Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dungeon Crawl...In Space!

D is for Dungeon Crawl…In Space      

A staple for the Fantasy RPG genre, the Dungeon Crawl is a fall back position for the harried DM, with little time to prepare. Get a few Geomorphs (I would recommend Dyson’s highly), a few random charts (Kelri’s are tough to beat), and make a couple of Wandering Monster Charts and you are done.

So where can the SF GM go for his fall back. Well if you have a sandbox style game, then learn from your fantasy brethren, use the Dungeon Crawl model for quick successful, and fun adventures.

In a sci-fi setting, a dungeon could be even more things than it could be in a fantasy setting. A dungeon is really just a closed environment, on a human scale (meaning it can be bitten off in chewable chunks), so that the DM can limit the amount of inputs affecting change in the environment. So in the sci-fi genre this could be (I feel a table coming on):

Random Crawl Location (roll 1d100)
01-05 Abandoned Floating Hulk in Space
06-10 Crashed Ship on a Planet
11-15 Creature Lair
16-20 Sewer System
21-25 Secret Remote Laboratory
26-30 Ruins of an Ancient Civilization
31-35 Alien Ship or Base
36-40 Military Complex or Outpost
41-50 Space Station
51-55 Asteroid Mines
56-60 Manufacturing Complex
61-65 Arena Complex
66-70 Office/Government Building (or any other building type)
71-75 Alien Tunnel Complex
76-80 Natural Cave Systems
81-85 Any Space Ship
86-90 Junkyard or Scrap Yard
91-95 Space Docks
96-100 Pick any one

I would also utilize the excellent 5 Room Dungeon model that John Four at Roleplaying Tips developed for a quick way to organize a crawl. http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=372#tips

Basically, a 5 Room Dungeon has 5 rooms, literally or figuratively, to set up discovery, challenge, conflict, and resolution. The format is:

Room 1: Entrance and Guardian Feature
Room 2: Puzzle or Role Playing Challenge
Room 3: Trick or Setback
Room 4: Climax, Big Battle, or Major Conflict
Room 5: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist

Used Effectively, this method can have you rolling on an Crawl in no time flat. And remember, the five rooms can also represent 5 areas. It does not need to be five rooms literally.

For example:
Pirate Lair of the Madman MacCarrin(Pirate Base)
Room 1: Entrance and Guardian Feature – How do you get into the base? Through the Dock or Hanger? How about from over the ridge? Is the guardian an assault robot or gun turret, or maybe a security system? This could be a whole series of rooms, with some minor encounters with guards, robots, etc.

Room 2: Puzzle or Role Playing Challenge – How do you enter the enter sanctum of the Madman? What are the Clues? The sound of running water for the sewer system, the maintenance tunnel entrance that needs to be hacked? Maybe it’s a negotiation, bluff or intimidation you need to do with a toady or a protocol droid?

Room 3:Trick or Setback – Traps, wrong way or dead ends, a bad map, or bad information, poisoned, drugged or kidnapped team members all can lead to a problem that slows progress down. Add some drama. Maybe the Madman’s knows you are there. Maybe he wants you to be there so he can capture you and sell you to slavers, so the lower level you conveniently found a way in with leads to a maze of corridors, patrolled by security bots set on full stun, or ravenous guard dogs.

Room 4: Climax, Big Battle, or Major Conflict - You got into the base, you navigated your way through the sewer system, you got out of the underbasement maze, and now you are in the private suite of the Madman Himself. You know of his atrocities. You have heard of his wealth, and he has captured one of your team members. You want both. Time for the fight with his personal guard and then him.

Room 5: Reward, Revelation, and Plot Twist – You have dispatched the Madman and captured his personal guard, they will fetch a nice bounty. You found his personal stash of wealth, but you have found something more. A scan of his records indicate the payoff lists for the captains of several corporate operators, and some regional governments as well. And he was sending payments to OXXON Corporation for all sales of slaves and stolen goods? Seems like some blackmail may be in order for the crew, or revelation to the NewsVid folks. And you had your eye on that new Sorillium Industries Corvette docked in the hanger on the way in. It would look good in your colors.  Possibilities….. 

So remember, a good fantasy dungeon crawl is always fun, exciting, and packed with adventure and reward. There is no reason the same model can’t be used for a good Crawl in a Sci Fi setting. Just take it out of the Dungeon and into the universe!  

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