Friday, 29 October 2010

Random dungeon stocking

I experienced the pleasure of the Basic D&D random dungeon room contents table last week, as I was stocking the cellars and tunnels that lie beneath the ruined manor at Ballan, which the PCs have just begun to explore. There are various permutations of this table in various versions of the game, but what I used was: 1 - 2 Empty, 3 - 4 Monster, 5 Trap, 6 Special. It's nice and simple, although I was concerned it'd produce far too many "Specials". And, as expected, it did. Out of maybe 20 rooms, 5 were rolled as Special. But this actually turned out absolutely fine - indeed I had a lot of fun thinking up all these dungeon weirdnesses. I mean, I didn't go overboard - it's only the 1st level of a not-particularly-supernatural dungeon, so we're not talking reverse gravity chambers or talking pools. But I found it a real pleasure to add that many unusual / interesting / slightly magical / mysterious features.

Overall I have to say I loved using the random room contents roll. It made the process of stocking both challenging and exciting, all in all far more engaging than the sometimes daunting situation of sitting there with a keyed map, no idea what's in which room, and an hour to go before the game starts! I'll definitely be thinking about using further random tables in dungeon stocking in the future.

9 comments:

  1. Yes, do remember that "Specials" doesn't mean something, er, special, just something that's not one of the other categories. Sometimes it's a big green face in one wall, sometimes it's a mural on the wall.

    I'm surprised that there are no random dungeon tables in the Fantasy Companion. Given the random item tables, and the random scenario generators in various other Savage Worlds books, you'd think there'd be one in this one, but apparently not.

    Still, the old Red Box generator does the job just fine, so perhaps they didn't think they needed to mess with it!

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  2. Yes, do remember that "Specials" doesn't mean something, er, special, just something that's not one of the other categories. Sometimes it's a big green face in one wall, sometimes it's a mural on the wall.

    Yeah I have actually only just realised this! Since I first saw that table in the Mentzer D&D Basic set when I was 8 years old, I've always thought of "Specials" as being super-weird magical stuff. I just had another look at the description of "Specials" it gives there, and there are actually a lot of non-weird things in the list (like statues, alarms, trapdoors), but for some reason (probably having the mind of an 8 year old!) I latched onto the "Weird things" section and in my mind ever since then that has been the definition of a "Special".

    Definition re-defined. :)

    (The first two rooms in the cellars the party just explored were both Specials, by the way - the mould which had formed into undecipherable writing, and the wailing ghost in the barrel.)

    I was thinking about random stocking some more, and I came to the conclusion that the pleasure of it is that it takes the process of stocking a dungeon from one of "I alone, the mighty Dungeon Master, must decide what lies in each of these chambers" to one of "ok, let's see what's in here...". The former approach, I find more often than not leads to a kind of mind blank and a detailed analysis of what monsters live where, how the spaces are used, etc - a kind of "modern" or "realistic" approach to dungeon stocking. While the random approach adds that element of fun and improvisation, of running with unexpected elements, which is one of the main things I enjoy in RPGs.

    I'm very glad to have re-made the acquaintance of the random room contents table.

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  3. I've just dug it out myself, from the Rules Cyclopedia, and I might bash together a dungeon this afternoon, just for fun!

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  4. Enjoy!

    Ah, it's a shame we don't live in the same country any more, otherwise I'd show up at your house equipped with two trusty henchmen, a 10' pole, an empty sack and a handful of torches! :)

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  5. Huzzah!

    We played Pathfinder last night, and did a little mini dungeon crawl, so I got a little taste of it. No henchmen yet, though lots of animal companions milling about!

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  6. Looking at your simple dungeon stocking list, I thought of an interesting variant: Roll two d6 instead of one and use both results. That way you can have a monster with treasure (probably a lair), monsters with monsters (two different types either working together or fighting), etc. If one die comes up as "empty" then the result is just like rolling only one die. Of course, it means that the totally empty results drop from a third to a ninth, but still...

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  7. The standard Basic D&D system does use 2d6, one to determine the room content, and one to determine if there is treasure present.

    I think I like yours better though.

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  8. I didn't mention it in the post, but I was using a second die to roll for treasure, depending on the result of the first die. I think I was using something like: Empty - 1 in 6 with treasure, Trap - 2 in 6 with treasure, Monster - 3 in 6 with treasure, Special - optional.

    That is a really nice idea though, Daniel, and simple! I wonder if the probabilities could be worked out so the chance of each type of room contents would be roughly the same as in the original? 1 in 9 empty sounds like far too few... (I just had a quick play around with probabilities, and I think it'd require a higher die type than d6 to work out.)

    Talking about monsters with monsters, that reminds me that some time ago I was thinking of working out such a table for wilderness encounters. There'd be a chance for each random encounter to actually be with two groups of monsters, and then there'd be another table to determine how they were interacting (travelling together, fighting, one chasing the other, etc). It'd lead to some interesting situations I reckon.

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  9. Yes, any GM worth his salt should have a "What are the monsters doing?" sub-table!

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