View Full Version : Dungeons?

2009-05-02, 09:03 AM
What are some ways to have a good dungeon in your campaign? I know about labryinths and xaves but are there any other long maze-like dungeons?

Josh the Aspie
2009-05-02, 09:13 AM
A large cave complex. This can also allow for multiple entrances of various sizes. This can also present challenges for who is going to go in what order, and how they are going to protect themselves from behind, etc, if squeezing is required. Is that what you meant by xaves?

At lower levels: A hedge maze. Especially if you are dealing with a mage or druid that enchanted it. Yes, they can try hacking through the hedge instead of finding their way through, or climbing over the 20 foot tall plant walls... but... what happens if they do?

Lost and forgotten ruins. Be sure to design them for the defense, comfort, and convenience of some race that would have built them before (even if you don't know what that race is). Don't fall into the trap of Malevolent Architecture (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MalevolentArchitecture).

Actual dungeons. Someone has broken into the dungeons, killed many of the guards, and let the prisoners loose. Someone has to clean up the mess! Depending on your campaign, possibly require the use of non-lethal force, or give a bonus for figuring out who did it, and why. Offers up many plot hooks, especially if the most dangerous criminals escaped. Perhaps the person that broke in wanted a few of the prisoners in particular, and let the others out to cover the escape. Also a good way for a hero to earn a pardon, if one of the heros has recently been arrested. Either that, or sink themselves into a deeper hole.

2009-05-02, 09:39 AM
What are some ways to have a good dungeon in your campaign? I know about labryinths and xaves but are there any other long maze-like dungeons?
Well, part of the question becomes "what qualifies as a dungeon?", but I'm ignoring that - I'm guessing you want a bunch of underground rooms connected by tunnels that you can place monsters in.

The first thing to think about is why the tunnels and rooms are present in the first place - You've got several basic reasons why there might be a set of tunnels in the ground somewhere:

1) Utility tunnels - someone thought it would be a good idea to place something they needed underground for convenience (city sewers are the classic, but there's other reasons for them - in modern times, we often run water pipes, electrical lines, or even railways in underground tunnels). Utility tunnels will be laid out to service the city. Initially, they're generally quite straight-forward (if you know the layout of the city, that is - most such will be based around the city streets on the initial construction), but ones that have been in-place and expanded over a long period of time will slowly start to seem senseless, as the layout of the city changes above them and the tunnels are expanded to work. Such a place will end up being a maze of twisty passages, all alike, but most would be built with some kind of identifying marks and a lot of exits - after all, it's designed to be useful and maintained - although it's a simple matter for those to be covered (manhole covers eventually got welded shut in some places) or worn away.
2) Defense - some group decided that they wanted a set of tunnels for defensive reasons (underground fortress, a group that is/was oppressed/presecuted/illegal needing a place to hide out short-term, somebody wanted a place to store some item in a secure location, somebody needed a place where they can hide a fair number of people short-term, whatever). This will end up looking like whatever the builder thought would be good - it will likely include traps, ambush points, choke points, secret passages, or whatever. As it was deliberately designed, the architecture and layout will reflect the person who designed it.
3) Habitation - some group decided it'd be a good idea to put their city underground (Dwarves, Gnomes, Drow, and Kobolds are fairly famous for this, but there's lots of people who might do so - humans have done this occasionally, historically). Such a dungeon will usually end up looking like a layout of a city... if the city could build in 3d. As cities are expanded over time, and the original designer no longer around to influence things, you'll get fairly wide variation in architecture and general layout.
4) Natural caves - for one reason or another, there's a set of natural caves. These things vary widely, but they're pretty easily researchable.

Do note that the above basic reasons for a series of rooms connected by tunnels are not mutually exclusive - someone could put their habitation underground for defensive reasons, adapting a set of pre-existing caves for the purpose, and include utility tunnels below the main living area.

After the initial construction, though, stuff happens. A plauge might wipe out the people who originally built the tunnels. A flood might drown them all. A famine could drive them elsewhere. A war could cause the territory to be conquered by someone else. For whatever reason, anything that's been in place for a very long time will often end up being used by people other than the original builders - who will use and adapt or expand them for their own purposes (also generally one of the first three broad categories, above). They could also simply be abandoned completely and left to rot (eventually resulting in unstable walls and ceilings, passages blocked by cave-ins, stuck doors, and so on). Animals might move in to get out of the rain, to breed, to seek prey, or to seek living quarters. This particular segment of dungeon development can be repeated as many times as desired, until you have the set of inhabitants you want

So basically, there's actual reason why a dungeon might look like an insane mish-mash of architecture, layout, and traps. The only thing that might need an actual theme is the current inhabitants.

2009-05-02, 10:00 AM
Ruined Temples, complete with ancient catacombs housing the dead.

Castles, of any variety, including a dungeon, likely some sort of escape tunnel, and multiple towers.

Which leads me to Towers, one floor after another of peril, trap, monster or puzzle.

I like the idea of turning an entire town hostile, sealing the party in and calling that a dungeon.

A vampire's manor. It can have long winding mazes, rooms with strange objects, and my personal favorite, a theater where the PCs are forced to sit and watch as the vampire starts eating people, only to climb up the stairs to the OTHER side of the stage, only to have to fight for their lives in front of an audience of undead.

A mine, they have resources, which provides motivation for intelligent monsters to be there, They are sprawling, they go all over the place, with collapsed shafts, dead ends, abandoned tunnels, turnabouts, doublebacks, and pitfalls. They provide shelter for wild animals, they're dark, and can sometimes have dank and sinister pools, and sometimes the miners wind up digging too greedily, too deep, and awaken a nameless horror in the darkness.

Anything can be a dungeon if you get creative enough. Just take a normal situation and ask yourself "how can I make all these people want to kill the heroes"

2009-05-02, 10:08 AM
I like using any subterranean race that is known for carving out homes or whatnot (dwarves in traditional settings, kobolds too, you get the idea). Basically, they decided to make an outpost somewhere in the wilderness a long time ago for some reason. Since then, they've all died off and the outpost has become infested with monsters; claimed by bandits; or is inhabited by some wizardly dude.

Also, what they said up there. :smallbiggrin:

2009-05-02, 02:08 PM
I always wanted to run a dungeon as an underground river. Like the massive one in the Yucatan peninsula. Think about it. Itsí a perfect place to adapt stuff from stormwrack, without making the game a naval one. Things like aboliths and other aquatic creatures could fill it. You can give them a small boat like a canoe and let them explore. Or give them a quest or something. Maybe the river links to underground passages to an ancient pyramid temple deep in the jungle.

Ohh man Iím giving myself a tidal wave of ideas.