Monday, May 6, 2013

Dungeon Geomorphs

One of the RPG rulessets I've been looking at is "Old School Hack". I love the simplicity of these rules, and the great graphic design of them. You can find a free download for them at or another version at
At first glance I thought they might not be suitable for solo play, but the more I look at them I think they can still work. The "awesome point" economy might need some judgement calls, and may be possible to make a little more objective assuming I get going on playing the game. I've been collecting a bunch of the monsters from the few available sources into my own sort of monster folio, for my own use. I will likely do some tweaking and hopefully add more as I go.

I have also been working on a set of cards to randomize encounters and treasures, for dungeon crawls to start with. I admit I am enamored of cards, because they are easy to customize from game to game, add new stuff, drop stuff, etc. as the game evolves. For encounters I have the main encounter cards, which include monsters, some traps, cards with minor stuff or nothing of consequence, etc. In addition, I have a set of cards to modify or add to Encounters. These are cards that do things like add or subtract from the monsters, have one time events, reinforcements for the monsters, and other sort of temporary or timely things happening. Again, some of the cards do nothing or only add color, without affecting game play. I also have a set of treasure cards, with the usual stuff, from a few coins to jewels and minor magic items, as well as nothing at all or mundane items (some, like a bag of marbles - could be useful, but isn't going to bring in much money; others are really not likely to be of much use, but who knows.).

I have also been working on some dungeon geomorphs. The pictures below show some of the ones I've drawn so far. I also have some larger rooms of various shapes. I will find a way to randomize these (more cards?), as well as where doors are, what type (open doorway, open door, closed door, jammed open or closed, locked, etc.), and "arena" types for the parts of the rooms and hallways, based on the OSH arena types.

Here are some of the elements, all based on 5 by 5 squares so they can fit together well. The inside walls are all squared off, but they could be drawn as rough irregular cavern walls as well. That's just aesthetics and doesn't really have any effect in OSH.

And here is an example map. This shows how pieces can be linked together, with openings closed off as needed. Everything that is gray is solid, impassible.

Using the same 5 by 5 basic building block you could also include special pre-designed rooms/halls/areas. Probably as "one offs". I think that could be a way to include rooms from published adventures/dungeons as additional special random places.
In practice, other than the entry room, I only used rooms with openings on all of the exposed centers of each 5 by 5 square and closed some off as I went. You can see where I covered the ones that aren't open. I just need to work out how to randomize which are open and which aren't. As I type this I realize, that could be as simple as rolling for each opening that doesn't match up with an existing opening in any adjacent rooms or hallways, with something like 50/50 chance of it being open or not.


  1. A very interesting post.Sounds like your on the right track...

  2. Great stuff here! I'm totally rethinking things for my own game now.

    Awesome Points kept me from trying OSH solo. I'm curious to see how you might make it objective.

    Cards for stocking is a great idea - I much prefer the feel of cards to dice, myself. I was recently reading Heroes of the Dungeon Crawl and they suggest using cards for a GM-less dungeon crawl, although not quite as complete as your proposed system (which I will undoubtedly *borrow* :D )

    Oh and I love the geomorphs! I had tried early on to use geomorph cards (1" x 1" counters), pulled from a cup, and they worked, but I abandoned them for reasons that escape me. In retrospect, I don't think I gave them a fair enough shake. Time to revisit that idea.

    Looking forward to further posts of your ideas!

  3. Thanks, guys. :)
    I need to get some more ink for my printer so I can print up the cards, but I hope to be able to start giving this stuff some tryouts and even actual play soon (by the end of the month at the latest, I think, especially with the upcoming 3-day weekend, Memorial Day).
    I will post more ideas and stuff in the next few days. As always, I appreciate any thoughts people might have. John, your solo delves have been and continue to be one of my inspirations. Thank you for that!

  4. I've had various thoughts about cards in the past, and they remain in my opinion the best way to generate a random dungeon. One thought that may help/hinder is using the cards purely for available directions and a separate card for the type of OSH arena?

    I admit it's been a while since I looked at OSH so that may not work smoothly, but a three way 'corridor' card with an 'open' arena (see can't remember, or got lucky!) would indicate a cavern of some kind?

    I couldn't see how I would be able to place 'open' cards with a 'narrow' card.

  5. Thanks, TCS! Yes, that could be another way to approach it. Sort of one more step towards abstract? In OSH actual dimensions and distances aren't very important as everything is by arenas. It's probably not even important to distinguish between rooms and tunnels/hallways/corridors (except in my gaming mind rooms can have treasures, but tunnels rarely do, so that's one reason why I make that distinction). The other thing that I think matters in OSH is the number of arenas and their types in any given combat space. The room/tunnel thing is also a way to help determine when a combat starts and stops.
    I think you need to know the number of arenas, the type of each arena, per encounter, how the arenas are arranged and connected (like a long string where you have to pass through each, some sort of cluster where you don't have to pass through each, blocking like a room that bends around so you can see everything), and where the entrances/exits are.
    I'm a beginner to OSH so I may be missing stuff.