So, I’m trying to wrap my head around designing a move for dungeon delves.
I know, I know, there is a lot of conversations about this in the tavern! Bear with me.
In one of them, we discussed about using the Navigate the Labyrinth move from Jason Cordova, which actually works petty much out of the box.
But what if you want to have specific rooms or specific encounters you wan to play out?
For example, I’m running Tomb of Annihilation and I don’t care about running the dungeons as written nor do I have the intention to use a “classic” method of going room by room and using the map 1-for-1.
That said, I do want to read the material and extract the interesting parts. I’m a big fan of the 5-rooms dungeon principle and so I intend to convert the dungeons into 5 rooms dungeons.
The method I’m trying to use is to name and describe in big lines each of the 5 rooms in my GM book but hand waived the dungeon exploration itself.
So I though about making a move that will simulate the delving itself that happens in-between each “themed” room but I think it needs much more love. It’s kinda meh…
Delve the dungeon
When you delve the dungeon, say how you face one of its many challenges, then roll +STAT.
On a 10+, you overcome the challenge and safely reach the next room.
On a 7-9, you reach the next room but you encounter a guardian or activate a trap along the way.
On a 6-, you can’t find a way to reach the next room for now, plus anything else the GM says.
17 thoughts on “So, I’m trying to wrap my head around designing a move for dungeon delves.”
Someone made a move recently involving a resource called Light or Torch or something, I guess inspired by Torchbearer. Can I have the link to that move so I can check if I could grab ideas from it?
David Perry and Peter J are the two folks who I recall consistently noodling over these things.
Just so I’m clear on what you’re trying to do, what you’re describing sounds like this:
GM preps the Big Important Rooms. Maybe not with maps, per se, but like with impressions and possible things that could happen there.
Big Important Rooms have connectors to each other. So like, the “Main Entrance” could link to “Great Hall” and “Guard Rooms.” The “Great Hall” could link back to “Main Entrance” but also “Central Stair Well” and “Royal Chambers” and “Cellars.” Etc.
(Personal opinion: the “connectors” should have like 1-3 word descriptions, like “archway” or “kitchen/servants quarters”.)
You want a move to “red line” the connectors, the way Undertake a Perilous Journey “red lines” the trip between town and the dungeon. Some quick procedure to determine if they just get through to the next area or not.
(By “red line” I am referencing Indiana Jones movies, not discriminatory mortgage practices.)
Is that a fair description of your goals?
Would that be enough for you? Feels… uninspired (which is what it is lol)
Delve the dungeon
When you delve the dungeon, say how you face one of its many challenges, then roll +STAT
On a 10+, you safely reach the next room.
On a 7-9, you’ll reach the next room but first the GM makes a move.
Jeremy Strandberg that’s exactly it
In my brainstorm I actually even doodled a dungeon layout with 5 rooms and the connector lines between them but I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary/useful.
Something like this, perhaps?
Yeah that was it. Thanks! I’ll check if I can steal ideas from it 😆
Cheers. Steal away!
So, my solution: you don’t need a move for part 3. Not a specific one, at least.
The idea behind the Explore the Labyrinth move is that the dungeon isn’t mapped at all, the paths aren’t mapped at all, the guardians aren’t mapped at all. It’s a way to proceduralize the creative brainstorming between players and GM and encourage everyone to decide what they find. It also “red lines” the moment to moment travel, but that’s actually kind of superfluous.
In your case, you’re prepping the dungeon, at least the “differentiated” areas. And connectors between them are just “undifferentiated areas” in which random encounters might occur.
You’re already prepping the dungeon, right? So, as part of your prep, jot down ~7 interesting things they could encounter (dangers, discoveries, NPCs, or just GM moves), en route or in the main areas, either way.
* Goblins (2d6) searching for something at behest of their master
* Unstable hallway/stairway, risk collapsing as they pass
* Goblins (1d4+1) guarding passageway (d6: 1 lying in well-concealed ambush and fortified position; 2 w/merc lieutenant there, haranguing them; 3 bored but alert; 4 distracted by gambling, food, etc.; 5 actively bickering; 6 asleep on the job)
* Goblin outcast (imprisoned or trying to flee, total turncoat)
* Dead former adventurers, drained of life by hungry wraith (still lurking nearby)
* Despondent ghoul, chased out of its lair by mercenaries/goblins, unwilling to give up old home, interested in helping PCs but will totally turn on them
* Torches/lamps running low, need to replenish
* Dead end/cave in… make them backtrack.
Then, when the PCs move from area to area, you don’t need a roll. You just decide whether you need to make their lives more interesting.
If you want to disclaim decision making, use the Die of Fate. Arrange from worst to least bad, 1-7 or 8 or whatever. When they travel, roll d10 (or d12 if you’re generous). Maybe roll twice/take lowest if they’re making a lot of noise. If they roll a number, unleash that on them using your GM moves. If they roll higher than the encounter list, they just get where they’re going. (And some results, like the despondent ghoul or the goblin outcast, are unique. Cross them off.)
So, like, the head out of the Great Hall through the kitchens and servants quarters. You roll a 6, the despondent ghoul. Or you just think about how quickly they got through the Main Entrance and the Great Hall and you’re like “I need to spice things up” and the despondent ghoul jumps out at you (because frankly, he was your best idea out of the lot and you totally want to see him in use). So you pick that one.
And, either way, you’re like “You move through the old kitchens and pantry, down into the servants quarters, everything covered with dust and rubble and cobwebs. And you start to notice that some of the dust has been disturbed down here, recently. Something humanoid shuffling around, but not wearing any shoes. And the air smells just foul, like a dead thing rotting in the walls.” (show signs of a looming threat) “What do you do?”
And then you play the game. And they deal with the ghoul and maybe the destroy it or maybe they flee or maybe they talk to it and get its help in finding the mercs and running them out.
And when that’s done, you jump ahead to the next main area, where they were heading.
Point being: the kind of point-crawl dungeon your describing doesn’t need a player move. It needs ideas for interesting things that could happen, and then just run the game.
Also see “Flux Spaces” http://www.paperspencils.com/2017/07/09/flux-space-in-dungeons/
David Perry that was excellent reading and goes toward Jeremy’s comment.
Guess I should look that way 😉
I’ll brainstorm a bit during lunch break. Thanks!
Turns out it’s very friggin’ fun converting an unnecessary complex D&D dungeon with the Flux method! And also pretty easy!
Your move kind of seems like Defy Danger move, but zoomed out.
Yeah at one point I said to myself : dude your just making DD lol
This thread has some great stuff in it. Thank you everyone!
Just stumbled over this post.
You’re doing the world a disservice if you don’t call this move Defy Danger Zone. 🙂
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