On with the dungeon-making:
I like to start by thinking about the awesome encounters I want. Sometimes I start with a map, but generally a dungeon needs
Interesting encounters and Context are the most important things, and then Rewards and Texture.
What’s an interesting encounter? It’s anything for the players to do—roleplay, fight, solve a puzzle, deal with a trap, whatever. In this case, we’ll have the boss fight, we’ll have a random mirror that will pull the player into another dimension where they’ll be able to get a mystic set of armor with a consciousness of its own. Further, there’ll be a fight with some of the watchers, and a fight with stronger versions of the skeletons.
Context is just how the dungeon fits into the world and narrative. In this case, it’s a sewer, and the mirror, which will vanish, will beg questions about the multiverse and the armor. The armor itself will be a relic from another civilization, and though the player won’t know it, will be instrumental in fighting the Lillithians if this story continues that far. I may also have it scare away the imp Yixixzizrick.
Rewards are fun. What more can I say? In this case the armor and some gold from the watchers will be the reward. Some GMs like to be stingy with treasure because they don’t want to deal with it. That’s lame because treasure is fun, so give some treasure! The Pathfinder book, or the free online version thereof has guidelines about how much, so I’m not going to rehash that.
Texture—remember to include random details that have no point. No, I’m serious—this is one of the most important parts of making the world feel real, and immersing the players. This actually doesn’t just apply to dungeons, it’s an important part of all storytelling. If you want more on this important subject, check out this article, which taught me:
So, if you have all those things, you don’t even need a map. Generally, for man-made structures I use a map, and for natural dungeons like forests, I skip it. The point is providing a way for the players to play through the encounters—try both ways, you’ll see they create different, interesting experiences.
Next time, the actual, specific dungeon.
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