Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is Dungeon of Dread Mappable?

In my last post, I presented a flowchart for the Rose Estes adventure Endless Quest #1: Dungeon of Dread, and concluded with open questions: "Can this adventure be mapped as-described to a rational dungeon layout on graph paper, or not? Was it originally designed with such a map, or by pure narrative necessity?" So, a few days later now, I'll make an attempt at creating a map and answering those questions. Executive summary: No, it's not logically mappable.

Here's the beginning of the project before things get too crazy. If you compare this to the flowchart from last time, this represents just the upper left-hand branch of the adventure (everything from going through the "hole" at the starting introduction, down to meeting the "water weird").


So there's a few things that are already obvious, that perhaps should have been clear to me from the flowchart alone. The most significant problem is the placement of all the multitudinous branches that lead into the "bottleneck" points like "23 drunk baboon" and "62-66 water weird". There's just no way that so many passages can be drawn into these areas without overlapping them. I've already run into trouble with just 5 passages running into the "water weird" location, and that's only half of the total leading there! Perhaps you could rationalize them with some sort of retroactive continuity, such as: (1) there are many more side passages connecting things that the adventurers ignore, (2) there are copious secret doors, (3) there are lots of one-way doors, etc. -- all which Estes failed to mention in the text. That seems pretty clearly extracurricular, however.

While passages and rooms are not to scale -- this is meant as a topological exercise only (that is, what things are connected to what other things) -- I have tried to be as scrupulous as possible about direction changes as described in the text. For example, if you come out of the "giant toad" cave and turn left, you wind up in the water weird room. However, if you come out and turn right twice (avoiding the deadly "troll" room), then you also land in the water weird room. I don't know any way to make 1 left = 2 rights, to say nothing of the one-path-running-over-the-other problem. Maybe you could put some extra kinks in the tunnel, and say the "giant toad" cave is on a lower level, but none of those are described in the text. And that's just one small example of many problems that will arise.

Here's a more full attempt at mapping the adventure, including all of the encounter locations:


A few comments: The plethora of connections to "62 water weird" I've tried to represent with the long westerly corridor across the middle of the map (are all those unmentioned side-branches hidden tunnels? et. al.) I've intentionally placed the "endgame" section by itself near the top of the map (everything from which it's no longer possible to get back to the "water weird" room; e.g., the part starting on p. 88-91 where the heroes "armor up" after defeating the ogre, setting the tone for the climax). While my conclusion is that the location is fundamentally unmappable, it's a neat coincidence that the 3 rooms with water in them line up close to each other on the left-hand side of the map. Again, keep in mind that some apparently short corridors should really be long, and vice-versa (examples: the long tunnel at the bottom after the goblins is described as "soon" reaching the intersection at p. 40; surely the caves for the ogre, giant, and dragon should be much bigger than shown; and so forth).

Other problems, just to hammer home my thesis: In addition to the overlapping passages problem, you've also got issues wherein the described elevations are contradictory. For example, from the "drunk baboon" room you can exit, turn left, and arrive at the water weird. Or else you could turn right, spiral down a long tunnel (p. 71), then turn left to avoid the ogre, and likewise arrive at the water weird. Clearly those two routes shouldn't be on the same level. That's one case, and there are other examples. A similar oversight is this: If you slide down the chute trap from the entrance, then you can quickly wind up fighting some goblins -- possibly getting injured and ending the adventure, deciding to leave the dungeon (p. 43). But how? At that point the only part of the dungeon you know about is the chute immediately behind you (presumably not climbable.)

There are two scenes in which you can encounter a hobgoblin (p. 54, 103). Are they the same hobgoblin? In each case, if you fight with it, you'll trick it, turn left and arrive at the "water weird" room (really, what doesn't lead you there?). In my map I've tried to act like it's one hobgoblin guarding the long tunnel to area 62. Also, is there just one "secret exit" or are there several? There are numerous adventure branches which can end the adventure that way (on p. 81 or 105; sample text: "you have come away with little or no treasure to make it worth your while..."), but it's unclear whether it's all the same exit or not. I've placed 5 different "secret exit" locations on my attempted map, so as to keep it from getting too cluttered.

Maybe you can take this initial pass and come up with a better job of rationalizing the whole complex. If you do so, I'd love to see it!

7 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure I don't have it any more, but I made an attempt to map
    DoD when I was a kid, and it was every bit as convoluted and non-sensical as you point out.

    If I were to do it again, I'd likely cheat and make every corridor leading to the water weird a 'passage to the next level' and just say that no matter which one you go down, you get teleported to the next level under the guise of a rock-fall blocking your retreat or something similarly lame. Then "Level 2" could be everything from the water weird to the ending.

    Other ways to get to the ending that bypass the water weird would also need to have hidden teleporters to the next section.

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  2. Roger: Great link! That YouTube video was like complete crack to me.

    Lord Gwydion: Good idea. I didn't previously think about magic effects, maybe a misdirection spell or illusions, etc.

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  3. I feel like the Kubrick doc is only sometimes convincing, a lot can be explained by having stairwells in unexpected places.

    As for dungeon of dread--well obviously it's a mess. However, if you wanted a no-prize do you think it could all be explained away by having subtly not-right-angled corridors or subtle downgrades and upgrades?

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  4. Zak: That would be a tool in the box, yes. But an even bigger problem is, like, there's 10+ different ways into the water weird room, yet the book never mentions any other side-passages as you enter. So you also need to explain all those unseen connections: maybe secret doors, illusions, temporary blindness, etc.

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  5. Maybe there are multiple Water Weirds. Or the single monster can appear in various similar locations that connect through flooded cave channels.

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  6. "Maybe there are multiple Water Weirds. Or the single monster can appear in various similar locations that connect through flooded cave channels."

    Maybe, but you've got issues like (a) an opening-scene riddle that refers to it in the singular beforehand, and (b) a special bejeweled key in its well that is referred to in the singular afterward.

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