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When creating dungeons, I like to try to give them a history beyond "old place with traps and monsters and gold", since I like everything to feel real and have a purpose. However, whenever I try to map out one of these, they either end up with planning that doesn't make sense for what it is, or wouldn't be fun to play through.

How do I create a dungeon layout that has/had purpose and would still be fun and challenging to explore?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of dungeons are you talking about? Do you mean ancient ruins in a cave, a natural cave, a wilderness dungeon, or what? \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jan 25 '18 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage I was looking for general advice. I plan on having a very wide variety of dungeons and environments, but if you wanna give advice pertaining to a specific place, something like a jungle temple will likely be the next dungeons my players go to! \$\endgroup\$ – Faerie Dragon Jan 25 '18 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may be interested in this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 25 '18 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the system you're playing have dungeon-creation advice? \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Jan 25 '18 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would help if we knew specifically what it is that makes your dungeons feel like they don't make sense, and what it is that makes your sensible dungeons not fun? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aidley Jan 26 '18 at 9:21
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Use real-world maps.

If you're really interested in verisimilitude, you can look at floor plans from the internet. For example, if I wanted to make a manor, I could do a bit of googling and find a floor plan like this, which looks like it could make for a decent house-based dungeon crawl:

enter image description here

Alternatively, if you wanted to have some ancient temple or tomb, you could look for similar things in the real world. The Great Pyramid near Giza, Egypt has a layout somewhat like this:

enter image description here

Sometimes stuff just doesn't make sense

When I plan dungeons, I sometimes try to make sensible dungeons, where each room has a purpose. But honestly, I don't feel like many people really care about that: I've never heard someone ask, "but what is the original purpose of this room?" Because you're ultimately planning for a game that is fun, "making sense" kind of falls by the wayside.

Depending on the kind of game you're playing, you have access to lots of things the real world doesn't. I've run a sprawling, multiroom dungeon with infinite floors before. None of the rooms make any sense from a usability or architectural standpoint, but my excuse was "a mad god did it". If you think a certain structure can be fun to play, you can just insert it and come up with a justification later.

Finally, if you want a real-world example of dungeon-like buildings that are full of real purpose and history but make no sense, look to the Winchester House in California. From Wikipedia:

Since its construction in 1884, the property and mansion were claimed by many to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922, at which time work immediately ceased.

It looks something like this:

enter image description here

Doesn't that sound like a great place to run a dungeon?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Too bad there isn't a comprehensive source of floor plans for actual medieval castles and fortresses. Unfortunately, in reality, the donjon below many of these keeps was nothing more than a hole in the ground. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 25 '18 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon Why does it need to be comprehensive? For the purposes of playing game, anything that even looks somewhat reasonable should work, right? \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jan 25 '18 at 19:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon Sounds like a business opportunity. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 25 '18 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ If only I weren't already employed full time at something that pays now, rather than in a year (or several) when it's done, providing it actually sells... \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 25 '18 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of the real buildings are not perfectly logical in their design. I have been in a school with a place that you could only reach by going two floors underground and then going up again after taking different corridors, and it was a commonly used building, not some ancient crumbling place. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Jan 26 '18 at 10:40
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How To Host A Dungeon

This game may be the solution you're looking for. It is a solo game for building a dungeon that is supposed to present logical events occurring in the dungeon throughout different epochs of time through rolling on random tables. I've only purchased the game; I haven't played it, so I can't confirm that it results in a logical layout. This may depend on your intuitive grasp of interior space.

But, from a read through, it's not going to be one of those games where you roll a table to literally randomly generate each and every corridor. Each Age adds a new strata of the dungeon, that you build/draw as you play. The game may help you to consider the logic and history behind how your dungeon is laid out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've played this game a few times and noticed that dungeons can become big and complex. I want to add that this is easily solvable by just using a small section of the dungeon you create with this game for your RPG. Lastly, just looking at the event tables of this game and picking elements you like for your dungeon can also be a great way of designing dungeons. \$\endgroup\$ – PJvG Jan 26 '18 at 7:57

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