Friday, October 10, 2014
The Dynamic Dungeon, Burning Dungeon Masters Out Since 1977
For many Dungeon Masters the Dynamic Dungeon represents the best of both worlds. Monsters begin the dungeon's exploration in set positions like in the Static Dungeon but then they begin to react to the players' actions as in the Ideal Dungeon; only instead of having to account for each individual's actions the Dungeon Master only has to concern herself with the creatures in close proximity to the players.
This type of dungeon exploration represents a vastly more complex style of play for the Dungeon Master than the Static Dungeon as the amount of things she must account for expands exponentially. As a result a glut of materials have been produced, both officially and by enthusiasts, to help Dungeon Masters account for everything from crowd mechanics to guides for figuring out what sort of sculptures are in the dungeon. Without exaggeration there are products that have been produced for practically any possible situation you could encounter in the dungeon's exploration and that's where the trouble for this style of dungeon comes in to play.
Consider for a moment that as a Dungeon Master you invest a substantial amount of your free time into making your games better. You draw maps and work on situational responses to your players actions, filling countless spreadsheets and notebooks up with possible resolutions. You read blogs and articles that offer advice and then you come to the table having spent a significantly greater portion of your time preparing for the game than actually playing it. Then you begin run the game and you're flipping through your innumerable resources trying to apply the correct solution to your players' actions. Suddenly the game really isn't all that fun anymore because you've burnt yourself out. Dynamic Dungeons are incredibly fun to explore for players and Dungeon Masters alike as they offer a greater challenge for each; however, there is a real danger in preparing too much for the exploration of these dungeons. So how do you guard against over preparing and burning yourself out?
The simplest answer is that you have to know the difference between necessary information and the superfluous glut of information that can easily overwhelm you. Learning the difference between the two is often accomplished through the difficult process of actual play experiences and thankfully there are a lot of actual play reports floating about online (see Dyvers Actual Play Reports for some examples), but if you don't want to go reading through the vast swath of play reports circulation about then the best advice I can give you is be flexible and don't marry yourself to any guideline, rule, or chart when determining how to run a dungeon. Remember, you're playing this for fun too and if any of those makes it harder for you to enjoy the experience get rid of them.
Now if you'll excuse me I have to go take a Sharpie to the grapple rules in my 3.5 Player's Handbook.
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Part 3: The Dynamic Dungeon, Burning Dungeon Masters Out Since 1977
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