Inspirational Indexes for DMs, pt. 1 – Random Dungeons and Dungeon Templates

Wizards of the Coast has announced that they are re-releasing the original Dungeon Master’s Guide and other core first edition supplements. Those books have historical value with respect to the hobby, and proceeds from the books’ sale will go to Gary Gygax’s memorial fund. Both are awesome reasons to plunk down some money on them. Yet these books also have a functional aspect that has value even for DMs today – Appendices! Lists! Tables! Gygax’s old tables ranged from dungeon feature generators and random monster charts to lists of the herbs the PCs could find in a keep’s mess hall. DMGs of other editions included treasure lists if they had any adventure-specific indexes at all, but did not build upon Gygax’s idea much further than that.

As the Angry DM recently commented in an excellent blog over at the Critical Hits site, tables like these ooze with inspiration. They are grist for the proverbial mill, helping to kickstart a DM’s brain when they are stuck or providing a base upon which they may add any level of detail or complexity they wish.

With this spirit in mind, I would like to begin a series of lists to provides DM both old and new with idea fodder. I am currently pouring through supplements from all D&D editions as well as Pathfinder and a few other rpgs, and the result will hopefully be an informal master database of DM crunch that includes traps, terrain features, curses, diseases, etc. These indexes will be agnostic with regard to system and edition. They will also attempt to strike a balance between being detailed enough to distinguish entries from one another, but also general enough to make room for DMs to fill in their own details.

I could use your help! I’ll work on these lists and put them up as my time allows and as people demand (or not demand) them. But they will inevitably be incomplete. That is why I am actively encouraging the wonderful hive-mind of D&D DMs to contribute their ideas. Do you like the project? Are there similar lists like this somewhere in the interwebs that I may have missed? Do you have ideas to add to particular lists, or ideas for other indexes you would like to see?

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Inspirational Index – Dungeons and Dungeon Themes

For part one, here’s a starter index of random dungeons and dungeon themes. Even the most kick-in-the-door, combat oriented groups might remember their adventures more vividly if their chosen dungeon had some kind of history or personality. Raiding Dungeon X might be fun, but the PCs might be motivated to investigate the dungeon more thoroughly if it were the tomb of an ancient, powerful, and fabulously wealthy king. In addition, since the function of the dungeon usually reflects either the personality of the builder or an object(s) it is trying to protect, it will probably shape a DM’s choices of monsters, traps, etc. Pair these with some ideas for dungeon room descriptions, and you have the beginnings of an interesting dungeon without breaking a sweat!

Since dungeons change over time as events and visitors pass through it, I included some templates to lay over the dungeon. Nothing gives a sense of history more than layers of stuff reflecting the activity of different cultures or creatures. Maybe a crypt has been overrun by vegetation that exposes graves to the open air, or a coliseum is haunted by ghosts that eternally reenact a famous combat, or (my personal favorite) a ruined church has been taken over by a nest of vampires!

Comments, critiques, and proposed additions are welcome.

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