The Black Orifice

Tabletop gaming resources and events from grumpy old games designers, Ben Redmond and Nigel McClelland

Dungeon Slam Design Blog


a design blog article looking at how you build a dungeon to explore in Dungeon Slam.

Example Dungeon Map Tile In designing Dungeon Slam, I'm aiming to create a game that provides a dungeon crawling experience alonside a game that could be played in a balanced, competitive tournament environment. The dungeon is built by from a series of standard-sized dungeon tiles that fit together to make the full dungeon. For tournament play, each player brings a selection of these tiles, shuffle them together and build a random dungeon from the selected tiles.

A dungeon is built from four such tiles. At the start of the game you deal them out in a 2 x 2 formation, face down. There's also a special tile called the Arena tile that goes at one end of the dungeon formation. When each tile is revealed, flip it face up and roll a dice to see which way round it goes (there's little purple arrows with numbers on them - point the arrow that the dice result corresponds to towards the arena tile.

Dungeon Layout DiagramFinally there are six teleport chambers that are placed around the edge of the dungeon tiles. Each player's party beings play in one of these chambers furthest from the arena tile. However, when your adventurers are returning to play after being taken out they enter the dungeon via a randomly selected teleportation chamber.

The image on the right shows you the way to lay out the tiles in your dungeon. The opposing parties line up alongside each other, but will have to make their way through at least some of their first tile before being able to come after each other, if that is their goal. There will also likely be several doors blocking their way that will need to be unlocked (or kicked in) if your adventurers are to progress through the dungeon.

Exploring or Slaying?

The layout of the dungeon is such that players can choose whether to try and race to be the first party to reach the arena, find the boss and defeat him; or to go and hunt down the other party and make their life miserable. The prize in Gold Pieces for each is the same - 8gp for slaying the Arena Boss, 8gp combined bounty for the whole of the enemy party - but on their own neither is enough to win the game. You need 12gp to win.

As your adventurers explore the map they will approach Clue squares (indicated by a magnifying glass symbol). They can either attempt to search when nearby these clue squares to uncover what they are hiding, or blunder forward triggering whatever secrets they may contain.

When you trigger or search a clue card you draw an encounter card, which might contain a trap, a monster, an event or a treasure chest. Some of these are just there to challenge you, and to give you more tactical choices (you build a trap deck for your opponent to face), but these also provide you with opportunities to earn some extra Gold Pieces along the way. You may also find yourself discovering treasure items that provide you with some power-up effects to help you in the dungeon.

As such you can also choose to go for a fast strategy, where you hunt down your opponent or race to the Boss Fight, or a more measured one where you search all the clue sites to uncover as many gps and as much treasure as you can to best prepare yourself for the boss fight at the end.

Arena Tile

Example Arena TileThe Arena tile has a special layout so that it can join together the two dungeon tiles that feed into it. However, once you have entered the Arena, it is nearly always a single large room, meaning you can end up facing several theats at once.

The Arena has the same six clue squares as any dungeon tile, so there is no way of knowing exactly where the Arena Boss will turn up. And given that four of the other five clues are likely to be traps or other monsters, the Arena is going to be a tough room for anyone to face. Whether you stick together to face it as a team, or split up and send your deadliest adventurer off to assassinate the boss is another strategic option you need to contemplate. Watch out for a blog post on arena bosses for an idea of how tough these fights can be.

Movement and Terrain

It's probably also worth mentioning movement while we're talking about exploring the dungeon. During an adventurer's turn they will generate a number of Movement Points (MP) which they can use to move around the board squares...

You may notice on some of these tiles have different-coloured rims around some of the squares. The rim determines they type of Terrain rules that apply to that square. In the maps shown in this article you can see squares of Rough Ground (grey) that are difficult to move into but provide cover, Obstacles (brown rim) that require special actions to climb on top of, and Chasms (red rims) that are death to all who enter these squares (well, teleportation back to a random teleportation chamber for an adventurer). There are other terrain types in the game, but let's not spoil everything just yet.

Another little thing to mention about movement and terrain (but that will be looked at in more detail in a later article) is that attacking can give you the opportunity to push and pull your enemies into a square of terrain. It is possible to shove your enemies into the fiery chasm or down the river to make their life difficult or facilitate your escape... But as I said, I will explore that in more detail when I look at attacking in a later blog.

More to come...

Its been a bit of a shorter blog post this time, but it was one asked for by the memebers of the Dungeon Slam Facebook group. If you've not already done so, I would recommend signing up to that group, and if you've got any questions or comments feel free to throw them my way on there. Looking at the poll at the moment, it looks like my next post will be about the fluff of the setting, but if you want to know about soemthing else, please sign up and vote for what you want to know more about.