Mystery Dungeons for cataclysm

Been watching videos on CDDA for a good few months and just got into playing myself a few days ago when an Idea struck me: recreating the mystery dungeon system from Pokemon/Shiren The Wanderer in CDDA.

The what’s-what:
-A mystery dungeon is any single, isolated area that, once entered, cannot be exited unless fully explored to the final floor (be it above ground tower-like structures or underground cave complexes), can be re-entered any number of times after it is completed, and has its layout completely change each visit.

-Floors in mystery dungeons consist of rectangular rooms connected by single-space wide corridors in a somewhat maze-like fashion, with a single room having the stairs that lead to the next floor.

-Once you go to the next floor, you may not return to the previous floor and must push on.

-Floors are populated with constantly-spawning monsters that appear in rooms the player is not currently in, and wander the floor until they encounter the player.

-Floors also have loot and useful supplies randomly distributed in the rooms on the ground and possibly trapped within the walls, as well as ground-based traps if the dungeon is in a dangerous enough area to warrant it, and these loot/trap spawns are reset upon each visit.

-Floors may have hidden rooms contained behind walls, rooms locked with special keys, and possibly shopkeepers who purvey some items to the player. Items in these rooms and shops are typically valuable or of considerable use/power.

-Players cannot spend too much time on floors, as there is a mysterious force that will cause the player to fail the dungeon (or possibly die in CDDA’s case) if they take too long getting to the next floor.

-Mystery dungeons may carry a particular “theme” about them, such as a mossy and overgrown cave that could be home to Triffids and Fungi, or a Lab filled with broken cyborgs and experiments, or be entirely random mish-mashes of loot pools and monster types.

-Mystery dungeons may have floors ranging in the tens all the way up to a maximum of ninety-nine.

The why bother:
I am not wholly certain how loot and monster spawns in CDDA work quite yet, but I’m under the impression that it is a system of finite-spawns (barring hordes) that requires the player to travel out in search of more resources if they are not planning on subsisting in one area using crops and the like, and I believe Mystery Dungeons may offer another option or entirely new path of potentially lucrative, albeit quite risky, gameplay. Since Mystery dungeons reset their layout and loot each successful visit, they present the possibility of limitless amounts of loot and supplies, balanced with the considerable risk of death presented by numerous possible threats and pitfalls the player may encounter inside them, as well as the fact that there is no turning back once they are entered.

The “but does it fit”: In Pokemon’s interpretation of Mystery Dungeons, they are described as locations suffering from some localized adverse temporal, spacial, or dimensional anomalies that affects and destabilizes their structure, drives their denizens insane, and seemingly plops beings and items in random spots. I feel these concepts would fit right in with CDDA, considering all the allusions and references to strange temporal and dimensional tears leaking otherworldly beings in, I’d say this concept would be right at home.

I only covered the basic structure of mystery dungeons, and I have no idea how the system would be implemented if it were since I have no experience modding/coding the game, but I’m open to explain in further detail and discuss the concept and the possible ways to adapt it to best fit into CDDA.


Not sure what others think, but this would be a kind of neat way to handle the portals that show up ingame. Having them be a high-level repeatable dungeon with high-end loot and lots of neat artifacts could really spice up lategame.

Sounds fun, I like it!

Er, that pretty much describes most classic roguelikes. But that’s not to say I don’t like this idea. Also, Shiren the Wanderer’s not a bad game, either.

–I love the idea of this! Side mention: hordes are still ‘finite,’ I believe. I’m not sure 100% of how it works, but I believe that it’s kinda like this: All monsters in the city are put in a ‘bubble’ that follows sound. Once they reach the ‘reality bubble’ (Which is the tiles visible at full daylight ingame. Only that stuff actually activates) then it will spawn in some of the monsters in the horde bubble. Without wander spawns, all monsters in a city spawn in one place and don’t do anything unless they reach the player’s reality bubble. Something like that, I believe.
–I think there should be different tiers of ‘dungeons,’ all dangerous, but some wouldn’t be considered straight up ‘end game.’
–For how the game would process this, it might be kinda like it teleports you to a pocket-verse. Game processes work similar, albeit different in the pocket verse. The game could explain why a previous level is inaccessible by saying something like: “Spacial instability caused the entrance to collapse.” You might also having something like: “Something is stopping the fire from lighting” in the event you wanted to light a fire to cook some food.
–I HATE timers, if you want to add a timer to the dungeons, make it readily visible somehow and ensure that player’s can choose whether to enable it.
–There should be some sort of system for identifying the difficulty of the dungeon, which won’t necessarily be obvious upon first glace. I think there should be something along the lines of bronze, silver, gold, and diamond dungeons. Not specifically labelled so, but this is just an example of ‘tiering’ the dungeons.
–There should be biomes for different dungeons, and the biome depends on where you found the entrance; if you found the entrance in a forest, it will be a forest-like dungeon.

