If somehow you haven’t heard about it, Dungeon 23 is a community challenge taking place throughout 2023 to create a 365 room mega dungeon, one room per day.
You can read the originator, Sean McCoy’s plan for it here:
Personally, I don’t have much need for a mega dungeon. I run a ponderously slow narrative driven campaign, in which a 10 room dungeon can take us several weeks. I also run a West Marches style campaign, in which dungeons need to be short enough to complete within a 2-3 hour session.
Therefore, I’m going to adapt the challenge slightly to suit my own needs as a GM.
Rather than a mega dungeon, I’ll create multiple dungeons of 7, 14 or 30ish keyed rooms.
- 7 room dungeons for one-shots.
- 14 and 30 room dungeons for campaign play.
Other than that, I’ll try to stick to the following:
1. Embrace the process of emergent creativity
Let your imagination run wild. There’s no agenda and no backstory to align to.
Write down what comes to mind and don’t look back, let your weird ideas grow and inspire more weird ideas.
2. Don’t plan in advance and don’t skip ahead
Make notes, jot down ideas, but do not outline future dungeons.
Allow each dungeon to be influenced by the last.
Pace yourself. The goal is persistence. There’s a secondary goal of patience.
3. Don’t let ‘perfect’ defeat ‘good’
Just write something, anything. The goal is persistence, not perfection. You can always edit it later.
4. Use the bad days
Sometimes life, work and other things need to be prioritised.
‘2d6 goblins’ is a serviceable room. Use the bad day to inspire what they’re doing.
5. Use good dungeon design principles:
- Multiple entrances and exits
- Loops and multiple paths
- Secret areas
- Variety of rooms (size, shape, purpose, features)
- Add empty rooms
- Upset expectations
- Include NPCs for role play encounters and interesting monsters which don’t immediately incite combat.
6. Create encounter tables
Every dungeon needs an encounter table.
Roughly 1d6 for a 7 room dungeon and 2d6 or larger for a 14/ 30 room dungeon.
Include things that couldn’t fit in the rooms, which will upset expectations or the narrative and make players think on their feet.
7. Get inspired
Use ideas from books, films and TV to incorporate into the dungeons.
Use generators to inspire fresh creativity and read monster manuals to get ideas which are new to you.
Creativity begets creativity. Make sure you’re fueling the fire.
This challenge serves two purposes for me. A focus for the many ideas brewing in my head and a chance to develop my writing style. I hope to look back at the end of 2023 and see how my writing has got better. The same goes for drawing as I hope to draw out a map for every dungeon myself.
Lastly, I plan to share my writing regularly. Perhaps I’ll post a room a day on Mastodon…
I’ll certainly publish each finished dungeon here on the blog to keep me accountable and because this is a community project – it should be shared with the community. Let my dungeons inspire yours, I’ll be doing the same!
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