Dungeon23 and the empty rooms

Only two days left in the year, and very little fresh material these past months.
So here we go:

Another hype is sweeping through the roleplaying community: Dungeon23, which means: dedicating the year 2023 to Megadungeons and everyone being called to create 1 dungeon room a day, to end up with 365 dungeon rooms, spread out over 12 months a.k.a. 12 levels.

Like most such initiatives, I expect Dungeon23 will flare up and deflate quickly, and few will finish even the first level.

Still, it sparked some interesting debates, especially the one about empty rooms, which is worth thinking about.

Empty rooms

By “the book”, only two third of rooms (or 60%, as a 1e-player says) should have special things like traps or monsters.

That makes sense to avoid some weird situation where adventurers go from room to room and every room brings some random something, without any internal logic. Monsters need buffer zones and adventurers need breathers between encounters lest there is player burnout after struggling through six rooms with six encounters.

Given that one can expect a sizeable number of participants to add something like monsters or traps in every room (for what is the fun in an empty room, one might ask?), that would make these Dungeons from the Dungeon23-event quite overpopulated.

During the debate the question was raised if the final products would see only 243 rooms with details worked out and again half as many boring nothingburgers — or if there would be 365 populated rooms, but the actual resulting megadungeon would have 183 empty rooms on top (or 146 in the case of 1e).
That one is easy enough to guess.

But an important point that came up in the debate is that an empty room does not have to be simple, boring, or blank. It just has no valuables, no enemies, and no hazards. But it can have other things.

So what IS the fun in empty rooms?

Go descriptive

An “empty” room can be a library full of non-valuable paperwork. It can be a pile of rubble with nothing under it, and it can even have fine furniture in working condition.The description is where it becomes interesting for the players. They can be told that they find an abandoned alchemist’s workshop with dried-out bulbous containers over dusty and mold-covered bunsen burners.

That has obvious drawbacks, namely that the players may throw themselves into such “empty” rooms with gusto and “waste” game time looking for rewards or puzzles that simply are not there.

But it also has advantages; namely that the empty rooms are a living, breathing part of an actual world instead of just “nothing”. In this way, they are no wasted time at all, but an inspiration, as one man’s waste can be another man’s treasure, and the old bulbous containers may find novel use in the hands of a creative player.

Do, or do not

Anyways, what can I say? I will not participate in Dungeon23, but I won’t begrudge anyone the fun to go all in. Do it! Or don’t. No harm done either way, despite the fears that I have seen voiced on the internet, that initiatives such as this put horrible harmful pressure on some players so they feel obligated to make the best dungeon in the world and their spirits get crushed when they find out that someone else did better.
Well, I guess that is possible. But it is equally possible that they find fun in the creation process.
And honestly, even those who only manage to go until January the 8th will still have 8 dungeon rooms then; 8 more than they would have otherwise. Win, win, win.

So go forth and create rooms, empty, or full … or don’t.

One thought on “Dungeon23 and the empty rooms

  1. I am of the same mind on this. I just don’t feel that I’d be able to keep up with the grind so I have held off from participating directly in dungeon23. That said, I think it will be fun to see what everyone comes up with. Happy New Year!


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