Sunday, 11 October 2020

Jones' Oracular Dungeon Generator

 So nearly one year ago now (in a time before COVID-19) I received a very special gift from Jones Smith aka Screwhead McDuff aka Mr Screw-on-head in the form of a post-Roman, pre-Saxon Britain hexcrawl generator. I'm quite some way off from putting that into action (there sits in my blog-in a draft post ten months old) but in the meantime I wish to draw your attention to this:

It's a way to create and populate dungeons that are as interesting as their maps.

The Undertemple of Imperfect Reflection by Foot of the Mountain Adventures

(actually it's also a way to make a map)

This is the first of a number of posts I have planned where I use some other creators' tools and see what pops out of the other end. This particular methodology was inspired by Chris McDowall's spark tables.

NB. This is very much a work in progress. I go through the first 5 stages with the intention of 

The Procedure

All of these steps are taken directly from Jones' post, linked above.

Step 1:

Choose how many Forces are at play in the dungeon. 

3 is my favourite number, but I think I'm going to make things complicated for myself and pick 5.They are:

  1. Ancient, malevolent AI/ (non-corporeal eldritch horror, depending on point of view)
  2. Equally ancient giant genetically-modified crocodile leading a cult of amphibious bush-babies.
  3. Tribe of bald cannibalistic chimpanzees. Obsessed by nanotechnology/magic.
  4. Parties of scavenging "half-humans" who view the dungeon as a great source of technology, magic and metal; they have set up halfway points, rest-stops and even taverns at unlikely points in the dungeon.
  5. Maintenance mech-golems: once controlled by the AI, they rebelled and were crushed by its minions. Few remain, ancient relics of a civilisation long passed, struggling to come to terms with their own sapience.

Step 2.

Determine which of the Forces created the dungeon originally. Grab a number of d12s equal to the number of rooms you want this first Force to have created (Other dice work as well, and I've made dungeons using d6s and d20s, but I've found d12s to be my favorite) and drop them on a sheet of paper. Mark where they fall, and what number they're displaying, or take a photo, or something like that.

As recommended, I used the 3D dice roller by Teal

Step 3. 

Fill out the Oracular Dungeon Generation Template for the first Force. 

Holy shit. This is a lot...

Inspiration for these tables was taken from my horrible entry for last years NaNoWriMo, as well as Spwack's Megadungeon

Purpose (I amended this table to D12 to correspond with the dice-drop exercise.):



To ensure the Intelligence is operating efficiently.


To display the Intelligence's artistic accomplishments.


To demonstrate the power of the Intelligence.


To punish the enemies of the Intelligence.

Room structure (5d6):








CupboardBarely 30 cm from the floor.Retail unitClinicalBrilliant white


Box roomAbout 1m highAccommodationShabbyRed


3x3 metresGlassRecreationRottenYellow-white


6x6 metresShrouded in blacknessSanitaryRustedWarm orange


10x10 metresWire meshFood preparationPalatialMauve


ArenaConfusing array of ducts

Special room

(roll twice)

Special rooms (1d6):








Library/server farm







Furnishings (4d12):




Detail x2 


Defining Furnishing of the Room and

Roll Again

(ignore this result on reroll)












Roll on Travel and Roll Again

(ignore this result on reroll)
















Travel (2d6):





Up 1 level

Escalator/ staircase


Hole in floor/ ceiling


Up d4+1  levels 



Down 1 Level



Vacuum tube/ chute


Down d4+1 Levels


Hallways (5d6):








Tight  (duct)CrystalDirectFluorescent strips



NarrowSheet metalMeanderingUnlit


SpaciousCarved stoneUnadornedTorches


ExpansivePlasterboardEmbellishedBurning Sconces


VastMirroredIllustratedMagical orbs


6MiniatureGlass (see above)VariableUnlit

Features (3/4d12)
(I only use column 1 for corridors as the rooms have already been determined by the dice-drop)




Action x2

Details x2

1To ensure the Intelligence is operating efficiently.Computer terminalInvestigatingMalodourous
2Display screenSmilingNoisy
3Vending machineObservingSweet-smelling
4To display the Intelligence's artistic accomplishments.Cleaning golemProbingCute
6Fungal growthHurtingSmoking
7To demonstrate the power of the Intelligence.Peculiar slimeWeepingFreezing
8Laser beamBeggingHorrifying
10To punish the enemies of the Intelligence.SarcophagusInterrogatingLonely

Fuck that was exhausting... I think that was the fun part...