So there are already portals to other realms and tears in reality in C:DDA. I agree with darktoes that adding this content as an option for the other side of a portal is an excellent idea. There’s currently nothing there, so just about anything would be an improvement.

I would recommend you start by learning about JSON, which is the language that most of CDDA’s data files are written in. Specifically, look at the files in json/data/mapgen, and most specifically, look at cabin_strange.json, which describes a two level encounter site with monsters and loot.

Then create a mod that adds a sample puzzle dungeon to the world. Submit it for inclusion into the game. You’ll probably get pushback and suggestions, so go back and improve your design.

On your first design, I would simplify to limit some issues:

  • Don’t randomize the design. There’s some support in JSON for random designs, but it’s a complicate you don’t need.
  • Don’t add the shopkeepers.
  • Don’t try to enforce a time limit. If there’s only one way out of the dungeon, then PCs are going to be compelled to find it before they run out of supplies, and survivors that have spent a great deal of effort to not have to worry about supplies (because they can safely eat raw zombie meat or whatever) should be able to take advantage of that.
  • Go with a triffid, blob, mi-go, or fungal theme. A themed portal dungeon is more likely to be accepted.

Adding new mapgen tiles via a mod isn’t trivial, but it is certainly possible, even for someone without programming experience. If you think this would be a good addition to the game, you should add it.

–I’d totally work on this as a mini-mod and submit it to be in the game if it wasn’t for that fact that I’m currently more focused on ROA. However, I think that I might end up building something like this in ROA now. I only have 100+ ideas for ROA and the list is growing. So it’ll probably take a while.

Yeah, I know these places are kinda like little mini-roguelike games in their own right, the Mystery Dungeon games are actually listed in the Roguelike Genre. You could enter neato little microcosms of CDDA’s genre and roguelike while you roguelike!

In the PMD games, Mystery Dungeons already have varying difficulty, so I was thinking that was an auto-include part of them. Those difficulty levels are based on quantified overall level numbers of the dungeon and its monsters and thresholds that start spawning traps and the like, so a level 10 dungeon would have no traps, a level 20 would have minor traps, a level 30 would have more numerous and dangerous traps, so on and so forth. Monsters would be at or around that level, and possible loot spawns reflect the increased danger with the chance of strong permanent stat-increase items and things of the like appearing on floors. Quantifying this in CDDA could be as easy as examining portals leading to MD’s and get varying descriptions of the portal itself, so an easy one would have a portal described as “A gently floating and seemingly stable hole in reality leading to somewhere mysterious” and a very difficult one being “A violently shaking and flashing gash in reality that practically emanates malevolence.”

Having the timers be optional is something I’m on board with, since I too hate them. That said, PMD’s timers are rather generous with how long they grant you time to dick around on a single floor, and you get a very obvious warning when you should start moving to the next floor. The game will actually pause for a bit and give you a message like “Something is stirring…” as your cue to get a move on. The time limit differs from dungeon to dungeon, but you get warnings at 250, 150, and 50 turns left on the floor, until you are kicked out of the dungeon.

I was definitely thinking of having the biomes idea for them, like I said, they can have themes. If a portal to one spawns in or around a lab, you get a lab dungeon. if one spawns in or around a triffid grove, you could get a triffid dungeon, etc. Then there is a chance they could be the mishmash type instead, where it’s a real chaotic experience, but I’d like to have the portals lead to the same type of dungeon consistently. Maybe the difficulty could be variable from time to time as the portals and dungeon experience fluctuating levels of instability.

Actually a mishmash one would be awesome. I want to run around a triffid/netherbeast battlefield with skyscraper-sized goliaths battling above me.

I’ll probably give it a shot myself, yeah. From the sounds of it redlaser wants to give it a go himself, and it seems like he’s more experienced at this than I am, but I’ll have a go at it. I was a little bit iffy as to how shops would be put in and how those would be explained, so not including those isn’t such a big thing. As for the time limit, it’s per-floor, and the floors aren’t too massive or hard to navigate for most dungeons in PMD. On top of that the time limit isn’t too much of a real limit, as there’s not much of a reason to stay on a floor once you’ve cleared its rooms of resources, even less so in cataclysm since you don’t have XP or anything to farm off the enemies. All in all, I’m considering just having it be optional as an additional bit of difficulty.

