Saturday, 29 May 2021

Dungeon Process: Slime Baroness and the Lady of Unterbranch Keep (Part 4 - Writing the Key)

Welcome to the fourth part of my series walking through my dungeon process in detail. Last time, I drew some maps and set out a layout for myself, and now I shall fill them with content. Check out the other posts in this series here

Here is a link to a PDF of what I have so far. 

The maps have incorrect highlighting and page numbers at the moment, as I won't go back and fix them until I'm certain of which content will stay on which page. 

All creature stats are for my Electric Bastionland/GLOG hack Catacombers. The stats would work in EB or Into the Odd with no conversion. All Hit Dice are d6, so just roll or use the average of 3hp per HD. If no STR, DEX, or CHA is listed that means it is 10. CD stands for Critical Damage, which a character takes after they've lost their HP and fail a STR save. 

Setting Up the Key

I started by labelling most of the rooms. I googled "medieval castle layout" a lot and tried to set up a series of rooms that would make sense for the vision I had in my mind of Unterbranch Keep. 

Some rooms I had ideas for their description in the key right off the bat. For example, I knew that the Barbican would have some animated suits of armour acting as guards, and that the Parlour would have a slime in it. Other rooms inspired content from their very nature. Obviously the Grand Hall would have a big feasting table and the Chapel would some benches and a dais. 

Room description for the Barbican

For other rooms I used my 'theme' tables from Part 1 - Theme and rolled once for each room. I even did this for many of the rooms which I already had ideas, just to keep sparking my mind. I also rolled on my custom dungeon stocking table to determine room contents (empty, creature, treasure, trap, etc). Obviously my spark tables have entries for certain creatures as well as "trap" and others, so sometimes I only rolled on either the spark tables or the dungeon table, depending on what I wanted. 

Writing Content

To fill out room contents I rely heavily on Tricks, Empty Rooms, and Basic Trap Design, by Courtney C. Campbell. It is probably my most-used RPG resource, and well worth the money spent on the PDF.

As I wrote more content the ideas started flowing more easily. I placed more slimes and darkly animated objects, and fleshed out a bit of the brigand stuff. I tried to place a lot of treasure in the lower dungeon levels and a lot of clues in the upper Keep levels, so players could figure out what was going on if they wanted to. 

Size and Interactivity

I tried to make this dungeon a bit smaller than my last big dungeon, the Cherry Crypts (62 keyed areas for SBLUK v. 98 for Cherry Crypts). It still felt quite large and it has taken me weeks to fill in all the content. Some of the rooms were a bit of a struggle, and I probably could have had more empty rooms. I tried too hard to stick to the spark tables and ended up with lots of tricks and traps, plenty of creatures, and a lot of interactive things (books, weird magic items, supplies, etc.) 

There are a few small factions (slimes, animated objects, goblins, ogres, the brigands, various former servants). I think there's a lot of room for interacting between them and playing around with the relationships that you could form. 

Room description for the Patio, where you can talk to skeleton librarian Robert Fish

Final Thoughts

I'm pleased with this so far. I really want to run a group through it, because I think that will provide me with some valuable feedback on how to improve things. I would expect that I would cut maybe 10-15 of the room contents (whichever ones end up being the least interesting). Distilling things down like that usually leaves behind only the best and most fun rooms. 

Next time I will write up some encounter tables and organize the treasure. I have sort of placed treasure a bit slapdashedly. I will go back and record the total value of the treasure and decide if I need to add or subtract any. Plus sort of just judge the treasure locations to see if it is distributed 'evenly.' 

Room description for the Grey Altar. I know if I was playing I wouldn't be able to resist.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 

The Series

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