14 June 2022

Mega-Dungeon Map Design Sprints with Henry

Update - 13 June 2022 at 7:18pm:  Well, just like my lost big posts during Kellri's Module Challenge, blogger crapped out and I lost this huge post detailing the fun mapping work Henry and I were doing.  I was uploading pictures from my phone, and perhaps it got too be too much.  Who knows. 

Here's what I'm able to recover by manually retyping it from the preview window on my phone.  *sigh*

Lesson re-learned:  a) type the blog post in Word, and b) eventually move to another platform if I’m going to keep the blog ;)


We drove six hours (one-way!) to Dallas for the NTRPGCon and all we got was this Lousy Coronavirus....

Somewhere along the way to/from, or while attending the North Texas RPGCon (NTX as I affectionately dub it) over the end of last week/weekend, my 14-year-old son Henry and I caught COVID.

This is not that story (or convention report, for that matter; that will follow soon-after!).

Neither is this the story of Henry’s excellent learners-permit drive through the Oklahoma City leg of our return journey on Sunday later afternoon for about 90 minutes (this will also be included in the convention report!---sneak peek:  he did great :D ).

This is, however, the story of some of the fun we had while passing the time in our post-infection bubblehuts.

Playing Games in COVID-land

While Henry and I have been isolating from Heather and Ethan (who have tested thankfully negative since our return), we’ve been playing games and hanging out together in general.  Our symptoms haven’t been too bad, all-in-all; I’ve continued to work all week long, although Henry had to drop out of his summer PE class, which is a bummer.

We played several games over the past week, including:

·         Noita:  easily my favorite computer/online game; I’ll have to post our explorations map, too---we began drawing it several months ago, after many more months of playing and exploring its levels in general)

·         Henry introduced me to a new game he likes called Inscryption (the game has spoilers, so you may not want to read the linked Wiki article?); I’m not enthralled yet---it has a bit of a 7th Guest meets Twin Peaks meets Fargo meets Magic: the Gathering vibe thus far, so we’ll see if it sticks or not

·         We also played several rounds of the now-working-again Dungeon Robber (yay!) too

Well, on Friday night after dinner, we shook things up a bit.

Mapping Sprints?—What’s That?

I had mentioned a recent dream to Henry earlier in the week, in which we were designing a big map together, and Henry got the idea to make that dream real, with a twist:  we would design the map in alternating segments, working off of each others’most-recent drawings in regular rotation.

Our process went like this:

1.      After some noodling, we settled on a 6 spi grid size for the dungeon level, and taped together two 11”x17” sheets of Black Blade Publishing graph paper.

2.      We each began to draw/design in opposite corners of the combined 17”x22” sheet.

3.      We ran timed, 10-minute design sprints, drawing and mapping the dungeon environment.  After 10 minutes, we pivoted the map to work on the area the other had just been building.  The two 10-minute “turns” complete one sprint.

4.      We captured one picture of each of our respective work on the map during each sprint, and a single shot of the whole map, too, as we slowly grew it out over about five hours or so. 

This is the setup in our spare bedroom; we borrowed the card table from Heather’s folks so that Henry and I can eat meals in here without getting crumbs all over the bed:


Our tools:  pencils and papers, table and templates
Our tools:  pencils and papers,
table and templates


Pictures follow in chronological order, broken down by sprint number; times are from the photos, which were captured at the end of each mapping sprint.  

(Some of the pictures look partially erased in places, but that's apparently the glare from the room's light). 

Mapping Sprints 1 and 2---10 June 2022 8:29pm CDT

Since we were just starting out, I didn’t think to capture pictures of our first sprint, so these first three pictures show our work after we’d completed Sprint 1, then swapped once and completed Sprint 2 as well:


Sprint1+2 – Allan’s starter environ, with Henry additions
Sprint1+2 – Allan’s starter environ,
with Henry additions

I began my initial dungeon environ with a 20’-wide stairwell entering the level, with large 20’x20’ landings at the turning corners, too.  That lead into what I intended to be a gated/controlled entry checkpoints area where guards would be above the entry corridor in a kill zone controlled by portcullises. 

