Monday, May 3, 2010

First Homemade Dungeons

When I first started making my own dungeons it was pretty exciting. It was the first time I realized I could 'do it'. Make my own thing. Back then we didn't know the adventures sucked and frankly we didn't care. We were rolling dice (any that rolled off the table did not count), spilling pop on the carpet and too poor to buy pizza. It wasn't uncommon to play a marathon session until the DM passed out. There were no cell phones, texting, video games, and no personal laptops to distract us from the game. It was what we waited all week to do.

My first dungeons consisted of a Manila folder with a graph paper map taped to the inside and some random tables taped to the other side. The maps were basic. Boxes connected by hallways. Once in a while I would go nuts and make a slanted hallway. Pits were often a common feature. Usually I would roll a d6 and that's how many pits I would put in. Throw in as least one place where there was a secret door. It didn't matter that it made sense. It just mattered that it was there.

Room descriptions were basically who lived there, one feature of the room, maybe there was a table or chair, then the treasure, where it was located and if it was trapped.

Populating the rooms was done by hit dice usually. I'd go through and pick out all the 5-7HD creatures and start picking out which ones I wanted in which room. These were very static dungeons. The creatures just stayed in their rooms waiting for the PCs to arrive and take their treasure. There was no parlaying with them you just rolled to hit. Back then everyone had every special ability, AC, HD, and damage memorized. Even though I was making my own adventure it never occurred to me to make my own monsters.

After populating the dungeon I would use the treasure type given with the monsters and roll to see what they had. So there you have a bunch of ogres sitting on a pile of gold with 2-8 potions. I'd roll on the DM Guide tables to see what powers the potions had and if there was a magic item roll to see what it was. Another thing that never occurred to me at the time was if an ogre had a +2 club in his treasure it just sat in a chest or on the pile never to be used by the ogre. Don't know why, but of course eventually that changed. The location of the treasure was in a locked chest. And none of the monsters ever had the key. Not sure how they looked at all the pretty shinies.

And lastly experience points were handed out in great gobs, if the characters survived. Back then PCs only had one gear and that was forward. Retreat was not an option. Kill and take the treasure was all we knew.

On a side note one of the most important things I learned was to have a cool dungeon title name. Even if it was like every other dungeon out there if it had a cool name people wanted to go through it. I would reserve seats when I would DM my Taps Six Dungeon. The title meant nothing really, but everyone wanted to go through it to find out what it was all about. It was about kill them all and take their treasure.


  1. Heh. I must have been in time-travel mode when I changed the name of my blog. Apparently my brain skipped ahead about five hours and read the last sentence of your post.

  2. I think we work very hard to fool ourselves into thinking that (1) our dungeons are far removed from this, and (2) this can't be fun ;P

    Honestly, vary the map a bit and link a couple monster-infested rooms together thematically, tack on a pointless backstory, and you've got most published modules.

  3. Yep. That's pretty much how I remember it. :)

  4. And sometimes it's not a bad thing.

    I think everyone's games start that way.