Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mapping my megadungeon

I've been busy mapping Felltower aka the Ruins aka Grak Yorl ("the Boneyards" or "the Black Fortess" depending on who you ask).

I've printed my own graph paper because I didn't like the scale on the pads I already had. I've been busy; my requirement is to draw at least 1-2 rooms on the page every time I look at an unfinished map, and every morning and evening. If I bring the map with me to work on between classes or whatever, I make myself draw a few more lines on it. That way it's begun to fill out pretty quickly.

One thing is, I hate all my own maps. Seriously, my maps always look cruddy to me when I finish. Neat, well-drawn (or well-enough-drawn), but somehow sucky. Like the end result doesn't match the vague image in my head of what it should be.

Now, I'm not a big draw-and-erase kind of guy. I keep working at at, because ultimately quantity of finished rooms and stocked monsters will trump design. It doesn't matter so much if the dungeon isn't the most functionally and architecturally perfect place it could be. The players won't see the whole thing even if they map 90%+ of it. This section kinda sucks? Too bad, make the next section better. Those rooms will have monsters or not, treasure or not, tricks and traps or not. Onto the next section! Good enough is good enough.

But man, I look at it and I think it's a mess. This happens with my old dungeons - I look at stuff I did for other games and think, okay, this is also a mess. With one exception, where I really had a great idea, ran with it, and was able to keep it a cohesive whole from one end to the other. But it's not that big (a mere 8 or 9 levels, depending on how you count, and not very wide) nor very portable to this game.

One good thing I did is a sideways map of the main levels, and quickly sketch on paper the "idea" of the levels and the entrances and exits. That way I don't have to decide on the fly how many egresses and entrances there are, just place them.


Are there good guides to mapping dungeon levels? I've looked at a few more generic ones, but hints that would stop me from drawing too-easy transits to the bottom levels and nonsensical stair arrangements would help. Ones that give me an idea of how many rooms I might want, or which direction doors normally open, or ideas for forestalling "we always go left" and so on. Just hints on execution rather than planning. I have a plan, even if it's not a perfectly realized whole. It's help with, okay, so if these are storerooms, what's a good way to lay them out - that kind of stuff.


  1. This link
    is probably the greatest discussion on megadungeons ever and worth the loss of productivity to read all 41 pages

  2. I've been meaning to read that huge DF thread for a while and just have not made the time.

    I'm not sure if either of these following links are exactly what you are looking for, but maybe.

    1. The Foray into Dungeon Building series of posts over at Grognardling too. The nice thing about this series is that it is very step by step. It also has links to other good resources.

    2. Beyond the Black Gate has a number of relevant posts.

  3. @John - I've read some of that thread. I do need to sit down and read it all, so I may as well start now! Thanks for the reminder.

    @Brendan - I've read the second link (and its posts) but not the first. That's helpful.

    I just kind of want to find a "best practices" document - like, "always ensure at least three doors exist between level entrances and exits" or "never put (feature X) next to (feature Y) because of (reason Z)."

    Meanwhile I knocked off another 20% of the level between posting this post and reading the comments. Got to keep filling in the maps. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...