A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer



Open Call for DnD-based Monopoly Design Ideas

DnD-opoly ...or Dungeonopoly ...or Dragonopoly ...or whatever we decide to call it ...It's time to actually consider it.

Today I received another email from Hasbro in which they provided the physical mailing address to their legal department and to the representative that I have to submit the concept to. They are taking this far more seriously than I had ever intended.

I must be insane thinking about this... but I can't help it! I want this game myself!

I've been doing a little more research in to this and have discovered one thing: the game of Monopoly is public domain, so if you're going to create a game of Monopoly based on anything you like, odds are Hasbro isn't going to be the one to sue you. That is, unless you cross the line and do things like using the Monopoly registered trademark, use the Uncle Pennybags artwork, or brand it with the Hasbro logo... Those are blatant copyright issues above and beyond simply taking the mechanics of the game.

So the concern here moves away from Hasbro and focuses on Wizards of the Coast. From a legal standpoint, I'm not sure what the rules are. I would look at the OGL and the 4e GSL (which prohibits "interactive products"... so it depends on whether a board game qualifies as "interactive"), but we're not planning on using the 4e mechanic on this board game. In essence, we intend to use names of places, creatures and the like... We don't want to use the game engine, we want to use those iconic elements in D&D that define the setting.

Using that type of content is most definitely a legal issue because it falls under "intellectual property". From a legal sense, it's not much different than me trying to create a campaign setting and calling it "Greyhawk" or "Blackmoor"... Wizards of the Coast would most certainly drop the legal anvil on me if I tried that. Let me put it another way: I know it already exists, but if you attempted to create a Star Wars themed Monopoly game, LucasArts would sue me in to the Stone Age.

But what's curious is that Hasbro has yet to say "hell no." They actually *want* me to submit my concept. And I'd hate to disappoint... I don't want to send them a one page summary. I want an idea of exactly what we want, so we can be well aware of the legal hurdles we will need to overcome if it ever gets that far.

There's one problem: I'm not a D&D expert! I'm great when it comes to the game mechanics, but when it comes to the history and geography surrounding the multitude of different campaign settings in the D&D universe, I'm nowhere near being knowledgeable enough to pull this off on my own.

And that's not even mentioning that I *don't* want to do this alone. This concept was born from a Twitter conversation, propagated by fans of the game. If this happens, it won't be because of me... It will be because of all of us.

So I need your help, and here are the areas I need it the most:

