Saturday, November 27, 2021

Felltower tomorrow & a megadungeon best practice

So I'm sitting here on a Saturday night, listening to a hockey game, and getting ready for a game of Felltower tomorrow.

One helpful bit I've learned as I stock deeper levels of Felltower is to stock directly onto the maps. I've long done that for what's a room - a trap, a treasure, a puzzle, a monster, etc.

But it's helpful for a "new" level - one I haven't really detailed thoroughly - to then do a pass writing what's in a room. "Two golems." "Orc guards." "Beholder platoon." It's easier to see the relationship between rooms once those details are scribbled down in a visible fashion.

Why not play using the details on the map?

- It's hard to write all the details you need. I know, blah blah blah old school games only need you to list numbers and names and HP . . . but that's only true if you have the other details elsewhee. I prefer to have them all in a block assigned to the room.

- it's easier to add details to a document, and expand them as needed. This is especially true if the room contents keep changing.

- it's easier to search a document than to search a map. And I mean CRTL+F, grep, etc. - hey, is there another lich in this dungeon? Did they take that Potion of Human Control? Where the hell did I place Malice in this dungeon?

Perhaps in a small dungeon it's easy to play off the map, but I find it much easier to play off the document . . . but to take advantage of the map when doing the second-pass stocking.

So yeah, as I stock away, I find it easier to figure out what is in room 5-23 or 7-03 or 11-55 by looking at the map, writing it there, then writing it in the key, and then using the keyed map to play off of.


  1. Agreed, Map + Document. Even if it's a small map with lot's of white space, "amp + document".

    It doesn't mean that if I lose the document the map becomes somewhat unintelligible after a few years of not having used it, as I use an ever evolving shorthand on the map... but that just means I wipe it clean and start fresh.

  2. Also... do you still use hand-drawn maps or have you gone completely digital in your mapping? I admit, I'm still a caveman when it comes to map-making, even if I scan it for easy printing and copying, I drew it old school.

    1. Paper. Drawn on graph paper with small squares, with rulers and stencils and mechanical pencils.

    2. I've always been a "blank paper with rulers and stencils" man myself. I did use graph paper back in the day (early to mid 80s), but it always felt like it cramped my creativity, that "stay within the lines" feeling, and switching to hex paper for outdoors versus squares for indoors, and then GURPS going all hexes...

      In high school I ditched lined paper for typing paper finally and haven't looked back since. I do use mechanical pencils though. Except when I throw caution to the wind and decide* to just "do it all in ink the first time dammit" like a complete psycho.

      .* Because I don't have any pencils at that moment.

  3. Denormalization is all the rage, and is often quite handy for humans. Humans are generally the target audience anyway.

    1. This comment makes no sense to me. It's apropos what in the post?

  4. How small are "small squares" that you still have room to include room contents directly in the map, even in shorthand? Would you post more about your own practice of map and key process? You've done a bit already so maybe you could point back to the relevant posts but also add any new details you would like to pass on that were not mentioned before. I'm going to share my own in short and I'm looking to hear how other GMs approached this organizational task. Likely we all have different styles, which interests me.

    When I created my megadungeon I did the full detail in normal 5 to the inch grids (store bought graph paper). I had plenty of room to draw all the proper symbols, traps, one-way and secret and concealed doors (and trap-doors/sub-level tunnels), statues, curtains, etc. right on the map. I used color pencils to convey additional information and inked the walls for clarity and shaded the dead space. But I couldn't play from this easily because it was a MEGA dungeon (i.e. 45 pages of maps) so I printed a custom 20 squares to the inch paper (with bold lines every 10), copied the map walls *only* to that scale, and added alphabetic and numeric cross reference info on the sides to make it quick to find the proper detail map (like a visual index of the dungeon) and demarcating "zones". The index map was 3 pages covering the 14 zones and 45 detail maps. I also had my dungeon notes on the computer typed up by zone (conceptual grouping of areas that share dungeon features and wandering monsters) plus the room key (which consisted of the room number in the zone, shorthand of if a room was classified as monster/trap/treasure/special), i.e. "Zone 14: Western Maze of Chaos" and "06 M-$-" (room 06 in zone 14 has a monster and treasure but no trap or special) then my own notes bolding things I need to keep in mind as the players approach the room like smells, lights, sounds, occupants, alertness of occupants, visible treasures, trigger points. As the party entered a zone I pulled out that key, turned to the map they were on, and could at a glance between them know if they were approaching an alert guard or a section where the air is freezing cold or smells of mildew...

    1. I'm doing 8 to the inch, but I write small and I have big rooms.

      I like the two-scale map approach; that helps solve the issue I mentioned with the post-sized maps in Undermountain . . . with a truly big dungeon, the maps can be unwieldy for the GM to deal with.


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