Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dungeons, Randomness, and a Bit of Mental Block

I'm actually torn about dungeons. Dungeons are fun to wander through, and filled with all the basic archetypal experiences of old-fashioned RPGs. There are traps, treasure, and monsters; there are puzzles and darkness and dankness. They have their own surreal feel, especially in the sprawling mazes of traditional old-school games.

That said, they are awfully silly. And that's part of the appeal. But I also like the idea of urban exploration, mysteries, politics, romance, and the joys of urban adventures.

To balance these things, Zamora is a city of ruins, with a sprawling undercity to support the creation of a megadungeon, but it is also a city, with lots of political and other forms of scheming. I just decided to include both.

Simple dilemma solved, I have begun building a couple of maps, but I realized that while the dungeons I ran as a not-so-wee lad focused on set encounter keys and scripted encounters, the feel I want for my undercity is one that is changing and mutable, but with some key elements of the space that don't change. I want color and detail for rooms, some random minor traits to riff on, and ever-changing options for encounters in the undercity.

While I could, I suppose, find ways to structure and regularly re-visit my dungeons, I would rather just reduce my number of set pieces and develop robust tables to come up with dungeon dress and color, a lot of wandering monsters specific to particular levels and sections of levels, and provide both surprises and lots of variety with a minimum of prep.

Which is all well and good, but now I have to come up with tables of major dungeon features, minor dungeon details, and wandering "monster" and encounter tables. Or steal some ideas, I guess, if I can find such tables on the internet.