Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 18, 2013
At one point, I decided to document the things that I thought made up the “secret sauce” (not much of a secret now, is it?) that I thought gave Frayed Knights its flavor. I also wanted to make a checklist for quality and help certain other people I’ve contracted to help make content for the game. Then, because I’m lazy and I really think that some of the suggestions would be of value to other indies, I’ve modified the document somewhat and made them available as blog posts.
These next four articles will switch gears into specifics – more concrete “Rules” – which are actionable items for a design checklist. You can read part 1 of the dungeon creation rules here, part 2 can be found here, part 3 here, and finally part 4 here. And, as always, you can just read the entire category of Frayed Knights posts here.
The principles were – in my fuzzy classification system – things to just bear in mind and ideals to strive for when making a dungeon. Many could be applied to other role-playing games. For the next three or four articles, we’re going to get into nitty-gritty details of actual, testable details… rules (or guidelines) that may be meant to be broken, but are still specifics that I’m trying to require where applicable in every adventuring area in the game.
As a little bit of background -In FK1, I divided dungeons into three “sizes” – mini, medium, and large. “Mini” was a dungeon of approximately 8 rooms or less, large was a dungeon with more than 20 rooms. “Room” is a really fuzzy term. But as examples:
1. The confectioner’s cottage, the rat farm, the tomb in the eastern wilderness, the ogre lair, and the mines in the eastern wilderness were all “mini” dungeons. If you played those areas, you know that while they were small, they could still represent a chunk of time and gameplay.
2. The Pit O’ Doom, Temple of Pokmor Xang, Order of Cryptus tower, etc. were medium-sized dungeons. I guess the minotaur maze was also more “medium-sized,” but the confusing geometry made it feel large.
3. Goblinville, the Hobgoblin Bunker, the main Tower of Almost Certain Death, Lizardman Lair were all “large” dungeons. Goblinville and the tower were pretty much a totally different category on their own, as they were *huge*.
Also – using the jargon of adventurers -you can read up on the different classifications of dungeons in the strategy guide, or right here.
So here we go – a few specific rules for Frayed Knights map creation!
#1 – Create “Set Piece” Areas
Most of each dungeon will be made of tiles mixed with details. This makes it very easy to build the dungeon, but can come off looking pretty repetitive pretty easily (and makes Kevin very bored). Each dungeon should have a few “set piece” areas that are unique and may need custom geometry to build. Mini-dungeons should have at least one, and larger dungeons should have several (probably about 2-3 for a medium, and 3-5 for a large dungeon). Not only do they make the dungeons more interesting, they help provide the player with a visual reference for orienting themselves when exploring.
#2 – Easy Egress
Once the dungeon has been “cleared”, the final boss dead, the final treasure room looted – there should be a rapid means of egress from the larger dungeons. The player should usually not have to spend too much time backtracking to get back to the entrance. A barred door to a shortcut, a teleporter back to the entrance, a “back door,” a cliff drop back to the main hall… something like that. Arrange your dungeon so there’s a shortcut to the exit once players have “completed” the dungeon. It’s gamey, I know, but in a dice & paper games you’d simply fade to black here and say, “You exit the dungeon and go back to town” or something.
#3 – At Least One Unusual Combat Encounter
Unless combat is exceptionally scarce in your map (it’s a “class C or D” dungeon), try to have at least one combat take place in unusual circumstances, which change the rules a little or require the player to change up their strategy a little. In FK1, we had a boss encounter with (potentially) waves of opponents; archers that shot the party if they approached from the front to engage in combat with them; an encounter where the hobgoblins made the party battle in a puddle of oil they set on fire (causing fire damage each turn to the party), a foiled ogre ambush, etc. You could have windy areas where missile attacks don’t work well, etc. Anti-magic is a possibility, but it can be frustrating.
For large dungeons, you should have two or more combat encounters with unusual circumstances. Again, they don’t have to be BIG (and in some cases, just having a unique monster variant might do the trick), but they should be interesting and require perhaps a bit of adaptation on the player’s part.
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