Friday, 6 January 2012

Potential Dungeon Hazards

Here is a list of various hazards I'd like to include for D&D dungeoneering:

  • Magical wall paintings. These would be akin to those found in the Chauvet Cave and other neolithic subterranean labyrinths, but rather than merely being paintings they would come alive as intruders walked by.
  • Some system for, basically, randomly discovering whether the party become the target of dungeon muggers. If an adventuring party went away somewhere, came back with lots of treasures, then went off somewhere again and came back with lots of treasure again... Wouldn't opportunists begin to notice this? And, like, follow them, and lie in ambush waiting for them to emerge from the dungeon and then rob them of all their gains? I want to think up a system for determining the likelihood of this, the type of muggers encountered, and so on. Likewise, I think any DM worth his salt has used the "somebody notices that suddenly those impoverished adventurers have lots of cash" motif to annoy his players, but I'd like to think up a system for determining how frequently this occurs, who notices, etc.
  • Build-ups of hazardous gases from mining operations of dwarves, orcs, and the like. Hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, you name it. PCs would have to be able to smell the gas, of course, before it just killed them randomly, but whether they knew what the smell meant would be based on their own research (or lack of it).
  • A quasi-runic magic system, like you get in many roguelike games, like Angband, allowing magic-using monsters (and PCs) to learn how to scrawl runes on the floor or wall of the dungeon to ward off good or evil, explode, cause a collapse, summon a monster when stepped on, etc. 
  • Subterranean lakes... of acid!!!


  1. I wanted a "quasi-runic" magic system, too. My own approach was to treat them as names of power that can turn monsters as if they were a cleric turning undead.

  2. You should play in one of my games sometime.

    You'll pull the lever just because you're curious exactly how you're going to die.

  3. Nice stuff. Just to be nitpicky, Chauvet Cave and many of the other awesome painted caves in Europe are Upper Paleolithic rather than Neolithic.

  4. Dungeon mugging worked out okay for René Belloq, so it's viable. Let the adventurers do all the hard work while you wait outside to collect the winnings when they're all battered and bruised and out of spells.

  5. Nice ideas -- I decided to take a hack at putting together a quick little dungeon mugging system, hopefully you don't mind and somebody other than myself finds it useful/can use parts of it for their own system.

  6. I have no dungeon mugging system, but I do have some dungeon muggers.

  7. Did you ever get to hear about the Aesigils that were not-quite developed for Robin Laws' Korad crowdsourced worldbuilding experiment? They seem to have been smart glyphs, which developed eventually into body art, although there was some talk of them also being carved on mountains. But nothing was ever decided about where they came from, how they reproduced, what they could do...

  8. Some system for, basically, randomly discovering whether the party become the target of dungeon muggers.

    Isn't this covered by WM Tables (NPC parties, bandits, avaricious nonhumans, etc.) and by the move/encumbrance rules? A party slowed down by fat swag will have more frequent encounters, and some of those will be with opportunistic 'toll gatherers'.

    Or are you talking about a more specific "Hah! Now you have to get your loot back to town" sub-system?

    Build-ups of hazardous gases from mining operations of dwarves, orcs, and the like.

    Environmental Hazard subtable entry on the WM table?

    A quasi-runic magic system

    Symbol, Guards and Wards, Explosive Runes, Magic Mouth - there are already quite a few 'magic landmine' spells ITG.

  9. Random? Why random? My plan is to simply include the muggers as a fact of frontier life. They attack when I say they do. It's why they don't call me the Game Randomizer...

  10. I think dungeon muggers are partially covered by wandering monsters, but you could add a nice rule like "when an adventuring party returns from a short expedition, make a d6 roll, subtracting 1 if the last treasure brought back from town was less than 1% of their experience points, or 2 if the party seemed to come up empty handed last trip. On 5+, muggers followed the party from town and plan to waylay the party. Don't roll if either the trip or the wait time until the party returns is more than three days."

  11. Here's my basic solution to the "outside raiding parties" thing; segregate random monsters into multiple rolls, on the basis of habitat, each on a nice large dice like a d12. Then in addition to rolling for each of grasslands/tigermen territory/around some dragony mountain, add the category "around a known profitable dungeon". And put in the various people in that category. I suppose you could probably make some generic ambush/what are they doing rules from there, and see if the people are setting up traps as you come out, giving you an advantage, or if they are hiding, there in strength and ready in formation etc.

    I tend to shy away from that myself though, as being able to go freely into and out of a dungeon makes pacing a session more straightforward.