Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Irritating Problem of Shared-Walls Dungeon Maps

When I was a wee lad, let us say in the summer of '83 or '84, maybe, it was at that time in my life that I had been introduced to D&D and found in it a very useful tool for avoiding the tedium of day-to-day earthly life. Also, the Atari 2600 and my favorite game Adventure. Maybe a couple of others.

I also discovered graph paper, almost accidentally, and since I'd had a couple of modules in my collection my brain lit up like a Christmas tree! AHA I could make some dungeons, too, but what really happened was that I - maybe in an unhealthy way - would just draw mazes on the graph paper OVER AND OVER AND OVER and then give them to my grandparents who (godsblessum) were like non-plussed but cooperative. And they solved them, agreeably, and so I had to escalate the process, and I would put in rooms with treasure, and then traps, and the occasional monster and so what you would get is a lot like what we would call a dungeon these days, but pretty MAZE-y. I recall hours upon hours of sweaty NW Florida afternoons laboring over whether the squares were too similar, or maybe the paths were too linear, or whatever a young guy would have gotten into before he'd discovered other kinds of masturbatory exercises. Pretty soon, I burned out the pad of graph paper or found myself stymied or maybe I discovered the piano in the clubhouse room near the pool and tried to figure out how to play LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART. Maudlin.
Literally the same cover as the one I toiled at. You can find anything.


Anyways, maybe a year or two later, the Gold Box adventures (pool of radiance etc) and another favorite of mine TELENGARD came out on the c64 and we - my buddies and me - were into these day long affairs of maze-maze-maze-kill-kill-kill-maze-maze-maze and hey! who's to say it wasn't great? Not me, that's for sure! But I think I'd learned my lesson in terms of tedious mazes and I got to be irritated by the "Shared Wall" phenomenon. That is, when you use graph paper to make mazes the way I did, and you make them dense, the way I did, naturally your Grandad is gonna be like "Oh Man I just Drill Through This and Head For The Exit". The cheater.

Now - you cannot pull this sort of trick on a C64 - the in-game physics don't allow for Passwall or Dimension Door or whathave-you. So - always you're going to be presented with the spooky anxiety of SHIT MAYBE THEY WILL JUST CHOOSE TO DIG, OR HACK, OR ZAP THEIR WAY THROUGH THIS B

So, I drifted away to the more "moderner" way of doing it, which is to say I separate, now, my hallways and my walls so that there are no shared walls in there to dig through, or maybe a Xorn could do it or Purple Worm or something but not a hard-scrabble group of murderhobos.

But, Like, Why, Man? My grandpa is D-E-D (godsblessum) and I would applaud any party of miners who could pull of a feat like I've described. These little pencil lines on the graph paper in no way represent a adamantine/plascrete/duralloy surface. I guess they could. They're walls in the Mythic Underworld, bro! My old penchant for doodling twisty little passages (all alike) in between special treasure filled rooms is retrospectively LEGIT

Let us consider that on a piece of graph paper wherein one square = 10', then the line that represents a wall if you draw it that way is like perfect for your average interior wall in an office building which may really be like 8 inches thick but if an office was a dungeon (it kinda really is a DUNGEON comrades!) then any able-bodied murder hobo would skip all the traps and locks and stuck doors and just break those fucking walls the eff down. And you should let them! And all the monsters will come running and then the PCs will be eaten and maybe the next batch of PCs is not quite as dense.

I been noodling around with a system I stole from some OSR-type guys to make a long stretch of maze more logistically doable at the table. Frankly, a pen n paper tracing of the route is anticlimactic and further allows the viewing of my TOP SEKRIT MAP and so that's a no-no. This procedure uses a deck of cards and the players using PC skill or player knowledge to get through a set number of cards in order to exit the labyrinth. It's pretty clever (sadly I dint think of it) and ripe for hacking... Make a couple of awesome stretches of geomorphs interspersed with some procedural-simulated mazes which get easier with travelling and cost light/food/water/etc.? Now we're talking some Mythic Underworld.

Anyways, a paper-thin wall is not a barrier unless they agree it is. Or, unless it's made of very stern fantasy-type stuff.

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