Tabletop Takeaways from World of Warcraft’s Torghast, Tower of the Damned
Salutations, nerds! I’m going to take a break from our usual tabletop roleplaying game related content to talk to you for a moment about a massive multiplayer online RPG — World of Warcraft’s new procedurally generated dungeon Torghast, Tower of the Damned. Over the past couple of weeks I have been in there almost every day. Mind you it’s incredibly difficult and hard content is usually anathema to a person like me. I don’t even want to do the regular dungeons because it takes me a while to get the mechanics down. There’s just something different about this one.
Navigating Torghast, Tower of the Damned
To start with there are traps. You heard me right. You’ll be delving through Torghast and find gauntlet hallways with swinging axes cutting across your path and spikes coming up out of the floor and all of them do massive damage if you’re unlucky enough to be hit.
You can disarm some of them if you get across the hall so if you’re in there with buddies and one of them is really good at dancing around the nasty stuff without being touched by it they can turn it off so everyone else can run across safely. Tthis isn’t always the case. Sometimes you’ll see little lantern things in the middle of a room spitting out energy balls that stun you if you get caught in them when they go off.
Basically what this means is you really have to pay attention in Torghast otherwise you might get killed by something other than an enemy. This is a huge part of what I love so much about it.
Challenging in a good way
I’m in the thought camp that a lot of difficult content is just frustrating but somehow Torghast hits differently. It’s difficult in a way that challenges the player and even in those moments where I knew I had just gotten curb stomped I could kind of see the way out of it and all I wanted to do was go back and try again.
It feels like an old school dungeon crawl. There are traps, the occasional side quest, loads of enemies, a dynamic map and more. Because it is procedurally generated there is no looking up what you have to do to get past certain parts and this is a part of the charm of Torghast. Every time you get your butt handed to you in Torghast is a unique experience.
For someone like me being able to look at where I made a misstep and figure out how to do it right the next time around has been more of a boon than a bane. This is a game where people can grow quite angry with you if you don’t come in already knowing what to expect in most of the dungeons. In Torghast, not only can you go in alone if you want to but there’s no such thing as knowing it well enough to skate by on autopilot because it’s never the same twice.
I feel like I have learned more about how to play my character in this dungeon than I have doing anything else in World of Warcraft.
Tabletop design lessons from Torghast
I’ve been picking at this for days trying to think about what this has taught me from a design perspective. The stakes are a little bit different in Torghast — if you die too many times a big monster comes out to curb stomp your character and you lose your progress on the run. It’s always six levels and having this happen when you’re on level five for example is actually frustrating. For me though it hasn’t been frustrating enough not to try again.
In a TTRPG it isn’t as rewarding when the stakes don’t feel as real. Being set back to the beginning doesn’t feel like enough of a consequence. So this isn’t a takeaway lesson in game design to me.
But the traps! The traps in Torghast deal a legitimate chunk of damage when you get hit by them. Yyou have to pay attention to where you’re stepping and when you manage to successfully disarm or evade them it feels legitimately rewarding. This is especially satisfying if you get to disarm them on the other side and let the rest of your party advance.
Set them up, establish the pattern, train adventurers for what to look for and then layer those traps in more tense situations like during your combats or while your party is running away from a giant ball of death Indiana Jones style.
The puzzles aren’t difficult either. Brute force can overcome a lot of them and most of the puzzles are basically combination locks. But once you figure out the rhyme or reason to the puzzles in Torghast it makes you feel extra smart especially if it’s in an area where you have other things going on and have to keep dodging enemies to resume solving the puzzle. I wouldn’t necessarily advise doing this to a solo character in a TTRPG but if you have one person solving a puzzle then throwing a combat encounter at the rest of the party while the one player who likes puzzle solving handles those duties it can be a great way to keep the rest of the party busy and solve the problem of having one person doing all the puzzles.
All in all there is a lot of video game specific content in Torghast and these don’t translate well to other media but if you play World of Warcraft I highly recommend going in this dungeon and giving it a run through from the mindset of TTRPG dungeon and encounter design. Maybe different things stick out to you and I am absolutely certain you will learn something from it. I know I learned a whole lot.
Of course your mileage may vary and you can feel free to snipe me from the comments below if you want. Or gush about it with me — whatever suits your fancy! As always, stay nerdy!