Dungeons and Diablo

Posted on October 23, 2012 by


As dungeon masters, most of us, I feel I can safely say, draw inspiration from a variety of sources: TV shows, books, movies, history, and, of course, video games. Computer and console RPGs have long drawn inspiration from table-top games, and vice versa. People criticized Fourth (and still do) for being TOO influenced by computer games, notably World of Warcraft. That discussion is long and played out.

But with Diablo III recently released, it’s interesting to note that, while D&D has long been blamed for absorbing Blizzard’s most popular MMORPG, it has rarely been suggested that D&D has ever been influenced by Diablo II. Which makes sense: The Paladin of D&D Fourth certainly bears more resemblance to WoW’s pally than Diablo’s. The rogue classes in D&D are far closer to the rogue in WoW than the Amazon or Assassin in D2. And the structure of the game: An encounter based system (more or less), rather than just wave after wave of enemies.

Now that Diablo III has been released, I think it’s still fair to say that it bears little or no resemblance to Dungeons and Dragons, other than a few flavor elements, and the demon hunter being like a ranger (multishot, leaping away from enemies, having insane DPS, etc…).

Now, I play Diablo 3. It’s pretty fun, I have to admit. I play a Demon Hunter, not because they are the best, but because it’s incredibly satisfying to blow away demons that aren’t even on the screen with machine gun crossbows (also because they are the best). I do not play Diablo 3 like I played Diablo 2. That is to say, I do not wake up in the middle of the night, scratching the skin off my arm, murmuring curses and crying about how, “Daddy needs his fix, yes he does.” In fact, I have to find time to actually play the game and get my 60 dollars worth. I really only like playing with my friends, and I often, gasp, have better things to do with my time. Like blog about playing Diablo!

I loved/hated Diablo 2. I just like Diablo 3. But let’s get past all my issues: What can we, as Dungeon Masters, gain from the Diablo franchise, aside from the 3rd edition module?

Well, with the fourth edition creation of Minions, we now can have a semblance of the unending waves of demons and undead that Diablo 2 introduced us to. About a year or so ago, eager to be playing Diablo 3 but unable to, I popped into the world of Sanctuary for a brief visit (see: relapse). While my paladin was mowing down waves of skeletons in the Tomb of Tal Rasha, I realized how applicable the whole scene was: The Skeletons and Mummies were minions, the Greater Mummies that were resurrecting them were elite controllers (leader), and the sarcophagi that spewed forth Mummies were hazards. The whole thing, properly prepared so that it was not a grind, could make an excellent D&D Fourth encounter, something that would go incredibly well with my Undead Game.

So to capture the flavor we have:

1. Skeletons and Mummies that go down with a single hit and are able to swarm the heroes: minions.

2. Skeletons that both shoot arrows obnoxiously, and skeletons that defend themselves with a shield (which I borrowed from Diablo III): Minion artillery, and minion soldiers that can defend against a single blow with their shield.

burning dead archer

burning dead soldier

3: Mummies that, when they die, release a cloud of poisonous gas: While I could’ve made the gas a hazard that appeared after their death, I felt that that would take too much time to remember how long the gas lasts, especially with mummies dying on different turns, so I just made it a burst that happened upon their deaths. Plus, I just love exploding minions.


4: A greater mummy that breathes poison, shoots unholy bolts, and resurrects its minions: An elite controller (leader) with these powers. Pretty simple. But in order to keep the ranger or sorcerer in your party from destroying the monster in a single round, we also give the monster some additional protection beyond his normal mummy horror. The fact that his defenses go up against ranged attacks means the party is forced to wade through his minions more.

greater mummy

5. A simple hazard that spawns mummies. Standard DC to disarm it with Religion/History, Hard DC to disarm it with Arcana/Dungeoneering. Low HP to destroy it, etc. Rolls initiative, spawns a minion mummy every round. Simple!

So, there you have it. Obviously the flavor of this could be easily changed (change them to demons, make the mummies breath fire instead of poison, get rid of the death explosion and you have Fallen). I hope this does a good job of capturing the endless horde feeling you get when facing the enemies of the Diablo franchise. Try it out and let me know!

Mummies aren’t scary to DnD characters. Unending waves mummies are.
Posted in: Gamecraft