Basic D&D or T&T with random dungeons

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Basic D&D or T&T with random dungeons

Billiam Babble
I know there's a few really cool random dungeon generators on here.  I've been playing around with my own tiles but also I've had a hankering to create a really simple d6 based solo-dungeon builder.

The intention was to then use it with a favourite system like Basic Fantasy (D&D B/X) or T&T.   I posted some thoughts on the Basic Fantasy forum, but I think they think I'm only pimping my tiles - which in a way I guess I was, but I'm genuinely interested in different ways of generating a dungeon using pen and paper.

I thought I'd come up with something simple but it's amazing how quickly the choices become exponential.  As usual, my model of a good system is not far off WHQ and AHQ.  And recently I was enjoying reading how Wrath of Ashardalon works with those square jigsaw tiles.

Anyhow here's some quick tables (d6s only) and random practical gaming thoughts:

I'm primarily thinking of a solitaire model - 1-2 characters minimum 3rd level onwards - perhaps the party number or levels can act as a multiplier when it comes the assessing the encounter difficulties (maybe based on total monster xp?)

I haven't quite decided on starting areas. Basically there's a main entrance or stairs and some exits.
You can start with a (1-4) corridor or a (5-6) room - roll on a d6. There's 1-3 exits.

Beyond this exit there's corridors.

When exploring the corridor:

Width 1d6 1-3 = 5ft (1sq), 4-5 = 10ft
Length 1d6 x 5ft + 20ft

Roll 1d6 for a standard feature:
1-3 Exits (Archways/Doors)
4, Turn
5, Junction
6, Blocked (1-3 dead end 4-5 rock fall, 6 impassable drop)

Turn (right angles only)
1-3 90% left - re-roll on Corridor table
4-5 90% right - re-roll on Corridor table

1-2. new corridor on left
2-4. new corridor on right
5. T-junction (no way forward must go left or right)
6. Cross way - corridor splits right, left and forward
Choose a direction and roll on corridor again.

Exits (Archways and Doors)
Number of exits to new areas 1-3 one, 4-5 two , 6 three.
Location of exit (roughly) Left, right, opposite (if possible)
Type of exit
1-2 open archway,
2-5 Door,
6 locked, stone or reinforced door (break down?)

lead to..
1-4 Room
5-6 Corridor

For now I want to keep this simple and just have a "small", "medium" and "large"
1-2 Small Room 10-20ft sq (2-4squares wide)
3-4 Medium room 30-40ft sq (6-8 squares wide)
5-6 Large Room 50ft-100ft sq (10-2- squares wide)

From those rooms there might be exits:
d6 (-1 for small room, +1 for large room)
1 and below: No exit
2-3: 1 exit
4-5: 2 exits
6 and over: 3 exits

I haven't got much further on mapping.

Further thoughts:

Room features may include architectural: stairs (to new level), pillars, cells in floor, well.
Exploring a room may trigger an encounter, trap or special (healing fountain, pedlar selling magic daggers).

Perhaps the wandering monster tables can be used to inhabit a room but the numbers have to be limited by the party size.

Special treasures and a quest/goal should included?

Sometimes there might be environmental hazards like extra slippy floors:- -1 to attacks or a sudden freakish occurrence like a anti-magic cloud or a Lawful Wind which penalises monsters, affects morale, and provides a a bonus to the player in attacks and saves.

Do players find tables a bit too much of a fuss?
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Re: Basic D&D or T&T with random dungeons

Billiam Babble wrote
Do players find tables a bit too much of a fuss?

Ok I should really write more than that.

Random dungeon generation is a key factor to many games and a welcome addition to many others. Like it or not it always has it's uses at some level from solo-play to helping a GM come up with an adventure.

What I'm going to do now is ramble on about the 2 main distinct uses of random dungeon generation: In-game and Pre-game generation.

In-game generation is normally seen in solo-play or GM-less games so that the players never know what's coming and some times it's used in the same way in GM ran games. Most dungeon generation methods are like what you have posted above, a AHQ style series of tables (called matrices in AHQ for reasons I won't pretend to fully understand) and they work well on paper but not so well once they hit the table …
The trouble is this; depending on the complexity and number of the tables in the generation system the game will stop dead for a minute or more each time a new door is opened while you roll to see what's on the other side.

Another problem with the dice and table based method is being able to set-up what you've generated on the table top. If you're using a dry-erase battle-matt or just paper and pencil you can draw out pretty much anything the generator throws at you with little to no problems besides those of your artistic skills. However if you're using set of pre-made tiles no matter how flexible the set is you will eventually either run out of pieces or come across something your tile set simply cannot cope with. Even if the dungeon generator is designed carefully with the tile set your using in mind this sort of thing can still happen, in AHQ you'll often find yourself trying to decide between re-rolling in the hopes of getting something you haven’t run out of yet or pulling apart another section of the dungeon to get the tiles you need (not to mention what to do when the dungeon expands it's way awkwardly off the table edge and you have no space to move it into). And a 3rd way of coping with this problem that wouldn't recommend is stopping to print off the extra tiles you need!

