Dungeons without borders

In Bridewell, there two traditional dungeons that are challenges to the principles guiding Bridewell. A traditionally keyed large dungeon, ones that have practical, common-sense usages, and lots of “37. Empty room.” does not fit with Bridewell’s sensibilities. But also, the orcs need a place to toilet, right? Just because it’s gothic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, which is part of the reason the maps for Bridewell are the last items to complete. And because of that, I’ve written these dungeons very differently than I’ve ever written a dungeon before, because I usually design dungeons around the map. These dungeons have been keyed (albeit with some sense in my head of the layout of the dungeon) before the maps have even been started.

But I’ve left out the keys for empty rooms and the like, because I don’t have a map yet, and also because they’re empty rooms. And I’ve been expecting to draw a traditional dungeon map and just leave the unkeyed rooms empty. But then I remembered this:

From B3: Palace of the Silver Princess

“To expand the dungeon, the DM need but open up the blocked passageways”. And I wondered, hey, what if I just put doors where unkeyed dungeon areas were? What if I keyed only the bits I cared about, and let the DM open up those blocked passageways if they wished, or handwave them if they wished?

My first thought was that just days ago I complained about a module in a Bathtub Review for doing precisely that thing. What’s the point of a module that terms the GM to make up the dungeon map?

But nevertheless, empty rooms are contrary to what I’m trying to achieve in my writing. What about a random empty room generator? I put 14 potential empty rooms in my dungeon, I give each four permutations, and when the company stumbles into an empty room, bam! There’s a lavatory full of grasping arms. But they can be ignored if you wish, Trophy style, and I can maintain Bridewell’s trademark dense, punchy style.

For Bridewell, it’d look something like this. Draw minor arcana for an empty room. Suit indicates Cups – Overflowing; Wands – Creating; Swords – Violence; Coins – Precious.

  1. Mess hall
  2. Barracks
  3. Chapel
  4. Gymnasium
  5. Bath
  6. Cistern
  7. Armoury
  8. Pantry
  9. Privy
  10. Salon
  11. Kitchen
  12. Classroom
  13. Library
  14. Oubliette

The question really is, whether this is an interesting solution, springboarding off one of the oldest texts in the games history, or if it’s just a bad idea?

I probably won’t know until I try. I’ll report back.

2nd May, 2023,

Idle Cartulary


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