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I got this old book from a friend, titled "Central Casting: Dungeons" yesterday night. My friend is my player and he's noticed how much I struggle to make decent dungeons.

Though the book is actually good and it's fun to read, it's not what I'm looking for since it's just a collection of random dungeon tables, and it only works for creating man made complexes; no caves, no supernatural dungeons, no deathtraps... just Tombs and Castles.

I've been searching for a book similar to "D&D for Dummies" or such that teaches the basics of dungeon designing, such as deciding what to place, structures, etc. Most sources assume that dungeons must be inhabited by sentient creatures, which at least for my tastes is boring. I just have no experience with dungeon-based campaigns and I need a lot of help.

I'm looking for a system-agnostic book that

  • … helps me understand how or why to place dungeons in a campaign

  • … has examples

  • … will help me understand about general trap and monster placement

  • … that covers more than man-made settlements

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While not an entire book dedicated to the subject, the 3.5e Dungeon Master's Guide has a section on creating dungeons, which (briefly) covers most of your dot-points. I think other editions have the same kind of info. –  Adeptus Jul 11 at 6:26
    
I heard great things about The Dungeon Alphabet but haven't read it. –  okeefe Jul 11 at 19:43

4 Answers 4

Two possibilities that come to mind are an article from a series by "The Architect DM" and the AD&D book "Dungeon Builder's Guidebook" by Bruce Cordell.

The first of those two is a series of articles you can find on the Critical Hits blog with the specific article being found here.

The other I bought many years ago, but Amazon appears to have links to it if you check here.

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Any books I could find directly related to dungeon design were outdated/out of print. As such I'm going to give you general tips and advice for dungeon design.

Take inspiration from other Media

Think about Moria in LOTR or an ancient temple in any of the Indiana Jones movies. These locations/setpeices were exciting and engaging to a passive audience because the main character(s) were presented with choices, beset by unexpected foes, and the terrain itself was dangerous and a puzzle.

Focus on simple layouts first, then work your way up

A sprawling dungeon-crawl may be your goal, but just trying to make one from scratch and limited experience will likely leave you feeling overwhelmed and with dungeons that are simply random. Try iterating on the 5 room dungeon to flex your muscles and learn about the kinds of choices and setups you can give your players. Every bigger dungeon should essentially be a combination of these smaller dungeons.

Learn from the masters

As Damnes8n and others have suggested, run/adapt published mods and study they strengths and weaknesses of those dungeons as you run them for the party. Note what they like and what they didn't and seek to assimilate what worked into your own dungeon designs.

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This doesn't answer the question posed. –  mxyzplk Jul 11 at 4:01
    
@mxyzplk edited to reflect why I didnt recommend any books –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 11 at 19:28

TSR wrote a how-to book for 1st Edition AD&D back in the 1980's: The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

It includes specific guidelines for creating dungeons, and guidelines for drawing them.

It's available electronically. Most of the content is applicable to any edition of D&D; about 1/4 is specific to AD&D 1E, and only about 1/3 is actually rules material.

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When you're building a dungeon, you are designing a level for a game. A good starting place is to read articles and books about level design written by professional game developers.

Here are some recommendations to get you started:

Keep in mind that your dungeons don't need to be literal dungeons or even underground environments. Caves, dungeons, and buildings make it easier for you to use walls to direct the players down specific paths, but there are other ways to achieve similar effects, such as steep cliffs or thick foliage.

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