Sunday, 14 May 2017

Making a Dungeon, Part 3

I found a biology diagram and plan to turn it into a dungeon. I am going to document the process of turning the original diagram into a runnable/playable PDF and possibly/hopefully create a guide of sorts as I go. 

Part 2. 

Step 3: To do lists.

Broad, sweeping ideas for each dungeon zone were generated in Step 2. Now specifics must be written. Normally to stock dungeons for an ongoing campaign drawn out in a notebook, I'll used a slightly modified version of the Ad&d dungeon stocking d20 table. I'll jot down a T (for treasure), Trap, M (for monster) and NPC as the result comes up for each room. Once I work out what I need I'll generate some more ideas and write up the needed Treasure/Traps/Monsters and NPCS.

For this dungeon I want to write up Treasure/Traps/Monsters and NPCs for each zone before stocking the dungeon. As such I need a "To Do" list of all the stuff I need to write.

Luckily, a fantastic dungeon checklist exists here: http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/dungeon-checklist.html 

So, what do I need?

As listed in the Goblin Punch checklist, I need: Treasure, Monsters/Foes, Traps, NPCs and Interesting stuff (what is interesting stuff? Stuff that isn't necessarily a trap but is above and beyond simple "dressing" - stuff that can be "interacted with" in the Goblin Punch parlance).

Additionally it would be great to have a thing that could generate fresh, interesting events inside of the dungeon (something to freshen it up on each visit and avoid it feelings static). Luckily, that also exists. From Dndwithpornstars: http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/demogorgon-implies.htm .

Basically, for each entity or group, you create a d20 of stuff that is implied by that entity/group. You roll on two tables and combine the results. Your brain should be able to smash the two concepts together/fill in the gaps and come up with something interesting. An "Entity table" for each zone would be nice to generate interesting quests and conflicts between the different groups in the dungeon.

Other things that I think the dungeon needs are: Doors, Rumors, Mundane Dressings and Hooks/Quests.

Further, things that I need to consider/write are: The area surrounding the dungeon (Random encounter table/scene generator/description/map), A stocking/re-stocking table, Overall description of the dungeon, Overall description of each zone and a guide on running the dungeon/any specific rules it needs. 

I feel like I've covered everything, but I'm sure more things will come up as I progress with the creation of the dungeon. This to do list seems like a good start though! The to do list will follow, broken down into an "overall dungeon" to do list, plus specific to do lists for each zone.


Overall dungeon to do list:

The area surrounding the dungeon (Random encounter table/scene generator/description/map).
A stocking/re-stocking table.
Overall description of the dungeon.
Overall description of each zone
Guide on running the dungeon/any specific rules it needs. 


The Church of Nephgantia's Bondage (The name for the whole complex): 

Magic affect table (Weird stuff should happen on each visit). 
Rumors.
Hooks/Quests.


Tazeem's Old Natural Bathhouse:

Entity Table
Doors.
Mundane dressings.
Treasure.
Monsters/Foes.
Traps.
NPCs.
Interesting Stuff. 


The Silent Walkway:


Entity Table
Doors.
Mundane dressings.
Treasure.
Monsters/Foes.
Traps.
NPCs.
Interesting Stuff. 


The Bloody Bank:


Entity Table
Doors.
Mundane dressings.
Treasure.
Monsters/Foes.
Traps.
NPCs.
Interesting Stuff. 


Saheeli's Scintillating Cathedral:

Entity Table
Doors.
Mundane dressings.
Treasure.
Monsters/Foes.
Traps.
NPCs.

Interesting Stuff. 





To Be Continued...

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Making a Dungeon, Part 2

I found a biology diagram and plan to turn it into a dungeon. I am going to document the process of turning the original diagram into a runnable/playable PDF and possibly/hopefully create a guide of sorts as I go. 

Part 1. 

Step 2: Ideas.

I like to get some broad ideas of what the dungeon is about before I start stocking it/begin thinking about specific details. I use random tables to help me get these ideas. Having some overall theme/motifs ahead of creating the details hopefully ensures that all the disparate dungeon elements seem  organically/logically related.

