Monday, April 9, 2012

On Dead Ends

One of the overarching themes of this blog is that almost all of D&D's tropes and mechanics have really good reasons for existing, except that one frequently has to go all the way back to OD&D/LBBs to actually see them (considering that they got lost or discarded in various updates and revisions along the way).

Here's one: Why all those dead-ends in classic D&D dungeon maps? Was it simply lazy design, or just wanting the players to waste time exploring and become frustrated? Not quite; here's what Gygax included in the original list of "Tricks and Traps" suggestions:

"Sections which dead-end so as to trap players being pursued by monsters" (OD&D Vol-3, p. 6)

8 comments:

  1. I was reading through B1 in preparation for running it for a new group, and noticed this huge spiral section that dead ends in the SW section of the 1st level. I was wondering what the point was, and now I know. If the DM holds the party to a strict movement rate/turn, something like that will generate a lot of wandering monster checks.

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  2. It also gives referees who love to tinker various places to expand the existing dungeon floorplan.

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  3. ^ It's true, you get all those benefits in addition. Just thought it was interesting that the earliest explanation wasn't something I'd ever considered before.

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  4. So dead ends in dungeons are to trap PCs who are being pursued by monsters. Is this from a DM's (Gamist) perspective or the (Simulationist) perspective of the in-game NPC who built the dungeon? Given the costs to construct dungeons, does it make any sense to dig out a tunnel for say 100 feet and apply masonry just to say 'Gotcha!' to some future wannabe robber?

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  5. ^ I would certainly guess that this is Gamist first (along with the rest of the list of tricks/traps), with whatever explanations are convenient coming afterward (like: unfinished tunneling). And I think that's consistent with what I call the "AD&D golden rule".

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  6. When my player wandered into a dead he had the habit of look for secret doors. My wife noticing this tendency put them into her dungeons when she felt like adding a new level.

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  7. In order to make sense of the Gamist design elements of dungeons, a friend of mine stipulated that most of the dungeons found in the world were underground temples to a god of madness and chaos venerated by one of the lost civilizations of the region.

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    1. Nice -- and very much in line with Gygax's use of Zagyg the Mad Archmage as master of the original Greyhawk dungeons.

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