The French language AD&D module G1 by Gary Gygax taken from: https://www.donjondudragon.fr/univers/greyhawk.html
Lets talk about what it means to own your Dungeon.
With the publication of D&D's 5th edition, the one thing that is missing is a variety of game environments. Sure, there are some modules out, but you might also want to consider that there are also lots and lots of vintage modules for both, earlier versions of D&D, and other game systems entirely like Tunnels and Trolls, and many others.
So why not take an old module and update it a bit so you can replay it with your friends?
Image taken from: https://hiveminer.com/Tags/map,module
Our recent blog posts have been about Quick and Dirty Dungeon Design with a focus on home made dungeons. We had some responses on game forums that we visit where people mentioned that they like modules.
We do too. We just use them differently.
In fact, we don't hate them at all, we're just more into Do it Yourself games. In our current game we're actually running Greg Svenson's Tonisborg dungeon; which is essentially a module, because it comes with room keys. We aren't removing anything in Tonisborg, what we are doing is adding to it, in order to make it feel real.
Tonisborg by Greg Svenson (1973)- Level 10 example
Being a very old Dungeon, it is done in a very personal style that worked for Greg Svenson at that time. If he designed it today it would likely be completely different. His dungeon key is also very sparse because he was playing in the old style where a lot of it is kept in the D.M.'s head.
When we play it, all we do is tinker with it a bit to make it feel like our own dungeon. By changing it we also make it seem as if it is our own creation. Now we can -- Play it as Our Own Dungeon.
We have added little details when we run it. For example in the last session, the players found a passage they wanted to go through that was choked with big rope-like cables. Greg's notes say nothing about anything in that tunnel. These turned out to be old giant spider webs and the players burned them away before passing. As you can see, this isn't changing the dungeon at all, it's merely adding some flavor to an already wonderful and scary place.
Additionally, a big problem with running a published module, or someone else's dungeon, is that often a D.M. won't expand on what is there, or feels they can't change anything. The end result is that these dungeons can end up feeling like they are frozen in time.
The last thing a D.M. wants do to is give the players the feeling that any RPG game environment is static and dead, unless it's full of undead of course. :) The goal should always be to bring any place to life. The best way to do that is by making the dungeon your own and altering it.
Think of it this way: you paid for it when you bought it. It's all yours to do whatever you want.
Why not upgrade one of these classics and play it once again?
A great resource is one of the many dungeons created by Gary Gygax. Module G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief is a perfect example for revamping and upgrading. We are showing one of the level maps and it is pretty straight forward and standard looking. But things have changed since those days and most Game Masters make their own games much more flavorful. Additionally, this module was limited by more real word limitations, such as the cost and difficulty of printing it; thus they were likely squeezing as much as they could into a small number of pages and using few colors in doing so.
These Classic Dungeon Modules have also been around forever. Some of your players may actually have bought the modules themselves back in the day. Having either read it, or played through it, they can't experience it as if it was brand new.
There is still hope though -- apply OWNAGE to your classic module and make it your own. And then watch your player's jaws drop when they realize everything has gotten a bit of interior decorating and the place feels kind of fresh and new.
Another issue with Dungeon Design, is that there are so many fantasy game systems available now, that if your group is running in a different game system, you may still want to personally port an old module to your newer game, just because you love it.
This is why, no matter what Dungeon you choose to run, you have to Smack it with some -OWNAGE- and make it your own!
Consider these two options:
-Change the Map
-Change the order, location, and even content of the room descriptions
1. Changing the Map
Let's say your are running Module G1, you can easily upgrade this module's map.
Today we have the internet. A quick search for "Medieval Castle Blue Print" produced this link:
Oh my, now you don't even need to draw a map!
All you have to do is print out these plans for personal use, and write down which room from the module's Room Descriptions goes where. Pretty easy right? Of course, there's even more you can do to Own this Dungeon. You've come this far, so why not alter the original plans to suit your needs. Those maps may be actual maps, but your game may need something to make them more fun.
The scale on old castles is actually quite small, so you might want to double it, to make all the rooms bigger!
You can add a some secret passageways below the castle, or even some tiny ones, that the Giants are too big to use, that are right inside those huge walls! Maybe there is a secret passage that leads to the inside of the well from outside the castle, now you have a way for your players to sneak into, or escape from, the castle.
Is there a dungeon below this castle? If your players are having fun with the module, why not expand under ground?
Or, if you want to get weird, you can add some sort of, above the castle, dungeon in the clouds. A floating cloud room, or dungeon, will make this castle seem even more fantastical.
2. Change and Add to the Room Descriptions
You can also alter what is in the room keys to suit your own game better.
Now that you aren't locked into an original map, you can add spice to the game. Maybe the Giants have some pets they keep somewhere. Or, there are things the giants don't bother to remove from their castle and are just a nuisance to them, but can be an enemy, or an ally to your players. There's no reason to not add some faeries in the garden right? Or, something they don't even know about, like a hidden crypt that was built by the castle's previous owners and is full of traps and undead.
The options on expanding the encounters on an Owned Dungeon are limitless, so we won't say more on actual encounters. Yet, there are details that one can use in the hallways to add flavor to an adventure: crumbling and unsafe passages; water running down the walls and pooling on the floor; mosses and lichens; or anything else you can dream up.
And in some instances, you can use these simple elements to freak out your players.
D.M.: You hear some rustling in a pile of debris.
Player: Ok, I draw my weapon and approach carefully. What do I see?
D.M.: As you get closer you see a mouse dragging something across the floor to a hole in the wall.
Player: What is it dragging?
D.M.: It looks to be a freshly severed human finger.
Our primary objective with these articles is to help newer gamers who may be having trouble as they explore the world of Fantasy gaming. Yet, we are also sharing some of our own experience with RPG's. It's easy as a D.M. to run out of energy. Sure the weird ideas are coming along fine when you sit down to design an adventure, but you are stuck in the same old way of doing things and your in-game-play may be suffering because of it.
Consider this: If you change how you think about your games, it may also add to how you run your games.
We hope some of these ideas are helpful to all D.M.'s new and old.
If you have not checked out our videos -- make sure to visit David Megarry's Dungeon! channel on You Tube.
Here is the link to one of the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM8GHeFVHyA
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