Step 4:

Roll for each room. Use the filled out template to generate the rooms of your dungeon. This is going to take creativity: the template will provide you with essentially disparate, pieces of raw information and detail, and it's your job to reconcile the weirdness and write up a short paragraph describing the room and its features. There are 2 crucial and contradictory rules:

Jesus, this is long... okay, here is my provisional map:

I promise I didn't make this in PowerPoint

  1. Chamber of Eternal Incarceration This room is accessed via a secure door. It leads into an initial holding chamber...
    • Holding chamber (3x3 metres) consists of a teleportation pad with a series of instructions in an ancient language. If operated correctly, it will transport a character's body and soul upwards two levels to the shopping mall. It is rusty but maintained by a sweet smelling cleaning golem keeping a watchful eye on any visitors. It will attempt to block anyone from accessing the teleporter. 
    • A secure door n the far-side of the holding chamber leads into the main cell.
    • The main cell is 3x3 metres, lit by soft sodium lights set into the floor, they barley illuminate beyond 2 metres in height, above which the ceiling disappears into blackness. A cleaning golem is on standby, ready to scrape prisoner effluent into the sluice-like drain in the centre of the room. It will regard any intruders as effluent.

  2. Universal Toilet Display This 6x6 metres is clad in clinical white tiles with a mirrored ceiling and lit by an elegant mauve lighting, the room is dominated by a crystal fountain in the centre, which is actually a public urinal
    • Spotlessly clean, aside from the recent corpse of a smiling half-human dungeoneer. The corpse is still warm. The corpse is Smethwyk Fellcast, a low-level thief for hire who came a cropper courtesy of a service golem. Body contains carries trappings (generate randomly).
    • Crystals worth 3d10 gp can be removed for every hour/ 6 turns spent chipping away with quality metal tools. There is probably 10,000 GP worth of crystal here in total (about fifty hours to remove completely).
    • About 2 metres from Smethwyk lies an upturned metal chest, about 30 x 10 x 20 cm in size. A trail of blood lies between the chest and the corpse. The chest has been looted but he clasping mechanism still functions. 
    • A broken computer terminal sits at the far side of the room. The section of tiled wall above occasionally flickers to life, displaying images of smiling humans using the urinal fountain.

  3. Meat delivery chamber  30 cm high door leads into this chamber, 3x3 metres, lit by a brilliant white lights set into the floor. One metre long spikes hang from the ceiling, leaving a clearance of about 30 cm. Within a few seconds, a terrifying voice will beg the party to release it from its prison.
    • Most PCs will have to crawl on their belly through the room if they wish to reach doors  to  cross the room to any of the doors. 
    • A weight of  1kg or more will trigger the ceiling to lower slowly (takes about the same amount of time as one would need to crawl across the room). The spikes pass into holes in the floor, and anything inside is crushed, with liquids sluicing through mesh on the floor.
    • the begging voice is a fungal growth on the ceiling. It has assimilated the souls of all that met their fate here and begs to be freed. It will take one hour to scrape it away from the gaps between the spikes, if some way is found to prevent the ceiling from descending. It is incredibly loud. 
    • The sluice carries protein rich run-off towards food preparation area 5.
    • The ceiling will remain lowered for one minute, after which a service golem will emerge from a sconce behind a hidden panel in the south wall, collect any detritus and deposit it back in its sconce. A rubbish chute within the sconce is blocked, containing centuries of scrap metal, bone, and plastic. A thorough search of the chute will yield about 300 GP worth of scrap metal.

  4. Service Golem Assembly Chamber All doors to this 10 x 10 metres chamber are 0.9 metres high, and the concrete ceiling is only about 10 cm  higher. The floor, walls and ceiling are all clad with a smooth, highly polished ivory coloured marble. Details are inlaid with gold trim (about 1000 gp, takes one turn to remove 10gp)...
    • 3d4 service golems are powered down and recharging in the 24 alcoves that line the perimeter of this chamber. 12 golems remain active at the time of the party's arrival, make deductions for any already encountered.
    • A red laser beam crosses the entrance. If broken by a non-golem, all golems immediately activate and attack intruders. The beam is about 10cm from the ground at the door's threshold. 
    • A central platform in the centre of the room is actually an elevator  leading down to the next level. It is operated by a large red button.
    • A derelict vending machine sits at the end of the chamber. It spits out random magical artefacts every time a silver coin is inserted into its slot. Breaking it open yields 3d1000 silver coins but no magical artefacts.

  5. Food preparation area: A 2 x 2 metre box room decorated in the same marble and gold of the Golem Assembly Chamber. A table on the far wall receives protein from the room 3. This table is now covered in thick green slime. Lit by sodium lights on the walls, a ceiling of wire mesh allows glimpses of the food service area above. 
    • The slime is intelligent, but unable to communicate verbally in its present form. It is mildly corrosive and moves slowly (10'/turn), though it is unable to corrode marble.
    • The slime has one puppet, a mutant cat-dog which it uses to explore the surrounding area in the hope of one day attaining a greater degree of mobility. If the the cat-dog is able to kill a biological entity without damaging it brain, the slime will be granted control of the creature.

