There’s a post at the Tao of D&D about dissatisfying aspects of the random dungeon generator tables in the back of the DMG. There’s also a brief mention of random dungeon generation and stocking at Dreams in the Lich House, more of a musing on the necessity of random maps and tables to keep a mega-dungeon project from requiring enormous amounts of time to prepare.
I’ve thought a lot about it myself. And I’ll say first that half of what Alexis at Tao of D&D is not really a big deal. He thinks a major problem with the DMG generator, and other generators he’s seen, is that they produce too many empty rooms. No need to delve into the philosophy of empty rooms and how best to use them; Alexis is simply wrong about this being a major problem because it’s a trivial fix. Swap “Empty” with one of the other results, like “Monster”; problem solved. Although it would be better to change it to “Resource Room with chance of hidden vermin”. You want to leave breathing room for players to rest, or decision points for the expedition (search this room to see if there’s something useful, or not?)
Now, the other point Alexis made is more reasonable: random dungeon generation tends to produce less structure than you may like. It would make more sense for the dungeon to be separated into zones, divided by obstacles or secret doors or other restrictions to movement, Each zone would have its own list of monsters; only vermin or wildlife would be likely to spill over across zone boundaries, while major predators and intelligent denizens would be restricted to specific areas. You’d feel a natural flow, that way: as soon as you made your way across the Underworld Rapids, you’d notice fewer Devil Goblins and more Spiked Frogmen.
Now, I’ve had many ideas about random dungeons and have many others I’m mulling over, but I’d like to point out that the megaduungeon modules I posted a couple days ago are sort of built on that concept, and point the way to a solution: build each zone around a centerpiece room with special features and several generic room types for surrounding areas. If you are using random generators for solitaire play, roll the zone type first as you enter an area, then assign your vermin monster(s) and build a basic corridor structure. Exploring rooms is likely to reveal more monster types, more resource types, and eventually, you will find the “central” room that defines the theme of the area.
Your first table is going to look something like:
But I suppose I’ll have to develop this in more detail later.
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