While stocking a dungeon for my recent 1e game with my son and brother, I noticed that AD&D has a lot of empty rooms. According to the legendary Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation in the DMG, 60% of chambers and rooms are empty. This seems excessively sparse. Compare the B/X system with the AD&D:

1981 B/X D&D (page B52):
 CONTENTS              TREASURE?
1d6 Result       1d6 Monster Trap  Empty
1-2 Monster       1   Yes    Yes    Yes
 3  Trap          2   Yes    Yes    No
 4  Special       3   Yes    No     No
5-6 Empty        4-6  No     No     No 

AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pg 171):
 d20  Contents
 1-12 Empty
13-14 Monster only
15-17 Monster and treasure
  18  Special
  19  Trick/Trap
  20  Treasure

I used the heck out of Appendix A back in the day, but I do recall being frustrated with the frequency of empty rooms. I usually put some dungeon dressing into otherwise empty areas, but it still drives me nuts when I roll four or five empty rooms in a row.

Something else I’ve wondered about when it comes to dungeon stocking is whether it makes more sense to roll each room or to simply assign the “proper” number of each type of room to a level. For instance, an ongoing adventure I’m running for my son involves a large randomly-populated dungeon called ‘Osgorr’s Labyrinth.’ I’m rolling each room on the Labyrinth Lord tables (which are adapted from B/X) as a bit of an experiment to see what I come up with randomly “by the book.” But I’m considering taking the next level and assigning the various types per the percentages.

For instance, a 12-room level may get a list like this:

 1. Monster with treasure
 2. Monster with treasure
 3. Monster with treasure
 4. Monster only
 5. Trap with treasure
 6. Trap only
 7. Special
 8. Special
 9. Empty with treasure
10. Empty
11. Empty
12. Empty

Then, once I’ve designated the number of rooms of each type, I could roll randomly for each room’s specific contents. Then I could plop them into the map as desired. This would assure the correct ratio of each type of content per the rules and would head off the wackiness that sometimes results from a string of similar rooms.

At one point I rolled like four or five ‘Special’ rooms in a row. How special can they be, at that point?

I think I’ll try this for at least one level of Osgorr’s Labyrinth.

By comparison, a 12-room level suing the AD&D numbers would have seven empty rooms and three monsters. One thing I must say about the preponderance of empty rooms by the AD&D system, though: If my brother and son had run into any more monsters or traps than they did, I don’t think they would have got out alive. Traps are only in 5% of AD&D areas, while they make up over 16% of B/X encounters. If this seems terribly trap-intense, remember that in B/X only one-third (2-in-6) of traps actually spring. So the number of traps which end up “attacking” the party is about on par with AD&D.

What do you guys think about all this? Is it cool to have more than half the rooms more-or-less empty, perhaps with some dressing? Is the B/X ratio about right? Should each room be rolled individually? Or should the ratio be used to fill them and rolls only used to keep things from getting too predictable?

Yes, I know it’s my game and I can do whatever works best for us. I’m interested in what others think.

UPDATE: Somewhere I lost the last line of the B/X table. I put it back in. Sorry.

Also, for comparison, here is the table in Labyrinth Lord:

Roll d00  Contents  Treasure 
01-30     Empty       15% 
31-60     Monster     50% 
61-75     Trap        30% 
76-00     Unique    Variable 

Roughly the same as B/X, as would be expected.

12 Comments to “Room Contents”

  1. JB says:

    One reason might be the different philosophies on experience/advancement. In B/X, one is expected to “level up” in 3-4 adventures, while older editions (Holmes for sure, possibly AD&D) consider advancement speed to be about double that. Having twice as many empty rooms means twice as much chance for “no XP” (monster or treasure) slowing down characters’ advancement rate.

    I don’t remember if Holmes had random stocking off-hand. If it does, I’d be curious to see their number of “empties.”

  2. David says:

    Well, first I’d like to point you to my posts on stocking my megadungeon last week. http://towerofthearchmage.blog.....egadungeon

    I like the Rules Cyclopedia chart for stocking a room.
    I roll 2d6 (2 different colors) and check the chart below.

                                  1  2  3  4  5  6
                   1-2  Empty     T  -  -  -  -  -
                   3    Trap      T  T  -  -  -  -
                   4-5  Monster   T  T  T  -  -  -
                   6    Special   -  -  -  -  -  -
                   T=Treasure

    Then I roll up the contents of the room, and then I assign the room to the map where I think it makes the most sense. I also rolled a couple of extra rooms for my first level, which allowed me to pick and choose what I felt worked best.

    As for the special things, there isn’t any reason a monster can’t be special. Furniture on the ceiling could also count as special. A room that is completely smooth, and made of an impenetrable material is special.

