The Underdogs is somewhere along 2 years in development. In fact, I can pinpoint how it started in the UK Games Expo in 2018, seeing Monolith demo the new Batman game in action and having high hopes for what it could become. They took a turn that I wasn’t sure on and I probably spoke to Pete for about 10 hours about creating a great gaming experience.
Shortly after, that turned into creating a board and rolling dice. How would Batman do things in a solo experience game. I based a lot of this on Mage Knight and Gloomhaven really. From there, I got thinking of its’ background.
Using Batman as a base, I had a proper “eureka!” moment to replace humans with animals and let their natural size and familiarity do the representing. Drawing up my first character, Mana, it gave me confidence that I could do this.
A few months later, I got in touch with a fan of the Sword and Sorcery series fan collaborators. Brad was doing excellent work here telling a story through events. I felt like I needed a hand in this department – creating scenarios and making it work. Brad and I must have spent the best part of 3 months play testing the game as a solo experience and it did start to shed some light in a lot of areas. Play testing it further with other people though revealed the game ultimately had speed issues. The events were great when they happened, but there was a lot of admin for one person to deal with. The enemies reactions were superb, but also slowing the game right down. This first version of The Underdogs obviously had a fluidity problem. Now, it’s not all bad news as I actually think I have created a wonderful video game-like system, with the computer handling the enemy aspects. We really did get the game to a decent place but ultimately it was too slow and clunky for a solo play through.
Accepting that we’d backed into something of a corner, spiralling production costs and unrealistic card counts, we went back to the drawing board. I told Brad I was a big fan of One Deck Dungeon and wouldn’t mind tacking it that way. After all, ODD uses a single deck and had a low production cost. The Underdogs: The Great Famine was born.
I met Ben, a friend that is an accomplished storyteller having run so many D&D campaigns over the years. Ben was a superb help to put a really basic story structure in place and from there add in the details. This starting point has worked wonders over time as to how characters interact and gave a deeper understanding on their character development.
Play testing the hell out of the great famine was actually quite hard. Although I adopted ODD and implemented several add-ons, it just didn’t spark like the original game. I can’t point to the exact issue but trying to fix ODDs system and improve it just wasn’t right at the time. It was hard to be enthusiastic for it too when I don’t think I went all out with it. The artwork was nice, and I was proud of that element.
Sea was over and we were going to make Underdogs: The Great Famine work! For whatever reason, we decided to play through Undaunted Normandy from start to finish instead. After both having a great time and getting a good understanding of the game, we both wanted Rise of the Underdogs to become a spin off of that game mechanic. It made sense and we both knew what we loved about it and after endless weeks of improvements a really strong basis was formed.
The adventures were created. Loads of abilities created and a ton of testing was done. Several U-turns were made with moments that were too complex or game changing. The biggest change we had to make from Undaunted was the shapes system. This was in put place instead of the groups. Since the Pack is more numerous than the Underdogs it was a very necessary addition. It is intuitive when you begin playing it.
I finished all the Underdogs artwork for the first 3 adventures as well as the rulebook and the adventure book.
Website complete. This has become a real project now. Tabletop Simulator plays a great demo of it too.