Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Unforeseen Consequences in Dungeon Mapping

I have realized recently that there are some major consequences to some of my early design decisions regarding dungeon entrances. See, I started out thinking, “An ancient castle sitting on top of a dungeon is cool!” so I made that the main entrance. And that sounds all well and good, but that castle is big. But it’s a megadungeon, right? Well…

The thing about players is that they are unpredictable. That’s what makes GMing fun, though; you never know what they’ll do. That’s why I prefer sandboxy games, too. If I wanted to know the outcome of every action in the story, I’d write a book. So how does this interact with Giant Castle for an Entrance?

Consider how a castle looks. It’s a big, tall structure open to the air with walls and windows and ramparts and stuff. And these players are going to show up decked out with burglary gear, ropes, and murderous intent. So yeah, I laid out entrances, and there are ways through all of them, even if some are tougher to penetrate than others. But why should the PCs settle for going in the front door when they can climb in through a 5th floor window?

There are some limiting factors, of course. You need a long enough rope. You need to be willing to risk dangling from said rope while the castle inhabitants might find and cut it. You might need to be willing and able to scale walls. You might be willing to risk facing tougher foes early on. But I’ve never seen any of this deter players from attempting anything. Frankly, there’s a chance the awesomeness of killing things while dangling from a rope might even encourage some players to attempt this.

Impact on Mapping

Why is this even a concern? Because it means I have to have the entire castle mapped and stocked ahead of time. I also need to have all windows sized, any bars statted, etc. In essence, that gigantic castle needs to be fully realized before play even beings.

“That’s not so bad,” you say, but it turned out massive and there’s just as likely a chance that the players do go in the ground floor and then go down. All that prep work ignored. I mean, I’d do it eventually anyway, because eventually someone will go up, but did I need it today? No. I could have spent all that time prepping other bits that might get explored first.

Quit Complaining!

Now it may sound like I’m complaining or regretting the decision, but I’m not. I love the castle. It has character and I can really picture it in my head. I hope that will translate to the players enjoying it, too. What I’m pointing out is that buildings of any sort carry a surprising amount of unforeseen baggage.

Remember this when you lay out your dungeons. If a player could enter from some odd angle, floor, roof, wall, window, etc., they will probably pick the one you didn’t prep ahead of time. That makes edifices a special mapping and stocking challenge – one that can be fun, but may also be a headache. Be prepared!

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