3 November 2015 | Runebound

Unexpected Adventure

Read a Runebound Designer Diary from Lukas Litzsinger


Terrinoth lies opens before you, a land suffused and filled to overflowing with magic and adventure. In every game of Runebound, you have the chance to take part in a growing narrative, a story of the realm. You may sell goods purchased from the bustling markets of the Free Cities or draw your blade to battle a terrifying dragon amid the mountainous peaks of Mennara’s Teeth. Whether you’re battling to stop the ascendence of Dragonlord Margath or to defeat the vicious Corpse King, Runebound offers a wealth of possible quests and adventures.

Today, designer Lukas Litzsinger offers to lead you into how the revised system of adventure cards used for the third edition of the game. For more insight into the adventures you may experience playing Runebound, read below!

Lukas Litzsinger on the Adventures of Runebound

One of the goals for the new edition of Runebound was that we wanted players to feel like they had more control over how their story unfolded as they traveled across Terrinoth. Initially, this meant moving away from the combat-centric system of the game’s second edition, where every adventure ended with a fight. I knew we still needed a robust and interesting combat system, but I didn’t want combat to overshadow the rest of the game. We wanted players to approach Terrinoth on their own terms and have the adventures that they wanted to have. 

Adventure cards are divided into three decks: combat, exploration, and social.

To achieve this, I started by identifying the “archetypes” of adventure that I felt should be included in the game. I settled on three: fighting, exploring, and socializing. In the game, each of these different adventure archetypes features asymmetric card designs: you fight enemies, you explore via quests, and you socialize with events. Each of these encounters resolve incredibly differently, which increases the variety of player experience. Because I wanted players to feel like they could craft and create their own narrative, playing heroes that range from a wandering elf pacifist who travels from quest to quest or a powerful dwarven warrior who hunts down monsters and sorcerers, these card types needed to be sorted into different decks. In the second edition of Runebound, the adventure decks were sorted by level of difficulty; in the third edition they are sorted by type. There is a combat (enemy) deck, an exploration (quest) deck, and a  social (event) deck. 

Though I wanted to give each player more control over their adventure, I didn’t want the act of drawing a card to feel mundane. Thus, each type of adventure deck contains a small number of the other adventure types, so players can never predict with absolute confidence what kind of card they will draw. For instance, the exploration deck contains primarily quests, but you’ll also find enemies and events to challenge your hero, though these enemies are generally weaker to avoid destroying a hero unprepared for combat. Slightly mixing the adventure types in any given deck adds tension to every draw and strikes an important balance between controlling your own destiny and being blindly pushed across the map by the vagaries of fate.

Raising the Stakes

One of the major challenges with this shift away from adventure decks divided by difficulty level was creating the engaging feeling of progression. In the game’s second edition you could check your progress against the game by going into a more challenging adventure deck, but in the third edition of Runebound the enemy cards remain static: the Ogre you fight in the first round of the game is the same Ogre that you could fight near the end of the game. 

To alleviate this and give players a check on their power level, the game is divided into two acts. During the second act, the enemies grow more dangerous by gaining the “master” combat token that they use in every combat encounter. This additional combat token is quite powerful, featuring two damage on one side and a surge on the reverse. With this new combat token, enemies can use their double combat result to increase the two damage to four, drastically increasing their damage potential. What’s more, the extra surge gives monsters the chance to trigger vaunted triple-surge abilities. 

Characters who have trouble defeating master enemies stand little chance against the scenario’s villain. The villain is the third level of enemy in the game, and in both scenarios, you must defeat the villain to win the game. This fight won’t be easy though—in addition to better surge abilities and greater health, every villain has a unique combat token to make life difficult for the heroes. Ultimately, the newest edition of Runebound actually has three levels of enemies, just one fewer level than the second edition.

The villains are the most difficult type of enemy to defeat, but there is a significant jump in difficulty between a master enemy and a villain. Most heroes should be able to dispatch enemies relatively easily once they get a few skills or items with combat potential. This is good for two reasons. The first is that as combat gets more complicated and players have more options with weapons and other assets, the battle last fewer rounds on average. This prevents the game from bogging down in round after round of trading blows, which is obviously important for the overall player experience.

The second reason this is good is that the heroes definitely feel more heroic when they obliterate a foe that gave them trouble before. (It’s actually possible to beat any enemy with just a hero’s three starting strength tokens, but it is always risky and the hero will certainly take a lot of damage). Rather than enemies scaling with the hero, which undermines the point of hero improvement in the first place, the enemies only scale once, leaving plenty of room for the heroes to grow stronger in relation to their enemies.

Having three different types of adventures is one of my favorite parts of the new edition of Runebound. I believe it opens up the world of Terrinoth in a very exciting way and gives players more control over their story as they weave the narrative of their heroes’ paths to becoming living legends.

Thanks, Lukas!

Adventure Will Find You

Your adventures in Runebound will take you from the highest peaks of Terrinoth to the depths of lakes and underground catacombs. Whether you battle your enemies and cast them down, scour a forest to complete a quest, or make difficult choices as you interact with the inhabitants of a city, the three adventure card decks make every game unique, exciting, and unexpected. Take your first steps on the road to legend, and pre-order Runebound at your local retailer today!

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