This is a random dungeon that forms itself as the players explore it. Instead of a random table, it's constructed by drawing pre-made cards. There are a limited number of rooms, and the players can explore all of them, but they'll rarely know what's behind the next door.
Rules for the Labyrinth:
- When the players enter a new room, draw a card from the relevant pile. This is the room they are in.
- If they backtrack from a room, it disappears and the card gets shuffled back in.
- On the back of each card is an omen, which the players can learn by listening/smelling at the door. These serve mostly to tip off/misdirect/screw with the players.
- Each room is persistent, and whatever changes the players made (killing monsters, stealing treasure, triggering traps) remain. However, there are still random encounters.
- Certain rooms contain passages to a lower floor. These will usually be shuffled to the latter half of a deck.
- At the bottom of he dungeon is a goal. A person, a Maguffin, whatever. I actually haven't decided yet.
- There are keyed encounters in monster rooms, as well as random encounters. There's a sort of 'nemesis' monster running about the dungeon, present on the encounter tables for all floors. Right now, I think it's a beefed up Tachyon Troll. There are also NPCs, random monsters, environmental effects, etc.
- The random encounter table isn't static. Since the dungeon is shifting, and the players won't necessarily be able to find a room they were in before, encounters may be added to the random table as a result of the players' actions.
So I bought a bunch of index cards and separated them by color, one for each floor. I then set about making rooms for the first floor. Despite starting most of a month ago, I'm not even done with that. Granted, I've been busy with the end of the quarter. Still, I got all the empty and special rooms down, leaving just some trap rooms and monster encounters.
My watchword for this project, and the main reason why it's been relatively slow going, is concept density. Yeah, go and read that article for the fiftieth time. I want every inch of this dungeon to have something interesting (not necessarily original-God knows I've raided all your blogs for stuff, but my players don't know that).
A spiral staircase leading down to the next floor of the dungeon? BOR-ING! Instead, there's a cage elevator operated by a gorilla in a bellhop costume. Who charges either money or rations for going up or down. And if you try to take the elevator by force, he'll shoot you with his gun and retreat to the lower floor.
I've tried to do that with every room. Granted, not all of them are that weird, and it might be tiring if they were, but they should have something going for them. Even-no, especially the empty rooms. Even if it's just a weird shape and crude cave paintings.
They've also got to be tight. Each room fits on an index cards, with abbreviated monster stats and item descriptions on a separate sheet. Here's a few of my favorite pieces of it so far.
Scroll of Hey Jude: Music sheet (real-world version provided) which if sung loudly by the whole party, in and out of game, a troll named Jude busts through the nearest wall, creating a new exit.
Jude is annoyed that she was woken up from her nap, but enjoys flattery and informed geopolitical debate.
Silver Hammer of Light: +1 Silver Hammer carved with intricate arcane formulae. Generates 3hrs of light as a torch after striking a living being.
Jaguar Cloak: Personality of an irritable but playful big cat. Automatically hide and +5 to sneak in darkness. 1/day throw it off, animates as a HD1 jaguar that follows orders.
Dinosaur Museum(Monster+Treasure): Giant, humid stone cave, jungly. On display, dinosaur bones carved with runes(300gp, cursed). Giant block of amber(700gp raw materials) -> 3 raptors(HD3, 1d6+3) attacking a triceratops (HD7, 2d6+1). Raptors are vicious, can speak, bourgeois. Triceratops is just a triceratops, panicked. If exited, raptors added to Encounter table. 4 exits (vine-covered caves). Omens: The distant calls of extinct creatures.
Destroyed Hall(Empty): Rotted feasting hall. Skeletons bent over tables holding cups. On the wall, a message is scrawled in blood, a severed hand lying below it-> מנא מנא תקל ופרסין
4 exits (stately doors). Omens: Rot, echoing death rattle.
Fireball Room(Special): Dome ceilinged cavern, scorch marks on walls and floor, rolling fireball rolls about the ceiling-> enchanted, many faceted gem, futbol size. Releases streak of fire periodically, hits a PC on 1-in-20, 1d10 fire damage. 3 exits (metal blast doors). Omens: Rolling sound, hot air draft. (If you get where this came from, you've found the right blog).
Goblin Ghetto(Monster): Filthy camp where screeching gretchlings squabble over an unfinished ruleset. Populated by 1d20+10 Gretchlings and 3 Gretchling Stiltwalkers named Skerpo, Arnie and Lexi. Will throw icosahedron-shaped rocks at intruders. D4s are hidden in the muck, act as caltrops. 3 exits (mucky curtains). Omens: The faint rolling of dice, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
|Do I want to finish reviewing for the math final?|
Nah, let's do a writeup.
Gallery(Trap+Treasure): Extravagant, chandelier lit, thickly carpeted. 4 high-quality oil paintings(25gp each), 2 silver plated icons on pedestals. Pressure plates under the carpet before each -> release corrosive gas -> destroy paintings and corrode icons in 4 rounds. Con check or 1d6 non-lethal damage. Remains. 2 exits (heavy oak double doors). Omens: Low conversation, muzak.
Ruined Bathhouse(Empty+Treasure): Old tiled bathhouse, water filled with muck. Incense has rotted, water is either ice cold or boiling. Painted marble statue in the center -> masterwork, depicts famous love story, 250gp whole, 50gp in pieces. Requires total 20STR to carry, must be pried off floor. Dead end. Omens: Stale incense and leaking water.
And my personal favorite...
Diamond Snipe(Monster+Treasure): Underground cavern, tree roots pierce from above like stalactites. Thumb-sized Sun Diamond(125gp) on pedestal -> sunlight in 30'. 2 Rock Trolls(HD6 1d8+3) shield themselves from its light, petrified. If the players approach, the Dungeon Snipe, a very fast bird, will pop up from behind the pedestal and eat it before running through another door. The diamond glows in its belly, but the Trolls de-petrify. If the Snipe is lost, add to encounter table. 5 exits(vine covered caves). Omens: Faint sunlight, chirping birds.
|"How does it keep getting away from us? It's just a bird!"|
"It's the Devil's own bird I tell ye!"
"Shut up Frank."
The Beatles references above are intentional and non-exhaustive. I have no idea why I'm putting them in there, but they work for a gonzo atmosphere.