Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dungeon Zones

As I began to lay out the Dungeon using the Traveller sector/subsector/world model, I made a rough 8 x 8 grid of the first few levels and starting locating some initial zones for development. Each cell represented a distinct zone or area. Here's an early snapshot of just one part of the First Level:

The Ever-Changing StairsThe Maw 
GoblintownDungmarketThe Mud Baths
Goblin SlumsHall of SpidersHalls of Pale Slime
StatuaryGobbo PromenadeThe Hole in the Wall

The top three levels are sometimes called the Goblin Halls, because the goblins and hobgoblins had been able to maintain control over large swathes until orcs and other humanoids broke their hegemony. While the goblins still contol a large amount of territory in the Dungeon, many areas have been abandoned or reclaimed by others. The Gobbo Promenade is the main entrance to the First Level, while Dungmarket is a fairly infamous area, the site of a weekly market run by the goblins. Imagine a ren faire “managed” by wicked, hyperactive, and pyromanical imps. The Maw is the primary entrance down to the Second Level.

I somewhat arbitrarily chose a standard size of 300 feet by 300 feet for zones. This ended up being a fairly fortuitous choice. At 1 square equals 10 feet, a zone fits pretty easily on a sheet of graph paper with plenty of room for notes. It's also fairly close to the square geomorphs used in the old TSR Dungeon Geomorph series. A typical dungeon design might have 20-30 rooms in such an area, and assuming 1/5 of these rooms are occupied, that gives something like 4-6 set encounters, plus wandering monsters. Third edition was built around the assumption of roughly four encounters every game day, and 4-6 encounters is also about what can be played through in a 3-5 hour game session. So this 30 x 30 grid ends up being a good standard size to work with

Using a standard zone size does have one significant disadvantage: it can become an unwelcome constraint on design, forcing zones to conform to square area. The Maze of the Blue Medusa is a great example of a megadungeon with a free-flowing layout where zones are much more organic in shape and form.

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