  6. Server Farm: 10x10 metres chamber of rusted steel, with floors and ceilings of glass. 25 humming electronic units house the ancient Intelligence that created this dungeon. 
    • A one metre tall security golem patrols the area, attacking intruders with poisonous gas
    • A decrepit computer console begs for death. Originally a minor intelligence created (by humans?) to facilitate manual override of the Greater Intelligence, it was partially destroyed by the Greater Intelligence centuries ago and has been trapped here ever since.
  7. Company Store: A one-metre high cupboard big enough for a person to sit in. The mummified remains of that person remain in place, connected to an array of tubes and straps that would have fed them and removed their waste, as well as preventing them from fleeing. 
    • The mummified corpse is worth 500 GP to a magic-user, alchemist or artist looking for brown pigment. 
    • Behind the corpse sits an array (2d12) of plastic statuettes  (souvenirs? religious idols?) of a clown playing soccer sit on a series of shelves. Each one can be sold to a collector of religious artefacts for 10 Gp each.
    • Removing the mummified corpse activates a teleportation device, transporting the corpse and all those touching it to room (as yet undefined) on the level below

Step 5. 

Draw connections between the rooms (dice). 

Create secret passages between any two rooms whose dice sum to 13. 

Make sure you're making loops! It's just good dungeon design, folks.

I've already drawn up a draft network but, having filled out the room details I remain dissatisfied, so am going to attempt to rationalise the plan:

I think this works for me? There's gaps for later infill...

Step 6. 

Use the template to roll for each hallway, interpreting the results, writing short descriptions, and obeying the same principles as rolling for rooms.

As I've made a map, going to have all the corridors be regular-sized 1m wide, 2.4 metres tall, but still roll for ceilings, style, light and features:

  • Corridor c: this small, 1 metre corridor contains two sconces in the east and west walls, wherein fires burn gently. There are signs that maybe they were once shrines of some kind. Above, a crystal ceiling glimmers in the firelight. Doors at either end are of sturdy steel, but are not locked. Both open into the corridor.
  • Corridor d: 4 metre long corridor hewn from sheets of steel, totally unadorned and unlit. Doors at either end are of sturdy steel, but are not locked. The north door opens into the corridor. The door at the southern end is only 30 cm high and slides upwards.
  • Corridor e: this fourteen metre long corridor contains numerous sconces where once fires burned for illumination: now empty, the corridor is unlit. It has a crystal ceiling similar to corridor C. A sweet-smelling, lonely cat-dog that has somehow got itself stuck down here begs for scraps of food. It's bite causes an incurable wasting disease. Doors at either end are of sturdy steel, but are not locked. Both open into the corridor. The central door to room 4 can only be opened by a service golem (or part of a service golem).
  • Corridor f: gypsum litters the floor, relics of the crumbling ceiling from which numerous cables and wires dangle. Touching a cable deals 4d10 lightning damage. A single torch is bound to the wall in a steel cage-like structure, lighting the passage. The wall, painted white, are covered in graffiti in a long-lost language and are accompanied by numerous pornographic cartoons. Doors at either end are of sturdy steel; the door to room 4 is locked and can only be opened by a service golem (or part of a service golem). Both open into the corridor.
  • Corridor g: as corridor f, littered with crumbling gypsum from the ceiling. the dangling cables here are not live, and the walls are not illustrated. Instead, numerous empty sconces are filled with neat piles of high quality leather clothing equivalent to leather armour. There are six such suits. Someone has fastened a torch to the wall for light. All doors are steal and locked apart from the doors to rooms 6 and 4, which require a service-golem to open.
  • Corridor h: pitch dark as it is completely unlit, looking up reveals a glass ceiling connecting to the room above (will add later: obvs if this room is lit this corridor will be too). Doors to rooms 4 & 6 are locked as previously described, but the door to room 5 is not.

Step 7. 

Choose the Force that shaped the dungeon following the first Force, and fill out the template for it. 

...okay this has been quite an intense process and the prospect of repeating the procedure for four more dungeon forces is a little distressing. Nonetheless, going trough this process has given me a few ideas as to where to take things next:

  • Several rooms and corridors imply that there are levels above and below this one.
  • Lower levels should consist of a chamber of the mad Greater Intelligence and multiple burrows dug by other "forces".
  • The upper levels consist of a former shopping mall and food court now occupied by half-humans and their rivals, the chimp cannibals, as well as some rebel maintenance golems
With this in mind, I intend to adjust and amend the dungeon generation process to fit these "emergent" features of the process, and will share in future posts.

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