I’ve been thinking about how to make dungeon creation straightforward and easy, like character creation [should be]. Since switching to a more traditional means of character creation — I think I’ve been bitten by the OSR bug in a big way.

So let’s say you’re going to roll 3d6 for some dungeon features like you would for a character’s ability scores. What can a bell curve do for you?

Following the train of thought that a dungeon is like a video game level, you want to divide the thing roughly into thirds — one-third obstacles, one-third monsters, and one-third “breathing room.” (Like Negative Space in visual design.)

Well, the 3d6 bell curve gives you a number between three and eighteen — both numbers conveniently divisible by three. The average will be ten to eleven, and rule-of-thirds suggests that you should have three obstacles, three monsters, three empty rooms — and an extra one or two for you to choose.

But I have to wonder, what is this first roll “for?” If I’m going to compare it to an ability score, what exactly does that score represent? Is it like Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution? Technically the roll is for “encounter locations.”

Let’s see if we can keep up this character generation analogue.

Generally speaking, regardless of where your players are adventuring, you don’t want them to be totally overwhelmed by whatever they find in the dungeon — the level of the danger will therefore be close to the PC level to be challenging.

So let’s go ahead and make two more 3d6 rolls — one for monsters, and one for traps/obstacles — and say that each roll represents the relative difficulty or complexity of each, as they appear in the context of the dungeon.

I think for the time being I’m going to assume for derived modifiers based on the ability score parallel: +0 for 10/11, +1 for 12/13, +2 for 14/15, -1 for 8/9, etc.

Now as characters have a mental/physical duality in ability scores — so dungeons have a duality in the nature of risk versus reward. I would give a dungeon another ability score in the sense of a “treasure” score. There will be treasure, but how good will it be? (The modifier here might represent magic items?)

There are two other points worth discussing — and perhaps good parallels for ability scores — dungeons are strange and mysterious places, full of hidden passages, hidden histories, and hidden meanings. I think adding “puzzles” and “secrets” would help to better evoke a strange, dangerous environment.

So your dungeon stats might look like this:

  • Encounters 9 (-1)
  • Monsters 13 (+1)
  • Obstacles 14 (+2)
  • Treasure 8 (-1)
  • Puzzles 11 (+0)
  • Secrets 14 (+2)
  • Think about that for a bit. What comes to mind?

    I’ll have to explore the idea of the dungeon equivalent of “races” and “classes” some more. Maybe if creating and running a dungeon was as easy and as much fun as creating a character, more people would be willing to DM?