Friday, 8 December 2017
Would You, Could You, on a Train?: Linear Dungeons
A linear dungeon is one in which there are, deliberately, no or very few options for lateral movement. The PCs either go forwards or backwards.
One example would be a mile-high tower or skyscraper which the PCs ascend or descend. Each floor is a small level with a couple of rooms or, in the most high-concept version, a single room only. Instead of 10 dungeon levels each with an average of 30 or so chambers, you get 100 levels each with an average of three or so chambers - or 300 levels each with one chamber.
Another would be an abandoned oil rig or mine shaft with the PCs simply going down, down, down, down, a very long and narrow hole. Periodically there are ledges where they get a chance to rest and fight ghost worms, sverfneblin, insane servitors, etc.
A third idea is a train. Imagine a train made up of many carriages travelling through, say, the quasi-elemental plane of radiance on a vastly long track between two very distant places. You can't get out of the train because you will be blinded instantly. All you can do is move up and down the train, carriage by carriage. And in each one there is a different passenger.
I find the possibilities of the long, narrow 'dungeon' intriguing. If the 'dungeon' is just train carriages or small floors of single/few rooms one after another, then you (of course) get to take advantage of a pattern. The DM can use, essentially, the same map over and over, with relatively minor changes. He just has to concentrate on content. The PCs, at the same time, also get used to the same patterns, so they can both forecast to a certain degree how things are going to look from level to level, but also be surprised when the DM throws them an occasional curve ball by mixing things up.
The semi-linear dungeon is one which looks linear but where the PCs are able to advance (or retreat) in leaps and bounds by temporarily going outside it. Instead of descending the mile-high skyscraper floor by floor, sometimes they open a window and abseil down ten floors. Instead of moving carriage to carriage on the train, sometimes the PCs strap blindfolds over their eyes and try to clamber onto the roof and of the car they are in to make their way forward or backwards more expeditiously, and so on.