Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Silvergate Megadungeon creation rumbles on

Two weeks or so into the process and I'm progressing nicely with the creation of Silvergate, abandoned capital of the Dwarves. The Dwarven name for this city is Zaborhegaznazun, or 'out-coming-place of metal of the moon', and not, as humans seem to think, Baraghegaznazun or 'doors of metal of the moon'. In Dwarvish, 'Silver-doors' is really not the same as 'Silvergate'. Obviously, the Dwarves first came here as miners, for the moon-metal. They stayed and built an enormous city.

I have developed a methodology for fairly quickly filling the levels. Each level will have some rooms that I'm determined to fit in - set-piece rooms, really. I 'know' I want a large Bugbear lair on Level 3; I know I want a vast throne room on Level 5. But much of the levels will be 'randomly' stocked (but even so, having randomly-generated a lot of Bugbears for Level 3, that's fine, I'm just clustering a lot of them together).

First, I'm breaking each level up into sections and sub-levels, each with 4-8 lairs in it. I count an average of 1 lair = 2 rooms. Not all lairs are 2 rooms - some are more, some are only one room. But it's good enough as a rough average. So sections and sub-levels will generally include between 8-16 occupied rooms (roughly, not including the places where wandering monsters might turn up, and maybe with a few extra-special rooms thrown in). At my standard rough-and-ready calculation of 1/3 of rooms with monsters, that should give me about 25-50 rooms per section or sub-level. More or less.

To find the monsters for these randomly assigned rooms, I'm starting with the wandering monster lists. For each random lair, I'm rolling a d6 and if it's a 1, then that it is the lair of large number of creatures from the Wandering Monster list for the level above, and if it's a 6, it's a small number of creatures from the level below's list. On a 2-5, I roll on the Wandering Monster list for that level. I have extended the principle with Level 1, if I roll a 6 for a Level 2 monster, I then repeat the roll and if it's another 6 I consult the tables for Level 3 and cut numbers even further. No reason that a single Ogre can't lair on Level 1 - just not 8 of them, that really wouldn't be at all good for the party's survivability. I'm pretty sure I've finished Level 2 but I haven't quite finished Level 3 - I will be continuing the idea with deeper dungeon beasties as I go down.

In sub-level 2a ('The Guardrooms', with 45 rooms), there are 6 random lairs, with Hobgoblins, Berserkers, Giant Black Widows, Robber Flies and Rock Baboons (two lairs of these, Rock Baboons featured strongly in the random rolls for Level 2). That gives me 12 out of 15 rooms occupied by my random monsters. The other 3 rooms I'm assigning to specific creatures and features I want to see. The humanoid groups both control 'suites' as a territory rather than single rooms while the Spiders, Robber Flies and Baboons might patrol a territory (several of them are on my Wandering Monster tables - these are specific to each sub-level or section) but they use single rooms as home bases.

Once I've got a creature, I roll another d6. This is to determine if a creature is lairing, is a wanderer, or if it's both. 1,2, it's wandering, 3,4 it's both lairing and wandering, and 5,6 it's just lairing. It could be that all the first 5 creature-rolls produce wanderers and lairs, but it hasn't happened yet. If they do (I'm only having 5 wanderers per section) the 6th won't. If 6 random lairs don't produce 5 wanderers, I'll roll again on the table until I have my 5 Wandering Monsters. When I roll a wanderer that's the same as a lair (either because the lair has wanderers, or because I randomly rolled a Hobgoblin lair, which doesn't have wanderers, but then, in rolling for wanderers, I get a Hobgoblin result again) the wanderers always count as 'extra'. So the number of Hobgoblins in theory in that section or sub-level could be greater than the maximum number of a Hobgoblin lair. Doesn't matter, it's all gravy.

Other sections on Level 2 feature more Berserkers, Robber Flies and Rock Baboons (I must use the Rock Baboons in the approaches to Silvergate too, it's sort of beginning to resemble Gibraltar in my head, a great fortified rocky outcrop covered in screeching primates). The Berserkers are local barbarians who are battling Hobgoblins for the upper levels, but neither the Berserkers nor the Hobgoblins are particularly unified. In fact, with 3 or 4 different Berserker groups across Levels 1 & 2, I'm considering giving each Berserker lair a distinguishing feature (perhaps utilising this table from The Dungeon Dozen to chose Barbarian styles) and making them hostile to each other (though not necessarily the party). If the party wants to go around enlisting barbarian-berserker allies, or doing something as 'silly' (not silly) as getting themselves adopted into the tribe so they have a 'safe base' to retreat to, they might have to put up with the negative consequences from other groups. Like when 'The Warriors' have to cross New York City to get home through an environment where their gang's jackets are going to get them into trouble.

