Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dungeon Words PocketMod: Initial Thoughts

A throw-away line in Monday's post (elevated by an interested commenter) has consumed much of my attention this week. To recap, I mentioned that I was using little moleskin notebooks to collect all sorts of interesting and evocative words to facilitate improvisation. I also mentioned that I might create one or more PocketMods if the thing proved useful.

Well, after revisiting the awesomeness that is Year of the Dungeon, the beginnings of a real project is starting to take shape in my head. I now envision a standard 8-page PocketMod with 6 of the 8 pages devoted tables of words. At two columns a page and about 20 words per column, that turns out to be 240 words. Dicing for inspiration can be done by rolling a d12 for the table and a d20 for the specific result.

What can you use the darn thing for? One approach would be to stock dungeons. A single evocative word can really conjure up an interesting room or encounter. Looking back over the archives from Year of the Dungeon, I am continuously impressed by the brilliant economy of their design. Without even reading the accompanying flavor text, I can usually have a pretty good idea of what the dungeon would be like. I would be entirely comfortable running most of the micro-dungeons cold with little or no prep work.
Using my moleskin for practice, I have been trying this out with some geomorphs and it works great. I look at a tile or collection of tiles, and draw a number of words equal to the number of areas that seems to demand description. I then assign the words to the areas and even combine words for interesting results (drawing additional words to make up the shortfall).  Here's a simple example I worked up this moment:

In this case I drew several words that looked like they might go well together. I placed a well in a lower area that might be some kind of atrium. Up the stairs and past the balcony, you come to a richly appointed gallery with works of art that are so powerful that the weak-minded can be held there in magical fascination.  Through the double doors, is a large ballroom that was converted into ritual circle for some forgotten purpose. The circle and associated ritual paraphernalia are now abandoned, but electric glyphs remain behind to guard the approach through the southern chamber.


m.s. jackson said...

I think you could put something together...and I know I have seen this somewhere else before...two lists. One of random adjectives such as wet, dark, rocky, etc and one of random items or fixtures in a room/cavern such as altar, pit, stairs, pentagram made from blood, bones, etc. Call it Dungeon Dressing. :-)

Risus Monkey said...

Yes, I was thinking (and am still think) about multiple lists. My moleskins are split into adjectives and nouns and my spreadsheet of words does differentiate the two. However, a single word can fit much better on a tiny microdungeon and can often be just as a effective as 2-3 words strung together.

Anyway, I'm still playing around this. I have a template set up and I am still collecting and ranking words for inclusions in the first version.

Steamtunnel said...

This is a very powerful concept. I would suggest an adjective for every room and a d6 roll that determines noun frequency - so when you start you roll a d6, say its a 3, you then pick 3 adjectives as normal, then the fourth has a noun. Then roll the d6 again and repeat. Also the nouns would have to be simple things mixed with swords and sorcery tropes, I would think.

Jim said...

I'm looking forward to whatever you come up with! Thanks!

Risus Monkey said...

@Jim and Steamtunnel: Thanks! Work is proceeding nicely and I hope to have something soon.