The Ideal Dungeon is a Lie (and Probably Made of People)
There's an idea in this hobby that comes in and out of vogue every so often that goes like this: the only correct way to run a dungeon is to make it a dynamic environment where the verisimilitude of the world can be maintained. These Ideal Dungeons exist in a world apart from the traditional game. They have markets, food supplies, and all the necessary accouterments that come along with a living, breathing society; essentially existing in a parallel faux-world with our own. The proponents of this ideal dungeon often admit that carrying it through completely can be difficult, but they maintain that it is well within the reach of any Dungeon Master worthy of his title.
It is my contention that the proponents of Ideal Dungeons haven't successfully put their idea into play as it's complete and total bullshit. Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that you can't have markets and the like to help present a hint of reality to your players in the hopes that they'll be more immersed in the illusion of the game. That is not only completely within the realm of possibility but can often be faked with a good chart (see Megadungeon Trades by J.D. Jarvis for more). Yet for the most ardent supporters of the Ideal Dungeon using charts robs the dungeon of its true potential as you've not captured reality and are only presenting a pale and sickly caricature in its place.
Simulating reality is not easy under the best of circumstances and it becomes increasingly difficult when you have to take into account all of the individual variables that come with the Ideal Dungeon. Let me put it to you this way. For the Ideal Dungeon to truly exist each individual creature within the dungeon would have to be named, have a personality, and act according to its needs on their turn; AND the environment would have to adjusted according to the actions of the players and creatures after each acted to reflect the amorphous nature of reality within a living ecosystem.
As a Dungeon Master running the Ideal Dungeon you would have to allow each of the players to act and then have each of the individual creatures within your dungeon act according to their unique wants and desires. Then you would have to adjust the environment accordingly (resources used, grown, and so on). Extending this operation out logically your players would act for one round and then the hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of creatures populating the dungeon would have to go with each individual acting separately of the whole. In other words your players would have their turn and three months later they would take their next action.
It's because of the impossibility of the Ideal Dungeon that most Dungeon Masters actually run Dynamic Dungeons, where the creatures react to the players actions, or Static Dungeons, where the creatures are always in their assigned locations. Tomorrow we'll talk more about each of them and their benefits and drawbacks for play.
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Part 1: The Ideal Dungeon is a Lie (and Probably Made of People)