Then there's the matter of where the dungeon ends – not only do you have the problem of a dice and table based dungeon being potentially infinite in size, but you've also got nothing to stop the objective room turning up right next to the entrance or at least the dungeon turning out to be shorter or much longer than expected. A dungeon generated randomly like this is rarely a logical one in it's layout and execution especially if you've got room with distinct features - how many Throne Rooms or Prisons dose one dungeon need? and why are they all next to each other while the Kitchen and Eating Hall are on opposite sides of the dungeon at the ends of winding trapped filled corridors?
The easy way out of this is to make most rooms empty and generic, but the end result of that is boring dungeon. It's like having a book that randomly rearranges its chapters with every read - every chapter would have the characters doing fuck all, because it wouldn't make sense otherwise, meaning you loose out on any plot (maybe this is how Twilight was written?)

These problems all stem from one factor – the table and dice method is too random but also too ridged, because dice have no memory of what they rolled and can't be stopped from rolling something you've run out of or don't want.

So what's the alternative?  For In-game generation I heavily favour the card based systems like that used for WHQ.
Firstly having a designated card for each dungeon tile (or in the case of Wrath of Ashardalon and CaStlE RaVenLoFt the tiles are the cards) means you never have to worry about running of pieces during a game, if you've run out of 4x8 rooms or 2x10 corridor pieces the cards for those pieces will have run out too and the generator will not generate any more of them.
Also the card based generator is very easy to customise and expand – if you've made yourself a new dungeon tile for the set, just make a new card to go with it and shuffle it into the deck, on the same note if your exploring a dungeon that is unlikely to have a certain type of room or feature (an undead crypt complex manned by skeletons is unlikely to have a kitchen and that lost temple out in the desert probably won't feature an ice-cave) then you can just take out the cards you don't want to use for that adventure. There is no way of doing this with a dice and table based system without having to re-write the tables.
The main factor with the card based system is speed, draw the card, put down the tile – the only thing that might slow you down is finding the tile, but of course in Wrath of Ashardalon and the like the tile is the card so this never happens.

A card based system also allows you to control the number of rooms/sections in the dungeon by simply including the desired number of cards in the deck you use for that session – want a short adventure, use less cards and vice-verser if you want a longer dungeon. By making sure the objective room card is shuffled into the deck near the bottom you can also prevent the adventurers completing their quest right at the beginning of the dungeon.

The method used in Wrath of Ashardalon has it's own downfall however – the tiles all have to be the same shape and size which limits flexibility greatly. While this is not such a problem in the more abstract dungeon games which use the same method – such as Dungeon Quest and Labyrinth – in a 1” square = 5ft environment with multiple squares making up each tile – such as Wrath of Ashardalon and CaStlE RaVenLoFt – it restricts the size of room and what sort of features you can put inside them – while having sections with no walls on some edges or no walls at all so they can flow strait into other tiles goes some way toward creating larger spaces it also creates a random mishmash of illogically placed walls and open spaces more often than not – you're unlikely to randomly layout a grand pillared hall.
But all random generation methods suffer from this to some degree or another – as I said before a random dungeon is rarely a logical one.

While I have used in-game random generation a lot in the past I find a pre-mapped adventure much more preferable, especially as a GM. Random generation still has it's place in pre-mapped adventures though – and that's where we come to Pre-generated random dungeons.

When writing an adventure I will often use a randomly generated dungeon as a starting point. Any of the above methods work just fine. The length of time needed for the table and dice generation method is of course much less of an issue when you haven’t got your players sitting round the table waiting to see what's going to be in the next room while you flick through endless pages of tables and make roll after roll.
You also have the luxury of looking at the end result of the random generation and swapping round and/or taking out any illogically placed rooms before putting the dungeon into play.  
~The ravings of a single mad Goblin is bad enough, but such a power-hungry, malice-filled creature as Mortis can never hope to be understood~
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Re: Basic D&D or T&T with random dungeons

EDIT: I had this ready to copy in and post, but see Mortis beat me to it with an excellent analysis of why I too favour cards, however rather than re-edit I will leave it in its original form (you could of course just ignore Mortis's post )

This is a topic I am interested in too, as evidenced by a previous attempt posted here on the forums (somewhere! AHQ possibly).

I'm now definitely of the opinion that a card based system is by far the easiest, rolling dice soon escalates to a million tables it seems, and even 'just' rolling three dice simultaneously soon seems like a lot of looking at tables when you can easily just flip over a card. This is especially true if you have dungeon tiles, like WHQ, for something more modular like AHQ, admittedly this is more difficult.

