Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dungeon Density, again

I recently got hold of two volumes of the Central Casting series of sourcebooks. Some of you might know about these books. Once again it's Paul Jaquays name on the cover. That happens fairly often when I buy game books, for some reasons.

Apart from the ones about fleshing our your character by rolling on a boat load of tables, there's one volume about designing dungeons. Quite interesting considering the qualities Paul have as a dungeon designer, I think.

In the beginning of the Central Casting: Dungeons book, there's a table about dungeon density. I have written about this before, and I think it's worth visiting that subject again in light of what CC:D have to say on the matter.

Looking at the Dungeon Density Table, you will find a lot of different ratings for density. Comparing most of the dungeons published by TSR and other companies, I think they could be classified as "loose-very loose". This is not a scientific verification of everything published, but a general feeling I have. Considering that the densities on the table have a very wide range I wonder why I have gotten that general feeling.

In the megadungeon thread on forums, many pictures where posted of dungeon maps people had drawn. My impressions of those where that they where pretty dense affairs.

Personally I've found that if I try to fill up every blank area of graph paper, I usually create things which look exciting, but when scrutinized closely they only have one entry point and one exit. Apparently my maps often become linear, and without some empty spaces it's harder for me to detect and remedy that problem. It would be very interesting to hear some input on how different designers handle that.

While I realize this is very much based on my personal impressions of a limited set of data, I still wonder if I'm not onto something.

Why is it that so many published dungeons are fairly "airy", while so many designers at home seem to prefer the dense, involved and convoluted maps? Is this a sign of the tournament dungeon proliferation among published TSR products?


  1. I don't think Paul actually wrote the Dungeons book. I think he had left the product line by tht point. - Branderwydd

  2. Hmm. You're right. I had messy notes. Thanks.

    Well, the CC books showed up on my radar because of Paul, even if he wasn't the author of that one.

  3. My experience is that when I was younger, graph paper was scarce, so I wanted to use every bit of it. Now I am much less worried about using up the graph paper, and just go to town drawing what I want, even if I only end up using a bit of the paper.

  4. Interesting point. Maybe those memories of scarcity linger with some people.

  5. Gary had a really dense dungeon style. (Someone posted a pic recently of him with a binder open). Some of the old school stuff like Tegel Manor was dense. When I draw on paper with a pencil, I'm about 50/50 with dense and airy. I'm more dense when it's a megadungeon type environment. Airy when it's a special site or tomb or ruin.


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