First Experience with Tome of Adventure Design

In my preparations for #Dungeon23, I ran across a YouTube Stream by Hexed Press, where Todd makes the argument that solely making 365 separate rooms and putting them together into one larger map runs the significant risk of creating an inconsistent experience. Aside from not wanting to create a little hexcrawl with separate dungeons rather than one megadungeon, I also see the same risk in just creating separate rooms.

So, yesterday, I did a first test of using the Tome of Adventure Design to set a theme and central idea for a dungeon. I used chapter one to come up with a major location for the dungeon (“The Ancient Castle of the Hollow Apparition”—how evocative!), and then used chapter three to start fleshing out the idea a little more by generating a single-sentence backstory along with clue, rumor, and note prompts. In just a short while, with a few dice rolls, I had a skeleton of an adventure in my hands. Not only does this give me good handholds to work with, it also made the idea travel in a direction I normally never think of: the dungeon is not just a place under a cool-sounding castle but the prompts also tie in a legal dispute, receipts, ownership issues, and so on. So now it’s not just a castle but also tied into a smaller world around it.

This has been so tremendously helpful to me. I’ve found that I struggle coming up with something just from a blank sheet of paper; I tend to need something to work off of. These prompts are broad enough yet evocative enough to help give the necessary impetus for me to start working with it. I’m interested in using the rest of chapter three to see what their actual map generation prompts are like.

Lastly, two days ago I bought a lovely second-hand secretary desk that I just love work on:

The secretary desk midway through generating some prompts

It has been so enjoyable having a wonderful workspace dedicated to working with pen and paper. Also, my tablet is really starting to shine in that workspace for its form factor and ease of use—it’s a wonderful reference device while I’m working on things there.

Hex Crawl Design

While reading up on hex crawl design procedures, I ran into this lovely blog post from The Welsh Piper about hex-based campaign design. I like the design procedure they’ve written up there and I may try this out to make a hex map. On top of that, the images there, made with Worldographer, look quite appealing to me.

I’m not a big fan of the 5-mile sub-hexes combining to a 25-mile atlas hex; I prefer a 6-mile hex ever since reading a good worked-out example of them over on the Hydra’s Grotto that made the maths work out nice and simply. Dyson’s attempt at drawing out a six-mile hex confirms that 6 miles has the right amount of area to contain interesting things.

The only thing up for debate is what the abstraction layer should be: 6-mile hexes combining into a 36-mile atlas hex? 6-mile hexes breaking down into 1-mile subhexes? Both? I guess the best way to find out is to make all of it and see how it works out.

Building up resources for #Dungeon23

I’ve been looking around to help prepare for #Dungeon23 and give myself the best chance of success going forward. Having ideas and structures in place ahead of time will help lower the threshold daily, particularly since I know there’ll be days where I’m tired or pressed.

The first handy resource that I’ve found is a collection of resources (why do repeat work if others have already researched things?). Andrew Duvall has created a wonderful page of prompts, blog posts, work sheets, and more, which itself contains links to other gatherings of resources.

I’ve gotten a few resources, such as the 1e DMG to help generate random dungeons, Filling in the Blanks to help ease the creation of a hexcrawl, and the Tome of Adventure Design to help with generating randomized prompts overall.

If I end up with material that I want to digitize, I already had the wonderful Hex Kit from a previous bundle, as well as both Wonderdraft and Dungeondraft to help with map creation.

And what good luck that just yesterday I finally found a nice second-hand secretary desk of the style that I’ve been trying to find for quite a while now. They’ll be bringing it over on Wednesday, and once we actually managed to get it up the stairs, I’ll have a nice, dedicated writing space as well.


I recently came across an interesting concept posted on Twitter by the name of #Dungeon23. Sean McCoy suggested a challenge for 2023 to make a single room of a dungeon for every single day of the year. It seems immensely daunting on first glance—a dungeon room every single day?!—but something about it seemed alluring to me. In particular, the following bit of advice from that post bolstered me:

The greatest creative advice I ever got was “have something to show for your time.” I’ve found a lot of success on always shipping projects every year. This is one of those projects, once you realize you can create a dungeon of this magnitude, your whole world opens up with what you can do. And it’s insanely fun too!

Sean McCoy, about #Dungeon23

The bugbear that tends to prevent me from starting projects is the undermining thought that somehow I have to produce something that’s “good”. Consistently, I’ve found that to be a fundamental untruth; whenever your aim is to produce something, it has to be just and only that: something. So, that’s what appeals me about this idea as well. The idea is just to make a little thing each day and see the compound interest on that repeated action. Sean points out a little earlier than the previous quote:

If you can’t think of what to write that day just write “Empty Room,” see how easy that is?

365 rooms written like “3 orcs, 25 gold pieces.” is better than 5 rooms written like “In this beautiful hand carved obsidian room sit 3 orcs arguing over a dice game. 25gp sit on the table, each of them…” See what I’m getting at? The goal is the finish line. Just get to the finish line. Trust me.

Sean McCoy, about #Dungeon23

I’ve gone ahead and gotten a Leuchtturm1917 B5 Composition softcover notebook to work in, both because I like having a dedicated item for a specific job as well as that working manually helps focus me better than digital work. It’s the first time I’ve worked in a B5-sized notebook, and I have to say I’m loving the sizing and paper quality of this thing. I specifically went for the dotted paper version so that it can be a good fit for both writing as well as drawing.

Today, I see that people have been expanding the concept, branching off into hashtags like #City23 or #Hex23, though I agree with the voices suggesting to bundle it all under #Dungeon23. Nevertheless, I enjoy the idea of using this impetus to not make a single megadungeon but rather to make it a hexcrawl adventure with multiple dungeons. The only thing I haven’t worked out yet is what the consequence ends up being for the “thing per day” mindset (i.e. how many of those are dungeon rooms and how many hexes?).