March 9, 2016

Dungeon Aesthetics

Here are some things to help inspire you when designing fantasy adventures.  Fantasy RPGs take place in isolated locations with constrained paths between discrete areas.  These are called "dungeons" after the name of the most popular fantasy RPG, but they're rarely literal subterranean prisons.

How far away is the dungeon?
- Hidden inside a major city
- Just outside a major city
- Hidden in a market town
- Just outside a market town
- Near a tiny hamlet
- A day's journey from the nearest tiny hamlet
- A week's journey from the nearest tiny hamlet
- In a remote wilderness many weeks journey away
- On another continent
- On another plane of existence

How old is it?
- It's older than recorded history
- It's hundreds of years old
- It's a few generations old
- It's been here for a decade or so
- It's newly constructed
- Is it a mix of two of those

What sort of structure is it?
- A defensive building like a keep, tower, fortress, armory or citadel
- A moving vehicle like a ship, airship, or giant tortoise
- A place of worship like a temple, cathedral or abbey
- A place of learning like a university, college, or library
- A dwelling like a palace, apartment building, or manor
- A spectacle building like a colosseum, theater, amphetheater, or arena
- A place of confinement like a prison or slave market
- A market building like a souk or bank
- An industrial building like a mine, forge, mill, foundary, or warehouse
- An agricultural building like a barn, freehold complex, granary, or stable
- A temporary residence like a refugee camp or military bivouac
- A place to keep something safe like a vault or treasury
- A burial place like a necropolis, ossuary, tomb or crypt
- A multi-component structure with more than one use

How was it built?
- An underground complex dug deep into the earth beneath the hills and fields
- Built into the side of a cliff, exposed along one face
- Built into the bottom of a canyon or pit
- Built like a mine deep inside a mountain or hill, hidden from view
- Built up off the ground, as a stone or timber structure
- Built high, along the tops of trees, buttes, a plateau, or high towers

The creatures there are...
- The original inhabitants, or their normal descendants
- The twisted descendants of the original inhabitants
- New residents who moved in and are using it for their own purposes
- Non-intelligent creatures or animals who just live here
- Ancient, slumbering evils
- Programmed automatons whose eldritch rotes keep out natural wildlife