Building cool dungeons in D&D
September 11, 2015 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Here is Justin Alexander's "Jaquaying the Dungeon," a crash course in old-school D&D adventure complex design, for all you grognards out there. posted by JHarris (60 comments total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have to wonder if what Arneson and Gygax meant by "false stairs" are something like the stairs that go nowhere in the Winchester Mystery House. Really great fuck-you to players thinking they can flee something by climbing a flight of stairs: now you're cornered!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I as m DMing tonight, this is relevant to my interests!
posted by wintermind at 6:36 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok, you've disarmed the poison needle trap, and in the chest you find a magical Scroll of MeFites Who Are Interested In Playing Tabletop RPGs Online! I wonder what uses an intrepid GM could put that to?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have nothing to add.

Oh, who am I kidding, I just don't have time to blovate today. I'll be back!

Love this.
posted by absalom at 7:21 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


In all the hours my friends and I spent mapping and playing these games, I don't think it ever occurred to us to wonder why these imaginary worlds were so full of dungeons. Relic public works projects? Creative reuse and gentrification of outdated infrastructure?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:28 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am reminded of a Knights of the Dinner Table episode in which B.A. crafts a goblin lair with everything including a Sphere of Annihilation for waste disposal. Knowing his players will blame him if they fall into it by accident, he has the goblins post warning signs and a sturdy metal grate, which only convince the party that something awesome must be hidden down there. One by one, they clamber down...
posted by Gelatin at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


From the Tome of Awesome (previously on MeFi)
Perhaps the most important question surrounding Dungeons and Dragons is the question why there are Dungeons and Dragons. When you think about it, that’s pretty weird.

Alright, we know that you love dungeons. We love them too, despite the fact that we’re pretty sure there is no good reason for the silly things. The average D&D game world is frankly incapable of the technology or manpower needed to build vast underground complexes. I mean, look at our own world history: aside from a single underground city in Turkey and a couple of pyramids and tombs, the ancient world took a pass on underground life. Even the old excuse of “Wizards can magic it up and they do it because it's defensible” is a bit lame considering that we are talking about a world with teleport and burrowing and ethereal travel; being underground is actually a liability since it's harder to escape and people can drop the roof onto you, not to mention the incredible costs involved in doing it even if magic is available.

So here is what we suggest: dungeons have an actual magical purpose. By putting anything behind at least 40’ of solid, continuous material (like solid walls of dirt, stone, ice, or whatever, but not a forest of trees or rooms of furniture) the area is immune to unlimited-range or “longer than Long Range” spells like Scrying and transportation magic like teleport, greater teleport, the travel version of gate, and other effects. You can use these magics inside a dungeon, but you also stopped by a 40’ solid, continuous material in a Line of Effect; this means you can use these
effects inside a dungeon to bypass doors and walls, but entering and leaving the dungeon is a problem, and parts of the dungeon that have more than 30’ of material in the way between your position and the target of your effect will be effectively isolated from your position.
The Tome goes on to list a couple of useful exceptions to this rule and some of the additional benefits from a game-design point of view.
posted by jedicus at 7:44 AM on September 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Jennell Jaquays now, not Paul.
posted by edheil at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


To be a bit self-promoting, I've written a good deal about dungeon design at my blog (I own this site, obv.). If you want some excellent maps from a guy doing old school map design, there is Dyson's Dodecahedron (I support Dyson on Patreon).
posted by graymouser at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


The average D&D game world is frankly incapable of the technology or manpower needed to build vast underground complexes.

Various subterranean races (dwarves/orcs/goblins/etc.) exist in part for this very thing, not to mention the assorted burrowing and transmutating subterranean fauna that serve as their primary antagonists.

Also: magic! Suggesting that magic isn't a valid excuse for anything in a fantasy RPG is kind of weird on its face. It's not a cop-out. It's a rule.
posted by echocollate at 8:06 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, if anyone here is running a game in the Atlanta area or knows someone who is and is looking for a seasoned gamer, I would love to send you my contact info and gamer CV. :)
posted by echocollate at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2015


First the elves show up in your dungeon selling artisanal crafts, next thing you know Starbucks has paved over your portal to Hades.
posted by benzenedream at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


According to the D20 SRD, a Stone to Flesh spell will create a cylinder of flesh 3' in diameter by 10' long. If we use the density of ground beef of 55 pounds/cubic foot, that ends up as pi x 1.5^2 x 10 x55lbs = 353.25 pounds of meat. At 1500 calories a pound, that would feed about 175 people for one day.

