Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Caverns of Lakoma: Let's Explore Dungeon Design...

Good Morning, All:

One of the last elements that needs to be done for prepping Adventure Material for the Egyptian Great Plains mini-setting would be the creation of the first level of the dungeon location I called the Caverns of Lakoma. As the Caverns may set the tone for the rest of the campaign, I want to make sure that I make it as well-rounded as possible. I have a fairly rudimentary list of suggestions for dungeon design in the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide draft. There is also a great list of suggestions for One Page Dungeons to be found in this post on Quality Dungeons, which gives me pause for thought. I think I'll talk my way through this particular dungeon design here on In Like Flynn, and discuss each element in turn, to see how it would impact the design of the Caverns of Lakoma.

First, I want to compile a list of elements that make up a quality dungeon experience. There should be a number of similarities, simply because the list from MyD20 Lite was inspired by discussions of the first One Page Dungeon contest. Here's the new list, which will likely make it into the Referee's Guide in some form or fashion:

  • Create a short background, no more than 2-3 sentences.
  • Use the three factions rule. PC actions will tend to have long term consequences if factions are involved.
  • Create at least three named NPCS that can server as potential allies, good villains, and provide other opportunities for negotiations and roleplaying interaction. Each NPC should have an interesting personality trait.
  • Define relations between the NPCs in a sentence or two.
  • Have multiple goals, to increase the diversity of experiences that can be had in the dungeon.
  • Have a secret that the players can figure out about the dungeon itself, or some similar concept.
  • Use interesting terrain to make things more memorable and more challenging.
  • Provide a mix of intelligent opposition, to vary the player experience. At least one encounter should provide a tactical challenge, and thus become interesting through their choice of actions.
  • If monsters are not intelligent, make them interesting. Slimes are more interesting than low-level undead because we’ve seen so many of those.
  • Provide at least one setup that can be exploited in combat by tactically minded players, such as a bottleneck, a ledge, a bridge, a fortified position, etc.
  • Provide an opportunity to spy on enemies for the stealthily minded players, such as a murder hole, a grate, a tiny tunnel, a scrying ball, etc.
  • Introduce memorable magic items. A rod of thunder and lightning is better than a +1 sword.
  • Provide stuff to interact with for players who like to experiment. Add suggestions for possible reactions.
  • Introduce traps that address the potential for classic PC sneakiness, such as using amulets to emulate membership in one of the factions, to encourage thought and consequences.
  • Provide an opportunity for long-term change to the player characters, such as earning a title of nobility, finding a magic throne or fountain that permanently changes someone, etc.
  • Provide useful room descriptions (probably using the format for Lairs from our earlier discussion on Hex Content templates. Use bolded text sparingly, to help with reading the important elements of an entry.
  • Usable map, with in-map notes to make it easier to run at the table.
  • Multiple entrances and exits. (Think tunnels, shafts, chimneys and crawlways.)/li>
And as a reminder, here's the description for the Caverns of Lakoma:
0406 Caverns of Lakoma: A system of caverns four levels deep, these had been expanded into an underground village by the Lakoma tribe until they fell to a great magical curse and the caverns were abandoned. For more information, see the Caverns of Lakoma notes.

With my next post, I'll start working on the background of the cavern system, and identify the three core factions that will be present, at least on this first level of caves and such.


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