Friday, December 30, 2022

A Dungeon Challenge for the Dungeon Challenged?

These past couple of years I've done the 31 Days / 31 Characters Challenge wherein I have posted a different PC or NPC, mine or someone else's, from the plethora of past campaigns, short series, and one-shots I've run or played over the past 45 years. I intended to do that again this year when I can across...the Dungeon 23 Challenge.

The idea behind the Dungeon 23 Challenge is simple: Each day of 2023, create a single room in a roleplaying game Dungeon. At the end of each month you'll have a Dungeon Level. At the end of the year you'll find yourself with a 365 room MegaDungeon that's 12 levels deep.

Sounds fun. And yet...

Dungeon Map from 'The Cursed Fane'
A Scenario for the Japanese Fantasy RPG
Double Moon.

Fan Translated by Claytonian JP

OK, I get that a 'Dungeon' for an RPG can basically be anything. I could do an abandoned castle with levels going up. I could make a Cyberpunk arcology complex. The caverns deep within the mountains of an alien planet could be a Dungeon. These are relatively tame examples. You can really go wild!

That's not what's holding me back.

Most of these internet Gaming or Writing Challenges are a month long and are often hard to complete with my real life schedule. This is A YEAR LONG? Are you insane? I know myself well enough to know I won't get anywhere near completing this and I will berate myself for my perceived failure. 

No one's harder on me than I am. 

Additionally, what am I - and I mean I, Adam 'Barking Alien' Dickstein - going to do with a 365 room MegaDungeon even if I complete it? I rarely use 'Dungeons', mixing indoor and outdoor terrains and events almost equally, often having the two intermingle in a single scenario.

Isometric Dungeon Layout from
'The Adventurer's Bible' Delicious in Dungeon World Guide
By Ryoko Kui

English Translation by Taylor Engel, Yen Press

When I do run an adventure inside a derelict starship or a Supervillain hideout it rarely lasts more than one or two sessions. I don't want to stay in any one place that long unless there is a REALLY good reason to do so. 

The biggest and best reason would be because my players want to but that is almost never the case. Those who game with me know I have a billion different environments to show them and they want to see them. Why hang out in a given location past having anything important to do there? Head onward to a brand new land and if we ever want to revisit the previous place, well, we will.*

Bottom line, why join a 365 day long challenge I am highly unlikely to be able to finish, whose purpose is to create a MegaDungeon I am very unlikely to use?

Hmmm. OK, hear me out on this...

What if I reduce it to one entry a week? A room every Friday. That would result in 52 entries in 2023. If it were still something with twelve levels that would mean only four or five rooms per level so I'd have to consider adjusting that. It might depend on what the 'Dungeon' is. It's also possible...ooh...let's say I am only detailing the rooms with some game relevant element.

Scenario Map of 'The Moonlit Manse'
A Scenario for the Japanese Horror RPG Ghost Hunter

By Gou Shirokawa, Fan Translated by Claytonian JP

Yeah...If there are five other rooms on the same level with nothing unusual in them they might not need their own entry. If it were living quarters for a castle guardsman I could say, "There are six rooms on this level that serve as the sleeping quarters for the castle guard. Each room holds the bunks for four Human sized individuals. Aside from minor personal items, which are few and far between, the rooms are essentially identical. That is, except for the third room as you walk down the hall from West to East. In the third barrack, Room #XX, there is..." and explain how it is different, interesting, and significant. 

Now, if I made the location the base of operations for the PCs in one of my games such as a space vessel, a seafaring galley, an orbital research station, a haunted house, or whathaveyou, I'd be making up a location I would also be using. Even if it weren't their headquarters, if it was something they were exploring each week, the creation would serve a purpose in real time as well as fulfilling the challenge. I love that. 

This is starting to sound really interesting and its giving me other ideas. Things are looking good going into 2023.

Stay tuned!

Barking Alien

*One of the things about Modern and Future Era RPGs is that transportation is fast and safe relative to Fantasy. Cars, trains, planes, grav vehicles, starships, and even personal flight as a superpower makes it so travel to and from great distances is pretty easy. Not only does this allow you to be in a steamy jungle in one session and an arctic tundra the next (or even later on in the same session) but going back to a locale you've already been to is not big deal.

In Fantasy it takes so long to go to most places it feels like a huge undertaking to travel back 'home' and so the hobo portion of murderhobos is born. I suppose you could always mass teleport whole armies across the world like in Games of Thrones or Rings of Power but...ugh.

Another interesting note before I go...I wanted to use Dungeon Maps from Japanese Tabletop RPGs for the illustrations here because I'm on a JTRPG kick again lately. It was so hard finding any it was astounding. I couldn't find a single one in my own collection outside of the Delicious in Dungeon image above. The rest, small and kind of unimpressive as they are, are thanks to Claytonian JP, a real guru if you are interested in learning about the Japanese TRPG scene. You can find him on Twitter here. Great stuff! 

I guess the Japanese use Dungeon Maps about as often as I do. We have so much in common. ;)


  1. My complete lack of need (or want) of a megadungeon is the number one reason for me not to do this. I have been on the fence, because I like projects like this, but finding the time to do it is difficult and the benefit is not terribly clear.

    1. As noted in the post I'm largely in the same boat.

      The one thing that has me strongly considering it is 'the benefit' I perceive it having: it's an excuse to create content others will find useful and interesting. It will bring people to my site who might not have swung by otherwise because they DO use MegaDungeons.

      Also, again as mentioned above, I think do it once a week instead of every day will make it more manageable and more useful to both my audience and myself.

      Well shall see.

    2. UPDATE:

      Well I've started working on the Dungeon 23 Challenge at least three times already.

      Each time I've done a ton of writing and art before scraping the whole concept and starting over.

      I'm beginning to consider this project to be a bust.

    3. Same. I keep thinking that it will just start to flow but every time it just seems like it is the same old stuff I have seen (and written) a million times.