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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dicing past dungeon designer's block

Sat down with my morning coffee to start a new dungeon map on bigger paper, 9" by 12", and ran into the blank paper "what do I do now?" wall. With a bigger sheet, it should be a bigger, more complex level, with some sub-levels to it that each had some character, and with explicit intent to stock, not just draw a map.  So, being stuck, I broke out the dice, actually a dice app on my phone, and started rolling and making pencil annotations that could be erased again once the inked version emerged.  Being too lazy to dig up one of the many sets of tables for random dungeon building out there on the web, I resorted to "Socratic dicing", pose a question, assign some spread on a D6 for the answer, roll it, note the result, ask the next question that makes sense, rinse, repeat. I've reordered questions a bit from how they occurred to me to more logical flow in the account below.

First question - how many subareas to develop? Range set - 3 to 6. Result: 5. Scattered 5 dots on the sheet as "centers of gravity" for the areas, not necessarily where the final centers will be. Approximately a pattern of three across the top and two lower corner zones. Assign a number to each.

Decision - one entrance to the level from above or outside.

Second question - Where is the entrance? D6 left to right horizontally: 4 and D6 down vertically: 1 to place it. It ended up falling between areas #2 and #3 in the top.

What kind of entrance?
1-2 open cave mouth
3-4 gateway or big doors
5-6 stairs

Roll 5, stairs

Complexity of stairs - 4, so moderately complex, draw something with some bends or platforms or something but not super baroque.

How many ways to go deeper?
Figured 1-3, rolled a 3 or 4 so two ways down.

Diced 1-5 for which area contained each, #4 and #5 in the bottom.

From the stairs, which area(s) are immediately accessible?
Looked like #2, #3, and/or #5 from the placement, so set 1:#2, 2:#3, 3 #5, 4-5 two areas, 6: all three. Rolled a 1.

Then did some further dicing to find out which areas were linked to which others. sketched in link lines. Did a later dicing to determine for each link whether it was horizontal or included a vertical element and noted that.

Stairs -> 2 -> 5, 5 -> 4 -> 1, 5 -> 3

Rolled for natural (caves) vs constructed for each area, wieghted odds in favor of constructed: 1-2 natural 3-6 constructed. Rolled 3 natural areas(1, 3, 4) and two constructed(2,5).

Then natural vs constructed for each area to area link, 1-2 like the first end, 3-4 like the other end, 5 natural, 6 constructed.

Rolled for each area what its dominant feature size is, which will seed into how big to make its rooms or caves and how wide the make the halls or cave linking tunnels, and noted 1(small) to 6 (really big).
 Area: feature size
1: 1
2: 2
3: 6
4: 5
5: 2

For the constructed areas I rolled for "regularity" on a 1- 6 scale - how much to draw it as simple rectangular rooms and rectilinear halls. Could have done this for natural areas too, but didn't.
2: medium regularity
5: low regularity

Then a bunch of questions about area character:
Which has the toughest monster? 3
Which has the most monsters? 1
Which has the fewest monsters? 3
Where is the biggest treasure? 3
Which is the most ruined? 3
Which is the weirdest area? 5
Which is the most trapped area? 5
How many areas with water features? one
Which area will have water? 3

So area 3 will be the climax boss, without minions, and the major loot for this level, and be a large, natural, ruined area (cave-ins? sink holes?) with water. Maybe the boss has become trapped by a cave in? Given the nature of its' lair, a dragon is the first thing that comes to mind for the boss. Adventurers will have to pass through areas 2 and 5 to get there, and 5 will be interesting with smallish features, low regularity, high weirdness, and lots of traps, just the sort of gauntlet a fiendish boss wants between him and his hoard and a bunch of aggressive murder hobos.

Areas 1 and 4 are off the track to the big boss, but 4 is a way downward and 1 a network warren of small caves full of monsters, a source of some sort of horde of creatures that could be a backwater, but could also come boiling out into a blocking position behind the adventurers if they are ignored. 

 With that much info, I started drawing. So far I only have outlines of areas 1 & 4 and the connection to 5, so its too early to scan and post.

Could dice some more things, like the character of the two ways downward from 4 and 5. With high weirdness and traps in 5, I'm thinking that is probably a teleport trap or elevator room trap.

Anyway, this is shaping up to be an interesting dungeon level, with more coherency that I expected. More to come...

Here's a link to the later post with the nearly complete map:   Diced Dungeon Map WIP

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting mechanic Ed. Looks like it works well for you. I'll have to give it a try.