Monday, 6 February 2023

Poetic Dungeon and Hex Keying

For a long time now I've wanted to write up a pseudo-Japanese dungeon or hexmap (maybe in a setting like this one) in which each entry in the key consists of a single haiku (5-7-5 syllables) or stanza of an extended renga (5-7-5-7-7 syllables) - not excluding stats. So a typical entry for a dungeon chamber might read something like:

Here eight red oni

Cluster around a dead troll

Skinning it with knives

Red oni: HD 2, AC 5, #ATT 1, DMG By weapon +2, Move 120, ML 9, TT S, U, V

And a typical hex entry might read something like:

A gold dragon's lair

Is found here in a dark cave

Atop a sheer cliff

Within is a captive girl

The local daimyo's daughter

An entire book written in this form would have a rhythmic and mesmerising quality to read, and keeping to a fairly strict poetic structure of this kind would be a way of benefiting from the creativity of constraint. One wouldn't have to use Japanese poetry as the model, of course - think of a pseudo-European version written all in the form of sonnets, or rondels, or Beowulf-style alliterative verse, or alcaic stanzas, or even clerihews; or a pseudo-Middle Eastern one all in ghazals, or whatever. 

[I am currently running a Kickstarter for the 2nd edition of Yoon-Suin, the renowned campaign toolbox for fantasy games. You can back it here.]


  1. Lovely idea, just wrote one for my project. Feels fun.

  2. I thought the same for npc descriptions but it was to hard.

    1. Yeah, you could do that but it would be quite a task.

  3. They're also the perfect length and vagueness for backstories for potentially-short-lived OSR PCs ->

  4. A while ago Patrick put out a call for poetic dungeons - - and I responded with a dungeon keyed in haiku: