One feature in the new Dungeons & Dragons is the random dungeon generator tables, and it works. It works so well that I have spent a weekend just rolling random dungeons, one of which is located in a cloud and created by a beholder, and another is an old temple created by yuan-ti but later abandoned by them for some strange reason. I could stop here but no, I want to roll more dungeons! More monsters! And more deadly traps!
How does it work?
There is a table for nearly everything but lets start with who created the dungeon. Knowing the creator gives you a basis for dungeon features and so on. There are other defining features as well that you can roll for: is it a cult or made by evil barbarian human? Is it a stronghold, a lair or a death trap? You can define its history as well and flavour it with stories: Why has the yuan-ti abandoned their temple? What kind of disaster happened that the lich was ultimately destroyed? Why the beholder built his stronghold up in the clouds?
So many questions but these can be thought upon and answered later. Now it is time to roll our dungeon!
First we need to know where the dungeon is located. There are two tables for it: if you roll oo from the die you can then roll on the exotic location table. This dungeon that I am making is found under graveyard. It is created by a cult that worships neutral deity and obviously it is a tomb. However, they found something in the tomb while building it that caused their destruction and the tomb has been free for other monsters to dwell in.
I then continued with throwing the starting area, and then passages, chambers, more passages and chambers, some stairs here and there, trapped doors and so on. In the end I got a tomb that has seven levels in it with plenty of rooms. Next I’ll roll the purpose for each chamber, in what condition they are and what content is in them. If there are traps I’ll roll them randomly as well and hope that with random tricks I get the one that changes characters sex when she touches a certain object in the room.
At some point I gave up. The dungeon got too big and sprawling that it would’ve needed plenty of time to roll the dice and a lot of paper for drawing a map for all the floors. I got quite far with it though so I left it to wait for another day (and threw it in a trash can). I decided to pick up the idea for old temple that was abandoned by yuan-ti, and build from there. This one I planned to have only four floors, with fourth having two parts: temple’s tomb and a cave. I used this dungeon at Ropecon this year and there I realised it was quite big, even with just four floors. It took six hours for the players to get near the halfway of the dungeon before we stopped and left it there.
Rolling a random dungeon is quite an easy way to create something different, and it doesn’t have to be just what the dice tells you – I would change and decide if things fit in the place or not. Quite often I would re-roll or use the roll for something different. These tables provide a very interesting tool that is very useful and I do recommend to use it if you have a hard time thinking about the layout for adventure site, for example a temple or a ruined castle. Only you should limit the size of the dungeon with number of levels or rooms, because the tables are made to keep the dungeon growing, and there will be no end of it until you run out of paper.