S is for Special

The Moldvay guidelines encourage a lot of "S" rooms on my map, which stands for Special.  And what is a special?  It's a weird encounter that isn't necessarily a trap, treasure, or monster, although it certainly could have those elements.  Dungeons are not "normal" environments, and trying to fill a megadungeon with things that make sense, makes for predictability, which makes for boredom.  Those "S" rooms are important.

Some of my "special" rooms are going to be deliberate reveals of information about the megadungeon.  These are to give players some goals.  Others are going to be ideas that I don't have fully fleshed out yet.  Player interactions will help determine the direction I take them.  Finally, some will just be plain weird and/or nonsensical.  The players can make of that what they will.  The only important guideline is that they should follow the level "theme" if it has one.  This is a grim-horror-themed level, so there won't be much whimsy here.

I've explained about the God's Eyes a bit in this post:  Orbital Gods.  I dropped a broken one into the gatehouse, that just whispered incomprehensibly and then was silent.  I think I'll drop in one that is in contact with a sinister entity.  This raises a few questions:  can this God's Eye contact other divine beings?  is the sinister entity a god, or a devil, or something else entirely?  can it be carted out of the dungeon?  This is one of my not-quite-fleshed-out-ideas, so I'll see what the players do with it, and what inspiration strikes during play.

118. God’s Eye
This God’s Eye is a large black metal circle, 10’ in diameter, with an intact imaging screen.  When the players first enter the room, the God’s Eye will be filled with the image of a giant, slit-pupiled eye, moving about, watching the party.  The pupil is black, and the rest of the eye is a deep purple.

Anyone touching the God’s Eye must save vs. magic or be forced to attack the party for 1d3 rounds.

On subsequent visits to this room, the God’s Eye will only show the slit-pupiled eye on a roll of 1-2 on a d6.  There is no ill effect from touching the God’s Eye while the slit-pupiled eye is not present.


  1. I'm having a lot of fun coming up with specials at the moment. I've got a general list of oddities (inspired by the Mentzer Basic set's list and a few other things), and lately when I'm on the subway to or from work I'm likely to pull out my little notebook and jot down ideas for others.

    Traps are where I think I'm going to get a bit burned. I don't want too many simple pit/arrow/needle traps, but I definitely don't want to overdo the Indiana Jones style 'room of death' type of traps, either.

  2. I like to put *something* in each room, even if that is only, as you say, an atmosphere established, or a clue to the former or present things going on in the dungeon.

    Giving the dungeon a theme, a history, different sections with different purposes, and having the players figure that all out without necessarily any in-game benefit adds mightily to the sense of exploration that is a part of the adventure game.

  3. Gwydion - Traps-with-treasure are pretty easy for me to do. I just make the treasure an integral part of the trap. It's obvious there's going to be a trap, because nobody leaves valuable just sitting around, so I don't have to worry about whether the players will call foul.

    Traps without treasure I find a bit more difficult, as I need to leave other clues that something is amiss, so players don't feel cheated. I'd much rather they feel like they should've seen it coming when they activate a trap.

    Roger - I'm trying to follow Moldvay guidelines and see where that takes me, so I've got plenty of 100% empty rooms. It's worked out well so far, it saves me some work keying, and gives the players more tactical options and ways to avoid undesirable encounters.