Deathtrap Dungeons

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Deathtrap Dungeons

#1 Postby Rel » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:30 pm

Hey all!

Lots of cool ideas out here for campaign settings but I'm not finding a lot of posts re: homebrewed dungeons. Not too long ago I completed my own little homage to the "deathtrap, meatgrinder dungeons" of yore -- with significant nods to the old 1st edition D&D and Flying Buffalo classics. It's called Castle Farkinwald. You can check it out at my site (

What other adventures have people cooked up? In particular, what other nasty, trap-laden character mulchers have folks written for their home games?


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#2 Postby Virgobrown72 » Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:22 pm

I'm under the impression that something like this would be map reliant, or at least highly pre-prepped. Some of us tend to Savage to avoid intensive prep time, but I am curious as to how you do this? Is it reminescent of old D&D style dungeon crawling?
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#3 Postby amerigoV » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:21 pm

I looked at Rel's document -- he implimented something I had tinkered around with at one point - letting the cards run the show. I had also considered it via the old chase rules as well with obstacles beening random encounters and have set items along the way (ala some chases in TAG's pulp games).

I mean, who really is going to be mapping out a dungeon complex with all sorts of critters coming down on you? It should be a blur and you just hope you find your way out at some point.
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Fast and Furious Tile Based Dungeon

#4 Postby Rel » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:46 pm

My approach is to use randomization (2 decks of cards) to draw rooms as the party uncovers them. Each room has a base encounter in it that can be tilted if necessary to improve replayability. There's also a wandering monster table that comes into regular effect. The design conceit is that the wizard who built the place made it so that it magically resets every time a party enters it, so it should never play out quite the same way twice.

I definitely wanted to get away from the map-intensive nature of super-dungeons, so my rooms are all based off of a simple grid-style that makes them easy to chain together and map.

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#5 Postby Jordan Peacock » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:17 pm

One design consideration when looking at the old model of "adventurer-shredding" dungeons is that Savage Worlds isn't hit-point-based. In the olden days, the adventure-writer might fairly carelessly throw in incidental little traps that do 1d6 damage to a random hero, or maybe even 3d6 or whatever, with little recourse to escape it, and that was just par for the course, and something to keep the rogue checking for traps and the cleric healing everyone up once their HP got whittled down far enough to be a concern.

In Savage Worlds, if you've got "walking wounded" heroes, they suffer penalties to everything they do, which makes them all the more likely to succumb to the next hazard. And, if they do get hit, there's a lot of hit-or-miss: Either you do or you don't suffer any measurable effect from that trap that just went off. (Maybe you Soak it, maybe you pass the Agility test, maybe the damage roll from the ballista bolt came up all ones, and somehow your Toughness was sufficient that you don't even suffer a scratch.)

When I've run "dungeon" type adventures, I tend to avoid the pesky little "whittle-down" traps.

Say, it's an Egyptian tomb. The heroes know they're getting into trap territory, because there's a skeleton right there in the hall, with a spear stuck through him, and some of the plaster is broken away from the wall. The heroes then spend some time trying to figure out if there are any more surprises here, check the hallway for "pressure blocks" that somehow through the wonders of ancient Egyptian engineering cause spears to be launched through plaster-obscured holes in the walls ... and someone probably ends up rolling a barrel down the hall to set them all off so the group can pass safely. It's a bit of a puzzle, and no real threat ... unless someone is dumb enough to rush on ahead despite the warning signs (in which case there's a high chance of serious injury and/or PC fatality).

If there's a "rogue" in the party, rather than requiring the player to repeat some sort of tedious mantra (e.g., "I check for traps ... I listen at the door...") to remind everyone that he's doing his job, accompanied by lots of gratuitous die rolls, I just assume he's doing his job. When we come up to a trap, our rogue scout gets to make a Notice check to detect the trap in the first place (upon a success we'll retcon it and assume he discovered it BEFORE stumbling into the trap), and if not, then it's an Agility check or whatever to evade the resulting spear/pit/etc.

I suppose that if we wanted to get the sense of constant peril of certain old pulp movies (or the old D&D sense of "these traps are wearing us down!"), the heroes could be accompanied by a bunch of supply-bearers, and if a trap goes off, the random distribution means it is likely to target some poor Extra instead of one of our heroes.

(It kind of bugged me, though, how in some of those old movies, you'd have porters falling off cliffs, getting killed by wild animals, etc., left and right, and everyone just kept right on moving, as if this was just par for the course, we didn't really care for Fred anyway, and whatever he carried wasn't terribly important.)


As for the random card-draw method ... I can say that based on my few experiences as a player in games, I've never cared much for random dungeons -- though I'm sure there are many who would think otherwise. More interesting to me, personally, was when we'd be exploring some place that had some sort of SENSE to its layout; part of the fun was in figuring out what that purpose was, especially as we'd see contiguous features that would extend from one area to another, and repeated elements that once presumably served some sort of purpose. If it's just random, then it doesn't matter whether you go north or east, west or south, up or down, and no clue can be gleaned from the past encounter to try to prepare for the next -- it's all just another random draw, and we might as well just be walking in a straight line to the next peril.

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