The DungeonMaster G

Dungeon Design With Modular Tiles

When putting together a dungeon I first think about WHY this place was built in the first place and what sort of natural elements may exist that would have influenced how it was built:

  • A conduit to somewhere else
  • A prison or place of concentration
  • A residence for some type of monster or race
  • An important military establishment
  • A minor military establishment
  • A place of refuge
  • A place of obfuscation (maze or misdirection to protect another location)
  • A place of internment (crypts and other burial methods)
  • An area to cultivate fauna or flora
  • A place to store things to supply another location
  • A place to house amenities or service a another location (like sewers, canal waterways, etc)

Modular Dungeon Terrain

The natural elements would be things like:

  • waterways (rivers, lakes, etc)
  • magma
  • impenetrable rock
  • loose earth
  • fissures and chasms
  • magical disturbances and/or space warping

All these influence how the rooms and passages should be laid out. A maze will obviously be quite random, while a residence will be more logical and have centralised rooms for amenities. Military establishments will contain choke points throughout to prevent invading forces from easilly over running a dungeon. A place of internment will probably start to be haphazard and have plenty of additions depending on the age and regular internment of the departed.

Then I start to think about how this usage may have changed over time. So it may have been a military establishment and is now a Gnoll village or a burial ground for a long forgotten battle. This again can influence the use, age and level of repair of the overall dungeon, or just small areas of it.

From here I start to think about structural things like:

  • ruinous locations or places of ill repair
  • corridors and rooms under construction
  • secret locations for ease of travel
  • secret locations for storage
  • secret locations for refuge
  • the types of doors that would be used
  • where do they go to the loo
  • where do they sleep
  • where do they eat
  • how do they get in and out (stairs, ladders, shafts, etc)

Then I put it together with this in mind. I do this so that the dungeon has logic to its layout. It is not just a random assortment of corridors and rooms with 4,000 year old unicorns waiting for a fight behind a locked solid metal door. Damned unicorns.

Once I have laid out the dungeon, I then think about the fluff. The bits and pieces of furniture and terrain that would be the right kind of stuff for this particular dungeon. You don't find library rooms in a sewer - UNLESS, the sewer is a pathway to a secret library by some crazy wizard or something.

After that I add inhabitants suitable to the theme and level of the place and the people who will encounter it.

Books to consider: