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Dungeon23 Preemptive Thoughts

 ·  ☕ 5 min read

So I have decided to partake in the Dungeon 23 project (learn more here). However, I do have some preemptive thoughts about the project as a whole and what I plan to get out of it. The project states that by the end of this year, any participant who finishes it will have created a twelve level mega-dungeon with 365 rooms. This is a noble goal and well worth attempting, however, I feel that the challenge as written will not produce gameable content very consistently. Making a room a day is a wonderful way to build up a stock of interesting rooms for use in future dungeons, but it is unlikely to result in a dungeon that is useful at the table and that seems a little off to me. Gameable content is the lifeblood of all RPG groups, whether they know it or acknowledge it or not; so I would like to address where I think this project will struggle with producing such content, and how I plan to mitigate it.


Layout is one of the hardest parts of dungeon design in my opinion. You can have all the fancy rooms you want, but if they are connected by just a straight hallway, it’s no difference than a carnival haunted house (or a meat grinder, if you make it super deadly). Conversely, going crazy with the Jaquaying can lead to layouts that while technically interesting, the way some theoretical geometric shapes are technically interesting, are unplayably dense and confusing. Truthfully, I tend to fall more on the haunted house ditch of this particular road. I generally agonize over layouts the longest, and my newest dungeons have seen me make line drawings of the layouts, well before any room design. Doing one room a day is going to tempt people into just connect rooms at random as they create them, and that will likely lead to either very linear floors (boring) or jumbled messes of pathways with not cohesion (unplayable). To rectify this somewhat, my plan is just to create a single room with no doors every day except Saturday. On Saturdays, I will make a room and layout the week’s rooms together. I think that will help alleviate some of the possible layout mess


This project is scheduled to take place over a year; a year is a long time to go without actually playing/running the dungeon you are building. Dungeons need a fair amount of time in the play test oven, and going a full year without play testing anything is grounds for a disaster for whenever you do get around to running it. Plus, the idea of running an entire untested mega dungeon sounds miserable to me in general; and likely to have trouble generating and maintaining player interest. Even the best mega dungeons have trouble with that. So to mitigate this I am going to try and run the section I am working on every two weeks. ~14 rooms is probably enough for a single night of gaming, and my usual schedule is to run games on alternating weeks anyway. If these bite sized dungeonettes run smoothly, I will feel alot better about the final result than I would anyway. I probably won’t hold strictly to every two weeks, but I will try not to go longer than a month and a half without getting some sort of play test in; preferably with real players instead of just solo play.


Dungeons need stuff in them, monsters, treasure, traps etc. I am mostly going to be following the B/X stocking method, and rolling for 365 rooms sounds awful. Just going to roll for the rooms individually as part of creation, no surprise there.

Wandering Monsters and Hallway traps

Similar to layout, though not quite as difficult in my opinion. I am simply going to handle traps on the Saturdays I do layout, and add wandering monster tables when I feel a chunk is big enough to be an “area” or level.

Size and depth

One thing I am completely ignoring is the depth of twelve levels. Thematics aside, twelve levels of around thirty rooms sounds like it would become a droll dungeon. Instead, I am just going to let the levels and areas sort themselves out somewhat. I expect to end up somewhere around six levels with a much wider variance in room number by the end.


The last thought I have is that any dungeon made in this manner will inevitably be very gonzo. Personally, I tend to avoid gonzo design, much preferring some sort of Gygaxian Naturalism in the dungeons that I build and play (I have spent real life hours trying to determine where lizards on a magical floating rock dump their garbage). However, in this case I am not going to mitigate this feature at all; instead I am going to actively encourage it. This dungeon will be gonzo, whatever ends up somewhere ends up there, I will feel no need to explain it logically. I am not going to force myself to stick to a theme or location backstory like I normally would. This is to attempt to help me personally understand what the appeal of gonzo is and try to produce some for myself.


So in summary, I think that the Dungeon 23 project is a good idea for anyone to try and participate in. You just need to make sure you tailor it to your specific goals. If your goal is just to make a bunch of rooms, build a habit of doing something ttrpg related everyday, or just as a daily writing exercise then as written is probably fine. If however, you are looking to get something gameable out of this, then it probably needs to be adjusted in some ways. Gameablility is important to me, so I have tried to tailor the challenge to suit my specific wants and wanted to encourage others to do the same.

Sail On!

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