September 13, 2008

[D&D 4E] [Design] Dungeon design pt.1

-----If you are one of my players, go away!

How do you design a dungeon?

Let's start from the beginning. My campaign was the Paizo's Rise of the runelords and last year we played the first module. When the 4th edition came out my players asked me to switch, so I have to convert all the campaign to 4E.

Some of the players changed PC, some players joined and some are sticking to a conversion of their old ones, so I need to run a couple adventures to connect the 3.5 part with the new characters.
I was reading a couple of promising adventures from Paizo: Hollow's last hope and Crown of the kobold king, ready to modify them introducing my plot elements and redesigning all the encounters.
The good side is that some of the plots, some of the ideas, some of the fighting scenes are really cool.
The bad side is that around every corner some random monster are waiting for the PCs. Around EVERY FUCKING CORNER some FUCKING RANDOM monster I've said.
Let's make an example: in Cotkk the PCs enter in a kobold infested dwarven outpost (keep the kobold-themed dungeon in mind).
First room: some kobolds minding their business. Ok for me.
From this room the PCs can take 3 passages:
- One leading to a Grick
- One leading to 2 Shocker lizards in a fountain.
- One leading to 5 Stirges.
The PCs can ignore the first three doors and continue in the corridors just to find.
- A trap with 2 vargouilles.
- A wandering Gelatinous cube.
None of these monsters are trained, enslaved or friendly with the kobolds, by the way.

For me that's a really BAD DESIGN.

So, I've decided to keep the structure of the adventures and redesign all the dungeon design, 4E empowered.

Here we go again with the first question: How do you design a dungeon?
Last night I've invited a friend of mine (an architect fiend of mine) to play Wii and tricked him into dungeon design first.

STEP 1. What do you want?
First of all he made me list everything I know about the encounter I was planning to do on it.
The following fights are for sure:
- Forge spirit
- Gelatinous cube
- 3 kobold encounter
- 2 kobold boss encounter
- 1 dragon mommy encounter
So I need an 8 encounter dungeon. Way better than the 33 room dungeon of the Cotkk (31 encounter on 33 rooms -.-')

STEP 2. What do you know?
Then we listed everything I know about the dungeon. That's the hard part. I don't know yet so much of it. I know it was a really ancient dwarven stronghold, I know there's a forge (haunted), I know underneath the stronghold there are some tunnels.
Ok, putting all together we have a Stronghold built on a mine, well known in the ancient times for metal extraction and weapon (normal melee) crafting.

STEP 3. What the dwarf need?
The idea is to make a 2 level dungeon.
The first level will include the following:

  • A forge
  • Kitchen+refectory
  • Entrance to the mine
  • Storage rooms
  • Sleeping quarters
  • A guard post
The second level is still to be designed...

STEP 4. Rough Sketch
Here we go:
>click to enlarge<

Nothing of what you see is in scale, so don't be too fast with the criticism.

On the next post: The map explained, the encounter areas and the first encounter version 1 and 2.

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