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View Full Version : DM Help How to you create variety in your dungeon maps?



polymphus
2017-07-10, 05:38 AM
So, I'm running a campaign set in a large city ruled by Illithids. I've noticed over the last month or so that my maps have become very same-y -- it's a building, and it's kinda square, and it's got square rooms and rectangular hallways in it, and occasionally some of the walls have got a curve in them.

It all feels very blocky and monotonous. Have any of you more experienced GMs got any ideas or tips for mixing things up? In general, how do you make sure your dungeons feature a lot of variety?

Merellis
2017-07-10, 07:09 AM
Steal from everything.

Literally just steal designs and ideas from games, other campaigns, architecture, and locations in the world.

Look at everything and just take what looks interesting and see where you can go from there.

DRD1812
2017-07-10, 02:56 PM
Come up with bigger concepts. Don't think "it's a temple." Think "it's a temple designed to accommodate flying creatures. Suddenly the architecture changes.

Maybe the illithids build some kind of heat-harvesting machinery on the lip of a magma vent. Maybe they have docks built out onto a lake so they can trade with aquatic critters. Maybe a few of their myconid slaves live in a mushroom forest.

I guess what I'm saying is this: Don't try and build better maps. Build better situations. The maps will follow.

Aotrs Commander
2017-07-10, 05:54 PM
With difficulty. I tend to find nowadays the hardest art of creating an adventure is doing a dungeon (or equivilent). I end up usually starting just going with pure description, and then cracking open my CAD package to actually draw things out if I really can't get my head around things.

That said, as 50% of the time I am writing for sci-fi and/or doing very explore-y sort of adventures, it makes it a little easier, since the adventure IS the environment, rather than the backdrop to when the adventure is happening, if you follow my meaning.

But yeah, as I feel i have to Do It Right, it can be very difficult sometimes.

AceOfFools
2017-07-11, 12:01 PM
Set pieces. Dynamic, glorious setpieces.

Flat rooms are boring and same-y. Fights that take place in rooms where ambergris fighters can disappear into the shadowy rafters are nothing like fights on the narrow, rickety scaffolding being used to repair the side of a tower are nothing like fights in a square full of panicked civilians where children might be trampled if some one doesn't interven are nothing like fights in a run away wagon at night are nothing like fights in a burning libraries, where if the PCS need to split efforts between trying to find the book they need before it's too late and stopping the enemy are nothing like assaults on defensive fortifications where relatively weak NPCS are rendered dangerous with cover, traps, restricted pathways are nothing like...

Kami2awa
2017-07-22, 04:12 PM
A lot of D&D art and maps suggest that things made (or designed) by illithids are often modelled on organic shapes, particularly spiral shells, so that would be an interesting starting point for designs. Spirals are also good for dungeon or lair design - a series of encounters to be defeated as you progress round the spiral, leading to the ultimate battle in the centre.

Mendicant
2017-07-22, 11:44 PM
I guess what I'm saying is this: Don't try and build better maps. Build better situations. The maps will follow.

So I'm basically in agreement with the central contention that how interesting the map is is secondary to the situations you create, my process is often pretty different. I start doodling a map, sometimes around a single interesting feature, and as I sketch the map the situation it's for forms. Then I modify or redraw the map to better fit the developing situation I'm coming up with, while also modifying the situation to match up with the map, and they generally meet somewhere in the middle.

Beneath
2017-07-23, 02:09 AM
One thing you can try is to model real architecture. Most real houses, offices, and so on, aside from sheds and buildings that absolutely must conform to the grid and use every available square foot, aren't plain rectangles; they have corners cut, or protrusions, or their front is set in a little. You can do stuff with that; come up with a layout of rooms in a house without worrying about making it fit a square, and then it just has that shape.

Yora
2017-07-23, 02:27 AM
Don't use grid paper while creating the layout. If you really need a grid to run the dungeon, you can still overlay a grid later.

Ashiel
2017-07-23, 11:43 AM
Come up with bigger concepts. Don't think "it's a temple." Think "it's a temple designed to accommodate flying creatures. Suddenly the architecture changes.

Maybe the illithids build some kind of heat-harvesting machinery on the lip of a magma vent. Maybe they have docks built out onto a lake so they can trade with aquatic critters. Maybe a few of their myconid slaves live in a mushroom forest.

I guess what I'm saying is this: Don't try and build better maps. Build better situations. The maps will follow.

This is some of the best advice I've seen in years. Thank you so much for this.

lacco36
2017-07-23, 12:15 PM
One thing you can try is to model real architecture. Most real houses, offices, and so on, aside from sheds and buildings that absolutely must conform to the grid and use every available square foot, aren't plain rectangles; they have corners cut, or protrusions, or their front is set in a little. You can do stuff with that; come up with a layout of rooms in a house without worrying about making it fit a square, and then it just has that shape.

Take your city street map. Draw the streets on paper. Use squares as major rooms, add minor rooms. Get inspired by different buildings regarding what you find in the area.

Call it megadungeon.

See if they find out :smalltongue: