Do you recognize this?
Hey! It’s the start area example chart for Appendix A of the DMG for the original Dungeons and Dragons game! For people who played the game in much of the seventies and eighties, this was probably the first place you explored. Some crazy room with multiple branching hallways (Except stunted Number Four. Nobody likes you Number Four!) leading to various doors. The point was to find some neutral ground between the way back home, and the various twisty turning branches that would be your adventure.
Cool, and evocative, huh? They also hold a high nostalgia value for Dungeon Masters. You see, in many of my fellow DM’s eyes, they see these six shapes, and they just want to get drawing, or rolling for random rooms to attach to these suckers. These six shapes (well, five of them at least) are practically calling for you to scribble away, attaching doodads and doohickies, until you wake up in a fever pitch, with a pencil clutched in hand and a finished dungeon.
But, secretly, as good as five of these shapes are for your imagination, they can stifle your creativity.
Everything in your dungeon will spawn from how you begin your dungeon. But these strange starting shapes you’re presented with only encourage you to draw more goofy shapes. It doesn’t explain why the players are here, or who built this dungeon, or what the theme of this setting is. It’s just a weird shape, devoid of any emotion besides the symbolism you put into it.
That’s why I made this random room generator. Room Negative One is a quick two rolls that mold the purpose of your dungeon. First, roll on the “Dungeon Location” chart to determine what environment your dungeon takes place in, then roll on the “Dungeon Purpose” chart to determine why, exactly, this dungeon is here, and what role it takes in the world your characters play in. Or don’t roll anything and just choose from the list. That’s cool, too. Oh an you’re more than welcome to roll multiple times. Many of these entries are better when combined with other entries.
While we’re here and talking about it, I should remind you that every step which brings you closer to the dungeon itself can be an adventure. If you roll up a Volcano Wizard Fortress, I think you owe it to your players to describe what it looks like on your travel to the volcano, create some small adventures before you get to the fortress itself, and deal, somehow, with the guards who are outside the fortress. I mean, if I was a wizard, and I owned a volcano fortress, I probably wouldn’t leave the front door open, leading down to a set of stairs into a safe and cool start area. I might, however, leave an open door that leads down a set of stairs to an empty Start Area Four, in which all doors lead to veins of liquid magma. That’d show ’em.
Oh, and when you get done making your dungeon, maybe you’d like to populate it with Random 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons monsters?
Where is this Dungeon located?
01 – 03 At the heart of a city
04 – 06 At the heart of a ghost town
07 – 08 The Dungeon is a City