No more flat dungeons

I have originally sent this text to Johnn Four in the far September 2004. That is a crit on d12 years ago.

Unsurprisingly, I see that many of the dungeon maps that appear today (and especially on the so-called professional products) are still, boring, more two-dimensional than ever.

I submit the original text (with some minor adjustment) for whomever it may benefit.

The boredom of the old 10’x10′ square room

I have noticed that dungeons, both in commercial modules and self-made, appear to be very flat; they are composed of a large number of rooms, corridors, halls, secret passages, at the end of which you can find the beloved stairs to the 2nd level. And so on, rinse and repeat down to the Xth level.

Maybe the dungeon is very pretty designed, full of interesting rooms, traps and encounters, but very often it brings no opportunities to outline strategies and tactics during exploration and fighting.

A 3D breathe in the dungeon design

Now try to imagine: the door at the end of the corridor you are walking through opens over a footbridge without balustrade 9 m above the floor of the large 24 m x 24 m hall.

At the end of the footbridge, on the other side of the room, a portcullis apparently closes the way.

On the hall’ left wall, 6 meters above the floor, you can see a human-sized opening, (without door) leading into the dark no-one knows where.

On the hall’ main floor, you notice also a wooden-door on the right wall, with many scratches on it.

Just under the ceiling of the hall, 18 m high from the floor, there is a cornice, 2 m high and 2 m wide, running all over the four walls. (The players can not see, but there is another door just in the same position above the one they arrived from, but on the main floor).

Plenty of room for tactics and strategy

Now how will the PC act? Maybe a PC will try to break the portcullis, while someone else will try to climb the wall to get to the opening, while someone other try to use a rope to get to the main floor.

Let them separate (is this a “party split” if they are still in the same room?), and then… make the gargoyles (or whatever you want) fly out from the cornice, and fight the PC, wherever they are.

Try to imagine the poor cleric, fighting with his mace while clung to the rope with the other hand, 6 m above the floor. To say nothing of the rogue, halfway its climb to reach the opening on the left, attacked by 2 gargoyles (no-one said gargoyles prefer fair-play!!). And what about the dwarf fighter, forced to fight on the edge of the footbridge, with a gargoyle in fly? What if the gargoyle tries to push the dwarf one step back? A 9 m fall is very hard to survive for a low-level PC…

As you can see, encounters in 3D dungeons can be very fascinating, and not only you need flying creatures; you can use also creatures with ranged weapons or in melee. What about a dark elf shooting from the left door with a longbow to the cleric?

Possibilities are so many an encyclopaedia could not be enough.


Few Campaign Titles

I propose hereby some campaign or adventure title. You may find them inspiring, useful, inspirational, or plain garbage. Make the best you want out of it.

1. The gnome, the marilith, the yuan ti
2. Sir Aravust is back in town
3. Lathan Marrkhon is out of the Order
4. The third, last and final death of Tarin the Wise
5. Spies, duels, rebels
6. The rise and fall of the Alkanian Empire
7. Four to the end
8. The doppelganger who betrayed the Master
9. Evocation!
10. A portal to the past
11. Sands of mithril
12. Portrait of a unicorn
13. The castle is gone
14. The right time to catch Zornn
15. Betrayal at the elemental river
16. The bridge of Numandia
17. A tale of two cities
18. The lich who loved all but us
19. The pact at Duncan’ ferry
20. Winds of undead
21. The temple never completed
22. Of souls and swords
23. Ishirishia’s flower did not blossom this year
24. A gem for a soul
25. Demon escape
26. The rampaging dragon of Nastyr Keep
27. A crossing quite crowded
28. The quiet Dwarf
29. Sleep under Treetop Hill
30. The boy from the Ancanar
31. Only two twins survived the fire at Trasgor’s Gate
32. They’ll hang Righert on the Winter Solstice
33. A Queen for a King
34. Tales from the past
35. The bard of Garanor’s Pass
36. Fight for the Deva
37. How I died and returned to live again
38. The Warlock’ revenge
39. Aasimar and Marilith
40. The Carceri’s Gates are closed
41. The Chase at Saramon Henge
42. The key to Ash Gate
43. The elf who devised the Stone Rod

Why I love being a GM

I wrote these thoughts originally to answer to Johnn Four over at his Patreon page.

Here below I present them in an updated layout to let you know my view of this fine Art.

Why I love the Art of GameMastering

Many things make me love GMing bust most of all: feeling and living in the same story with your players, not as a fixed and pre-generated plot (movie, novel, etc) but as a world (of your creation) they can save, destroy, love, hate, live in, die for. And all this, not only for the sake of fun, but for real feelings, passion, emotions…

Some of the most fulfilling reward from my players?

  1. ending the game at 3 am, saying bye to everybody, and your Players staying 2 more hours in the park in front your house speaking of the just-finished session! and
  2. having your Players shed some tears for an NPC’ (actually a big villain) death

These are the feelings / emotions that keep myself, the GM seeding good situations and creating good stories (with the players) on and on… creating a world the PCs would be happy to give their lives for.

The Art of Game Mastering

Of our modern lives

It is a truth almost known that our modern lives are full of competitions, contests, strives to the “supposed best”.
I state “supposed best” since it is defined / established by the majority of the society, whereas it is not granted that it should be the “real best”. This happens in all our modern lives’ environments:

  • at work (continuous improvement, improving and always increasing results, etc)
  • at school
  • with friends and society (new activities, new hobbies, new results, new must-be-purchased-merchandising, etc)
  • even computer games, and products alike, are planned to promote “competition” in its broadest sense

Of the Fun brought by RPGs

One thing that, again in my humble opinion, was out of this trend is playing, and having fun while playing. Especially roleplaying, an activity which gives the opportunity to actively produce by your own your fun.

I believe that X% of the human population routinely passively enjoys TV shows, movies, even zines and books. Does anybody knows where this X is? 80%? 90%?

Different is with RPGs: instead of having the necessity to buy more and more material to passively enjoy and make fun out of it, you have the opportunity, with little or no instruments (say “tools”) to produce an infinite amount of fun, for you and your players. With some dozen of books (one of the oldest, simpler, cheaper, nobler way of communicate anything between human beings) you can produce literally infinite hours of game, hence fun, hence emotions.

All the above (and many more thoughts) to me meant that RPGs are one of the nobler way of mind entertainment (whereas other are physical entertainments such as sport, etc).

GameMastering as an Art

So all the GameMaster have a total and unparalleled freedom deserved to them.

GMs are like craftsmen (artisans), which share the same tools: as like as a sculptor has hammer and chisel, the GMs have books, dices and many source of inspiration.

GameMaster produce Art.

What is this Art for?

Such Art should be made to (or at least: personally I make it to) appeal the GM and her players, provide fun, emotions, a shared experience, a temporary escape into another reality…