I prefer tables that give vague rather than specific results. Additionally, I prefer tables that combine more than one vague result. I think that gives your imagination the strongest, least restrictive springboard. I believe vague and broad table entries allow for deeper/more varied idea peculation, but obviously require you to work a bit harder to get there. For example: "Abandoned seat of power" allows a broader set of potential ideas than "A castle with no king".

For this dungeon I am going to lump together different results from a few separate tables and allocate them to the specific "zones" I identified in the previous post. I am also going to do the same for the overall theme of the dungeon. Hopefully some interesting ideas bubble up. Often in getting your mind to make really weird and seemingly impossible combinations work, you get the most interesting stuff.

Before I show the results, I'll discuss the tables I am going to use.

The first is my "Aspect table". I've been using this for a couple of years to modify/make things more interesting/get ideas when I need them. Generally I roll on the table twice and try to smoosh the ideas together then apply that to an aspect of the game (organisation, npc, monster, etc) to make it weirder. You roll a d4 and a d10 to get a result. I am going to that twice for each dungeon zone and for the overall theme.


1
2
3
4
1
Good, peaceful, kind
Holy, ordered, right
Light, illumination, enlightenment
Floating, peace, meditation
2
Air, empty, vacuum
Ethereal, wispy, ghostly
Wind, blowing, unseen mover
Storm,  rapid movement, speed
3
Tiny, shrinking, wasting away
Invisible, translucent, clear
Intangible, non corporeal, fading
Life, regrowth, rejuvenation
4
Value, gems, gold
Thought, philosophy, intellect
Internal organs, viscera, blood
Reflection, mirror, stillness
5
Water, cycles, karma
Equalization, law, justice
Cleansing, alkalizing, evaporation
Procrustean, rigidity, incarceration
6
Wildness, out of place, overgrown
Bestial, savageness, feeding
Nature, grove, peace
Chaos, disorder, mutation
7
Fire, explosions, heat
Destruction, rubble, ruin
Limbs, appendages, grasping locomotion
External action, destiny, prophecy
8
Monstrous, terrifying, abomination
Gargantuan, giant, enormous
Enveloping, enclosed, soft embrace
Straining, breaking, cracks
9
Deep, below, underground
Earth, soil, stone
Solid, mass, black holes
Time, dust, history
10
Evil, hate, pain
Profane, cruelty, desecration
Darkness, shadows, loss
Death, rot, decay

The second "table" is a brilliant resource that I've never actually used before. It's a "Magic: The Gathering" random card generator. You refresh the page and get a random magic card from the 23 year history of the game. You could really apply this to anything to get a constant stream of game ideas. I think you could even use it on the fly a random encounter table. I'm going to use it to get a nice meaty slab of idea for each zone in the dungeon!

http://magiccards.info/random.html

The final table is my own "City Visual Generator". I am going to use it to get a little spark of visual idea for the dungeon zones, hopefully a hint of the architecture there. Currently the visual guide is focused on creating places in the a fantasy city, but maybe one day i'll make a purely dungeon visual generator...

http://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/the-city-visual-generator-pdf.html

I will generate the "ideas" and lump the results into the different dungeon zones. The dungeon zones I identified were:

  • A caverny, cavey, cliffy section to the south. 
  • Stone square dwellings mined into the the southern natural rock section.
  • Grander mined stone dwellings/palace section taking up the west side of the map. 
  • A central gauntlet of grave danger leading to "The Altar of the Nephron". 
  • Tunnels and secret entrances that linked up to this central gauntlet. 
  • The altar itself is fed from somewhere deeper/external. 
  • There is probably a throne room somewhere and some group is doing rituals and slipping in and out of the altar room.

Here's an updated, coloured version of the dungeon map grouping the different zones: 


Now for the results and initial thoughts: 


Very interesting results, clearly the central "altar" is used to control magic in some way (I'm imagining a random magical effect table whenever PC's enter the dungeon), Also very odd how the text and the image on the card seem to match up. The "altar" is the imprisoned biology of some larger (giant) entity. This magical control device is reaching out into the surrounding areas, adhering to the will of some important NPC. 


Hot baths and water ways, old and abandoned house in ornately carved natural stone. Natural hot springs gone to rot. Heating mechanics/water transportation is broke/malfunction leading to explosions of searing filth water. Slimy things swirling along the water ways. The slimy things are very old and know a great deal (maybe they listened and remembered the conversations of the ancient patrons of the baths, holding the knowledge of long dead patricians). 

