Friday, February 3, 2012

DMG Sample Dungeon Part 3: Room 3 and the Portal of the Jerk

"You come into the the northern portion of a 50' x 50' chamber.  It is bare and empty.  There are no exits apparent.  It seems to be a dead end place."  Gary Gygax, DMG p. 99
No exits are apparent.  It seems to be a dead end place.  If this isn't enough to make you search for secret doors, then maybe you're not playing the right game.

So you've just entered the nexus of the land of the living and the dead, wherein the deceased brethren of the monastery make their secret voyage to the under world.  We know that the dead were lain in repose here on an elevated stage and, after some amount of time, they were taken through a secret door and lain to rest in a sarcophagus somewhere in a long, wide corridor in the crypt area to the south.  It is telling that the entry to the netherworld is via a secret door rather than some grand, awe-inspiring edifice or even a modest  tunnel.  It is reinforcing an aura of mystery regarding the afterlife that most undoubtedly is of significance to their religious beliefs.

DM: "You might be in for a nasty surprise, so I'll let you roll a six sider for me to see your status."  
This is the equivalent of Javier Bardem showing up at your house with a compressed air canister in his hand and asking you to flip a coin.

Ghouls?  What ghouls?
For some reason which we will never understand, the Sample DM in the campaign narrative which accompanies the Sample Dungeon has chosen this moment to reveal that he is a complete dickhead.  We learn that, on finding the secret door, "the gnome" of the party is immediately surprised and devoured by a party of 4 ghouls waiting behind the portal.  Now look at the map of the crypt area beyond the door, there is not a labelled encounter within 120' of the secret door; obviously the author of the sample dungeon did not intend for there to be ghouls loitering there.  Maybe they're wandering monsters--except that we the readers have always been informed when the Sample DM has rolled for wandering monsters in the past, yet no roll was made at this juncture.  Further, the wandering monster table for the crypt area indicates "1-2 ghouls" might be encountered, not 4.  We must conclude that the Sample DM ad libbed 4 ghouls waiting at the secret door to attack the party when they're in a very precarious situation--propped up in a human pyramid!   Now tell me this guy is not a dick!

And more dickishness: the secret portal is described as being only 8-1/2' wide in the room description yet the DM tells the party that it's 10' wide!  You might ask: "Uh, now who's being a dick, Dice-chucker?"  Too-shay, my friend.

As all y'all who've ever held the DMG in your hands knows, room 3 is where the description of the sample dungeon--and the accompanying narrative--ended, the rest was up to the reader to fill in if they so chose.  I might be one of the rare old schoolers who never did fill in that dungeon, mostly because drawing maps was my favorite part of making a dungeon back in the day. And, like the Sample Dungeon, the descriptive text of my dungeons usually trailed off by somewhere around room 3.  Now I've come to the complete opposite end; I much prefer taking other author's maps and descriptions, over-analizing their words to find meanings that probably shouldn't be there, and layering my own interpretation on top of their work.  So that is what we'll do in Part 4 of the Series: What Lies Beyond Room 3.


  1. Looking forward to me (including your take on what the WM tables reveal about the other inhabitants of the level).


  2. Yeah, it's been percolating a bit. I've definitely got some goodies comin up.

  3. (subscribing, nothing to see here).