They aren't making dungeons to put stuff into, they're making them to FEED people!
posted by happyroach at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


Welp, there goes my Friday.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2015


Back in the very, very old days of AD&D, before the rise of the small furry mammals CCGs, my brother and I were serious AD&D players. We went to GenCon every year; we competed in tournaments; he often won them. We were both "Grandmaster" ranked GMs back when the RPGA did things like that, and he wrote several tournament adventures for TSR. One of those was actually published (along with an adventure by the awesome AD&D couple Jean and Bruce Rabe) as the module C6: The Official RPGA Tournament Handbook.

C6 is kind of interesting because it contains not only two short adventures (Honor Guard is the one by my brother), but also a five page description of how to write a good adventure. According to the Wikipedia entry, Ken Rolston reviewed the module in Dragon and wrote "the five-page section on designing tournaments is 'perhaps the finest guide to designing and refereeing AD&D game adventure sessions I've ever seen.'".

That section was largely written by my brother, and it starts with seven rules for running a good adventure, the first of which is a lengthier version of his number one, inviolable, must-follow rule for all GMs in all situations:

"Aim for player pleasure."

I'm an old man now, but I still play and GM tabletop games, and I do interactive storytelling with my kids in hopes of turning them into roleplayers, and I'm still guided by that rule. It's simple, but you would be amazed how many GMs forget it.
posted by The Bellman at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


Man, I can NOT wait to get back into this.

I always thought that most dungeons started out as ancient cities buried by the passage of time, repurposed into tombs or what have you.
posted by CancerMan at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


As an agricultural scientist, happyroach's comment is also relevant to my interests. This is a great post and discussion!
posted by wintermind at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Soylent Grey is Dungeons!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:32 AM on September 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I solved the problem of "why are we in this dungeon and why was it built?" by having an evil Sultan blast my players into the center of a pyramid only they didn't know it was a pyramid at the time, they just realized that some of the walls sloped inwards towards them and they were in a big labyrinth with traps and manticores and different levels.

Eventually they ended up inadvertently destroying a civilization of sentient wood statues placed there to serve the pharaoh in the afterlife JUST as the peasant statues were about to rebel against the oppressive priest class because an idiot cleric rolled a twenty on reconsecrating a temple so all the religious magic keeping everyone there alive disappeared. Fucking clerics, man.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:32 AM on September 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hmm. This is really causing me to think about my own style, and how radically I've diverged from the implicit assumptions here. The style that works for me and my groups seems to be disparaged here, as something D&D needs to avoid.

I'm currently running one D&D game, with another that just finished, and another that will start soon to replace the finished one. I've been running games in other systems for decades, after starting with D&D back in the late 70s.

What I'm realizing here is that while I certainly started with dungeons along the lines discussed here, with my sheets of graph paper on my side and players doing their best to map the dungeon from my description...I really haven't had anything like that for a very long time. My players move from situation to situation, not room to room. I suspect that 95% of my games' activities would fall under what gets mentioned a few times in these articles as wilderness-type play, where the encounters are widely separated, and most of the player choice comes down to deciding which location they will travel to, not details of moving through a single complex.

The 3rd edition dungeons discussed here as overly linear, overly story-like, are much closer to what I'm doing. I'm not so interested in saying to my players "here is a dungeon you can explore and battle through and loot" as I am "here is a situation you have to deal with." If there's an evil wizard in the area, I won't drop them at the door of his tower, which has many levels of monsters and traps (and one or more dozens of encounters), I'll show them why he's a problem, and they'll decide whether to go for a direct assault (in which case there will be some defenders and traps, certainly, but not a classic dungeon-full), try for some sneakier approach (such as teleporting or air-dropping in on the roof, or even scaling the wall, in the face of defenses that would apply to those tactics), seek him out for a conflict/ambush away from the tower, or even negotiate--probably a total of 2-3 encounters. Part of this is that things seem to take a lot longer these days--if we get through 3 fights in a 4 hour session, it feels very productive.
posted by Four Ds at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The average D&D game world is frankly incapable of the technology or manpower needed to build vast underground complexes.