 The random generator gods clearly liked the idea of the "central gauntlet of grave danger", bestowing it with the power of assassins. Rotting, decaying stone and brick comes up in both images - the poisons/acids in the gauntlet are so strong they are crumbling the rock (The words shrinking and wasting away re-enforce this). It is a silent, peaceful place - a cathedral of rock and death. 

Robed priests servicing the deadly gauntlet and storing scrolls in elaborate receptacles that are part of the architecture. Wealth scurried away in hidey holes. Wealth begotten by pain and hate - the recovered belongings of those that perish attempting the gauntlet. Priests are bound by some oath where they cannot directly attack interlopers, only arm traps and tricks.


The grand priestess appears! The palace church is clearly made of some magically woven biological material - the flesh of the giant being imprisoned. Very interesting that the architecture of the random visual generator seems to match the architecture behind "Saheeli Rai". The grand priestess can make copies of all those that enter her domain, perhaps replicate magic used near the altar. Her palace church is shifting, warping, constantly weaving itself to bend to her will. 


Saturday, 6 May 2017

One Page Dungeon: "The Inverse Tower"

Here is my entry for this year's One Page Dungeon competition.

"The Inverse Tower is simultaneously a dungeon, magic item and portal. It will appear in the campaign world when and where the GM sees fit. The reward for besting the tower is entry to the inverse world, a plane that manifests as the exact opposite of whatever the GM has mapped and written to exist in the campaign above. All ac-tions taken here magically have the opposite effect on the world above (Fires cause floods, deaths cause births, lost things are found). Do not let the adventurers know this until they have returned to their once “normal” world..."



I actually wrote a couple of extra entries for the door and stuff tables, but had to cut them due space constraints. Here they are restored:

Doors, d10:
1. Ornate, bone gilded door with a 1 way glass viewing portal into next room. Black and featureless on other side.
2. Ornate ivory door that disintegrates to dust whenever anything living gets within 5 feet of it. Rebuilds itself when they leave.
3. Wood door carved into a kindly face. Face will ask in whispered oakey tones if it should open, close or lock and will generally do as told.   
4. A curtain of shimmering upside down blue flames. Heals d6 wounds of any that pass through.
5. Appears as a mirror until a living being is within 5 feet, than appears as see through door to next room, now filled with the best/worst things those peering through can imagine (flip a coin).
6. Bare stone door, rusted iron handle. A puff of sand billows from the hinges when opened or closed.
7. A hacked, burnt and bloodstained wooden door. Anything inflicted on this door is inflicted on the next being that passes through it.
8. A stained, crusty curtain. While it is stationary on ingress, it is slowly billowing around the next room allowing exit at any point (with patience).
9. Bare stone door, iron handle, slightly creaky.
10. Wood door with well oiled hinges, opens and closes silently.

Floor 1 - 2:
Stuff, d8:
1. D6 thunderous circular waterfalls, flowing up and down.
2. Scuttling gilded ivory furniture, traversing floor, ceiling and walls.
3. Invisible walls between doors turn this room into a corridor.
4. Room funnels downwards where a stone maw is chewing rubble.
5. Black ichor drips between the bricks, room shudders when touched.
6. The room is an abyss, traversed by an ornate gilded ivory bridge.
7. A choking grey fog , flashing intermittently with blue bolts of electricity.
8. A calming pond on the ceiling, foliage erupting around it Insects and frogs clog the room.

Floor 3 - 4:
Stuff, d8:
1. This room is filled with treasure hoard, but the party is shrunk to the size of ants while in the room. It takes several days to traverse the room like this.
2. Wind billows in through the cracks of this dilapidated room. Perring outside reveals an endless sky.
3. This room appears to be a part of a sewer system of an aeon aged city.
4. There is a large brass bowl in the center of this room, engraved with the word “sacrifice”. The doors out of the room will not open until someone has placed something they truly love in the bowl.
5. An enormous tome, bound in grey turtle skin, chained to a stone altar. All pages are empty save the middle two, which each has a black spiral draw in opposite directions. A fast deteriorating, child like simulacrum of anything written in the book will appear in the previous or next room.  
6. Ornate pillars and arches fill the room. They crumble and fall with the slightest provocation.
7. Room is inside a giant, scintillating gem. From inside gem is a lovely view of the treasure horde room.
8. Pink gas billows in from cracks in the wall. It will help things float and is also extremely flammable.

