Dungeon and Dragons prides in their long history of building elaborate dungeons and having players traverse through the many riches and dangers latent within it. Gary Gygax, creator of D&D, was proud of the intricate dungeon crawls he had his players undergo during the early years of the game. Building these labyrinthine marvels often consumes a copious amount of time for the Dungeon Master, not only that but filling the dungeon with traps and monsters also takes a similar amount of time. New and veteran DMs have sought their own different methods to reduce their respective game preparation time, even in 5th Edition there is a random dungeon generator in the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’ve used this tool to great effect, crafting some of the various dungeon crawls that Team BAJA has endured though the current story is trending out of the dungeons and more of a metropolitan atmosphere. But having additional tools to help reduce the preparation and design time is always appreciated, especially when I’m asked by new DMs on what sort of strategies I use to help craft my session and campaigns.
Recently, a good friend on Twitter by the name of Daniel Walthall (you can follow him @Axebane) unveiled a new tool that was surprisingly simple in design but powerful in implementation. Not to mention, I got to own a product with his wonderful artwork. He also has a Tumblr and you can find other products and maps from him here. Following D&D’s legacy, Dan eloquently coined the product as a “Deck of Many Dungeons”, a callback to a Deck of Many Things (if you’ve never had the pleasure/misfortune of dealing this legendary magic item, I suggest you try it once).
You can order your own Deck of Many Dungeons (made by the Game Crafter) here.
A Deck full of ideas, layouts, and fun!
When you open your Deck of Many Dungeons, you’ll notice right away that the deck utilizes the standard 52-playing card decks including two Joker cards. The Joker cards are your instructions for using the deck, along with some random tables for NPC name generation and quest items. Once you separate the Jokers, you’ll need to separate the Ace and Kings of all four suits. Randomly select an Ace card to start your dungeon layout, afterwards you’ll draw from the main deck and play it where it fits on the layout. Any card where the card cannot fit is placed at the bottom of the deck and drawn again. Once you have closed off the entire dungeon, replace one of the rooms with a King card of your choice (or random if you feel adventurous) to finish the dungeon level or current quest. On each dungoen tile card (not shown), there are random tables to add some details, treasures, or other aesthetics like smells to the individual segements. If you feel that you want a specific theme or change up the monsters, it is still within your individual freedom to do so. I would definitely suggest keeping the CR ratings similar if you wish to replace monsters.
Here’s an example of a dungeon layout I constructed.
The layout seems a bit larger than what you might expect, honestly I could’ve arranged differently but I simply wanted to run through the motion with the instructions presented. It’s a small level, and indeed you are given the option to add another dungeon level or simply have this be a single level. I felt that this was a secret area underneath a large sanctuary or temple. Ultimately I added another level to it, I even drew more cards that had plenty of traps and monsters that proved to be a good obstacle for the ultimate goal of rescuing a NPC who was a family member of the party.
Path to the Ultimate Dungeon
What I love most about this Deck of Many Dungeons was the fact I could draft a rough skeleton of a dungeon map and perhaps add my own additional rooms, traps, and monsters at my leisure. Ultimately, the deck was designed to help DMs devise dungeons on the fly, especially when their party members decide to take a deviant adventure away from the main quest or campaign. This can be a very invaluable tool for both new and veteran DMs, I’m always a big fan of helping Dungeon Masters ease in the preparation and improvisation thought processes. Improvising can be very difficult for new DMs but the real secret to good improvisation is having branching idea paths which allows one to continue the flow of a story or narrative without pause. That is the greatest illusion a DM can craft, the illusion of a flowing narrative without ever missing a beat. The Deck of Many Dungeons is a powerful tool at a DM’s arsenal, reducing prep time and even easing the mental space for improvising a dungeon on the fly.
Harking back to D&D’s legacy, the Deck of Many Dungeons provides a wonderful tool for dungeon creation both ahead of a session and on the fly when a dungeon is needed to be improvised. When you need a quick dungeon layout and with the deck’s large variety of paths and corridors, you’ll seldom run into an exact duplicate of a previously made layout. The wonder continues by using the deck as a design outline, allowing the DM to draft more rooms and corridors from the existing drawn cards and therefore expand the horizon and use of the cards further. This is a great tool for new DMs who did not wish to follow Adventure Modules and wanted to build their own campaigns and settings, providing dungeon design practice that may eventually evolve into a greater skill with time. I highly encourage checking out this item, visit the product page decide for yourself. Not to mention, the artwork is aesthetically pleasing and very detailed.
Click here to order your own Deck of Many Dungeons here.
Click here to follow @Axebane and their Tumblr here.
Check out Axebane’s other RPG products on their DriveThruRPG here.
If you want to support Dan and his awesome maps & crafts, check out his Patreon page here.
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