Monday, August 18, 2014

What's up with flowchart dungeons?

My post on sterile dungeon maps touched on this slightly but I really must wonder why we keep churning out flowchart dungeons? So many dungeons are nothing but elaborate flowcharts, you can tell by the empty corridors and boxes those corridors lead to. Corridors are this ridiculous empty space in many dungeons put something in the corridors.

Think about the corridors you are exposed to in real life and what roll they serve, think about the activity they support and what you'd notice going on within them. Why would dungeon occupants virtually ignore corridors and what's going on within in them outside of the occasional wandering monster or random encounter? Think back to school, how quickly would teachers,students, and staff notice trouble in the corridors if it happened when classes were in session? Think of how full the corridors are between classes in a school or during a shift change in a factory, that's the sort of stuff that should be going on in your dungeon unless it's an abandoned tomb.

Dress up those corridors, have the locals pay attention to them, and determine how busy they are and a dungeon is going to grow into more then an endless repetition of floor tapping looking for pit traps (not a great place for traps in a active complex), kicking open doors, and fighting with the monsters on the other side. Dungeons don't have to be flowcharts.


  1. The first, and most basic, step in having active corridors is to take some time and a copy of the map to lay out 'reaction areas'. Basically, how far from various doors would people in rooms react to noises. Perhaps going with three bands:

    Obviously threatening and loud, (e.g. a fight, someone running screaming from the PCs).
    Not that noisy but out of place, (e,g, the PCs just walking and talking but they aren't speaking $LocalLanguage).
    Any sound, (e.g. someone walking past).

    Of course, the reaction isn't necessarily going to be "jump out and attack". An 'any sound' reaction could be a minor functionary throwing a door open and saying "I thought I made it clear that you guards can't take your smoke... breaks... oh dear."

  2. True - this returns to the misnomer of the 'wandering' monster. As many authors have discussed, there is an opportunity to meeting other denizens in the game environment, but the randomization of a lot of encounter tables doesn't make any sense.

    The critters/beings etc should have a little logic or purpose for being there - such as guarding, scavenging, transporting items, heading out to womp on other critters... And no reason the big-bad can't be encountered in this way to, as he/she/it moves about its domain.

    Setting up encounter zones/areas rather than room-based encounters may be a good way to incorporate this concept, as well.

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