Quickie Dungeons?

This was a tip published for D&D, but it is equally applicable to any fantasy games.

Build dungeons quickly with a map, some one- to three-word room descriptions with fantastic monuments, and a handful of potential encounters (good and bad).

Casting this into Rolemaster throws up so interesting ideas.

  1. Three Things. This is an improvisational theatre technique. When you want to improvise something you only create three very general facts about the ‘thing’. Then if your attention or focus falls on the thing, you create three more facts about the thing. You can continue to drill down as greater detail as you need.

    In RPG terms this could be describing a room as being dominated by a pair of statues of angels (1), an altar stands between the statues (2) and the floor is made of chequered black and white tiles (3). At this point you can possibly imagine the room, but much of it is vague. If your players think that floor is suspicious, they want to know more, so… Each tile of the floor is made of marble with only the faintest hint of coloured veins (1), the joins between tiles are near perfect and no caulking has been used or was needed (2), the tiles running along the centre of the chamber are worn and scratched from the passing of hundreds of feet over years or decades (3).

    You can keep drilling down to almost forensic levels, if the players have the interest or the means of discerning ever more detail.
  2. A handful of potential encounters. This one is something that Rolemaster has traditionally been very bad at. For two reasons (at least). The first is that no one has ever thought to publish books of encounters. If you ever get the chance to read the rules of Forbidden Lands the random encounters are fantastic. You are not just looking at the combat stats of a random monster, but you also get roleplaying advice on how to play them, strategies and context, why they are doing what they are doing.

This one is about as basic as they get. Now, the interesting thing is that they include no game mechanics. If you replaced “page 64” with Creature Law/Creatures & Monsters/Creatures & Treasures and the page number, this could be for any flavour of RM.

The second reason that published encounters are harder than one imagines is that your version of RM is the sum of all the optional rules. Almost invariably the optional rules in the companions made the player characters more powerful. Sometimes it is neglible, sometimes the power creep was obvious. But, as soon as you tweak the player characters any published encounters go out of whack.

If you have to roll your own encounters, tweaking all the monsters to fit your version of RM this stops being quick, by any reasonable meaning of the word. If you are using published encounters, you are going to have to rejig them to challenge your players. Flexibility is Rolemaster’s greatest strength and weakness.

3. The last part is the quick dungeon map. There are dozens of random dungeon map tools. This one is more interesting for the GM that wants something not entirely random but fast and customisable.


Take a look and have a play.

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3 Replies to “Quickie Dungeons?”

  1. I am fond of Watabou’s dungeon builder – 5 rooms with some potential ideas. I’ve got a copy of Strider Mode for LOTR which has a set of thematic rollable tables which I assume will be similar to Mythras (I’ve not got a copy yet) to give you three words for the room or the encounter. Previously, I just decided on a theme based on who/what/where/when; then developed encounters based on that. We will see how adding a rollable table helps or hinders.

    You are right that there is a lack of encounters for RM. I think partly because of those big rollable encounter tables in any module or campaign book of previous ICE. It would be fun to generate some random encounter ideas specific to RM settings but as we know you would never get to stat them even if you filled the page with 4 flavours of RM because of the way ICE now apply their IP.

    However, there are all those useful DnD/PF tables if you are playing a generic fantasy world that can be used to up your description so a busy GM or one lacking inspiration never feel too far away from a helping hand.

    1. Brian did some very good tables for random encounters in SW. It would be nice if they built into a structure, rather than just spitting out the thing that was encountered.

  2. I would note that my Shadow World encounter tables were built on the framework found in the AD&D DM’s guide and can generate random weather, events and site results. While it’s specific to SW, much of that is standard Rolemaster creatures.

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