Our summer series continues with Week 3 of Ray Otus’s work book, The Gygax 75 Challenge. This week covers “The Dungeon,” so designing content for an adventure in your new campaign world.
If you want to follow from the beginning, you can find the other weeks here:
The challenge is based on an old article by Gary Gygax about how to create a setting and get it ready for actual play with your home group in roughly 5 steps. This thread is for posting notebook photos, text in bullet points, links to markdown, etc. The informal accountability group on the NSR Discord server started the process on June 1st, 2022, so Week 3 covers progress from roughly June 15 - June 22.
If you haven’t started yet, no need to worry – some of us started a little earlier, some a little later than others. The important part is to keep a steady pace without burning out or losing your initial spark of creativity!
Week 3: the Dungeon
This week was pretty difficult as I’ve never actually designed a dungeon before, but I had fun with it.
The Ziggurat of Zamor
A jet-black pyramid rises ominously out of the scrubland.
Rooms and exits by level: 9 (2), 7 (2), 11 (2)
Themes (budget): Blades (4), Ooze (3), Decay (5)
11 Monsters: Surgical drones stalk the halls of the main floor, deranged by hundreds of years of isolation. Cleaning bots follow behind, intent on “decontamination”. The second floor is patrolled by crimson and pale oozes consuming psi-rats and giant centipedes that have worked their way in to feed on the nutrient rich paste produces here. A central pool houses massive electric eels. A krynth stalks the second and third levels. On the third level a mind-wraith waits imprisoned in the Casket of the Ancients. Four Tech-thralls wait inactive to do the wraiths bidding. Massive beetles consume the fungi overrunning the third level and cordyceps infested humanoids wander aimlessly.
6 features: A massive organ processor sits in one of the rooms on the first floor. Drones will attempt to subdue PC’s and bring them for harvesting. Broken tubing pumps anesthesic gas into one of the hallways. Massive vats of boiling nutrient paste cover a large swath of the floor of the second level. Narrow walkways provide a way across. In the pool lies a mysterious pool of liquid silver that seems to beckon to the players. The Casket of the Ancients (a supercomputer) occupies the central room of the third floor. One of the doors out of this room is sealed with a strange, mirror like screen.
3 Wondrous Items: A Blade of Division is embedded in the wall of the processing room. An Amulet of Wraith Binding lies behind the mirror door. The Krynth has a Living Whip wrapped tight around it’s throat.
D10 Omen bats
D2 Blade wraiths
D6 spore hounds
D10 Tsuurik Zealots
Mortally wounded Krynth
(Apparently I can only put 1 image in a given post so I’ll just do the first level and reply with the others)
Week 3 was weird for me. I got a lot done but I wouldn’t say I’m finished. I kind of went down a rabbit hole and made it harder than it needed to be. But even so, I only spent maybe 6 hours on it. Anyway, here are a few screenshots of what I’m up to in Obsidian. I also talk about it on my podcast.
I basically finished a level, plus made up the monsters, treasures, etc. for the other levels.
Week 3: The Dungeon
I completed this week a month ago, during the June challenge, but I drew this flowchart dungeon diagram in pencil on a sheet of paper and it wasn’t coming out in any scans or photos. Plus I wanted to clean up the image a bit and digitize it so I waited to post my update for this week here until I had done so… a month after the fact. Better late than never!
The Fire Temple
A scorching soot-choked air bellows from an ancient threshold at the mouth of Boh-n Jocho.
- There is a collapsed chute in Kado Tunnel that leads to Floor 1, room 9.
- Behind Geho Falls is a magma river pouring into the gorge. Following this river leads to Basement 1, room 8.
- The caldera of Boh-n Zawa is open and could be descended into, though it is a very long descent.
Underneath and interconnecting the Five Brothers volcanoes is a massive cathedral built out of the skeletons of long-extinct leviathans. Some believe this location to be the site of all the world’s power, the furnace of the Goddesses used to forge creation. The temple’s origins are older than any known civilization.
Dungeon Spark Table
The Boss Monster
- This is in a very unfinished state, a first pass at best, but the point of the challenge is to continue on with the other weeks and bookmark what you have left to do for later, so I did so with this week. The actual time I spent working on this dungeon was probably only about 6 cumulative hours, much of which was actually spent tinkering with the dungeon building procedures in TDLBY.
- Emoji are used to denote Keys and their Locks. The wrench represents the Key Item located in Floor 1 room 2, and the wrench on a connector means that door requires the key item to proceed.
- The layout leaves a lot to be desired, imo. I didn’t actually get to rearranging the dungeon’s features to create the sort of meta-puzzle that I design for in TDLBY dungeons.
- The overarching puzzle has to do with Switches A,B,C, & D. Flipping a switch opens a series of sluice gates that alter the flow of lava throughout the dungeon. The connectors labeled with one of these letters needs that switch to be in the open position in order to pass through. The last hidden switch, D, can be opened. It isn’t need to get into the Boss Chamber, but if it is, enough lava flows into that caldera to cause an eruption, exposing the bottom of the chamber and the boss arena to the sky outside, giving the players an advantage.
- I don’t think the current arrangement of the switches and their locks provides an interesting challenge at the moment. I’d need to make another couple of passes at the whole flow of the dungeon to make sure that this isn’t just a linear march to the boss chamber.
- The distribution of locks and keys is a bit of an afterthought, and the connections between the large caldera chambers are all funnels, currently. Ideally I’d like for there to be more complex connections that require either clever key management or manipulation of the switches.
- There are no room descriptors, wandering monsters, or treasures. Individual room puzzles are also currently missing.
I’d like to revisit the concepts I started here, but I’ll probably wait quite a while to do so. I may or may not actually update this post when that happens.