Why We Went from FOUR $62 Dungeons to THREE $78 Dungeons

For years I have dreamed of making uber-cool dungeons at Gen Con.  I mean really cool adventures.  Really, really cool dungeons that would transport players to another world for two hours.  We have steadily worked toward that goal for the past 15 years, but we have never gotten as close as I would like.  

If I could dream really big, TD at Gen Con in 2019 would just be two massive dungeons with tons of multiple paths, secret doors and bonus rooms. But the cost of the ticket would have to be sky-high. I know that is not practical, so I've long considered the idea of doing three dungeons as we announced last week.

A handful of things made me pull the trigger on this dream this year.

First, we did a preliminary test last year with the “Dancing Among Stones” adventure at Gen Con 2017.  We arranged it so some of the "curtained hallways" were replaced with nicely themed townscape areas.  We went overboard on that adventure -- both in terms of cost and time budgets, but I was so happy with the result. After 15 years of slowly growing TD I felt we had finally gotten to the place I first dreamed about in 2003 while conjuring up True Dungeon over pancakes with Peter Adkinson (co-owner of Gen Con). After Gen Con 2017 was over and the test rooms went so well, I knew with a little more space, budget, and time to build we could have made Dancing Among Stones an amazing experience if all the holding areas were themed.

Second, I visited Universal Orlando this past October, and went on tours of all their amazing haunts. I got to meet with their head honcho, and that visit really inspired me to raise the quality of the event. It re-affirmed my wish to completely blow folks' minds with their TD experience, but to do that I knew that I needed more space.

Third, I ain't no spring-chicken these days. I'm 53 and I'm starting to prioritize the fulfillment of dreams a wee bit more these days. We just signed a 5-year deal with Gen Con, and I want to make these coming 5 years amazing while my vigor remains to push the envelope on what we can do.

Fourth, we just hired Mike Naglee full-time to help take over some of the aspects of running TD so I can spend more time working on the more creative side. This hire will allow us to make the Astral module (N1) (premiering at Origins Game Fair in June) a brand new module -- instead of a "best of" adventure as originally announced.

Fifth, from a logistics stand-point, doing the same events from Gen Con at Gamehole Con, PAX South and other Cons just makes a lot of sense. In the past, we've had to do two weeks of work in the warehouse after each Con just to re-configure all the sets, props and costumes to match the new unique structure of the upcoming event. And, mistakes can be made...stuff got left behind or the wrong things were brought. With this change, after the upcoming Gen Con we will unload the trailers into the warehouse (each intact in its own space), and then very easily re-load them in an afternoon to go to Gamehole Con. We will have a few pallets of consumable supplies to re-load. So, if you multiply the two weeks' savings per Con, you can see that over a month of time will be saved this year in the warehouse. This is time we can spend making better sets and props.

Despite all these points, the plan just a few weeks ago was still to leave Gen Con as-is -- with 4 modules (2 different modules each with a combat and puzzle side) in 2018. It was not until a fateful trip last week that I decided to think about making the big move.

I took the kids (ages 11 & 16) to Orlando last month for a quick Spring Break trip to Disney and Universal. Lori had to take her elderly father out West for a visit, so we decided at the last second to hit Orlando.

So...there I was at Disney World.  I was standing in the middle of Main Street at the Magic Kingdom -- watching the throngs of people immensely enjoying themselves.  I thought back to Walt's crazy idea to open Disney World back in 1971. It might surprise you to learn that it was a huge financial gamble, and many "experts" thought his castle in the swamp would be a big fiasco. But he rolled the dice and followed his creative dream… and his initiative ended up being widely loved by generations of folks who need some "wonderment" in their life.  It was there on Main Street looking up at the castle, surrounded by people from across the globe, that I decided it might be finally time to go for it.  

When I got back to TD HQ, I put out some event structure ideas for discussion, and we talked about lots of scenarios. I finally asked the TD Team if they wanted to follow me on the crazy idea of going with 3 enhanced dungeons. They gave out some great Pro and Con feedback , but in the end we all felt that 3 enhanced adventures  was the way to go.

That decision was re-affirmed this week as we set to work on re-configuring the planned event for only three enhanced dungeons.  All that extra space will add so much fun to the adventures!  The spaces between rooms will now be adventure spaces themselves -- with clues and fun to be had while you wait.  We can't wait to see all those excited faces at Origins, Gen Con and beyond. I think you guys are in for a treat.

And yes...in case you are wondering...I am really worried that the new ticket price will be our undoing. I kept it as low as I could. Remember that we just hired Mike Naglee full-time and his talented wife Jenn part-time , so the smart and safe thing to do would probably have been to up the price from $62 to $66 and kept the 4 dungeon scheme. Heck, we even entertained the idea of adding a 5th dungeon, as it would have been possible to shoe-horn it in there with a slight decrease in overall event quality. I have to admit the extra $120,000 in revenue for a 5th adventure was tempting, but for lots of reasons that idea was abandoned.
If I've learned anything, it's that life is too short, so after 15 years of hard work I went with my dream. Let's hope it is not a castle in the swamp! 

Okay...then why did you add back an old 4th adventure?

Another good question.  We received lots of great feedback from our TD Community after we made the big announcement, and the number one concern voiced was the extra $16 added to the ticket price from 2017.  Many felt that TD would see a lot fewer new players trying out the event.  Additionally, many long-time players called for a way for them to still enjoy TD without the higher ticket price.  And finally, we realized that there would be some space savings due to the decrease in Coaching Rooms needed.

Being someone who likes creative challenges, I got to work trying to find room to present another (older style) adventure.  After playing around with possible map ideas, I called up the always friendly and passionate CEO of Gen Con (David Hoppe), and we worked together to re-configure the "swing space" exit corridor.  David was good enough to allow us to move the entire Epilogue area into the swing space -- which we will lightly theme for your exiting fun.  

This gained space (along with the extra space from fewer Coaching Rooms) allows us to present the fan-favorite "Into the Viper's" module from 2014 at the low ticket price of $48.  The adventure will have curtained "holding areas" between rooms and a smaller footprint than the N-Series modules, but it should still be a hoot to play for folks.  More info HERE.

So...if you are still reading this...well...thank you.  Thank you for your interest, your support and your faith in the TD Team.  We have an amazing year planned for all our Cons, and I hope to see you there.

-- Jeff Martin

Creator & Head Geek at TD HQ