I'll just be over here, casting 'Create Dungeon' ... yes it's a spell I've personally researched and created, want to make something of it?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also fucking dwarfs... yeah you can keep the gold and jewels just get at it. And various mind controlled earth elemental creatures and sundry other spells as noted above. We'll have it all done by the weekend.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:07 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I get through one fight in a 4 hour session, that's productive. Next campaign I participate in, I want to use a combat simulator...
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:08 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I get through one fight in a 4 hour session, that's productive.

We get through TONS of fights in a four-hour session! "Did you drink the last beer?" will turn into a fight. "My character said that, not me, I think your hair looks fine" will turn into a fight. "I brought the Cheetos last time" will turn into a fight. "Puffed? What kind of asshole prefers puffed? Oh right I forgot you're a bard, it all becomes clear, I guess puffy Cheetos are the least of your problems" and then it's off to the races. Man, we're lucky if we can go five minutes without a fight.

Actually my D&D group is super nice but we also take a long time to get through stuff and most of our fights revolve around the fact that my DM husband won't let me cheat even though I really want to.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I get through one fight in a 4 hour session, that's productive.

That was us in 4th edition, which really pushed things into fights-as-set-pieces territory. Well, 1 fight in a session was pretty typical, 2 was nicely productive, 3 happened maybe once.

In 5th, encounters run much faster, but I'm wondering how it really did work back in 1st edition those decades ago. I remember moving through *lots* of fights, but was that because we were kids with tons of time, or because the system was set up for faster fights or what?
posted by Four Ds at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like a lot of Jaquay's design techniques revolve around revisiting. Planning for that is very powerful – dungeons and levels designed for revisiting seem so much more alive than single-use ones.

Most of the AD&D dungeons I played didn't really consider revisiting – everything was meant to passed through once, even in great classics like The Temple of Elemental Evil IIRC. It kinda feeds into the idea that a dungeon is series of rooms to be cleared. Most of the video game RPG dungeons I've played through lacked this, too, excluding open world stuff. Jaquay's dungeons actually make me think of what I like about Metroidvanias and some Zelda games.

I wish I had played her stuff! Thanks for letting us know about it.
posted by ignignokt at 10:15 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Actually my D&D group is super nice but we also take a long time to get through stuff and most of our fights revolve around the fact that my DM husband won't let me cheat even though I really want to.

...you're not my wife, are you?

(Checks user info.)

Okay, no. Whew.
posted by Four Ds at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember moving through *lots* of fights, but was that because we were kids with tons of time, or because the system was set up for faster fights or what?

Probably some of both, but yes, fights were set up to be faster in previous editions. For example this game report is for four hours of play and includes multiple fights between 10 mid-high level characters and large numbers of foes.
posted by nom de poop at 10:20 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Though 1E itself had lots of cruft that could slow it down, but no one used that cruft, and 2E axed it anyway.)
posted by nom de poop at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2015


The style that works for me and my groups seems to be disparaged here, as something D&D needs to avoid.

I don't think he is disparaging the style so much as pointing out, hey, there are lots of other things you can do.

What I'm realizing here is that while I certainly started with dungeons along the lines discussed here, with my sheets of graph paper on my side and players doing their best to map the dungeon from my description...I really haven't had anything like that for a very long time. My players move from situation to situation, not room to room.

This doesn't sound too far from what he's encouraging. He also draws the dungeons in some of his examples as flowcharts, rather than geographic maps that connect situations to each other. In linear dungeons, players go from situation to situation in a prescribed order without being able to (or wanting to) revisit. These Jaquay techniques are meant to provide other ways of going from situation to situation.
posted by ignignokt at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2015


My favorite system is GURPS, so when I say we get through one fight in a 4 hour session, I mean that the fight takes 4 hours.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think it ever occurred to us to wonder why these imaginary worlds were so full of dungeons.

Abandoned stepwells.
posted by fings at 10:36 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I get through one fight in a 4 hour session, that's productive.

Amazing. I had no idea people still played RuneQuest.
posted by The Bellman at 10:45 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Though 1E itself had lots of cruft that could slow it down, but no one used that cruft, and 2E axed it anyway.)

Yeah, a lot of the "old school renaissance" (OSR) has been people playing Basic / Expert or systems very much like it, because 1e had a lot of cool things, but also a lot of rules that nobody actually needed.
posted by graymouser at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2015


Jennell Jaquays now, not Paul.

