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Dungeon Maps in Profile

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Dungeon maps can act as cryptic guides for adventure parties, notated dungeon documentation for dungeon masters, or can even be printed out at model scale or epic combat. It is commonplace to render dungeon maps with a top-down view, perhaps due to combat being performed on a top-down grid. This post discusses the profile view and its merits through an example dungeon.

Most dungeon maps look like this:

From adventurematerials.wordpress.com

This is a top-down view. It works great for most dungeons, and is especially well-suited for representing the information needed to process combat. Top-down maps are easy to understand, work well with graph paper, and I use them all the time.

A map in profile looks like this:

From Daniel Davis on Pinterest

It shows the dungeon from the side, giving a sense of height, depth, and altitude. It is well-suited for representing vertical motion and vertical combat. It is also easy to understand, also works well with graph paper, and I use them some of the time.

In this post I will focus on a specific dungeon I created back in 2011. This dungeon, "The Sanctum of Water," was inspired by the water-level puzzles of Ocarina of Time's water temple. There are three primary water levels with three corresponding primary floor plans. Many of the rooms connect to each other vertically, and much of the dungeon requires reasoning about water levels and vertical motion. As such, I decided that this dungeon required a dungeon map in profile:

Here we see a cleaned up version of my original map, with the three possible water levels and all of the rooms. The rooms are labelled with green letters, and I have a corresponding text document with chamber descriptions and the dungeon rules. Note that I left myself some comments are well for reference. This map was not shown to the players.

The party enters at the bottom-left by climbing the shaft into room B. The water level starts off low. The basic progression thus requires:

  1. Descending to the base of room C to release the floating platform
  2. Reasoning about the room D & F water level challenges in order to get through F -> G -> H -> I, climbing over the ceiling in C, and then into J, to raise the water to medium
  3. Raise the water level to high using both room E and J, causing the floating column in C to lift out of its base, revealing the submerged entrance to the final chamber

I needed the profile view in order to convey vertical relationships.

The entire dungeon revolves around the water level and the vertical relationships between chambers, objects, and the characters. Floating platforms that fall to the floor if the water level is low and rise up if the water level supports them. Wooden spheres in metal cages that do the same, often activating door locks and requiring players to block them or change the water level to get by. A geyser in room G increases its height as the water channels are plugged with blocks.

Profile view did not capture everything I needed it to. I made an additional top-down floor plan for each level.

These let me see some of the detail required to understand the chambers, gives me another opportunity to add comments, and most critically defines the layout for 2D combat and the block puzzles.

Note that, in this case, both a profile view and a top-down view were necessary to adequately capture the dungeon geometry. Some dungeons only require one, some are even well-captured with 3D projection view.

A complete dungeon description is given here.



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