Saturday, February 26, 2011
Square by Square: Megadungeon Mapping Mania
This is actually a lovely place to start because in some ways, map drafting is (for me anyway) one of the lowest-stress aspects of dungeon creation. No stocking has been done yet, not many specifics are known, and I am free to simply fill up sheet after sheet of graph paper with rooms, passages, caverns, doors, tunnels, stairwells, ramps, and the occasional bit of cartographic weirdness. I was slow getting started but four or five weekends ago I became a mapping fiend, creating more or less one entire megadungeon level (don't know which one yet) over the course of a few days. Last weekend I engaged in another mapping blitz, completing two-thirds of a level in one day, and I have plans to do more megadungeon mapping this weekend.
When I started creating maps for the megadungeon project in early January, one of the first methods that I wanted to try was to create a whole level or two using EGG's random dungeon generator charts from pp. 169-172 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. This soon proved a bit too tedious for me, as it involves a great deal of die rolling just to generate a very small amount of mapped material. No offense to Gary G., but has anybody out there developed a simpler, down-and-dirtier version of the random dungeon generator? I may return to that (aborted) randomly-generated map in time, but honestly I only lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes with those DMG random generation tables, and only got about a third of a page mapped. I love the idea of randomly-generated maps but apparently lack the patience to wade through that much die rolling. In short, I was bored.*
The thing that really inspired me about Rients' quick mapping method is that it freed me from planning, or worse, over-planning my sub-levels. My whole goal in using the DMG random generator had been to release the mapping process from my conscious control; Rients' suggestions helped me achieve that without all the damn die rolling. Now when I pull out a blank sheet of graph paper, I just start peppering those initial square and rectangular rooms around -- and that gives me some of the "random" feel I was going for with the DMG charts in the first place. Thanks Jeff!
(FYI, my One Hour Dungeon map of January 22 utilizes the Rientsian "I Need A Dungeon RIGHT NOW!" method as well. That One Hour Dungeon map has been added to my stack of "megadungeon map fodder," with an additional connecting map and a couple of sub-levels recently added to it for good measure.)
One final note about my mapping methodology: before I tuck each individual 8.5 x 11" map away into a file folder for future stocking, I add at least one "custom chamber" or special locale to it. That special locale -- which may be an unusually shaped chamber, a "water feature," or even a perfectly usual-seeming room with a statue or other fixture in it -- then gets named using Al Krombach's awesome Megadungeon Random Area Name Generator. I can't tell you how much fun I've been having with that name generator. Like my other mapping strategies, it is designed to keep the megadungeon and its contents just slightly outside my control. Thanks Al!
To be clear, I DO have a few ideas for megadungeon levels that will look a specific way, will feature certain preselected monster groups, will have a predetermined history, and therefore will be more consciously and deliberately designed. (Actually, this has already happened to a slight extent, as I have drawn most of the main entrance level to the megadungeon -- a level whose basic contours I have known in my head since the early 1990s.) But for now, I am trying to avoid over-thinking things too much and am instead letting random chance and quickie mapping techniques dominate my approach to cranking out the sheer bulk of maps I need in order to see the megadungeon project through to completion.
* I have since developed my own, slightly simpler random dungeon generator, but upon giving it a test run last weekend, I found that things didn't go much faster than they had using EGG's tables. So I am forced to concede that random dungeon generation may just be too slow and tedious a method for me in general. We will see.