Wow, I didn't know! Awesome, rock on Jennell!

The old-school explanation for dungeons is that they are actually a kind of wonderland, a fey and mysterious place that just doesn't make sense, and to some degree is naturally occurring. Wizards and bandits and above-ground monsters may move into it, but ultimately it is because it is.
posted by JHarris at 10:57 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


[With OP permission, updated post text from "Paul Jacquays" to "Jennell Jacquays".]
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought the classic explanation for dungeons was that they were Dwarven ruins taken over by monsters. One way or another, they're the overgrown ruins of a displaced subterranean civilization.

This makes sense, because every dungeon ever is a spiritual manifestation of the platonic Erebor and Moria.

Not RuneQuest; Rolemaster is where it's at.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The problem with 3E's early conception, and Keep on the Shadowfell is a great example of it, was that it was billed as going "back to the dungeon", after the long 2E era where D&D was more story based, and really about anything else but dungeons and/or dragons. But 3E's initial published dungeons actually sucked, and 3E was kind of too big and slow to be that good for old school play anyway. A lot of old-schoolers didn't like the grand 2E way of things, but it was 3E's pseudodungeoncrawls that is more of a complaint here, I think.

Site-based exploration (like dungeons that the players might return to) is a lot of fun.

I played in a campaign where also we spent most of our time outside dungeons and crossing wilderness—but there was a big, weird mountain island, where there was ancient temple and portals that led between worlds, lurking near whatever we did. (Persand, it's down the page.) It was like a whole wilderness itself, explored only a tiny bit over many years by previous players who only left fragmentary accounts and maps of where things were. Sometimes the course of whatever adventure we were on might start to point to Persand and, much like Gandalf thinking of Moria, we would say, "FUCK that place, NO, we're trying the other thing."

I think one of the most important things for any D&D game is to have a good sort of "explore/interact loop". I've seen a lot of time wasted in RPGs games (as player and DM -_-) on minis and maps crawling in dungeons that were very boring. People are just going to move their mini with the group, things are very linear and, because the dungeon is a one-shot disposable thing, it's more just like content being slurped down. Decisions of ways to go don't matter because there's no information and probably both directions will have to be traveled eventually. Even with a fast combat system, all that pointless map drawing and figure moving during exploration can still be a drag. Sometimes it has seemed like people go through the motions of dungeon crawling, but they don't know why they're doing it, or how to make it fun.
posted by nom de poop at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


nom de poop: "(Though 1E itself had lots of cruft that could slow it down, but no one used that cruft, and 2E axed it anyway.)"

You'll have to pry weapon speed factors from my cold, dead fingers.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The problem with 3E's early conception, and Keep on the Shadowfell is a great example of it

Do you mean The Sunless Citadel (the first 3e module), or are you conflating 3e with 4e (which had Keep on the Shadowfell)?

3e was based on an explicit decision by Ryan Dancey to put out core books and have third parties publish dungeon modules by making the d20 Standard Trademark License available, so WotC's ineptitude at dungeons didn't have as much impact on it. 4e retracted the d20 STL and used a license that third parties were barely interested in.
posted by graymouser at 11:38 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not RuneQuest; Rolemaster is where it's at.

Oh. My. God. Like two days ago my older son tripped over absolutely nothing, and I said to him "Dude, you gotta watch out for that unseen, imaginary, deceased turtle." He laughed the way he and his little brother have learned to laugh when it's clearly just, you know ... Dad.
posted by The Bellman at 12:01 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


"In all the hours my friends and I spent mapping and playing these games, I don't think it ever occurred to us to wonder why these imaginary worlds were so full of dungeons. Relic public works projects? Creative reuse and gentrification of outdated infrastructure?"

