Preparing for a mega dungeon: Dungeon23 templates and principles

As has been widely discussed, Sean had a good idea:

For me, life is hard, but this seems an achievable task so long as I set the expectations:

  1. Don’t write well, write anything. I can improve a bad dungeon. I can’t improve no dungeon.
  2. Dungeons need empty rooms, so on a bad day, add an empty room, and name it after my bad day.
  3. Don’t ever do tomorrows room. Not for this one. Pace myself.
  4. Stay accountable. Ty is considering an accountability discord for this project, and if that happens I’ll join.
  5. Use the last few weeks of 2022 to do the planning I’d probably waste time on in 2023.

That last point is what this post is for. How do I make next year as easy as possible? What needs doing this year:

  1. Set up a procreate template for drawing the maps. A3. Makes a template for each floor.
  2. Set up a google doc for the key.
  3. Plan the overarching concept and themes of thedungeon. Use the Dungeon Architects Handbook to do this.
  4. Plan (or randomly generate) themes or factions on each floor to be scrapped if I want.

That’s not too much for someone who spends most of their time at home or in hospital, in my opinion.

Step 1: Procreate Template

Here’s what it looks like.

It’s got stippling and flagstone detail already on it sitting behind a mask, so I don’t get too bogged down in that kind of detail. I just outline, fill in, and I’m done. What are the rules in the top right corner?

  • Hard day? Draw a square, next to the last room, add shadows. Connect it on an easier day.
  • Have a little time? Draw an unusual shape, add shadows. Draw some connections.
  • Have more time? Draw an unusual shape or a level-wide feature like a environmental feature, sequence break, loop or change in elevation (jacquaysing stuff). Draw some connections and make them secret or between levels.

And below them are principles, to remind me to keep it interesting.

  • Use space to define a room’s purpose or feel
  • Loops within level
  • Secret and unusual connections
  • Multiple connections between levels sequentially and non-sequentially
  • Levels disconnected from the main sequence
  • Broken levels unable to be traversed without accessing other levels
Zeshio’s thoughts on making the dungeon cool, where I found one of my principles.

Step 2: Google Doc

Here’s what it looks like.

What are the rules at the bottom?

  • Hard day? Room number, week, date and name. Say what it’s for (Kitchen, fully stocked) and say it’s empty.
  • Have a little time? Use OSE’s dungeon tables to give it a feature and maybe treasure.
  • Have more time? Use Dungeon Architects Handbook to generate some extra story, or add to the levels encounter table.

In addition, Gus points out there are a few elements that I’ll be wanting to template aside from rooms: Stat blocks, magic items, traps, and puzzles. These templates are in the rules section as well: I’ll use Into the Odd for stat blocks, because it’s easier to stat for quickly, and say things like “as orc” as much as I can. For NPCs, they need an asset (or secret), an agenda, an ally and a foe, a common experiences with a PC, and a recognisable profile. Traps and puzzles need a fail state.

Concluding Thoughts

This post was getting too long, so I’m breaking it into two, so tune in in a few days for steps 3 and 4. I’m happy to provide access to my google doc or procreate template (I’m not sure how to send a procreate file though) if anyone wants them, and if you don’t like them I recommend Gus L’s worksheets as a starting point if you want a bit more than what I like.

Idle Cartulary

12th December 2022


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