I revisited 360 Locations yesterday.
This morning I want to talk about the seventy-odd caves and ruins that I noted in my breakdown of Skyrim locations. First things first: these are all dungeons.
Now, with the exception of maybe a half-dozen connections to the Blackreach, none of these are megadungeons. Some are (generally the caves), only a couple rooms and a few monsters. Some are notably animal dens.
Skyrim however, was created by a team of developers.
“How do I even?” you might ask.
Well, let’s try to tackle one thing at a time — how did the dungeon “get there?” I realize this has been addressed in OSR blogs before, particularly with regard to megadungeon development. The 5e DMG has a nifty little table.
I’ll admit, when I look at this table it says “padded,” to me. It includes 3 subtables. After rolling to see the race that constructed it, which notably includes “cults” or “humans of X alignment and Y class.”
Cults may be to “demons,” “devils,” any of the four classical elements, or deities of Good, Neutral, or Evil alignments. If they were going for generic, I don’t know why they didn’t include Chaotic/Lawful cults.
Seriously though, is there enough difference between how demon-worshipers and devil-worshipers construct their dungeons to give them unique entries on a subtable? What kind of dungeon does a Lawful Good barbarian build?
Sure, you can ignore stupid results. Better they not be there at all, though.
This strikes me as sloppy.
But it helped me realize a few things. First, not every race builds dungeons. Halflings don’t. Gnomes probably don’t. Kobolds certainly do, and they aren’t listed on the table. For shame. But I do respect the “no creator” entry.
Maybe just . . . more than 5% of dungeons should be natural caverns?
This is a big deal though. If you consider the limited number of dungeon-building races, it actually becomes somewhat easy to imagine how they’ll build their dungeons differently. For starters, forget most Chaotic types.
Barbarians, bards, rogues, and sorcerers don’t build things to last. (Not on purpose, anyway.) Instead, they’re more likely to take over someone else’s dungeon. And only dwarves, elves, and humans among the races.
Now we’re less concerned about who is building the dungeon because we have a — few — fairly distinct dungeon builders. Dwarves, elves, and humans, likely of the cleric, druid(?), fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and wizard classes.
And not all races take to all classes.
Suddenly, you’re looking at significantly fewer, and more different dungeon types. There are between twelve and twenty dungeons that elf-rangers and dwarf-fighters are going to construct. Human-monks will build a monastery.
So now, now you need to look back at what races and all are represented in your region. Elves and dwarves are kind of easy because they live a long time and have been around forever. Make 19 dwarf ruins and 19 elf ruins.
Give the dwarf ruins dwarf-y names.
Give the elf ruins elf-y names.
Dwarf ruins will tend to be mountain outposts, and will probably reach places deep underground. Elf ruins will be deep in the impenetrable forests, high in the treetops, clinging to cliff-faces, or wherever the pointy-ears decide to build.
If I had a dungeon name generator, I’d point you to one now.
These don’t have to be big ruins. There’s a “five room dungeon” template I’ve been meaning to check out, which might be ideal for this kind of situation.
Maybe there’s a way to make a generator for “five rooms.”
Here, I’ve talked about ruins. I’ll come back to caves.