I find in dungeons.  The game is not only an action RPG, it's also a fishing simulator!  

As I prepare for tonight's DCC game, I will probably pull some themes and tones from Torchlight.  I've always been upfront about my "Appendix Ninendo" leanings, so translating elements from computer games to my tabletop sessions is nothing new.  

I just hope my players are ready to fish for their treasure.