Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Brick In The Wall Dungeon Generator

So the D&D blogosphere has gone hog-wild for Sham's w/o Walls playing-card based dungeon generator. Including me myself.

I found it, quite literally, inspiring, so I went and tried to think up a way to use a similar technique to generate a standard dungeon with some built-in cohesion.

So, without further ado, here's the...

"Another Brick In The Wall" Dungeon Generator

Take a tarot deck. Remove the major arcana. (I am using a tarot deck because, unlike regular cards, it's easy to tell "up" and "down" on a tarot card--this technique can easily be adapted to certain standard decks, however, depending on the design on the cards).

Shuffle the rest of the cards.

Lay out 44 cards in a 9 x 5 grid. Leave an empty space the size of one card somewhere in the middle--this is the starting point of the dungeon.

These are the 45 rooms in your dungeon. Adjacent cards that are both facing the same direction (both up or both down) are connected. Completely isolated cards are hidden behind secret doors--you may choose where the entrances to these rooms are.

Rooms represented by the "cups" suit are empty or contain non-functional, dungeon-appropriate-decor. Starting with the Queens, Kings, Knights and Aces, interpret the rest of the rooms according to the following rules for number and suit:

2-minor obstacle, mostly just demonstrates the nature of the type of dungeon you're in
5-standard, level-appropriate, site-appropriate, dangerous
6-funny or weird, plot-irrelevant
7-standard, level-appropriate, site appropriate, dangerous, useful if overcome
8-has a clue to how to treat a Knight
9-has useful information about a Queen
10-is related to or is of the same nature as the Queen, possibly a minion
Page-noncombatant, plot-relevant, minion or possession of Queen
Knight-fairly big deal, could be a benefit or a hazard, depending on how the PCs play it
Queen-major, bad, plot-relevant
King-major, bad, plot-irrelevant, unless there are no Queens on the table, in which case it's plot-relevant
Ace-beneficial (major)

Coins-Inanimate Feature/Object
Swords-Person/Monster + Inanimate Feature/Object

(For example, a 7 of coins could be a room with a pit trap that, if evaded, could be used to trap a dangerous monster.)

I'll write one up and let you know how it turns out after I run some people through it.

Obviously, a more various dungeon could probably be created by using the whole deck, including Major Arcana and laying out more cards. May have to think up meanings for the major arcana later.


  1. Zak - I think you've taken the concept to the next level with the notion of shuffling and laying the cards out tile style. I look forward to seeing what you make of it in the future.

  2. I just experimented with this last night, and I have to admit that it's genius. I love randomizers to help stimulate creativity, and this hits the sweet spot for rough mapping and content.


  3. Sham--
    High praise coming from you!

    So did I--it worked out surprisingly well. Themes developed as I figured out the Kings and Queens and the rest was cake. My only issue is it tended to produce a very densely populated dungeon, and I needed to think of a way to explain that (I eventually did.) I might add in a feature that allows more empty or quiet rooms in the future.

    Anyway, Keith, if you send your results I'd love to see them and maybe post them, since I can't post mine until after my players have run the dungeon.

  4. Zak ---
    Personally, I thought the mix was pretty good, considering that the GM has a lot of lattitude in determining what constitutes an Inanimate Feature or a Person/Monster.

    A quarter of the rooms are going to be empty, another quarter are going to have Inanimate Feature/Objects (traps, clues, puzzles, hidden treasure, etc.). The remaining half will have a person or monster, and about half of those will be average to powerful in strength. The rest will be roadbumps, strange flavor text, or something not level-specific which provides clues to the dungeon.

    I'm halfway through "mapping" the dungeon on a grid in Excel in order to wrap my brain around all of the results and then I'll start the fleshing out the details.

    I'll send you what I end up with.

  5. Abstract PDF map showing which cards were drawn:

    Map of the dungeon (slightly photoshopping dysonlogos' excellent geomorphs):

    I haven't written up what the effects of the cards are beyond what is listed in the PDF, however the map matches the flow of the cards. (I used Photoshop to block passages where the cards showed a wall or secret door.)