There is another area - an old necropolis that the party can find out about before they go in if they want to do some research - that is mostly composed of Ghoul and Zombie lairs. I did this on purpose as I knew I wanted this necropolis to be there. I just put all the random undead results that I generated in one section, and made sure that there are some rumours that indicate that there are undead in the upper levels. Research about the complex should turn up these rumours and then the party can begin to prepare themselves. I'm very much in favour of the party doing some forward planning - this place was 1,000 years being built and used (or more) and has been abandoned for 400 years. Plenty of information (not all of it recent or necessarily accurate, for sure) should be available if the party ask around either with adventurers or Dwarves (or both), consult libraries and sages, etc. I see no reason to change the stats of Dwarf-Zombies or Dwarf-Ghouls, just because they're shorter. Not so many humanoids in this area, but some giant animals of varying kinds all the same.

The hard parts of this process are deciding what sections there should be; justifying the large numbers of Sprites/Pixies/Halflings that come up in a random megadungeon; and knowing when to stop.

I can decide on some sections (such as the Guardrooms for 2a, and the Necropolis on Level 2) but my creativity may start to flag when I have done 60 of them. I'm going to use some random map generations for these areas, probably using some of the generators from The Dungeoneering Dad's 'sweet arse random dungeon generators' which look very handy, and might suggest some themes to me; and maybe I'll use some random name generations for different sections as well, perhaps from the Seventh Sanctum Adventure Site Generator. I've just tried it out and among less-suitable names, it's produced Abyss of Monsters; Bloodstained Labyrinth of the Cannibal King; Grotto of the Sorcerer; Metal Dungeon; Profane Catacombs. Not sure what makes catacombs 'profane', but there's a certain amount there to be going on with.

As for the Sprites etc, there are a lot of potentially friendly lairs in the upper levels. Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Barbarians... but perhaps this is necessary, it's not really convenient for the party to pop back to the nearest village to restock and recover. They will need some safe bolt-holes. I'm confident that they'll be less comfortable past Level 3 and wishing for a corner inhabited by more-or-less-friendly Gnomes.

It's so easy to produce results however that I think I've probably overstocked the dungeon. Which means I could create even more of it, if only I could produce that many maps... hence the random generators of course.

If I were doing all this out of my brain and not using the tables, I probably wouldn't put in as many giant insects (I know spiders aren't insects), baboons or berserkers. My default setting is 'add more Orcs'. There would be thousands of them. My abandoned Dwarf city would be like Moria, with a couple of bits of the Paths of the Dead. So far, having fleshed out a goodly chunk of Levels 1-3 (with just over 100 lairs and more than 500 rooms accounted for I think... I'm close to finishing the monsters for Levels 1-3), I think there are about 30 Orcs in total. Which is fine. In my gameworld, Orcs aren't particularly associated with this overground region, so why put Orcs in the tunnels of an abandoned Dwarf city? It wasn't attacked by Orcs, it was abandoned after a war between Dwarves and Humans, and subsequent Dwarven civil war. It was partially sacked by vengeful Humans, and colonised by squatters.

Obviously, given the dice rolls, those squatters included Rock Baboons and Giant Spiders, which seems reasonable enough. The Barbarians - sorry, Berserkers - are there because their tribes send warriors in to a) test their hardihood (I was going to put 'manhood' but these are equal-ops barbarian tribes) and b) to smack anything too vicious before it becomes a threat to outside. The mountain range where Silvergate is situated borders a region of horse-nomads and other 'barbarian' tribes. They don't want hordes of Gnolls and Bugbears or the odd dragon or two popping over to make a mess of their horseflesh, no thank you. Much better to keep some 'Cave Guards' in the city to watch for monster incursions. Or is that 'excursions'?

Can the PCs exploit the fractional/factional nature of the 'ecology' of the upper levels? Maybe. Getting the Berserkers to unite and wipe out the Hobgoblins might be a bold move. But, it is a sensible one? Are the Hobgoblins (who hold an important staircase/junction point) actually preventing the Bugbears from coming up the stairs? And who from further into the complex are the Bugbears blocking? If the Bugbears move up into Hobgoblin territory, will a horde of Ogres come up and rule Level 3? Perhaps stirring a hornet's nest isn't such a good idea - not at least when the chief hornet is 200 feet long, has a 300 foot wingspan and breathes fire.

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