Thursday, November 6, 2014

Notes on Creating a Zylarthen Dungeon: Part II

  1. Idea for those 240 Sea Horses: Let's make them giant and green and controlled by virtually-nude maidens with tridents! Nah, that was already done in 5E. Not.
  2. For people with iPhones: I should have called it "Temple of the Headless Android".
  3. Background to the Dungeon: I think I hinted at this in one of my Google+ posts (though not in the blog itself) but the idea is simple: After the Witch put a curse on Sleeping Beauty--something like, "you will sleep until kissed by someone pure of heart"--Sleeping Beauty was of course spirited away to somewhere where people pure of heart would have difficulty obtaining access to her cheek. Her father, the king, then went mad (as you might too if your daughter had been kidnapped by a Witch) and the kingdom went to ruin. It is now a foul place. Meanwhile, the Witch found and/or dug out and constructed a dungeon beneath Sleeping Beauty's now abandoned castle. There she lured or captured various "pets" and invited others in. The idea was to guard Sleeping Beauty from suitors, but also to create a magnet that would attract optimistic  adventurers from all parts of the world where they would subsequently be slimed or chomped or fried to death or whatever, as the Witch observed it all with sadistic glee from her crystal ball. If they made it far enough, then they could be charmed and added to her growing entourage of slaves. Also, for the Witch it was fun to live in a luxury apartment beneath a horrific maze brimming with monsters. That's actually the life goal of most Witches.
  4. Geography of the Dungeon: I envision it as ten to twelve levels. I'd like to Jaquay it, perhaps primarily by centering it around a shaft that potentially goes all the way down. It would be spooky and scary, with a rickety stairway and mist wafting up, etc. This is how the Witch, as well as other powerful monsters get out, without the rigmarole of slogging back and forth through the, so to speak, lower-class housing. I've never seen a dungeon that does this precisely. Perhaps there are arguments against it. Any thoughts?
  5. Are the Levels Too Small? So, there are 1-6 sections of 1-40 rooms per level, giving an average of 70 rooms, 20-25 of them occupied by monsters. However, the actual rolls yielded 90-100 rooms per level. But this is still only two-thirds of the level size of Stonehell, which to me is sort of the gold standard of megadungeons. One plausible principle of a megadungeon, I think, is that if you want to try, you can clear or mostly clear a dungeon level and then gain a class level (if you haven't been slimed, chomped, fried, etc.). But if the level is too small, then that obviously becomes too easy. I think I will add a few sections per level, as some of them seem pretty thin to me. The result will be a sprawl with the same rough averages as Stonehell but looking less, so to speak, symmetrical.
  6. Randomness is an Imagination Pump not a Straight Jacket or a Suicide Pact with Stupidity: Well, that title is pretty self-explanatory. Consider these points:
  7. If They're Cool, I'll Let Them In, Whatever the Dice Say: There are roughly 300 distinct monsters in Seven Voyages of Zylarthen's Book of Monsters, but even if I expand the number of rooms, some of them will inevitably not come up in the rolls. But if they are particularly cool, it would be a crime not to add them.
  8. Inappropriate for Dungeons: The Monster Level Tables on pp. 10-14 include ALL monsters, not just monsters conventionally found in dungeons. Now, a few results assigning non-standard creatures (such as that Boar in the test Dungeon) are perhaps neat. But if 20% are like that, then that might be weird-stupid, not weird-cool.
  9. Too Many Watery Creatures: This might be the case with watery monsters. Odds are you will get more of them than in your standard dungeon. Now maybe it is a watery dungeon. But in that case, every Zylarthen dungeon will be watery on average if rolled randomly. On this theme, exhibit A is those Sea Horses. Now, there are 240 of them on 3rd level! I might be able to make that work, but then again I might not. And you haven't yet met the multiple Giant Squids and Water Nagas on the 6th level! Upon consideration, some will be edited out and replaced.
  10. Too Many Friendlies: Stocking a dungeon with some allies or at least some potential allies is cool. But too many is sort of weird. You haven't seen it yet but there are 420+ Elves on the 5th level. Why? Keep in mind that in Zylarthen, Elves are Lawful. Oh, and I forgot to say that in that same section there are Blink Dogs, Werebears and Silver Dragons. What are all those diverse good guys doing down there? Now, I think there are four ways to go on this: a) They're just there for whatever reason. Okay, but frankly I think that's dumb. b) They're evil versions of the standard monsters--Drow or whatever. For multiple reasons I don't want to go down that route for Zylarthen. It's not that Elves need to be Lawful. I could have made them Chaotic a la Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. But I think it's just too pat to say that all races, or all Lawful races, have flip sides. It's a cliche. c) They could have been charmed or whatever by the Witch. I'm going to consider that, but I'm not sure it's the right answer. Or, finally, d) just re-roll them. I'm inclining to that right now.
Well, as Gary Gygax might have said: Divide the jewelry and bag those coppers! Onward and downward!


  1. I think a level where you have to wade through 3 or 4 feet of water the whole time and fear deeper halls is cool and challenging. I'd keep the sea horses (maybe moving them to same level with the squids?).
    Maybe they're not elves; maybe they are doppelgängers. Or predegenerate goblins that still look like elves.

  2. Yes, I like the idea of a "drowned" level too.
    For the Elves, when I said re-roll I meant replace. And humanoids are a good idea. There are Doppelgängers coming up on 5 or 6 I think. But a clan of Doppelgängers masquerading as Elves would be quite fiendish. Even though a bit of "gonzo" diversity is good, you have to give some value to player common sense. So if suddenly they discover this large Elvish community in the middle of an exceedingly dangerous dungeon curated by a Witch, it would be reasonable to ask, what is wrong with this picture?

  3. Quite fiendish=mega dungeon. Also, it's a mega dungeon; how reasonable can the players be?