Saturday, October 4, 2014

6 Ways to Add Interest to Your Dungeon

6 Ways to Add Interest to Your Dungeon
By: Jesse C Cohoon

Many times people think of dungeons as these static things that monsters inhabit, but if viewed as an interconnected, alive system that opens up many more possibilities than would ordinarily be possible.

1.      When designing dungeons, remember that enemies move around. But don’t limit their movement to just one area. Keep in mind that sound travels, and a battle in one area, attract enemies coming to the scene from different areas, and in the heat of the battle, PCs may find themselves surrounded by enemies in battle where they can neither move forward nor retreat until the situation changes.

2.      Add varying types of obstacles and ways of conquering them. In the Zelda franchise games, there are lots of puzzles, many of which are solved by blowing up obstacles or fake walls, pushing blocks/ rocks, swimming, activating switches in a specific order, and accessing areas that they need some sort of protection/ alteration to enter. In each of these cases, Link had equipment to help him out: gloves to give him strength, earrings to allow him to withstand heat, special armor that allowed him to swim underwater and the like. In Zelda: Skyward Sword, the hero gets a Batman-esque grappling hook type weapon that allows him to be pulled to walls, stationary helicopter type units, and ivy covered rock facades.    

But just because the players don’t have the proper equipment/ powers doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to enter such areas, but they may face difficulties in getting around / damage while in such areas. For instance in an area without the proper heat protection equipment, a person may get damage while in extremely hot or cold areas.

3.      Allow different areas to be opened up as the players get more powerful. Just because a party went through an area doesn’t mean that there aren’t more secrets to be discovered. There may be hidden passages, areas blocked by monsters that they didn’t fight (or circumvented), underground areas that they have to have digging claws to get to, or areas that were previously too high for them to reach. When characters get “fly,” “passwall,” and “reduce/enlarge” abilities (either through their equipment or by spells), the dungeon has an entirely different feeling.

4.      Change the dungeon in a significant way. This is a classic in video games. Some changes that you can make are: having the dungeon flood, it on fire or filled with smoke, upside down, or even portable (for instance a dungeon in a giant robot or on a dragon turtle) Other changes that you might not have thought of are: filled with quicksand, time shifted (thank you Zelda: Skyward Sword,) collapsing, overgrown, and vastly changed monsters. Even changing the climate changes the dungeon. For instance, having a previously hot area change to freezing changes the dungeon.

5.      Change up the situation. Instead of seeing a dungeon as a thing where characters enter the dungeon and maim/ kill anything that is threatening, and loot their enemies, the dungeon could be a thing of a peace keeping party where negotiation rules the day, an espionage mission where the characters need to be stealthy so as not to get caught, or a rescue mission where they have to be careful who they kill, otherwise they may end up killing the party that they’re trying to save.

6.      Plan in layers. The best dungeons have multiple layers: from deep underground or underwater reaching up many stories in the sky. Having puzzles that span these levels, clues for the story-behind-the-story, and boss battles the enemies of which are massive (both in terms of scope, but in terms of the number of participants), makes your dungeons truly epic!

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