Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Dim Expanse

The Dim Expanse part I

Ulin Uthor, in Dwarven, translates roughly to ‘The Dim Expanse’. Within these depths, the so called ‘Deep Down’, the very laws of the world of man become lost and forgotten. The Dim Expanse is a connection between realities, that of mankind, and that of unreason. This series of articles will detail certain facets of Ulin Uthor while I am continuing to plan and design the mega dungeon.

Thus far, Ulin Uthor has six defined regions, from upper most to lowest these are Krawl’s Pace (aka Krawlspace and Kraw’s Place), Lahromil’s Demise, The Hundred Pits, The City Below, The Weeping Caves and The Slumbering Vaults.

As of right now, Krawlspace is complete and consists of 115 keyed areas on two dense maps. Lahromil’s Demise is nearing completion. Level One of LD checks in at 187 keyed areas across four maps. Level Two of LD is not yet complete, but will end up in the 180ish range as well. Krawlspace and the top level of Lahromil’s Demise make up Level One of Ulin Uthor. At six maps and 302 keyed areas, it’s downright massive for a top level.

Each of the planned regions will consist of two levels, with possible sublevels along the way. Each level will encompass four or more maps. Thus, The Slumbering Vaults should comprise levels nine and ten of the mega dungeon. Still lower will be as yet unnamed regions, where the risks and the rewards continue to grow. If I limit each level to four maps, and no more than one sublevel average per region, I’ll still end up with a staggering 46 maps. With an average of say 50 keyed areas each, I will be looking at 2,300 keyed areas.

Exercises like this are futile, though, as it becomes just so much mental masturbation. Breaking the ten levels of the mega dungeon down like this does help me think of stages and steps in order to tackle the design process. Thus, I like having the six regions planned out. There is a vague theme to each, and while this theme does not truly permeate throughout the entire region, it’s a nice jumping off point.

So then, instead of thinking in terms of 2,300 keyed areas, I can think in terms of regions, levels and themes. Much easier for me to wrap my brain around. At this point, I would estimate that 15% of the keyed areas are repeated ala copy and paste, whether it’s a pit or a trapped door, it’s keyed but not unique. Another 10% of the keyed areas are basically empty of significant physical description, possibly some trappings or graffiti, but not much else. So, about 25% of the rooms will be easy as pie to finish.

So far, the design process has been a breeze. I think I am beginning to embrace the process within which Ulin Uthor is unfolding. That being an archival typed version, with the actual vital, changing information (such as monsters and treasure) being recorded in pencil on index cards assigned to each room.

I even settled into using my updated version of the Distribution of Monsters and Treasure guide for certain areas. I am happy with the results, and it speeded up the ‘filling’ process somewhat. I like the old school touch, as well.

I still have a laundry list of over 100 ideas to incorporate into the maps as I go. My only concern with Ulin Uthor thus far, is that I might not have enough empty rooms. Crawling through Krawlspace will take a long time, as nearly every room has something in it…and I don’t mean monsters and treasure, but various tricks, traps, role-playing opportunities, or campaign flavor.

My immediate goal is to finish levels two and three, and just flesh out enough of four and five to handle those daring or foolish level one PC’s who decide to brave some of the lower levels. One or two rooms at the bottom of such inter level connections to levels four and five should be enough to send the newbies out screaming, lest they become some fell beast‘s midnight snack.

I’m still staring at a mountain of work to even get to this point.

With this notion in mind, I did add Krawlspace in hindsight, more as a buffer level to allow immediate entrance into Ulin Uthor, and to prevent access to the lower undefined areas for now. I will manually add lower level connections to Krawlspace once I finish levels two and three.

With LD almost complete, I have already begun to envision The Hundred Pits, and while I doubt it will take on my original plan, that of a series of rooms vertically connected by 100 pits, there will certainly be a reason behind the name of the region. I’m excited about mapping it already.

In the meantime, my room ideas list continues to grow and stay ahead of the design process. If this keeps up the only thing stopping me from completing levels 1-10 is time itself.

~Sham, Delinquent DM

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