Henry then expanded each of the controlling corridors, and began the routing of their directional possibilities.


Sprint1+2 – Henry’s starter environ, with Allan additions
Sprint1+2 – Henry’s starter environ,
with Allan additions


Henry’s starting area began with a cluster of small rooms connected with 10’-wide passages, all branching out from the 30’x30’ entry chamber.

To those, I added the outer-layer of 20’-wide edge corridors, and started to rough-in the oval chambers. I also added the hemispherical chamber off of Henry’s smaller original warren of rooms, and the pointy, squid-like chamber with several corridors branching off.

And here we end Sprints 1 and 2 with the full map:


Sprint1+2 – Full map view
Sprint1+2 – Full map view


Mapping Sprint 3 -- 10 June 2022 8:49pm CDT

In Sprint 3, for the first time, we both began to respond to each other’s additions to our original mapping areas.

Sprint 3 – Allan’s first return to his starter environ
Sprint 3 – Allan’s first return
to his starter environ

I added the portcullises I’d pictured as part of the access control mechanisms into the level design, and then began expanding upon the eastern corridors that Henry had added to the south.  I was envisioning a large, open area with side sections off of it (like an open-air market or bazaar), but such was not meant to be ;)


Sprint 3 – Henry’s first return to his starter environ
Sprint 3 – Henry’s first return
to his starter environ


Henry began to add the first doors to the map within his original warren, as well as to build the larger chamber with a central area accessible via stairs.  He also started to define the zone to the south of the oval chambers.

I didn’t capture a full-map picture for Sprint 3.  Still working on those consistent quality control processes ;)

Mapping Sprint 4 -- 10 June 2022 9:05pm CDT

In Sprint 4, Henry continues to build upon the corridor he introduced to my map, and turns my planned open area into another length of 20’-wide corridor…:


Sprint 4 – Allan’s original environment, with Henry’s new additions
 Sprint 4 – Allan’s original environment,
with Henry’s new additions

…while I start to lengthen and expand upon the corridors I’d added to his map, including a 40’ wide corridor with columns* (directly inspired by our recent Dungeon Robber Games, which were, of course, inspired by Gary Gygax’s random dungeon generation tables in Appendix A of the 1e DMG):


Sprint 4 – Henry’s original environment, with Allan's new additions
Sprint 4 – Henry’s original environment,
with Allan’s new additions

And we conclude the sprint properly, with the full-map view, this time!

It doesn’t really look like we’ll ever meet in the middle, does it?


Sprint 4 – Full map view
Sprint 4 – Full map view

Full map view, attained!

* see also:  https://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=13328


Mapping Sprint 5 -- 10 June 2022 9:19pm CDT

Sprint 5 sees my start on the large temple complex at the bottom of the map…:


Sprint 5 – Allan’s original environment, with Allan’s newest additions
Sprint 5 – Allan’s original environment,
with Allan’s newest additions


…while Henry does more development in the middle of the upper area…:


Sprint 5 – Henry’s original environment, with Henry’s new additions
Sprint 5 – Henry’s original environment,
with Henry’s new additions


 …and the resulting full map:


Sprint 5 – Full map view
Sprint 5 – Full map view


And there was quite a bit more of that back-and-forth Wimbledon-like commentary for each sprint, and many more pictures taken, but I’m not going to recreate the rest of the posts from my phone preview, except to note that:

We concluded our Friday late-night sprints on Saturday morning with Sprint 16 -- 11 June 2022 12:57am CDT, after which we went to bed.

Then on Saturday night, we ran Sprint 17 at 9:27pm, Sprint 18 at 9:51pm, and Sprint 19 at 10:09pm before turning in a bit earlier that night ;)


Sprint 19 – Full map view
Sprint 19 – Full map view

 The End!

And that’s where we wrapped up for now.

The process was a lot of fun, and we may try to do a similar effort to key the level when it’s complete, too.

We’ll keep you posted!