So, I was
working on this idea
, but then I started thinking, "Man, I haven't played a party dungeoncrawl in years
." And I started remembering all the fun times I had back in those days, with my crazy homemade system and our even crazier homebrew setting, and all the mercenary looting, backstabbing, plotting, and ultraviolence that went on. And now I want to redesign that game, with, y'know, a system that works and doesn't require a calculator (it worked back then, but required a calculator).
And then this happened:PHILOSOPHY OF DUNGEONS
The mood of a dungeon needs to be weird, creepy, oppressive, and hostile. The players should feel like the dungeon has a mind of its own, and it’s out to get their characters.
Dungeons don’t have to come from anywhere. They’re just there, being what they are. If there is any explanation at all for why a dungeon exists, it should be vague and creepy.
Monsters should be rare, frightening, and truly dangerous. When a monster shows up, the players and their characters should be having an Oh Shit moment.
Monsters don’t come in species. There is no such thing as “a hydra.” There might be such a thing as a unique, horrible being with numerous regenerating heads, named Hydra.
The PCs aren’t the only treasure hunters out there. Sometimes you will run into others. Is there ever enough treasure for both expeditions?* Better wreck ‘em.
*If you answered “yes,” shut up and go home. Pansy.
Since monsters are rare, and rivals are not a given, danger comes primarily from the dungeon itself. Think beyond traps. Traps are there because somebody set them: either rivals, or long-ago denizens. Otherwise, think of how the environment can be dangerous. Collapsing ceilings; crevices; horrible thorns; fire; gas leaks; radiation; whatever.
Every now and then, there might be sentient-types living in a dungeon. This should be ultra-rare and also kinda freaky. The players should, upon realizing the fact, be left saying, “My God, they were living down here?” That’s a.) how horrible dungeons should be, such that the thought of living in them is crazy-talk, and b.) how degenerate and depraved anyone living in a dungeon should be.
A dungeon should not be a linear sequence of encounters and challenges. It should be a solid environment for the PCs to move around in and interact with freely. Given a choice between two doors, the GM better have something different ready (or easily rolled from charts) behind each door.
The business of a dungeoneer is sussing out risk, comparing it to prospective reward (and data on this subject may be lacking), and making decisions accordingly. Risk and reward should both be present. The GM shouldn’t worry about whether they’re balanced. It’s the players’ jobs to decide whether taking the expedition deeper or quittin while they’re ahead is the best course of action. And they might very well be wrong. Tough, better luck next time.
It matters what the PCs bring with them. #1
cause of dungeoneer death: starvation.
PCs have only what they can carry. If you don’t have a place to put it, you can’t carry it. Sometimes you have to choose between things like food, tools, and armaments, and the Gold.
The players should periodically be faced with puzzles and challenges. How do we get this safe open? How do we get across this chasm? How can I reach that thing hanging from the ceiling?
These should be open-ended whenever possible, or at least have multiple solutions. The GM may prep an easy way, concealed behind hints that the players might catch onto or not (and if they don’t figure out, then they don’t). But no key hunts. If a door’s locked, and you don’t have the key, you knock it down.
I lied. Rarely, a puzzle should be posed that has only one right answer. It should be mystifying and weird, and it should yield great rewards. How do I open this box that mysteriously won’t break? Expose it to the light of the full moon. Keep such riddles rare, and never make them required; they’re like a bonus thing. There should be clues to these, but they should be hidden and/or enigmatic so that only thorough and/or clever players will catch on.
...and then this happened:CLASS LIST
MUSCLE & KILLERS
MAGICIANS & MYSTICS
TECHNICIANS & SPECIALISTS
VERSATILE / OTHER
...and I don't know what I'm gonna do with any of it yet. But, man, does it sound like fun.