Not too long ago, I took the Oxford History of Prisons out from my local library, and one of the interesting bits was that to the extent that dungeons actually existed as subterranean infrastructure, they were almost entirely both built by and used for confining religious criminals, especially those of high birth. If you have some heretic prince and need to reaffirm the church's authority but can't just burn him alive because it's a political fight your local bishop will lose, you have him dig a giant hole next to the abbey, build supports in it, maybe even build living quarters for himself, and keep him there until he repents. They weren't necessarily places of great horror while they existed, and I tend to think of them similar to the medieval system of ransom for noble prisoners (especially since many of the "repentances" came by way of a sizable donation to the church from the heretic's family). I haven't DMed since I read that, but it definitely seems like something worth incorporating. And I tended to go with the keep or castle model, where while you might find stores of grain or wine in the lower levels, it's not where you'd find any real treasure. Cathedrals tend to have catacombs though, and barrows or tombs would still be legit targets for both exploration and monsters. But I also tended to be the guy asking, "Wait, how does a giant spider survive down here? Surely there can't be enough adventurers wandering in to keep it fed, and surely the orcs would want to clear it out too…"
posted by klangklangston at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


For a modern take on dungeon crawling, through a horror legs, there's Covers From Below/The Long Stair, a string riff at rpg.net.
In 1963- post test ban- a nuclear detonation under the Nevada desert knocked a hole in reality.


The bomb was something new- and still classified- but what it did was stab through the fragile skein of normal spacetime the whole visible universe occupies, and opened a hole into something stranger.

The Fed put a door and a lock onto the hole- ninety tons of steel and titanium strong enough to bounce nukes. They kept it secret too. The place the hole opened into was just to weird for people to know about or deal with. It's variously called The Basement, Downstairs, and for those who hide behind terminology, the "Subterrestial Operational Theater".

In the late 70's, one of the young computer boffins working on the project called it "Gygaxland".

By the 90's, everyone was just calling it "The Dungeon" despite the term being officially verboten.

The name fits though. Under reality, in realms so strange they defy scientific models to explain, someone or some thing built tunnels, chambers, traps, lairs... but also filled it with wonders and treasures- including objects and devices which could quite simply, do the impossible.

Project: LONG STAIR was born.
posted by happyroach at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Wait, how does a giant spider survive down here? Surely there can't be enough adventurers wandering in to keep it fed, and surely the orcs would want to clear it out too…"

I've always thought it was a tenuous relationship between the different residents. The orcs keep the spider around because it takes care of the vermin, and it blocks off a possible invasion point. The spider tolerates the orcs because they toss garbage which attracts vermin and maintains its food supply.
posted by CancerMan at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Much like how Dominion made a game out of building your MtG deck, at least one game designer (Terry Dowler) has done the same for dungeons: How to Host a Dungeon is charming and short, and I love the idea: you create a dungeon by creating its history from the Primordial Age through various civilizations, abandonment and subsequent Monster inhabitage.
posted by dylanjames at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


DM, FIRST D&D SESSION: There is a reasonable explanation for all of the monsters and treasure in this dungeon, which is fully integrated into the ecology and culture of its environs. I spent several hours working out the rationale for why this subterranean labyrinth was created, what it meant to the people who built it, what has happened to it in the intervening centuries, and why the various creatures who inhabit it now came to be there, how they entered, what they eat, and how and why they acquired the magical items they have, each of which has been carefully selected to meet the needs of the players whose character sheets I have committed to memory.

PLAYER, FIRST D&D SESSION: We kill all the bugs or whatever those are, pile their loot in the middle of the room, and cast Detect Magic on it.

~ ~ ~

DM, EIGHTEENTH D&D SESSION: I need to find something in the Monster Manual that will kill these assholes. Sure, let's put a fire elemental in the drow priestess's tomb, why the hell not.

PLAYER, EIGHTEENTH D&D SESSION: We killed the fire elemental, it better have some sweet loot.

DM, EIGHTEENTH D&D SESSION: Um. Yeah. [rolls dice] Your fighter finds a, a, [rolls dice again] longsword +2, +3 vs lycanthropes.

PLAYER, EIGHTEENTH D&D SESSION: I'm a cleric, and you said lycanthropes don't exist in this campaign world.

DM, EIGHTEENTH D&D SESSION: Whatever.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


I like James Maliszewski's writing on Gygaxian Naturalism if you want some good thinking on D&D logic. (Unlike many places, you should read the comments on Grognardia.)
posted by graymouser at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do you mean The Sunless Citadel (the first 3e module), or are you conflating 3e with 4e (which had Keep on the Shadowfell)?

Oh, I was conflating their blando names, though they are bricks from the same wall.
posted by nom de poop at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2015


The average D&D game world is frankly incapable of the technology or manpower needed to build vast underground complexes.

