Sunday, March 6, 2022

Discovered a Dungeon Design Pet Peeve

Discovered a Dungeon Design Pet Peeve
This weekend I managed to get back to the gaming table after the normal Christmas break. Yes, it's March, but January and February were what they were and at this point there is nothing that I could do about the overly-long break. I can admit though that I've probably spent way too much time thinking about gaming because I wasn't gaming, and because what I was doing was frequently mind-numbing and a infrequently a little gross.

I'll spare everyone the details, but it did get me thinking a lot about dungeon design, or....based on my experience, lack of design.

I don't know how many dungeon-delve adventures I've played in that didn't have any real thought behind the care and upkeep of those living in the space, well at least as far as waste removal goes. Trash chutes, bathrooms, basic vermin control.....all seem lacking in about 90% of the dungeons I've been able to adventure in. I'd probably say at least half of the other 10% was just judicious use of a gelatinous cube.

I know on so many levels dungeons are just places that exist to serve as an adventuring locale, but they should be, for the lack of a better term, "living" places. The dungeon your party only half cleared out? Well the other half spread out some. That dungeon your party did clear out? Well some other things moved in, or they would if they could. 

All living spaces, dungeons included, really need to meet all the requirements for the inhabitants, otherwise why live there?

Of course I'm looking at all, well ok some....of my previous written adventures and I'm faring decently well on the sanitation front, but one of the adventures was literally titled "Little Outhouse on the Prairie".  Those other adventures though.....yep, they kind of suck in this particular department.

Of course in the scheme of things, does it really matter? At this point it's probably more of a dungeon design pet peeve.

If this is *my* dungeon design pet peeve, then clearly there have to be some other pet peeves. As someone who dabbles in the occasional written adventure, I wouldn't mind hearing some other design issues that I could avoid. If anyone else happens to pick up an idea or two..... 


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  2. I guess that depends on the dungeon type. My players always find it hilarious when they find what effectively is a privy, or simply a room full of feces. . .

    If its just a cave network, then your likely not going to find signs of civilized living at all. Maybe some piles of refuse here and there.

    I have a habit of hiding things in the muck. . . my players know this, they also know that I will make them roll against becoming diseased when they go through it too. . .

    This said, to answer the prompt:

    My biggest pet peeve is 'why' certain things are living in specific areas of a dungeon at all.

    What is their general purpose?

    Why are there kobolds in one part, and goblins in another?

    Why have they not been eaten by the Bugbear the next level down?

    etc. . .

    I guess this means that I prefer dungeons with explicit themes associated with them, or at least very clear factional demarcations within the dungeon that allow for that degree of diversity (like various street gangs claiming part of a city).

  3. This is why I prefer my dungeons stocked with things that lack anything akin to normal biological functions - undead, constructs, elementals, inexplicably weird aberrant horrors, that sort of thing. The usual mass of random humanoids manages to be boring and silly at teh same time.

  4. An interesting question. While making sense is important, I think a boring module is my top pet peeve. That often is less the module as the gamers and/or DM. My second is moralizing. I don't like seeing it in books & don't like it in modules. I think there may naturally be subtle influences that make it in. Ofcourse, that isn't what I am referring to. I mean those clumsy and/or bulky writer/DM/player interventions.

  5. Trash chutes, outhouses, blue recycle bins?

    Naw. not really worth overthinking. most mortal humanoids and monsters aren’t usually permanent residents. need to know how most monsters treat their refuse? just look at how creatures like bears go about it in real life and you can get a pretty good idea. As for groups of humanoids you can just imagine in real life how outlaws or outcast in the real world would treat a series of caves or some ruins they are hiding out in. in this case they usually find some kind of pit or just use a spare room for all the bodily functions. Or if the exit is close go out in the trees or amongst the boulders outside.

    So easy enough for small lairs and underground areas. there can be as much poop as you want ha ha. As for larger more mystical and mythic labyrinths I don’t think it’s usually necessary to worry about it at all.

  6. Isn't waste disposal the purpose behind certain creatures like carrion crawlers and gelatinous cubes? Imagine a mega dungeon that becomes a toxic environment because the PCs "accidentally" upset the balance by killing off the dungeon's decomposers.

  7. Never mind sanitation, what about VENTILATION?

  8. I have some potties in miniature for my dungeons for just this purpose ;)


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