Megadungeon Mapping

I finished the Fire Gate tower key for the Fire Citadel megadungeon, which I am building for play using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy within a revived rendition of my Mystamyr setting.

Finishing the first dungeon key is significant because it marks the beginning for actual play: in other words, from today I have enough to run a session. The deadline for starting is actually about a week away, so this feels extremely positive. It was also really fun was discovering that some of my old notes from 2016 were good enough once they were simply reorganised.

Early sketch from my 2016 Fire Citadel maps, still the basis for the current megadungeon.

The Art Of The Key

The trick was to use The Alexandrian’s “Art of the Key” stuff to re-parse the information in a readable fashion. Put simply:

  • I put each individual location on the map on a separate page.
  • At the top is a box of text describing what can be seen at a glance.
  • Below this (if relevant) are any checks I need to make for reactive elements in that location.
  • Below this is a list of the significant things in that location, each in turn broken down into bulleted notes that share what the players can discover if they look more closely.
  • Finally, I added notes for any relevant rules that I need to remember.

For example, let’s imagine there’s a chest in the room. The players are told there’s an iron-bound chest in the room when they walk in; if they investigate, they learn that it has a lock and strong hinges, that it looks sturdy. Below that are my notes on the lock, the stats for breaking into it or forcing the hinges, and a list of what’s inside – again, notes in order of the appearances of things. Beneath all of that are notes on any rules that I need to remember for this room.

Taken all together, this new way of writing notes for locations makes it really easy for me to parse (mentally) and then pass on to the players (nice rhyme!) what they need to know, in the order they might learn it.

An additional bonus is that this approach also encourages me to run my game on the principle that player skill activates character skill; in other words, when the players activate their character’s interest in something, then they can get to make a roll (if it’s needed) or simply learn more from what their character sees. This encourages curiosity in the environment they are exploring but still rewards players who have invested in the mechanical skills of their characters.

From here, I am already keying some areas immediately behind the Fire Tower, meaning that I will certainly be able to run several sessions of exploration from the game’s start date on the 5th September.

Given that interested players are already creating characters and also knocking out pre-generated back-up characters for newbies, I expect that I will be feeling quite confident on Day One.

Game on!

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