Roll initiative!
posted by Beholder at 2:09 PM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


prize bull octorok, that's one half of it. Here's the other:

EMBITTERED DM, FIRST D&D SESSION: Fuck it, I've got a mechanically sensible adventure. It's unambiguous, the treasure's planned out, and I can get three fights in tonight. Players, you've all been hired to kill the horrid kobolds that crawl out at night and eat the local formers. They live in a fort on top of a hill.

FIRST PLAYER: I want to understand the kobolds' culture. Maybe we can come to an understanding. How hierarchical is their society?

SECOND PLAYER: The nameless cobbler's apprentice with a funny voice fascinates me. I'm going to bring him along with us and learn his life story.

THIRD PLAYER: What's the state of investment banking in this campaign world? The rulebook and my character background mean I can invent investment banking.

FIRST PLAYER: Then we can trap them with ruinous loans!

SECOND PLAYER: I'll convince townspeople to front the retail bank so we're not identifiable!
posted by The Gaffer at 2:45 PM on September 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


I think first edition fights went faster because, especially at lower levels, your options were limited to rolling to hit or casting a spell, and if you were a spellcaster at low level, your options were cast a spell and then run like hell and hide until the end of the fight. The tactical rules of latter editions were either nonexistent or buried in an obscure section of the DMG that nobody, including the DM, ever looked at. Want to grapple? Roll to hit. Want to disarm? Roll to hit. No attacks of opportunity to resolve. No angle of attack to discern. It was gloriously simple, which is why I love 5ed so much. It's basically OG (original game).
posted by echocollate at 3:35 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This got me curious about medieval strongroom and treasury construction, and the dismal searches on Yahoo and Duckduckgo were enough to send me back to Google for Firefox…
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on September 11, 2015


May Jaroo Ashstaff help you score.
posted by clavdivs at 6:23 PM on September 11, 2015


oD&D fights and first edition fights were fast because fights were intentionally a failure mode. The biggest source of XP was loot and the goal was to rob the dungeon blind - and at best mug the monsters in an ambush. Actual almost fair fights were an admission of failure.

2E removed XP for GP as a default rule and worked on encounter based design while leaving the combat rules unchanged; you were intended to fight for your XP in a system designed to punish fighting so the rules advocated fudging. 4E's heresy was to take the 2e DMG and build a game geared to the play advocated there.
posted by Francis at 6:24 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


In terms of structure, multiple entrances effectively create an additional “loop” (see below) through the surface above the dungeon.

Introduction to Programming 101
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see stuff like this and dream of endless megadungeons. Then cold reality gives me about 2.5 hours of gaming once or twice a month which pretty much makes that type of game impossible to enjoy. I've been posting all the games I've planned out but know will never play in a blog and I think the main category for them never seeing play is, 'would have been great when we were in college or underemployed but who's got time for that now?' Which is sad since planning campaigns was always a major creative output for me.
posted by charred husk at 7:14 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Knowing nothing of D&D, I pronounced the name as Jackée in my mind, and was thinking of an RPG campaign starring Sandra Clark and Marla Gibbs
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:40 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of a Knights of the Dinner Table episode in which B.A. crafts a goblin lair with everything including a Sphere of Annihilation for waste disposal. Knowing his players will blame him if they fall into it by accident, he has the goblins post warning signs and a sturdy metal grate, which only convince the party that something awesome must be hidden down there. One by one, they clamber down...

One of the all-time great one-off KODT strips is the one where B.A. runs a far more violent adventure than usual, really just a contextless string of combats against a wide variety of monsters. At the end of the game, Dave, Bob, and Brian tell him he's really stepped up his game and they're glad he's no longer doing the "paint by numbers crap" he usually shows up with. Whereupon B.A. angrily reveals that he didn't have time to prepare an adventure and was just rolling on the random encounter tables, and he storms out when they insist that that's much better than the adventures he puts effort into.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:43 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


These guides are great for adventures like The Quest for the Lance of Kel Dahar, but they don't seem to seem to really take into account events like Kanye the Giant grabbing the b^$@$ and getting in his SUV.
posted by Metro Gnome at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2015


graymouser: "I like James Maliszewski's writing on Gygaxian Naturalism if you want some good thinking on D&D logic. (Unlike many places, you should read the comments on Grognardia.)"

Yeah, Maliszewski wrote lucidly and with a good deal of thought on the philosophy of D&D, although I'm not always in accord with where he ends up. Still worth a read.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:00 PM on September 16, 2015


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