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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Shrine of the Savage Jungle

Recently, RPG bloggers ChattyDM and Chgowiz ran a 1-Page Dungeon contest and received 112 entries. Three winners, six runners-up, and twelve honorable mentions will be published in a free PDF and distributed on the internet. My submission, The Shrine of the Savage Jungle, is one of the honorable mentions (Best Dungeon Crawl.)

I had been wanting to try out Chgowiz's 1-page dungeon template for a while. I'd also been testing various versions of a random dungeon creation process I've been developing for some time (ever since Kanthe.) Unlike other random dungeon approaches, this process involves a lot of interpretation: it's more like fortune telling than a set of tables indexed by dice rolls.

The Shrine illustrates this. The physical map was made using a technique best summarized as "roll dice on a sheet of paper, draw shapes around each die based on the pattern of dots on the die, then connect them together." As you can see, the most recent version of this technique creates a pretty decent dungeon, although it still needs tweaking. Since I needed a computer image and didn't have my scanner handy, I layed a translucent vinyl craft board with gridlines over my hand-drawn map and transcribed it into AutoREALM.

The trap and monster descriptions were "divined", as it were, using another dice technique that needs much more work. I created the monsters first by rolling dice on a pentagram labeled with five elements and five types of action and used the position of the highest result (or results) as a description of the creature's basic form; the position of the lowest result(s) described the creature's unusual feature, attack, or behavior in some way. Median results were used for random other descriptions like color. The process is still very crude, but I was able to come up with six creatures for a random monster chart, which I also used for stocking rooms. The unusually high number of "plant" or "green" descriptions gave me the idea of a jungle location, which I developed into the shrine backstory. I used a similar approach for traps and containers.

The map is intended for expansion. Secret doors or other passages leading off the map to another area could be added to almost any room except for the cluster close to the center. The upper ruins aren't detailed, nor the second level, other than a note that the former priestly occupants had sleeping quarters in the northeast part. The third level is mentioned but left completely wide-open. The backstory is intentionally sketchy, not only so that it can be modified to fit an existing campaign, but also so that it can evolve in play. How was the shrine defiled, and why? Who and what is Miazeim, the Lord of the Fiery Green? The answers to these questions should be different for every group that chooses to play this dungeon.

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