Part 2. Think like an Angry God

In most dungeons, something tragic has happened there. Now that you’ve created a verisimilitudinous building, you can get away with a lower sense of “realism” for the effects of this destruction. Any time you place more weight on “realism” in one part of design, you can get away with less rationalism in another part of design. Before creatively destroying your dungeon, let’s look at dungeon structure.

Think about movement in a dungeon in terms of a series of lines. Forks in the line occur where decisions are made. Eventually you end up with a kind of branching and nested tree to represent the navigation choices of your area. I’d recommend this forum post by Melan to see how dungeon diagrams can be made.

In deciding to destroy the dungeon from the prior post, I realized that it’s too open of a design. While openness is rightly praised, too much can lower the number of decision points in gameplay. With the radically open designs the prior posts instruction will give you, it’s easy to end up with a central location leading to everywhere.

I decided to have the clinic be destroyed by mortar fire. The important thing here is the placement of rubble and destroyed walls. Red dots represent openings to the lower level while the yellow area opens to the ceiling. Disconnecting the eastern side of the complex from the rest of the map forces players to exit and re-enter the dungeon, creating a longer connection between them(as all parts connect to the lower level). Even though the design is more linear, there’s now more decision points.

clinic structure.png

Before, one travels to the area by the nurses station and now has free reign to go anywhere. A true core room works well in larger dungeons but in small designs like this, it makes exploration feel like picking rooms off a buffet platter. I did this to show how linear dungeons are not always the enemy.

We can now infer which rooms are bottlenecks and get an idea of pacing. The blue points being intersections can be good places to put info you want the players to learn, foreshadow higher difficulty encounters later on, meet an important npc, etc. You’ll notice that now there’s a few more rooms to be reached before getting to the nurses station. This allows for stronger atmosphere building before the central room. A bottleneck like the nurses station should be the linchpin area for the dungeons potential thematic narrative. Distance from an entrance can be used to place encounters in sequences that build on thematic elements.

Now we can start placing a few things. There’s unexploded ordinance in the west part of the clinic, some doors are barred, a branch of a tree grows through the floor in the east part, the way down to the lower level in the west part is an immortal cripple stuck in a tube to the prison. Flowers grow from his face, his feet are soil. He wants to die but his fairy worshipers think he’s joking. The dining room would be a good spot to fit a monster, maybe the doors to the dining are barred from the other side. It’s easier to be inspired in the game design department once you’ve massaged the structure into a more gameable shape with creative destruction. With the work you’ve put into verismillitude of the overall structure, your players are less likely to consciously realize the game oriented thinking of your later design work.

Once you’re on game oriented thinking, you can start creatively altering your map. Maybe the north section should be 10ft up in the air to give more verticality to play. To explain this, we can have the original inhabitants be floating and possess telekinesis. You can always go in a loop between gameplay, thematics and verismillitude. Hopefully you understand the process of verismillitude in initial design, ruination as a process of massaging a structure into design for gameplay and how creating the structure first gives a powerful tool for conceptualizing and ordering general ideas.


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