Game Design

100 Dungeon Descriptors Table

Gnome Stew - 7 February 2018 - 6:00am

Nothing fancy today, just a list of dungeon descriptors, helpfully listed in d100 format. Oftentimes I find myself wanting to make a new dungeon or area and am short on ideas. This list is useful for inspiration, kickstarting design with an idea or two about which ideas can be formed. Alternately, you can pick one or two as overarching themes and then flavor smaller areas with another selection. Of course you may need to get creative if you end up with conflicting descriptors that make no sense together, but if it’s too bizarre you can always ignore the one you like least and/or roll again.

Here’s an example: We’ll go with an area with two random descriptors and three sub areas each with an additional descriptor of it’s own. Our rolls* are 9, 53 , 51, 14, 90. That gives us main traits of Icy and Rectangular rooms. So we have a start of an idea. Rectangular rooms is pretty standard dungeon stuff. Icy implies cold or ice creatures and a certain environment. Maybe this is high in the mountains, deep underground, a magical cold, or far to the north/south. We’ll decide later. Our three sub zones are Large scale, Geothermal, and Non-euclidean. Giant is easy. So we have a giants’ castle in the high mountains covered in frost and ice. Under the castle we’ve got a series of geothermically active caverns. We could go fire elemental here, but I like making the geothermal energy a power source for the giant’s castle better. So the castle has steam driven gates and other cool steam type devices, as well as few “ice giant engineers”, although no steam heat. In the caverns themselves, there are a few ice giant taskmasters (nearly naked because of the heat) and a bunch of slaves that maintain the steam pipes. Beyond the castle, carved into the mountain is a series of rooms with odd magical geometry. Let’s combine that with the ice to have sliding traps and block puzzles that rely on the non euclidean nature of the space, placed to protect some appropriate artifact. On advice of my test audience, we’ll also add some man sized blind penguins and ice-template gibbering mouthers to this area. That even gives us three adventure hooks: against the giants, free the slaves, capture the relic.