I’m not against the timers in general. I just don’t think you should include them in your first mod submission, because I’m not sure C:DDA has an easy way to tie a time limit to a mapgen[1] and it’s better to get a mostly complete version of a portal puzzle dungeon submitted than to lose track of the project while trying to get one last detail complete.

[1] I guess you could spawn an activated mininuke with a long timer in an concealed room in the center of the map, but I’m not 100% sure that would work. You could experiment to make it work, or you could spend your time making a more interesting puzzle dungeon, and I encourage you spend your time making a better puzzle dungeon over one that blows up after a while.

Yeah I see where you’re coming from, starting with a simpler prototype version, keeping it small to begin with.

Perhaps a special key to get out at the end that spawns in your inventory with a timer at the start? That way it even tells you how long you have.

tl;dr, this kind of thing would need heavy adjustment to fit into dda.

This works with portals, since you’re actually visiting an entirely different area every time. Keep in mind that if it’s something like an underground dungeon or an isolated building, this does not work.

Regarding layout, maps need to be vertically consistent, since players might want to excavate between floors depending on the situation.

This makes no sense unless you’re navigating a series of areas connected by portals, which is pushing things a bit far.

This is pretty much right out, monsters need to have a fixed population, or appear according to some logic, magical spawning is not ok.

This is right out, items spawned wihin the dungeons need to follow some kind of logic, random distribution is not ok.

I can’t think of a scenario that both justifies the existince of such a dungen in dda and has shopkeepers.

Should not be a mysterious force, it needs a clear rationale.

You’re correct that this is very different from how loot acquisition normally works in dda. It needs a better justification than “offers a new path for acquiring loot”. Just having more options is not necessarally better.

The concepts aren’t unheard-of in dda, but something like this appearing in a stable, repeatable, and useful manner does not.

I still like the idea of including artifacts in the loot possibilities. Perhaps clearing the whole dungeon gives you a single artifact with all positive abilities?

So that’s a hard pass on the wholesale, unaltered concept. I was expecting that, all I did was present the absolute and unfiltered “this is the gameplay concept in the source material” without removing much from it.

So this would be the idea adjusted for CDDA from what I’ve seen from your response and other suggestions:

Portal based, varying difficulties, fully random room-and-corridor layouts, hidden/locked rooms, themes/biomes based on where the MD’s portal was located in the world with matching enemies and loot pools, a fixed number of monsters per floor, and the ability to freely return to previous floors. Portals could be examined for a description of generally how dangerous the MD is.

In regards to a timer and how you don’t want the single dungeons to be consistently repeatable, these could tie in with one another. The timer could be that the tear in reality leading to the MD, and by extension the MD itself, has a finite lifespan. With this, MD’s could be spawning and blinking out across the map in a number of locations, opening near areas and taking on their characteristics then eventually closing off for good, with you potentially inside it if you take too long. This differs from the standard concept in that it is not per-floor but is pertinent to how long you have to complete the whole thing. This would need to be quantified in some manner so players don’t enter MD’s that are close to closing and not have enough time to finish them. A possible solution could be attached to examining the portal itself, you could get a rough estimate of how much time the portal/MD has left.

As for the loot, I’m not certain what exactly you were addressing about it, the actual items themselves or where they are in the dungeon? Because the loot pools would definitely be influenced by the theme/biome of the MD, lab stuff would spawn in a lab MD. The pokemon mystery dungeon games have no containers or furniture, but since that’s a thing in CDDA there could be shelves, crates and furniture that have the items like normal rooms in building and all that.

If artifacts like that were a thing then it could be possible to include a fight with a tough creature as a kind of “miniboss,” like how the Thing acts at the end of the mines. Those guard artifacts, so maybe the same could be true for mystery dungeons. It’s in the source material, bossfights at the end of dungeons are kinda common.

Well artifacts are both one of the strongest items in the game, and one of the very few high end items that can’t be found literally lying in the street or in a bank vault. It makes sense to use them as a high-end reward.

I still think they should be random and not artificially made good, maybe biased towards being not garbage, but the point in artifacts is they’re usually not totally ‘good’, there’s a tradeoff