Favorite dungeon type/location

The day 11 question is a little better…

Anyway my favorite kind of dungeon is what people sometimes disparage as ‘funhouse’ dungeons — the kind where tricks and traps are spread around randomly, there are no obvious toilets or sleeping quarters for most of the monsters, and every door is stuck, locked, or trapped!

Truth be told I used to look down on that kind of design too, until I started reading the original little D&D booklets and “Philotomy’s musings” on them.  Then it kind of gelled to me that a dungeon didn’t really need to make sense in the way places above ground do, and that this is part of what makes them so dangerous and frightening.  I especially like the idea that the dungeon itself has a sort of malevolence and actively tries to thwart the explorers by closing and opening doors, leaving treasure as bait, and spawning monsters by abiogenesis.

The dungeons in my home campaign all aspire to that sort of feeling — or at least the ones I made up myself … some of the one page dungeons I stuck in are more sensible, and I also had a lot of dungeon-like environments that are more in semi-realistic mode (ruins, tombs, and such located outside Mt. Telengard itself).  I suppose the three one page dungeons I made for the contests (you can download them from the ‘downloads’ page in the right-hand sidebar) indicate this too: “The belly of the beast” is my take on the ‘living dungeon’ theme; ‘The misty pond’ is a little more rational (but was connected to level 2 of the dungeon in Mt. Telengard by a  50′ tunnel, even though it is located in a fen many miles from the mountain); the “Panopticon of peril” also has some rational elements in the patrols and back story but even that was ultimately irrational, since the prisoners were not really be kept for any practical purpose.

I sometimes wonder if I’m just valorizing my own laziness though.  A carefully planned, “realistic” adventuring environment might take more work to prepare, but is it any less fun to explore?  Probably not.  But is it any more fun? Not necessarily.

Of course we wouldn’t get to play every week if I had to do a lot planning.  Funhouse dungeons are lot easier to ad lib.  So in that sense they are more fun, because the alternative is not playing as often or at all!

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Published in: on September 12, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. […] Favorite dungeon type/location (mikemonaco.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Some of my favorite classic modules were little more than “fun house dungeons,” like White Plum Mountain or The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and I’ve had tons of fun with those things. That being said, I tend to make my dungeons more “believable” than those. I think maybe it’s because when something ridiculous happens in one of those dungeons and a character or five die horrible deaths, I can shrug my shoulders and blame Gary Gygax.


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