The second week of #Dungeon23 is over already! I’m pleasantly surprised by how easy it’s been to keep up with it so far. This week I’ve experimented more with different shading, now that I know that that Promarker that I use bleeds through the paper so much. On top of that, I tried making a very tight and closed space, to see how that works out. It felt very cramped to make a map like this, and I’m not too sure how it would work out in play; my hope is that it will create a sense of oppression and would also serve to isolate players a bit on this level.
Scanning this map was actually a little tricky to do. I use a B5-sized composition notebook to do this in, and the scanner I have does not hold that comfortably. So, both scans have ended up with this little drop-off to the left and right, respectively, as that is where the notebook was outside the scanner. A secondary result was that the original scans seemed somewhat overexposed, so I had to try a bit of fiddling in Gimp to see if I could adjust the levels and brightness of the images.
Something I tried in map creation was to keep the references in red, so that they would stand out. Any flavor texts/prompts I kept in blue, whereas more referee-facing descriptions I’ve kept in black ink. Since the Promarker bleeds through so much, I tried shading with a regular pencil. In the end, it works out reasonable well in the scan, though on the paper itself it comes out as quite glossy if the light hits it just so, which I’m not a big fan of. Another thing that’s particularly visible in the storage attic is that shading most large objects makes the room look a little “floaty”—shading the objects seems to lift them from the page. I think in future shadings I’ll keep that to the walls and so in, to help the rooms themselves “sink into” the paper a little more.
Moreover, this time I tried adding a little bit more flavor and explanation to the right side of the page but, retrospectively, I think that takes away a little from the actual keys itself. On top of that, it also spreads out information about singular objects to multiple visual spaces, which I’m not that big a fan of. I think in the future, it’s better to use open space like that for random tables, as I did in the first week. That also helps provide more interesting context on its own.
Overall, after working on such a cramped space this week, I’m looking forward to using the next week to make a much larger, roomier space in the crypts. Thematically, I think that will serve an interesting contrast as well.
I’m still struggling a bit with keying maps well enough. I’ve read through The Alexandrian’s Art of the Key series of blog posts, and in particular the second part was very helpful. I’ve also taken a hint from Question Beast’s review of Winter’s Daughter. Overall, both their advice essentially boils down to keeping keys very brief but, most of all, to-the-point and with a clear hierarchy of information. I tried writing this week’s prompts imagining the perspective of somebody walking into the space and where their attention would go as they enter it.
I’m fairly pleased by how these are going, as I think they serve to tell something of a story via the environment. However, I do think, as I mentioned above, that these would have to be combined with some manner of encounter tables to make it more actionable. Something that inspired me the past week, and that I want to experiment with, is Playful Void’s blog post Minimalist Lore. The idea of creating lore incrementally by throwing ideas out there and having them gel together at a later time sounds like a wonderfully efficient and also improvisational way of doing it. I think it also helps to reduce prep time for things that won’t be engaged with during play by only giving attention to those things that are.
Overall, in these upper floors, I’ve tried to incrementally add arcane references to the map, as well as several possibilities for players to interact with the environment in a non-sequential manner. I chose to add a lot of large windows so that players would have multiple opportunities to scale the house from the outside and enter rooms or bypass locks where needed. As an afterthought, I tried to make sure to have the flue of the fireplaces connect throughout the levels so that players could also use that to traverse between levels. The secret steeple, however, I thought nice to just have their as a secret fun addition. Clever players should realize they could reach it by observing the manor from the outside; if they don’t find it, however, nothing is amiss either.
A thing I’m particularly proud of is making the bathtub an incredibly weighty but exquisite treasure. I feel that just having piles of coins or gems around encourages people to just behave like thieves: open a cabinet, grab what’s inside, move to the next room. Making a treasure something odd, unwieldy, or unique results in the whole ordeal becoming more like a heist: the treasure is just right there in view but the real problem is how to get it and where to move it.
I look forward to building on these ideas as I go forward!