Spending studio hours switching back and forth between Stonetop and Freebooters 2e, and right now I’m writing the…

Spending studio hours switching back and forth between Stonetop and Freebooters 2e, and right now I’m writing the…

Spending studio hours switching back and forth between Stonetop and Freebooters 2e, and right now I’m writing the Freebooters dungeon chapter. If you have the time, I would love suggestions for more things in the following categories. I’m not going to be able to cover everything, but I’m guessing I’ve overlooked some basic things.









Ancient city

Underworld (think Underdarkish)

Origin unknown (most classic dungeons)


Marching Order


Situational awareness and constraint (consider the physical space)

Light & Darkness

Wandering Monsters

Traps & Other Secrets

Saving throws & Luck

25 thoughts on “Spending studio hours switching back and forth between Stonetop and Freebooters 2e, and right now I’m writing the…”

  1. Under GM advice, how about a few words on ecology? All those monsters need to eat, right? They need water too.

    Another possibility under constraint would be fun ways to mix up the environment. Not every fight is going to happen in a rectangular room with a perfectly flat floor. There’s rubble, there’s collapsing ledges, there’s lava. This is a great way to keep fights varied.

    Also, I’d like to see a few words about keeping on the pressure. Monsters don’t just sit around and wait for someone to beat them up. If there are intruders in the lich’s tower, is the lich really going to sit on his hands while these murderhobos decide to take a rest and recover spells?

    For dungeon types, how about an outdoor dungeon? While not dungeons in the classic sense, they can still be a concentrated source of trouble, even if there aren’t many walls.

    If you want to go with something weirder, you can have dungeons in pocket planes or dimensions. Anything could happen there.

  2. I really like the cooperative map making in Freebooters on the Frontier. Maybe something similar for dungeons? The parts that players offer up could end up as PC rumors. And of course, all of them might not be implemented. Or there could be a critical twist!

  3. For Dungeon Types, are you thinking about their foundation/origin? Or their current state?

    Assuming you’re thinking foundation, here are MOAR DUNGEON TYPES:




    Underground passages/tunnels

    Planar intrusion

    Natural caverns (e.g. Mammoth Caves)


    (some of these overlap with what you’ve got already, but whatevs. Braindump.)

    Other things about dungeon crawling to consider, maybe they go into the GM Advice?

    Noise: you’re going to make some, it’ll echo, they’ll know you’re there

    Tight quarters: if someone carved a corridor out of sandstone, they aren’t going to have carved it 10 ft wide and 12 ft tall. It’ll be like a submarine, and good look wielding spear and shield effectively, much less swing a sword or (HA) a flail.

    Confusion: oh my god so easy to get lost in a complex cave system, especially in torch light

    Logistics for the inhabitants how do they get in and out? what do they eat? where do they poop? If that lightning bolt trap is in the middle of the only hallway between area A and area B, how do the critters in area B ever get out?

    Psychology of things that live in holes under ground they are rarely well adjusted

  4. Extra dungeon types: Cave/natural complex, Elemental/magical construct, Multi-planar vortex, Basement/cellars/catacombs.

    GM Advice: Factions, think in 3D, multiple access points/hidden shortcuts to varying danger levels, Clues to empower meaningful choices, different rules in the mythic underworld.

  5. Crashed spaceship (hmm, wonder where that inspiration came from?); crashed meteor; Gut of a giant earth elemental/giant/creature thingy (a la Snits Revenge); Warehouse makes me think of a Guildhall – particularly the Thieve’s Guild or the Wizards’ Tower. Rob Brennan mentioned cellar – I was big into the theater in college, and our theater had a maze of rooms and hallways under the stage. Some of which had doors which in turn led to steam tunnels that ran throughout campus. Actual real-live dungeons!

    For GM advice – how do they get that treasure out of the dungeon? Also – Safe havens in the dungeon. Including – entire communities underground. When we were playing 4th edition, the Thunderspire whatis adventure from WotC had this awesome 7-pillared hall underground that was a village just above the Underdark. It was where we went to rest, to resupply, and to buy or sell magic items and information.

  6. Use up their resources – advice on ways to track torches, rations, water, equipment wear and tear simply. I haven’t played Freebooters, but I understand you have a more definite way of tracking time than vanilla DW? At least I see rounds mentioned in the spell table.

  7. Aside from the great articles already linked, here are some I’ve collected on the subject:

    bankuei.wordpress.com – Dungeons Part One: Theory and Design



    (written about adventures in general but well applied to dungeons specifically)


    (“CREATING AN “OLD-SCHOOL” DUNGEON” section… surprisingly PbtAesque for old-school musings)


    (Speaking of Skerples, a great “teaching dungeon” for anyone who hasn’t already seen it)

  8. And here are some brainstormed dungeon types that might be overlooked:

    – Colossal rubbish pit/hazardous waste storage

    – “Bomb” shelter

    – Secret headquarters

    – Proving grounds/gauntlet/arena

    – Purely decoratory architecture for a subterranean or magical culture

    – Transportation route/waystation thereon

  9. Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! This is great.

    David Perry, yes, I’m iterating and expanding on Plumbing the Depths. The main things I’m doing mechanically are 1) swapping out the “fulfill the theme” counter with “when you find the last Unique Area, the dungeon is fully explored” and creating a more procedural step-by-step approach to dungeon generation that includes tables for each of the basic dungeon types (mine, tomb, etc.).

    I like your “leads” move! I’ve been looking at ways to Jaquay things, and so far it’s been more advice than straight table results, but now I’m reconsidering that. I may just fold a simple “loops back to a previous area exit” into the connection generation.

  10. Jason Lutes May we hope for a “revised” Perilous Wilds? I love it, but I’m a bit puzzled when I try to get out something from the actual dungeon generation rules.

  11. Andrea Parducci, it has crossed my mind. It will be some time yet, but I can see updating TPW to a “2.0” version once I’m happy with these rules.

  12. Freebooters is all wilderness dungeons, right? Which eliminates a lot of more urban kinds of dungeons like heists or alleyways or neighborhoods, unless they’re isolated in a Tower of The Elephant kind of way. But you might include a note about urban environments, in case they come up.

    Other things that come to mind (might be too weird):

    – a wrecked ship or transport (on a beach, underwater, etc.)

    – inside the body of an enormous beast or mechanical monstrosity(dead or alive)

    – a mirage or series of illusions or magical vision

    – a minor hell or some other planar thing

    – a series of caverns (might be covered by other things)

    One thing I’ve been doing for The Coast of Chaos (AKA Borderlands of the Unknown) is coming up with custom location/dungeon-specific tables for different areas of the map, so if you have any kind of advice/tools/suggestions for how GMs can adapt/tweak your tables or use them to generate more specialized tables would be great.

    Like, say I’m generating a Temple (so I just start from that entry, not rolling for that result), but I specifically need a necromantic temple to the raven-headed goddess of unlife. Is there a way I can either interpret the results on your tables differently (reading them all through a certain narrative lens?) or actually custom build my own table using entries or rolled results from your table?

  13. J. Walton, thanks for the suggestions. The basic approach I’m taking is to establish the dungeon’s themes up front (as in The Perilous Wilds) and fold those into the matrix of things to consider as you interpret random table results. I’m going deeper than TPW on the dungeon generation stuff, with a page of tables for each of the 12+ dungeon types, so those results will be a little less general. But yeah — the idea is to establish the lens and then look at things through that lens.

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