I’m working on getting at least 3 or 4 levels of Balor’s Tomb detailed for the game that I am running tomorrow (it’s a megadungeon-in-a-hexcrawl setting, and Balor’s Tomb is the tentpole megadungeon–I’ll go into the details in a future post), and for the most part, I am mapping out a level, putting in the important/significant monsters, humanoid factions and set-piece traps and tricks, and then filling in the rest using the random dungeon stocking tables from the Rules Cyclopedia and the AD&D 1e DMG (I am not super consistent about which one I use, and I am okay with that). Then I do my best to sort of smooth it all over and make sense out of it, and a lot of the time that winds up leading to more interesting stuff than what I would have just come up with on my own.
Here’s an example. This is the map of the area I was working with:
Area A came up empty/no treasure. So I decided that it would be overgrown with fungus, because fungus is fun. And then for good measure I tossed in a Shrieker because hey, why not? I decided that the secret door is only secret by virtue of being heavily overgrown with shelf fungus and such. Totally normal, functioning door, just not readily apparent because of the mushroom problem.
Area B has a statue in it (it started out as a rectangular room but I realized the level had too many 20′x30′ rectangular rooms and I was getting bored of them, so I lopped off the corners and put a statue in it). I rolled monsters with no treasure. I don’t remember if I rolled for the monsters on a chart or if I jsut picked them out, but the end result was 1d4 Giant Toads. So, four Giant Toads. Okay, I thought, since they don’t have treasure anyway, I’ll say this is their toady lair, and maybe they eat stuff in the fungus room.
Area C came up with monsters and treasure. I think I rolled Bandits on a chart, and having a Bandits’ lair seemed like a good idea–there’s a Bandit problem on the suface in the hexcrawl anyway, and I was planning on putting Sir Walter’s son, Sir Herevard of Ellesmere, in the dungeon somewhere, so maybe this is a Bandit camp where they took Sir Herevard and are holding him, hoping to sell him to the Cult of Balor or maybe to the Saxons, but in any case he’s secure in the dungeon. I gave them a couple of wolfhounds (Wolves re-skinned, duh) as guards and pets, and filled out the room with rotting tapestries and wooden benches and gave them a stash of treasure in a burlap sack.
But then I realized I had a problem. This layout was stupid. How do the Bandits get past the Giant Toads? Wouldn’t they just, fight them, kill them, and be done with it (or vice versa!). Maybe the Bandits eat roast Toad? Still doesn’t solve the problem of getting past the potentially hostile and man-eating Giant Toads every time the Bandits want to get in or out.
And then it dawned on me. Not wolfhounds as pets and guards. Giant Toads as pets and guards. Giant Toads with metal collars on chains, and these Bandits use them like a pack of hunting animals. Hunting Toads! Hot damn.
So now there’s an obvious cage in area B for the Toads to live in, and I have added “Bandits with pack of Hunting Toads” to the wandering monster chart for the level. These are filthy outcasts from the Bandit gang on the surface, dressed in slimy rags and using Giant Toads as hunting animals and companions. And they have Sir Herevard bound and gagged!