Hybban’s Geek Reviews: Engineering Dungeons by Troll Lord Games

Engineering Dungeons
Editor: Troll Lord Games
Author: Robert Doyel
Series: Castles and Crusades / Generic
Format: 28 pages, paperback or PDF, black and white.

For those who don’t know, Troll Lord Games is a small independent editor that publishes Castles & Crusades (C&C), a d20 game with a strong AD&D1 flavor.  In the last years of his life, Gary Gygax worked for them and wrote a number of books and games.  For those who don’t know, Gary Gygax is… No, just kidding! :)

This is a very useful product for GMs that want to create fun dungeons but don’t have the time to think about them too much.  This product is an improved version of the random dungeon generator from Appendix A of AD&D First Edition.

What’s Inside

You’ll find 28 pages of tables, all with long explanations and some very nice drawings.  There are also a few examples of dungeon maps (one complete, some partials, some rooms and passages).  Basically what Mr. Gygax did in his games, but with additional flavor, the Troll way… in a way.

This small book helps you create your own dungeons.  Not just the map, but also the dungeon’s purpose, origins, contents and lots of flavor bits to make it more believable.  Bear in mind that even if the book is published by TLG and has the C&C colors, this is completely generic material.  Of course, the monsters in the tables are from the Monster & Treasure book by TLG, but otherwise, it is good for every hack’n slash fantasy game.

To give you a better understanding of what this product has to offer, I’ll give you one example of what I’ve generated with it.   Everything here is the result of the roll of the dice.   I’ll present the general description of the dungeon and two of its rooms.   You’ll see with the rooms, that sometimes, you’ll probably have to tweak the numbers to make it work for your campaign.

My Dungeon

Purpose:     Economic and Shelter.  (I chose to roll two purposes as suggested in the book.)

Builder:       Natural conditions.

Location:    Terrain, Hot desert.

Size:            1 level, with 2 entrances, both known (but one is hidden so very few must know of it).   The first entrance is a shaft and the second is a door.

Age:            2 millennia.

As a GM, what can I make out of that?   I immediately thought about a desert smuggler cache (due to the purpose), probably in a rocky desert in some natural caves.  The entrances can be easily placed this way.

Then I rolled for the layout.  My opinion is that people should use their own dungeon design, but this book can give some really nice ideas for layout.   There is lots of advice about how to interpret your results and adapt them to your design.  I will give you two examples of rooms I rolled up.  Once again, all the information come from various tables.

Room 1

This is a rectangular room, 15ft x 30ft, built for medium sized creatures, with one other exit and no doors. It is not trapped and contains no treasures.  This is a unoccupied ramshackle Arboretum where venomous snakes are hidden.  There is a really softly glowing light and some debris around.  (Where are the snakes – in the debris or the trees? It’s up to the GM).

Room 2

You’ll see that this one is not usable as rolled.  It will need some work, but the ideas are great.  My ideas are in parentheses after the information from the tables.

This is a rectangular room of 10ft x 10ft, built for medium sized creatures, with two doors that are neither locked nor trapped.  The room looks like a cell.

There is a tricky non-lethal trap in the room.  It looks like a confusion trap (probably some gaz trap), but it is a movement trap that will take the character or party up to 50ft away (the first trap is a lure hiding a second trap).  The difficulty level of the trap should be 3 below the average party level.  The room also gives mild vertigo (a side effect from the movement trap, teleport?).

There is a functional object in the room.  (Perhaps the lever to disarm the trap?)

There is an NPC in the room with a party of six other characters. The NPC is a level 18 elf.  (Whoa!!! High level, probably a fighter in this place…)  He has a level 2 treasure. (How cheap!)

Tweaking Your Results

What is a high level elf doing with six other people in a 10 by 10 cell?  This is where the GM will have to do some work.  The first room was quite good and would fit this place (with a small irrigation system for the trees), but for the second room will be harder.

Let’s say that there are several 10 by 10 cells, where the elf and his party are trapped due to the movement trap.  The characters may be able to help them thanks to the object in the guard area.  So, you see that even if the rolls were strange, the result can give nice stuff.  As for the level of the NPC and his party (and the treasure), I’ll adjust it to the characters’ level.

Final Thoughts

Two last things to mention about this book are two really great tables.  One gives you 100 objects to fill a torture chamber – really great inspiration!  The other is a set of tables giving lists of monsters for different dungeon locations (swamp, desert, planar, etc.) and the monster commonality.   It’s five pages of lists to help keep your encounters consistent.

I think I’ve said everything I have to say about the book, don’t hesitate to post comments if you need more explanation.  You’ll have to admit, for under $10, it’s a blast!

Pick up Engineering Dungeons today!

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