Monday, July 19, 2010

Dungeon Making

The SAGE due date is fast approaching and I've already revealed I'm working on a small dungeon.

What I'm noticing is the way I make a dungeon is to think up situations and then somehow cobble them together on a map.

What I mean by situations is I have an idea of a trap door that when opened from below dumps nasty stuff on the opener. Pretty simple, even obvious as a situation, but to make that one little thing possible means my dungeon now has two levels. I like the idea that an early dumping combined with other trapdoors encountered later might produce dread/disgust in players. So that means this particular trapdoor should be early on in the dungeon. But if there are other trapdoors does that mean this dungeon must have even more levels?

Just an idea of the creative process I use and how it's usually situations that shapes a whole map.

I realize the dungeon making tools I posted before (using dominoes & tracing dice) work the opposite way; a map is made which then must be interpreted/fleshed out into an adventure locale.

I wonder how you all make your dungeons?


  1. These days I usually generate one using donjon or some other online tool. Then I fill it up using the old Stock the Dungeon tables, common sense, and other random goodness. Then I wing it. (sorry, that answer probably doesn't help you at all) :(

  2. Well, I've been writing all about how I make my dungeon! The upper level(s) doesn't even all have to be full levels. Just a couple of rooms, or even one can make a nice little sub-level.

  3. Is it me or is the cryptic Chinese spam artist beginning to make sense?

  4. Thanks folks. And sorry David, I've been behind in my blog reading while up here.

    So it seems like the small consensus is that dungeons come first and situations arise from it. That's cool, randomness will push you places you didn't expect and wouldn't have gone otherwise. I have ideas for situations thought, too. In fact that's probably what is most fun for me in dungeon making. Maybe I'd call my approach top-down, with dungeon-room-filling being bottom up.

    I'll post something more about what I mean be situations.

  5. I'm a "map first" person. I just like to doodle first. Sure, as I doodle, I imagine the rooms and corridors, the stairs, and I start adding notes. The end result is usually a map with lots of notes on it. I rarely write a separate key unless I'm taking somebody else's maps.

  6. I don't see why you can't do both. So you have a situation. Plug it in. Anything around the situation you have in mind, you can roll for.

    I like the rolling, because sometimes I get too caught up in trying to make interesting situations, and letting the dice help me keeps things moving.

  7. I've been using geomorphs from the "A Character for Every Game" blog (, then working out what the dungeon was used for to determine what it looks like, and then populating it with what I think might be there now. The second step contributes to the third step, but sometime I just add a something because my players haven't seen it before/yet.

  8. David, yeah, you can do both. Currently my head is swirling with situations and I think I need to just start laying down some corridors to nest them in, start getting the spacial relationships figured etc.