The Interior Design of Dungeons…

2010 June 8
by Dante

I am pleased to report that our good friend Vanir is visiting StupidRanger West for a few days, and today he and I have selected a blog topic for one another.  He demanded that I put on my gold lame’ interior design shorts and talk about how matters of dungeon decor.  Luckily, I have been wearing them all along!  You can read the topic I selected for him (or whatever fell out of his brain as a result) over at his Dire Flailings column on Critical Hits.

WARNING: This post may contain some details about the Kincep Mansion module, but I will try to keep it spoiler-free.  You’ve been warned.

Always coordinate with healthy natural plant life

Our D&D crew has recently began exploring Kincep Mansion, a lovely example of Victorian era fantasy architectures that has fallen into sad disrepair.  Unfortunately, the Kincep mansion has been beset by some less than desirable feng-shui in recent years, best seen to be believed.  They did get one thing right: cultivating a healthy and extensive garden.

During our last session, Stupid Ranger’s character was exploring the grounds and smartly taking the circuitous path to survey the property.  Upon reaching the back of the mansion, I described the garden as described in the module and then she started asking questions.  “Is it a kitchen garden?” she asked.  My first thought (and statement): “WTF is a kitchen garden?”

It seems that this fairly obvious detail was overlooked on the Kincep Mansion fact sheet, so I had to stammer around a bit and decide what type of plants actually comprised the overgrown garden.  Everyone also had a good laugh at my lack of skill at herbology.  The main takeaway here: read through the module and ask yourself “what possible follow-up questions can the players have in this situation?” and make up some stock answers.

An informed interior designer is a happy interior designer

Once again, Stupid Ranger’s character was my downfall.  This time they were cautiously edging closer to the stable area of the map.  They didn’t like the looks of the run-down architecture and overgrown surroundings (always hire a gardener before you want to sell a property!) so Stupid Ranger’s bard wanted to know if she’d heard any stories that would tell about the interior of the mansion and whether or not the stables connected to the main house.  This was not apparent from the outside of the building, so it was a long-shot and by this point in the session I was rather exasperated at the strange details that I had to make up on the fly.

Of course, Stupid Ranger rolled a natural 20.

That meant I had to make up a story about Euphegenia Kincep, the impetuous daughter of the mansion’s owners who enraged her conservative father by sneaking out the Main Hall via the east entrance to the stables with her beau.  A ruined chastity belt later and the story is the stuff of local legends.  Of course, the group wanted to know if they ended up in the stall or the hayloft and a variety of other questions best left for impolite company.

The moral of this story: let your characters use their skills, and be prepared to pull some impromptu tales of lore out of your hindquarters.  This particular situation was stressful for me as the GM, but the result not only fit well into the plot but the group LOVED it.

Be prepared to dive deep into the interior design of your dungeon because you will end up with a richer experience as a result.  Let’s hear some stories of dungeon detailing from you, gentle reader!  Until next time!

4 Responses leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010

    Never let them think you don’t know! You gotta fake it!


  2. June 8, 2010

    Along similar lines, I find it worthwhile to make up some interesting details beforehand, to breathe some life into the dungeon. You never know what your players will latch onto!

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