Design

Kilgore on March 14th, 2010

When I say “dungeon density” I do not mean, at least not this time, the frequency of monsters and/or treasure within the mythic underworld. Rather, I’m talking about the physical density of the construction. Are the rooms, corridors, and chambers packed tightly together? Or are there a smaller number of chambers spaced more widely, connected by longer passageways? Certainly, different labyrinths will take different approaches, but what sort is more common?

Check out this which I put together from the Dungeon Geomorphs put out by TSR back in the earlier days of the game:

Sepia Test Dungeon from Geomorphs

Sepia Test Dungeon from Geomorphs

Notice how there are very few sections of solid stone, with most corridors and chambers separated only by thick walls.

Compare that to this created using the Myth-Weavers Random Dungeon Generator:

Myth-Weavers Sample

Myth-Weavers Sample

Now, the Myth-Weavers generator produces lots of horizontal and vertical corridors, but otherwise my dungeons usually look more or less like this. Much more than like the geomorphic sample. Notice the amount of solid stone (gray) in the second map compared to the first map. The number of rooms in my designs will generally be similar to the lower map, and I will not usually have dense maze-like areas such as are found in the lower left corner of the first map.

I understand that everyone will do it slightly differently, and that each dungeon may have a particular character to its design, but I wonder if the sorts of designs the geomorphs result in are common. Even if they aren’t popular today, were they back then? Is that why the geomorphs are like they are? Or was it simply an attempt to cram as much onto one page as possible?

Update: Here is a snapshot showing the three geomorph sections I used to create that first map:

Sections

Sections colored in

As I’ve got them scanned in to my computer, I can rotate and flip them as desired. I did do a little “cleaning up” of the map after joining three sections.

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Kilgore on April 25th, 2009

I’ve got a ruined temple that a player is currently exploring with three entrances to a dungeon. The problem I’ve got is that I haven’t designed the dungeon. I had some grand plans for for a stack of one-pagers, but other things have kept me from it and now I’m in trouble.

So I’m going to shortcut the design process as a bit of an experiment. I grabbed six random levels from the dungeon generator at Myth-Weavers and pasted them into a quick sheet I cooked up using Microsoft Excel. The result is an acceptable one-page dungeon layout just waiting to be stocked:

Click for PDF

Click for PDF

Now, it’s not great. And it totally looks computer generated. But it’s also not completely worthless, and I’m not expecting my player to mind. He’ll be geeked about having close to 200 rooms on six levels to explore and loot. I’m a bit geeked because all six levels are already “drawn up.”

I used Room Count:Many, Randomness:75%, Deadends Removed:20%, and Grid Size:Small for this example (which is NOT one of my six levels) but it’s very easy to adjust and regenerate.

After generating the levels, I sat down with them and found one that would work with the three entrances from the surface and designated it “1st level.” Next, I took the other maps and looked at ways the dead end passages could be used as stairways to match up with those on the first level to select a 2nd level. I decided for this experiment to keep the maps, each 33 by 33 squares, directly aligned with each other, though this certainly wouldn’t be required.

Some dead ends on the first level led down into rooms on the level below, so I drew stairs in those rooms leading up. Also, trap doors and chimneys provide easy ways to connect levels, and I drew in a few of those. One corner on several levels had dead-end passages all line up and I put in an ‘E’ for some sort of elevator that will connect them; I’m not quite sure what that’s going to be yet. In one room, I placed a large spiral staircase leading down into a room on the level below. Now, it happened that the map I chose for the following level had nothing but blank space where that spiral staircase would have come down, but I wanted that staircase to be a sort of major trunk line. However, for the map below that one, a room did line up and I simply decided that the staircase skipped level four and went directly to level five from level three. Adventurers had probably proceed with the utmost caution on that thing.

In the example I posted, perhaps the long corridor near the lower left leading into room #11 could be a staircase leading to the surface and act as the main entrance to the place. The dead end corridor off room #15 could be stairs leading down to level 2. Maybe toss in a trap door or something in one of the other chambers for an additional method of exploring further down.

I wanted at least two connecting points up and two down for each level, and it took some creative thinking to match the maps all up. However, this was a feature, not a bug. All I’ve done so far is decide which level is which and draw in a few stairs and trap doors and I’ve already had fun.

As for stocking, I’ll probably decide on a few specific encounters on each level and then fill the rest with the tables in Labyrinth Lord. If oddball results come up, I guess I’ll just have to have a little more fun figuring out a quasi-logical explanation for it.

Part of the “jump start” I refer to in the title of this post is the time saved by using auto-generated maps. But another significant jump start is the fact that the creativity started flowing as I worked out the connections between maps. I’ve already got a couple of (I think) cool ideas here, and I’ll no doubt be tweaking things as I work my way through the stocking process.

I will post more on this as I progress.

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