Dungeon23: Day 14 reflection and pivot

Previous posts on Dungeon23 here and here.

I’m two weeks in, and I don’t like my lovingly prepared dungeon. However, I’m really enjoying the day to day drawing and keying of the dungeon. I just got bored with this level after a week, so week two isn’t as much fun. I’m not surprised by this: My prep often needs to be modified as I see what the day to day involves. I want to do Dungeon23 though, so I’m going to pivot, aiming to make it easier to increase the amount of dopamine hits the creative process gives me in a given week or day.

I’m going to start using a different weekly and monthly schedule, aiming to make a sub-level each week and then arrange them onto larger 24-28 room levels at the end of each month.


  • Tuesday: Take the next layout from Marcia’s Bite-Sized Dungeons for this weeks’ sub-level. Generate a theme and faction for the sublevel using oracles. Detail the local faction and its punnet. Based on these, sketch the sub-level’s map.
  • Monday to Sunday: Draw and key a room. Detail any monsters, traps, treasure or NPCs in the room using oracles.
  • Every fourth Monday: Arrange four sub-levels in a way that makes sense. Make a wandering monster list with one to four entries per sub-level based on these four levels. Populate the universal encounter table or recurring characters table as appropriate. Revise factions with relationships with other factions that make sense.
Marcia’s Bite-Sized Dungeon layouts, largely because then I don’t have to google it every Monday.

I didn’t start on Sunday because weekends are probably when I’ll have the least time to myself to do extra work; Monday and Tuesdays I have the night and sometimes the day to fit things in.

Sketch Procedure

  1. Roll 1d12 for nature of exits: 1-2. Blocked or stuck door; 3-4. Locked door; 5-7. Unlocked door; 8-11. 40’ foot corridor; 12. 40’ corridor containing a one turn obstacle.
  2. Roll 1d12 for nature of room: 1. Natural Hazard; 2. Trap; 3-4. Guarded; 5-6. Occupied; 7. Weird or magical feature; 8. Trick, puzzle or riddle; 9-10. Sign or spoor, warning, clue or password revealing wandering or nearby encounters. 11-12. A mosaic, fresco, basrelief, inert feature or mundane items revealing history or current use.
  3. Roll 1d12 for the nature of treasure. 1. McGuffin or unique magical treasure; 2-4. 1d6 gold bags or equivalent (~1000gp each); 5-6. Incidental silver treasure (~100gp or a bag of silver); 7-8. Incidental copper treasure (~20gp or a bag of copper). 9–10. Valueless keepsake or trinket; 11-12. No treasure.

Inspiration here from Warren and Emmy, as well as Marcia with thanks. I differentiated types of blocked doors; eliminated long corridors and transferred the time sink into an obstacle. I used Marcia’s economy for ease of treasure, and increased the incidence of minor treasures.

After this step, it looks like this.

Oracles and details

I’ve found I’m enjoying drawing additional information onto the map, even though my skills are still developing. This is also why I’m putting passage omens on the map. I’ll lean into it:

  1. Add oracles to sketch
  2. Write room description , aiming for Wolves upon the Coast or Through Ultans Door rather than OSE.
  3. Assign all nouns I can to be drawn onto the map in a separate sentence.
  4. For each exit to a known room, add passage omens to the map (sight, sound, scent and taste or touch).

Simple three cards oracles for each element I’ve pre-assigned based on the two simplest tarot draws.

After adding the oracles to the sketch, it looks like this.
  • NPC (or monster): Personality, Body, Hopes/Fears. Don’t stat. Use hit, strong hit and crit as attack detail, and heavy, light and no armour.
  • Location (room or levels): Aesthetic, History, Current Use.
  • Faction: Foundation/Aesthetic, Proactive/Selfish Agenda, Method. Remember that power and wealth are not agendas.
  • Traps: Theme, Goal, Functional? (Y/N)
  • Hostile Factions: In addition, use Monster Punnets using Melee/Ranged and Damage/Special axes.
  • Treasures: Origin, Theme, Twist. Treasure Punnets using Magical/Non-magical and Functional/Decorative axes. Add spare treasures to the incorporation list.

Using these, I detail and key one room and it’s treasure per day, Tuesday being optional. Passage omens are a little Diogo and a little Anne. On good days I don’t write more, because I’ve found I draw more. I’ll leave my hard day rule in place and if I come up with a story I will work them into empty rooms.

And after detail, looks like this.

Wandering monsters and other encounters

Wandering monster tables are a difficulty, because there are going to be 50 or so sub-levels. I’m going to write one rolling table, with d4 entries per level. I want easy inspiration for interesting encounters, though, so I’ll draw from Keystone Encounters and Structuring Encounter Tables, and try to remember the maxim “Make an undesirable demand on the players attention”:

  • Roll 1d6 for nature of encounter: 1. Indefinite threat omen; 2. Indefinite threat; 3. Definite threat omen; 4. Definite threat; 5. Threat aware of an unknowing second threat; 6. Two threats interacting.
  • Roll 1d12 for indefinite threats, that are only threats if interfered with: 1. Lost; 2. Hurt; 3. Trapped; 4. Sleeping; 5. Sick or starving; 6. Eating or cooking; 7. Excreting or bathing; 8. Weeping; 9. Socializing; 10. Building or demolishing; 11. Artistic pursuits; 12. Doing drugs or drinking.
  • Roll 1d12 for definite threats that are likely hostile: 1. Tracking Prey; 2, Lying in Ambush; 3. Fleeing; 4. Committing a crime; 5. Searching; 6. Holding Captives; 7. Spying; 8. Scavenging; 9. Religious ritual; 10. Gloating; 11. Plotting; 12. Returning home

Rolling on this giant encounter table, I’m not entirely sure about. I suspect it will be something like 2d6 + Dungeon Level, with 1 always being “Roll again on the universal encounter table” and 12 always being “Roll again on the recurring characters table”. The universal table’s goal is to tell the story of and something of the history of the dungeon, and the recurring characters table I can populate as I go with the most enjoyable NPCs. This means I’ll need a few running lists to fill out gradually:

  • Incorporation
  • Recurring characters
  • Wandering monsters
  • World anchors
  • Universal encounters

That’s my revised process. The first test sub-level I made was a crumbling dinosaur-worshippers temple filled with ancient matter warping technology occupied by marooned space pirates. The second was a tower filled with reliquaries that a sect of monks dedicated to forgotten gods seek to use to beam the ghosts of their past worshippers to evangelise them back into existence. Both of these stayed exciting for all six to seven rooms, with the primary barrier being how I string them together and develop them a story. But at least this is more fun.

What are your reflections at week 2?

Idle Cartulary

13th January 2023


One thought on “Dungeon23: Day 14 reflection and pivot

  1. Nice! I like the table design and how it can help boost inspiration/dopamine

    I’m started by laying out the surface level of the destroyed city to get 8 different Wards, with each giving flavor to the under-city below them. For Jan and Feb each Ward gets a week of rooms under them that are thematically coherent for that ward, with a sketched network of under-city “roads” that connect them. This lets me take each week as a chunk of content to think through in total, sketch, roll the B/X populating the dungeon charts to place ideas, and then write up. I’ve enough ways around that the players are under no requirement to deal with each week as a chunk, but it helps me keep the geographical ideas in place.

    Liked by 1 person

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