Doomseeker: Designer Diary with David Freeman
Bringing Doomseeker to Life
The first Warhammer book I got was a copy of the Rogue Trader rulebook that I talked my dad into buying for me when we were out Christmas shopping when I was in middle school (I must have been 11 or 12 at the time so 1989-1990). I had started to notice some of the Games Workshop imagery in book stores and game stores that I frequented and my interest had been caught! I was very very into role-playing games at the time and I thought Warhammer 40,000 was a sci-fi dystopian role-playing setting. Little did I know!
Once I read the book and started looking at the pictures, the vistas of miniature wargaming opened up before me and I was wholeheartedly in. I’ve never been an exemplary painter but I approach it with heart and I have whiled away many a day becoming intimately acquainted with the Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy worlds. Their epic and mythical story telling has inspired generations of gamers and fans like myself. Like John, I too spent time working at Games Workshop and it was a fantastical and formative experience for me.
Doomseeker started as an idea for a game that would reward you for dying or “losing” at some point during game play. This thought occurred to me and I wrote it down to make sure I remembered it. It percolated for a bit and about two weeks later it hit me. Dwarf Slayers! For the central premise of a game to revolve around wanting to “die” at the right point in the game, Dwarf Slayers were the perfect subject matter and setting. I spent a weekend thinking and writing notes and got an overview of what I thought the game should look like together.
The concept of “going out” or getting rid of your hand of cards to win the game exists in many classic games such as Crazy Eights or Rummy. However, I wanted to take another angle on this classic concept by taking it a step further and actively rewarding players for doing something (if done correctly) that is normally penalized in tabletop gaming. Dying or losing all of your health is normally penalized in tabletop games or eliminates the player from contention. In Doomseeker dying doesn’t eliminate you from the game, or from contention for winning, and if done correctly will score you significant points. From these concepts the rest of the game flowed. What do Slayer’s do? They seek out their doom battling the biggest and most threatening foes they can find. Slayers don’t just give up either, they keep training and acquiring new equipment along the way so that only the most dangerous and worthy of foes will have a chance of bringing them their doom.
After I had my outline together I described it to John and Deke and we talked about it a bit. They thought it was a cool idea and encouraged me to keep it in mind. A few months down the road John had a chance to pitch Games Workshop on game ideas and he included the Doomseeker idea in the few ideas he talked to them about. They were excited about the idea and gave the go ahead to start work!
With my overview and concepts in place, and the go ahead given, I built a prototype and we began the process of testing and developing the game. The whole team at Ninja Division contributed at this point playing through many games with me and others as we added, subtracted, and tweaked the game looking to make it as fun and dynamic as possible while also fitting in about an hour long play time. The Fate Deck was added through this process to give players more ways to surprise each other and interact. Some of my favorite cards design wise are Slayer Brotherhood, Assisted by Manlings, Night Goblin Fanatics, and Grudge Rune Greataxe.
Whenever you are making a licensed game it will always resonate the most with people who are fans of the subject matter you are working with. This is mostly true for Doomseeker, but I have also played games with groups of people who knew nothing about the world of Warhammer Fantasy. After I gave a brief synopsis of what Slayers were and why they were seeking their dooms these groups of people got stuck right in to the game and had a great time. I would encourage you to try the game with friends who may not be Games Workshop fans.
I’d like to thank the whole team at Ninja Division for pitching in and playing many games of Doomseeker with me. Everyone contributed and worked to make the game the best it can be. Travel once more to the Old World and redeem yourself by finding your epic doom in Doomseeker!
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