... now with 35% more arrogance!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Improving My Dungeon Design Skills

Someone put out a call for dungeon modules to publish, and I'm considering... and that led to wanting to try to improve my Google Sketchup skills. I was able to do a few things in the past, but I was still having trouble getting used to the way Sketchup's interface works.

So, I went back and watched more tutorial videos on YouTube. It turns out that plan view + the offset tool makes dungeons ridiculously easy to make.

Here is a little dungeon I'm working on right now. The rooms are still not finished, and dungeon details like doors, floor grates, and so on haven't been done. There's a small version of an overhead view in the lower left, which in the final product would be broken down into four level maps. The cross-section in the upper right shows the tall central room that spans the upper three levels. There is a ledge and alcove on one wall (I love doing that! It gives players something to puzzle out what to do.) The cutaway also shows the positions of some of the staircases. I haven't added entrances yet, and I may even add some pits and secret passages.

For those of you looking to try this, the secret is: top-down standard camera view and no perspective. Draw just the lines to symbolize walls, just as you would do on graph paper, but use Sketchup's precise measurement feature. When you have a level done, select all the outer edges and use the offset tool to draw a perimeterpne foot away from the inner wall (you can use a different measurement, depending on how thick you want the walls to be at a minimum.) You can use the push/pull tool later to raise the walls to the proper height. Select the entire figure you've drawn, create a group from it, and name it "Level 1". You can edit the group later to add features to the level. Hide the group and start again, this time working on Level 2. Once that level is turned into a group, unhide Level 1 and use the move tool to position one a precise distance below the other.

A word of warning, though: Google has sold Sketchup to another company, and there is some question about how it will be handled in the future. I would recommend not putting any models in the model warehouse or using models you haven't created yourself until there's more disclosure about what is happening, particularly in terms of licensing.


  1. Aaaach! Google sold Sketchup?! Hopefully this won't suck.

    Great tips by the way. I've never been able to complete an entire level in sketchup; it's usually a room-by-room endeavor for me. Much like adventuring...

  2. this looks quite cool actually. the only problem with 3-d dungeons is that it would be nice to be able to rotate them at will, so you could get a better view of particular rooms and features. is that possible in sketchup?

    1. Yes, you can rotate views, either with the 3D walk-thru tools or the scene animation tools. But of course, that primarily matters for demos or videos, not for print. You need to export individual images from different angles.

      I found Aidan Chopra's tutorials the most useful. Here is one he did for scenes that acts as a good demonstration of what you're asking about.