Saturday, May 29, 2010

Equisite Corpse Dungeon Stocking

I have a lot of difficulty stocking dungeons, so for Go Play NW I’m devising an exquisite corpse dungeon stocking technique. It works like this:
Make three columns of words and phrases. Each column should have 12-20 items in it.

In the first column, list stuff you already know is probably going to be in your dungeon. I’m doing this with microdungeons, so it’s easy. I just look at the Barrow on the Hill map:

So in column 1 I put:
ancestors, swords, spite, bats, visions, crypt, mural, hunger, bone pit, tomb, maze, dome, standing stones

In column 2 I put thematic words, monsters, events, or themes that match the color I want my dungeon to have.

death, skeletons, ambush, gnawing, haunted, wailing cries, entombed, forgotten, blindness, tomb robbers, spikes, shadow

In column 3 I put macguffins, dungeon tricks, plot twists, and other fairly generic adventury bits.

Column 3:
not what it seems, treasure is hidden, item is actually magic, monster wants something, treasure conceals a monster, room is cursed, moving walls and floors, PC’s ancestry is involved, swarms of monsters, monster is also a wizard, rod of paralysis, scrying magic

Now roll 1d10 on each column, writing down the phrases you get and crossing them off the list. The three phrases are your exquisite corpse. Write 1-2 sentences about what encounter or thing in the dungeon this corpse represents. Do this 6-10 times. Each corpse is sort of an oracle to devise one encounter.

So, for example: a roll of 1, 7, 2 = “ancestors” – “entombed” – “treasure is hidden”. I decide this means that the protecting ancestral spirits who once guarded the barrow have been bound to their bones, swept into the bone pit, and magically entombed. The treasure is that if released, one of the skeleton warriors will serve a party member until destroyed. Perhaps opening the pit is quite dangerous unless the PCs can figure out the correct spell or command word.

Second roll: 3, 2, 3 = “bats” – “skeleton” – “monster wants something”. I decide that the ghosts of lesser servants buried in the barrow have possessed the skeletons of a swarm of bats in the cave labeled bats on the map. These creatures have a mindless compulsion to complete some ancient task that may be to the PCs benefit or detriment. They will fight if prevented from completing their goal. I don’t know what the goal is yet. I’m going to wait until I roll some more stuff up and see something jumps out at me.

I've made three dungeon outlines this way, and I"m very pleased with the results!

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Blogger squidman said...

That's fast and useful. Very nice!

May 29, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Blogger Blair said...

Ditto, I'm agreeable to just about any improvisational/random creative impetus!

Although, as a relevant aside, some friends and I have been making literal 'exquisite corpse' dungeon maps & keys!

May 29, 2010 at 7:59 PM

Blogger Marc Majcher said...

And here I was, imagining a dungeon that ran up the length of someone's leg, or hung over a fireplace. Still, pretty sweet.

May 30, 2010 at 8:30 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Literal exquisite corpse dungeons sounds pretty cool! I can imagine a whole flip-book of dungeon parts you can assemble...

Also, Steven Poag has a monster book called Exquisite Corpses that looks pretty awesome. In fact, I may go buy it right now.

@Marc don't think that I don't have a dungeon just like that waiting in the queue for Year of the Dungeon.... ;)

May 30, 2010 at 10:37 AM


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