  • In order to make this a bankable product that lots of people can enjoy, I'm thinking - very reluctantly, mind you - that it should be mostly centered around the 4e campaign settings. Creating a version of Monopoly based on past editions - although a very cool concept for those of us that have spent decades playing - would be lost on the modern crowd.
  • I would consider pitching two versions of this game: (1) the "basic" version of the game, which uses the rules of Monopoly with zero modifications and only consists of changing the content, and (2) an "enhanced" version in which we may be able to work in some D&D themed game mechanics. The problem I have with #2 above is that doing so takes one step closer to the existing board games Wizards of the Coast already has, and the last thing I want to do is create a competing product. And I don't know how Hasbro would feel if we create a game that is close to not being Monopoly any more.
  • I don't know what to do about currency. Paper money is so un-D&D-like. I thought about using the copper/silver/gold/platinum mechanic where each tier is 10x the one before it, but it would be absurd to count off all those copper pieces during a game.
  • The game will continue to use 2d6s. I thought of 1d12, but not only does that mess up probability but you lose the "roll again on doubles" feature. For the "enhanced" version mentioned above, I'd consider including a d20 and finding some sort of use for it.
  • The biggest hurdle I have is geography...
    • Off the top of my head, I can't think of more than half a dozen cities and locations for the game board; we need twenty-two.
    • We need all the properties reasonably organized in terms of their worth; from Hommlet to Greyhawk, they must span the spectrum of being cheap to being lavish.
    • The properties should be in groups that make sense. For the record, here are the color groups on a traditional Monopoly board, from cheapest to most expensive, along with their original games in Monopoly:
      • Purple: Two properties (Mediterranean Avenue, Baltic Avenue)
      • Cyan: Three properties (Oriental Avenue, Vermont Avenue, Connecticut Avenue)
      • Purple: Three properties (St. Charles Place, States Avenue, Virginia Avenue)
      • Orange: Three properties (St. James Place, Tennessee Avenue, New York Avenue)
      • Red: Three properties (Kentucky Avenue, Indiana Avenue, Illinois Avenue)
      • Yellow: Three properties (Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor Avenue, Marvin Gardens)
      • Green: Three properties (Pacific Avenue, North Carolina Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue)
      • Blue: Two properties (Park Place, Boardwalk)
  • In addition to the properties, we also have:
    • Four railroads (Reading Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, B&O Railroad, Short Line)
    • Electric Company
    • Water Works
    • Free Parking
    • Income Tax
    • Luxury Tax
  • I am assuming that Jail, Chance and Community Chest could remain named as such.
  • Monopoly has a ton of cards for Chance and Community Chest. I can't document them all here, but I think we should consider alternate wording for some of them. NOTE: at least in the "basic" version, we should not change the effect of the card.
  • Instead of houses and hotels, I would consider something like hovels and castles/keeps.
  • We need tokens. There are a total of twelve tokens in the standard Monopoly set. I would suggest making a mix of the traditional player classes (fighter, cleric, mage, ranger, etc...) and the iconic D&D monsters (beholder, orc, goblin, skeleton, etc...). I would avoid using a dragon because everyone would fight for it, and I would also avoid using tokens that are so similar they can't be told apart ("Is that a goblin or a kobold?" ... "Is that a fighter or a paladin?").
  • Artwork will be a BIG issue, but we'll deal with that somehow.

So I'd like to hear your input. If you have ideas on what some of the above should be like, speak up with a comment below or through email to dflor@brainclouds.net.

Quite honestly, I see no way in hell that they'll go for this, but you can't blame me for trying. If a miracle happens and they do provide the go ahead, I would consider creating a Kickstarter fundraiser in order to acquire funds to design, develop and produce the game in full. I'm not doing this for personal profit; I just want the game!

So what do you think, guys?

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  1. Ever looked over the PS2 game, Culdecept? May find some worthwhile ideas.

  2. And why should you stick to just one setting? DnD has had so many settings that I think you have enough to give a setting for each color, and so each location can be a famous location (or even character) from that setting. You could even put them in chronological order, the firsts ones being the cheapest ones, and so no. Here’s a link to wikipedia with (supposedly) all the settings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons_campaign_settings
    The ones I’d choose are Greyhawk, Al Qadim, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Planescape and Ravenloft. I think those are kind of the most famous…

    • Maybe “setting” wasn’t the right word… At first I thought that each side of the board could be a different campaign setting: Core, Eberron, Forgotten Realms and Dark Sun. But, like you say, there’s so much out there that doesn’t fall in to those four: Neverwinter, Ravenloft, etc…

      I do agree that properties within the same color set should be in the same setting.

      I also considered non-cities. I’d love to take settings from some of the legendary modules… How much rent would one pay to spend a night in the Temple of Elemental Evil or White Plume Mountain? 😉

      • Precisely, that would be the idea of each campaign setting being a colour set. That way, you could have the Temple of Elemental Evil and some other famous place for the Greyhawk set, while you could get Neverwinter and Baldur’s gate for Forgotten Realms (for example). Most campaign settings have really good iconic locations that… although some of them just have too many iconic places. Maybe I’d switch out Al Qadim and include The Underdark, and put in there Undermountain and Menzoberranzan… Pfff there are just too many cool places to fit in just one monopoly board 😛

  3. First thought I had was to use more abstract tokens, similar to the Monopoly we all know and love. For example, maybe a couple of weapons, a holy symbol or two, that kind of thing.

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