Saturday, February 19, 2011

Foray into Dungeon Building, Part 1

I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  Sometimes that leads me to not attempt something at all if I don't have a pretty good chance at succeeding.  I think that's why I've put off creating my own dungeons so far.  I just kind of figured that I'd run a bunch of other people's dungeons and I'd kind of pick up how to build dungeons and kind of "know" when I was ready to just sit down and pump out a dungeon par excellence.  I'm starting to think it doesn't work that way. (What can I say? Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake.)

So this is my record of my first go at making a dungeon, and a mega-dungeon at that. (Well, that's not totally true. I tried using the really cool How to Host a Dungeon but got somewhat confused partway through.  I think I need to try a bit more of a small-scale starting point before I try How to Host a Dungeon again, which is what this series of posts is about.)

My goals for this are two-fold: One is that I hope this will be helpful to others who, like me, don't have decades of experience creating dungeons. I might even stumble on (or be given- see next goal) something a more experienced guy can use. The second reason is that I figure that if I tell everyone how I'm going about doing this, they might give me helpful advice, tell me better ways to do things, etc. Now, I may or may not utilize all of that advice- this is a hobby, after all, where what works for me or what is fun for me may not work and be terribly not-fun for you- but I figure someone else can probably use your advice if I can't.

So, how to go about this? I figure I need three things: random tables, underlying ideas and a map.

Let's start with tables. Two important points about tables first, though.  One is that I won't be using them in all areas of the dungeon; I'm going to figure out and place important factions, monsters and personalities in any given level before I start rolling on tables.  The tables are for the areas in between the places I'll have somewhat figured out.  The other important point is that some tables should be re-stocked; when one result is rolled, it should be placed in the dungeon and replaced by another idea.  I figure I need five kinds of tables, which may be broken down into sub-tables:

1. What, generally, is in the room? For this, I'm going modify the very basic table in Labyrinth Lord. Specific details in another post.

2. Monster Tables: These I'll come up with on my own, I think.  I'll probably roll up a few monsters with James' Random Esoteric Creature Generator, and use a lot of the online resources the OSR has provided.  For the first level, I'll probably depend mostly on Roger's Varlets and Vermin.  I want to have a dungeon in which the players don't have a clue what they're running into for a good two thirds of the time.  That should make it so that when, for example, they run into the kobolds or the giant spiders they won't be comfortable enough to think they have any idea what they are capable of; I'm not saying anything other people, especially James Raggi, haven't said better than me, so I'll shut up about that for now.  I'm planning on leaving the monster tables for last, even after I've finished the map.  I'm going to take my time on them.  I think I'll re-stock only the RECG entries for this table.

3. Treasure Tables: I'm starting out with Sham's one page Treasure Tables.  For magic items, I'm going to use the Tom Hughes' Tome of Minor Items and re-stock it with Jesse Muir's The Adventurer's Ordinance and The Adventurer's Ordinance II.  For magic swords, I'll use Sham's Magic Sword Generator.  I've got a few other treasure lists that I might use too, mainly Taichara's Little Treasures.

4. Empty Room Tables: Empty rooms need dressing, both so I can get the players there and so that the players won't ever really know whether a room is empty or not.  I'm planning on using some of the tables from OSRIC (like the odors and noises tables), tables in both the 2009 and 2010 Beyond the Black Gate Compendiums, and tables from The Dungeon Alphabet.  I'm not sure whether I'll re-stock these or not, since I don't think I'll be using every table for every room; on the other hand, most rooms will be empty.  I definitely don't want things repeating enough that players actually can recognize what is "empty room" dressing, or that they find it boring.

5. Trick and Trap Tables: I'll be using the OSRIC tables pretty much as-is, with the trap-disarming tables in the Beyond the Black Gate Compendium 2009.

Well, that's enough for now- next time, we'll talk underlying ideas.