3×3 Dungeons

As a follow-up to this post about the optimum number of rooms in a dungeon.

The most manageable and memory-friendly number of rooms is 7 +/- 2. So 5 to 9, the reverse of your 9 to 5 office job.

From Skorne (find it PWYW here):

“Dungeons” refers to any adventure site filled with danger be they underground, in the wild, or anywhere else. Here is a suggested layout for these to help you get started.

Create and number a 3 by 3 grid or table, like so:

Each space represents a room or area in the dungeon. The numbering of these spaces can be in any order you choose, but the lowest number room is the first space and the highest number is the goal (treasure, hostage, Tyrant, etc,).

Renegades move in the four cardinal directions from one space to another. This creates loops of spaces to explore while directing the experience towards a climax.

Without looping or backtracking, I found 12 combos to move from room 1 to 9:

A golden path reveals itself: Players MUST experience 5 rooms (remember the minimum?), with up to four rooms being completely optional. Seems right for a two hour session of play.

Here is a checklist of things to include in the dungeon:

  • Valuables to take. This is a strong incentive to explore.
  • Things to attack. Easy threats instill (false) confidence.
  • Things that attack the renegades. Danger lurks.
  • Things to experiment with, don’t have to be magical.
  • Things that differentiate the ways to go. Create choices!
  • Ways to get scars, powers, or transformations.
  • Obstacles and hazards. Make them obvious.
  • Beings to talk to. Humans, demons, animals, monsters.
  • Secrets. Things that are difficult to find or learn.
  • Reminders of who is in charge. Bosses make their mark early.

Other ideas:

  • Start in a different room than room 1. Change the goal room to a different room than 9.
  • Consider the map being a cross-section instead of just top-down.
  • Find multiple methods of movement: use altitude, teleporters, waterways, etc.
  • Block off some rooms, lock some, make them secret, close sections off after players leave. Dynamic layouts!
  • Put the room names on index or business cards. Use minis to move players and/or enemies from one room to another.

Final thought:

This setup reminds me a lot of playing the board game HeroQuest, where the dungeon experience is a set board, the same every time, but modified by doors, blocks, traps, and monsters. That’s what sets dungeons apart: the structure is consistent, the contents build towards a theme.

One thought on “3×3 Dungeons

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