  1. Wet: Moldy – damp, and mold grows everywhere
  2. Wet: Flooded  – ankle to waist deep water everywhere
  3. Wet: Underwater – entire place is underwater
  4. Wet: Rotten – sodden, and everything is ruined, turning into mush
  5. Dry: Crumbling – dry rot, crumbling stone
  6. Dry: Dusty – a layer of dust and grit cover everything
  7. Dry: Parched – dry air that makes you thirsty and uncomfortable
  8. Dry: Dehydrating – moving air the pulls moisture away, full of mummified husks of small creatures, etc…
  9. Cold: Icy – covered with a layer of ice, formations on walls and ceiling
  10. Cold: Clammy – cold and damp air, works through your clothes
  11. Cold: Glacial – biting cold, walls of ice
  12. Cold: Crisp – cool but invigorating
  13. Hot: Smoldering – piles of still warm ash, may have low oxygen levels
  14. Hot: Steamy – geothermal vents, geysers, etc…
  15. Hot: Magma – flows of magma (1500k about 3 times as hot as a campfire, 500k) in large rooms, heat may dissipate enough to approach, in small rooms maybe not
  16. Hot: Warm – general warmer temperature
  17. Live: Positive aura – depending on the strength, area may be covered in growth or items may animate or burst into frantic activity
  18. Live: Swarming – filled with large swarms of vermin
  19. Live: Live rock – dripping mineral water creates slow growing formations
  20. Live: Genius loci – a spirit caretaker oversees the area
  21. Dead: Bodies – corpses litter the area
  22. Dead: Negative aura – may cause a feeling of illness or unease, bolster undead or even damage the living
  23. Dead: Ruined – once worked the area is falling apart
  24. Dead: Eerie – feelings of being watched, prickling of the skin, etc…
  25. Vegetation: Overgrown/roots – plant growth and hanging roots block passages and cluster about the ground
  26. Vegetation: Flowering – strange cave flowers grow or sprout from bushes or vines
  27. Vegetation: Fungus/mold – large fungi or molds grow throughout the area
  28. Vegetation: Gardens – carefully tended (once?) gardens dot the area
  29. Natural: Solution caves – caves formed by minerals dissolving, often wet
  30. Natural: Lava tubes – formed by magma flowing out of a space, stone is hard, rooms are tunnel like
  31. Natural: Fracture caves – full of debris,  layers of rock collapse to form caves
  32. Natural: Erosion caves – made by action of wind or water wearing down rock, may have strong winds or high tide
  33. Manufactured: Hewn – crudely carved out of rock, surface still shows tool marks
  34. Manufactured: Supported – soft stone supported by columns or beams
  35. Manufactured: Rough Brick – simple stone bricks carved from rock shore up and finish walls
  36. Manufactured: Advanced Brick – smaller, fancier, or simply better made stone bricks
  37. Sounds: Whistling – sound of wind forced through tight passages or over odd formations
  38. Sounds: Rumbling – perhaps an indication this area is unstable or of seismic activity
  39. Sounds: Battle noises – inhabitants often get in noisy conflict
  40. Sounds: Moaning – the wind? or something more sinister?
  41. Smells: Decay – death, decomposition, mold
  42. Smells: Dirt – the smell of earth and dirt
  43. Smells: Chemicals – strange acrid brews, sickly sweet tangs, some kind of strange chemicals are on the air
  44. Smells: Metal – the distinct smell and taste of metal, is this a metallurgists, a mine, or just an ore rich area?
  45. Denizens: Beast – area is populated with animals, predators, scavengers etc…
  46. Denizens: Lowlives – slimes, fungus monsters and insects
  47. Denizens: Magical – elementals, undead, constructs and other unnatural things
  48. Denizens: Humanoids – primitive or advanced humanoid tool users
  49. Scale: Tight – small rooms, tight passages, crawling and squeezing through tunnels
  50. Scale: Standard – normal room and passage scale
  51. Scale: Large – larger passways, huge rooms, perhaps natural or built by giants
  52. Scale: Mixed – a mix of scales, often natural but also a characteristic of an area inhabited by different sizes of creature
  53. Shapes: Rectangles – standard square and rectangular rooms
  54. Shapes: Ellipse – circles and ellipses
  55. Shapes: Angled – angled rooms other than squares and rectangles, triangles, hexagons, unusual shapes…
  56. Shapes: Natural – caves and natural passages
  57. Maintenance: Maintained – the area is being maintained, passably clean and repairs are made
  58. Maintenance: Expanding – the area is maintained and new areas are being built on the edges
  59. Maintenance: Abandoned – no one is doing maintenance, most things still work but some don’t and wear is obvious
  60. Maintenance: Collapsing – no one has done maintenance for a long time, few things work, most are broken, missing, or destroyed
  61. Airy: Strong winds – winds howl through the rooms and halls, light items are blown away, doors may be flung open or characters pushed down
  62. Airy: Cavernous – huge open caverns with vaulted ceilings
  63. Airy: Chasms – deep chasms voids and pits
  64. Airy: Open – one monstrous cavern with discrete areas within, sneak a little overland into your dungeon
  65. Architecture: Monolithic – huge construction from large slabs of rock
  66. Architecture: Sparse – clean unadorned construction
  67. Architecture: Embellished – covered with engravings, runes, patterns, etc…
  68. Architecture: Stylistic – an unusual or alien style
  69. Obscured: Foggy – mists, steam or fog blanket the area
  70. Obscured: Screened – webs, vines or other obstructions shroud the area
  71. Obscured: Magic darkness – rooms or the entire area is covered in magical darkness
  72. Obscured: Twisty – no special obstruction, just very few straight passages so vision only extends to the next bend
  73. Size: Small – your classic 5 room dungeon
  74. Size: Medium – larger complex, 5-15 rooms
  75. Size: Large – larger yet, 20-50 rooms
  76. Size: Extra large – sprawling multi-“zone” area
  77. Unique: Architecture – contains a unique piece of architecture, statuary, or other landmark
  78. Unique: Foe – contains a unique monster, NPC or the like
  79. Unique: Magic effect – contains a special magic effect, either an aura over the whole area or a specific feature like a magical portal or pool
  80. Unique: Treasure – has a special one of a kind treasure that may have its own backstory or associated quest
  81. Danger: Hazards – venomous critters, naturally occurring rockfalls, pits or fire gouts
  82. Danger: Traps – area is/was home to a trap builders and has many traps
  83. Danger: Monsters – area full of deadly monsters
  84. Danger: Curses – area holds curses or other magical dangers
  85. Treasure: Coin and items – standard treasures
  86. Treasure: Raw ore/gems – area has been or can be mined for raw ore and gems
  87. Treasure: Art – area has art objects that can be looted as treasure
  88. Treasure: Goods – not much in the way of treasure, but area has trade good that can be sold
  89. Magic: Changing – shifting walls, moving rooms and other tricks
  90. Magic: Non-euclidean – the area has a definite arrangement but its full of portals, bends in reality or other weirdness that make it difficult to map
  91. Magic: Wild – magic in this area acts unpredictable
  92. Magic: Null – magic in this area is suppressed or nullified
  93. Crystal: Studded – walls are studded with raw crystal
  94. Crystal: Monsters – monsters in this area are weird crystal versions or crystal themed monsters
  95. Crystal: Walls – this area is carved from a massive crystal deposit, glass or obsidian
  96. Crystal: Items – furniture, decorative items, tools, and weapons in this area are all made of crystals
  97. Technology: Stone – denizens of this area use stone age technology
  98. Technology: Bronze – foes in this area use bronze or another soft metal
  99. Technology: Steel – this area has steel or another hard metal technology
  100. Technology: Steam – this area features early steam tech

 

*Using my Polyhero Wizard dice, because they’re what I have on hand. Now I can use the old “mad wizard” excuse when players look at me funny.

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