Floor 5 - 6:
Stuff, d8:
1. A ceiling to floor frieze depicting an infinity of scenes of human conflict, torture and brutality. Gaseous copies of the party will begin to form and fight each other/the party if too long is spent here.
2. Glass ceilings and floors. Above and below scenes of galactic implosions and explosions whirl.
3. An extravagant feast laid out on long wooden table. Mute, malformed homunculi devour the dishes. The are unaggressive if unprovoked. Leaving the room and returning will find the homunculi dead and the food rotten.
4. Statues of naked humans. Their hands, feet, eyes, mouths, ears, noses are bound with red silk cloth.
5. Untold vegetation chokes the room. Vine, leaves, roots all shift with an unseen, unfelt wind.
6. A soft rivulet of blood runs through the room. Malformed homunculi sometimes wash ashore, coughing and gasping for air.
7. Room filled with mounds of calcified and dusty flesh and bones. There is several basins made from this material containing crystal clear liquid. Washing ones face with the liquid restores their youth and teleports them to the entrance to the tower.
8. Empty save for a chalice in the center of the room. There is a clear liquid in the chalice and at the bottom a key. Touching the liquid transforms the toucher into a random monster from the tower.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Making a Dungeon, Part 1

The other day I chanced upon a discarded scrap of paper with the following, unfinished, diagram printed across it: 



Any half lucid dungeon master mind on seeing this no doubt jumps immediately to thought of completing what is obviously a dungeon map. Which is exactly what my mind did.

Turns out the diagram is of the "nephron", which are the little tunnel filtration systems that our kidneys are made up of. From wikipedia: 

"The nephron (from Greek νεφρός – nephros, meaning "kidney") is the basic structural and functional unit of the kidney.Its chief function is to regulate the concentration of water and soluble substances like sodium salts by filtering the blood, reabsorbing what is needed and excreting the rest as urine. A nephron eliminates wastes from the body, regulates blood volume and blood pressure, controls levels of electrolytes and metabolites, and regulates blood pH." 

The diagram and the description both seemed to me fertile fodder for making a dungeon. So that is what I am going to do. I also thought it may be interesting to document the process and I am going to do that too. I'm going to attempt to describe my thought/work process, hopefully leading to a completed dungeon (maybe eventually in the format of a PDF) that may serve as a fun little guide for making a dungeon of your own. 

Step 1: The Map.

Every dungeon I've ever created and run began as a map. I like to sketch out a place, getting vague ideas of what might inhabit the areas as I draw them. Sometimes these ideas start to influence the design of the map, sometimes not. I think the vast majority of my dungeons have been post apocalyptic in some manner, in that the dungeon was not currently inhabited by the original occupants. This may come out of the fact I draw the map first. Once the structure is there, whoever inhabits the dungeon will have to make do with what they've got, employing the rooms and corridors for their own purposes as best they can.

For "The Nephron", it was clear to me that the bulbous bit at the top of the map was important. Thus the dungeon would either lead/protect/be otherwise obsessed with that point. I imagined an altar of sorts, or some sort of liquid/magma coming in one end, being used in some manner then being shipped out the other side. 

I wanted to make sure there was a few routes to the altar, without diminishing the fact it was probably protected/important in some way. Additionally I wanted to ensure there was more than one way into/out of the dungeon, and give it enough size to allow for more than one major group inhabiting it. I toyed with the idea of much crisscrossing above/below the original diagram, but thought it might be too complicated to read and only did it twice. 


The Dungeon Map, showing my additions in blue.
As I drew the map the vague, broad strokes image of the place I was mapping were as follows:

  • A caverny, cavey, cliffy section to the south. 
  • Stone square dwellings mined into the southern natural rock section.
  • Grander mined stone dwellings/palace section taking up the west side of the map. 
  • A central gauntlet of grave danger leading to "The Altar of the Nephron". 
  • Tunnels and secret entrances that linked up to this central gauntlet. 
  • The altar itself is fed from somewhere deeper/external. 
  • There is probably a throne room somewhere and some group is doing rituals and slipping in and out of the altar room. 
The completed map.