    • Kilgore says:

      I think I got the formatting fixed. You can use the [pre] and [/pre] tags in comments to use fixed-width characters and retain spaces. I simply added the tags to what you had originally typed in and voila. [UPDATE: Actually, I also went back and added about 15 leading spaces to each line. The [pre] tag ignored the indented comment formatting.]

      The Rules Cyclopedia table you posted appears to be the same as the B/X except in a different order and formatted slightly differently. I think this makes sense as I think these numbers are better than those in the DMG. Actually, you could probably just substitute the B/X/RC table for Table V in the DMG and use the rest of Appendix A the same as you ever did.

    • Kilgore says:

      Oh, and I’ve been a bit of a softie for the “roll two d6 of different colors and consult the appropriate row/column” method. And also for the d66 method.

      Traveller made extensive use of both.

      • David says:

        Thank you! I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

        I do believe that you’re right, it is the same chart, just formatted a little differently. I would even go so far as to say better formatted!

        Rolling the 2d6 is so easy! Faster too, as after maybe 10 rooms you know the chart by heart, and so you can just keep on rolling!

        I use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything. One column for the room number for each entry, one column for the roll #, one column with a notation of what the roll resulted in (M, M$, S, T, T$, E, etc.) The next column is the room contents (what monsters, traps, general items of note) then I have a series of columns for treasure (copper, silver, gold, # of gems, # of jewelry, other) The bottom row I total everything up. The row below that I convert everything to GP value, and total everything again.

        I can send you a copy if you’re interested?

  3. I keep hearing that a lot of empty rooms help parties rest in dungeons, and they provide enough space to separate various lairs in the dungeon. I guess the empty rooms are where you find the wandering monsters, so they’re not really all that empty.

    For one-shots, I’ve used the Labyrinth Lord tables and maps by Tim Hartin and they worked out well enough: Dungeon Map 001, Dungeon Map 008.

    • Kilgore says:

      I don’t know that I have ever considered that empty rooms provide a space or buffer between monsters. That’s a great point. Though I have used “no-man’s land” or contested areas in dungeons between tribes of orcs and goblins, for example. But the empty rooms could help explain a bit why all the monsters haven’t killed each other already.

      And as for how “empty” an empty room is, I almost always throw something in. Even if it’s just to keep the players from knowing that it’s just another empty room.

      Nice maps, by the way.

  4. David Macauley says:

    I do recall being frustrated with the frequency of empty rooms

    Try Sham’s Empty Room Principle:

    http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/.....ciple.html

    • Kilgore says:

      I do happen to agree with Sham on that. And I rarely leave empty rooms completely empty anyway. And you never can tell when the oddments you find are simply props from Appendix I: Dungeon Dressing and when they actually matter.

      Sham’s example is of an empty room in a module, and “making it your own” is certainly the way to go. But while I applaud the spirit of the Empty Room Principle, the idea that empty rooms are BY DESIGN there for DM’s to plop in special stuff is clearly not correct in a random dungeon generator system. ‘Special’ rooms are, by design, where special stuff gets plopped in.

      With all sorts of detail worked out to fine degrees, 60% of the rooms deviating from the random generation theory and making you make it up is not a feature, it’s a bug. If I really wanted a majority of the work to be all from my imagination, I wouldn’t be using a random dungeon generator for 40% of it in the first place, I’d be using just my imagination for all 100%.

  5. David Macauley says:

    …while I applaud the spirit of the Empty Room Principle, the idea that empty rooms are BY DESIGN there for DM’s to plop in special stuff is clearly not correct in a random dungeon generator system. ‘Special’ rooms are, by design, where special stuff gets plopped in.

    I don’t agree that the Empty Room Principle suggests all empty rooms have to contain something “Special”. Sham’s comment: “the referee must fill in the blanks, creating the room’s description to whatever extent he so desires. It’s an invitation for creativity” is quite broad. When I read “to whatever extent”, I read it to mean as little or as much as I want. Putting some colour into some empty rooms isn’t the same as every room being “Special”, although they can be.

    With all sorts of detail worked out to fine degrees, 60% of the rooms deviating from the random generation theory and making you make it up is not a feature, it’s a bug. If I really wanted a majority of the work to be all from my imagination, I wouldn’t be using a random dungeon generator for 40% of it in the first place, I’d be using just my imagination for all 100%.

    Well I guess it would be if you felt you had to make every “empty” room “Special”, but that’s not how I see it as I said above. The DMG’s Appendix I gives a great set of random tables for making those empty rooms not so empty, without taxing the imagination of the DM. It wouldn’t be hard to create a table or two linking the Random Dungeon Design mechanic with the Dungeon Dressing tables. Easy peasy, nice and random, no brain strain.