After you posted the link to The Game Crafter (on that previous thread) I had a serious think about creating a solo card game and had a couple of thoughts, one a superhero game (called Good vs Evil, needs playtesting) and a dungeon crawl that was in essence WHQ without the board tiles (not really developed more).

Alternatively, as you said above, Wrath of Ashardalon seems to substitute cards with the board sections doubling up as both.

If I genuinely wanted a little more randomness I guess you could flip a card and roll a die, with the results possibly on the card? For example:

Card - Torture chamber
1 - 3 Nothing special
4 Prisoner! - the prisoner is still alive, if you take him with you he has X stats but take the next 2 cards and discard 1
5 Torture! - 1d3 torturers, fight them and save the prisoner as above
6 Troll!

This is a very rushed example but shows what could be done.

With regards encounters, there are a few ways to go here I think, one is to stick with the card theme like WHQ, another is random encounter tables (like AHQ/WHQ battle levels) and the other is in relative strength, as in:

  Number Level
1 quarter 2 below
2 half 1 below
3 party equal
4 party equal
5 double 1 above
6 triple 2 above

Again quickly dashed off with very little thought!

Something you might be interested in, I've been tinkering with off and on for some time now, is a true solo role-playing experience, this probably isn't the post to really bring this up, but Google 'Mythic GM Emulator', if you are interested in it PM me, or start a new thread and I'll explain more, and/or take a look at my blog where I detail a solo RPing session (the Solo tag).
Visit my blog, about solo role-playing, Advanced Heroquest and system rants among other things:
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Re: Basic D&D or T&T with random dungeons

Billiam Babble
In reply to this post by MortiS-the-Lost
Loads of excellent points, both of you.  Thanks. :)

I think I saw the GM Mythic Emulator and couldn't see anything dramatically new from older games.

CS, I think the earlier D&D monster encounter tables were pretty much like your relative strength table - although everyone seems to call them "matrices" these days (which baffles me much like it does Mortis) - where in AD&D and D&D Basic/Expert there was a more than straight forward relationship between the dungeon level, the party level and the encounter strength (if x - roll on table y) - interesting to see how that one developed over the years (in Challenge Ratings etc.). ;)

I think we're all of a similar mind of the impractical side to random dungeons, by table or tile.  I keep trying to get away from almost silly randomness of the AD&D tables but I wouldn't want to copy the Warhammer Quest model directly (just for sheer pedantic originality) - but the latter is just bloody marvellous.  I acquired AHQ after WQ and it's really interesting to compare the two, because the AHQ solo rules  resemble the dining-table-width busting chaos that happens when you use tables (ah, I see why "matrices" might be useful to avoid confusion)
The room and encounter cards in WQ are effective dungeon-size limiters and the idea of shuffling the quest room into the second half of the pack is inspired.  Although sometimes I felt it was too limiting - for example I love having extra exits and splitting the deck down further.

I'm not sure that players (at least without a DM) would be too worried about the logistics of a kitchen and feast room being on opposite sides of a dungeon level, in the same way that the 20 or so articles I've read over the years on "Dungeon Ecology" pretty much rules out having an exciting selection of adversaries in a small area - we forgive these elements if the over all game is truly dynamic.   But it's really important not to lose sight of the perks of a game which may lack goals - I'm certainly against XP gain and shopping alone as a motivators and so in summary random layouts and random encounters probably only have a small function in larger campaign (does this make sense? It be typed funny).  But again WHQ controls this quite well - because a one-off game has a completion point - very much like levels in a PC game there's a boss or end room to contend with  (it's so hard not to refer to Diablo, Nethack, Torchlight and the rest...)

I too, feel the uniform size of the tiles in Wrath of Ashardalon (and Castle R) are limiting, but it's surprising how well the work as a cross between tiles and drawable cards.  At first glance I thought they looked terrible, but after laying out a handful and realising how the black patches worked to create long walls, dividers and pillars I think they did a fairly good job (example layout from a player's review).  However, I much prefer the exploration-"reveal" to be a whole chamber - not a corner of torchlight.  I certainly prefer grandeur in dungeon architecture.  Scribbling on a map a bend of yet another 30ftx10ft corridor is not quite the same as flipping over a card and reading "You have entered the Hall of Crystal".
Again with WHQ, I reckon it's possible to play the whole game without the actual board pieces / tiles - but that misses the point somewhat because the room size and special features effect the combat (which is also true of D&D4 - which is impossible to play without figures and a grid - the skills in WHQ being combat-only orientated is also very similar to D&D4 imho).  We come back to the fact that we like moving pieces around through ready-made bits of map.

Dice based tables for the actual dungeon layout kind of suck -cards and tiles seem to do the job very well- but maybe dice tables are still good for contents/monsters/traps/treasure, when not in a "special" room - i.e. mid adventure events - subquest rooms, and boss/final quest goal room.

Thanks for the thoughts.  Please add more if suffering from insomnia. ;)