16
Apr
09

dungeon construction: you

“What? I have to appear in this dungeon?” Well not explicitly but…

In a sense you are already there. Your own preferences and foibles sneaked in along the way. If you’re someone who loves big honking combats then you’ve designed for that already (and included the extra strong pot of coffee for your players) and your traps are nasty pieces of work. If you prefer character exploration and dialogue with puzzles, it’s different.

Of course you can play against type and such things can be particularly effective – in this you can craftily solicit the help of other people (and the Internet is such a wonderful tool for this) via the online forums and blogs you peruse. With all this content and inspiration, it’s going to be very very difficult for a rules lawyer/setting maven to keep up with everything.

There are other ways – maybe by making anagrams and word play of your family’s names into the setting a la Gary Gygax. Maybe modelling monsters on unpleasant co-workers for Boffo the Barbarian to whack with his axe? Rumour has it Planescape’s Lady of Pain is based on a female executive of TSR. Don’t worry you’re not the only one who does it.

The dungeon need not be a Rorschach-blot of your deepest fears and fantasies. Yet these can be strong inspiration if handled with respect for you and your players. You can get some intense gaming out these things – even common dreams of flying, falling or being chased by a dinosaur can have an impact on your players if managed right.

Case in point – spiders. I ran a Vampire game where the main antagonists were spiders who’d inadvertently been ghouled by an incapacitated vampire who was running out of blood. When a character found the vampire and a spider crawled out of it’s mouth, the player sat thunderstruck and then smiled – later he congratulated me on the impact of that particular scene.

Joseph Campbell proposes the underworld is an allegory for the challenges and trials of life and every writer writes of what they know about. Know, respect and entertain your players (who put on their own show with their characters, even if they seem utterly different) as well and you can create something with the power of your own internal mythology.

Or just have a laugh with it. You remember, fun?

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