Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dungeon Design: Moldvay Basic D&D

At long last, this little series continues.  Read about OD&D, Holmes, AD&D 1E.

In Tom Moldvay's Basic Set (Erol Otus cover), we get a very well organized two pages on dungeon design.  We're given a six-step process to follow, which helps DMs conceptualize their dungeon quickly and easily.  It's mostly a clarification of the information in OD&D, but with one big difference.  As with AD&D 1E, we've got a very different focus.  OD&D assumed a megadungeon, while Moldvay assumes smaller dungeons created for each adventure (although they can easily be re-used). 

Moldvay's steps are:

A) Choose a scenario [10 sample types listed]
B) Decide on a setting [10 sample locations listed]
C) Decide on special monsters to be used
D) Draw the map of the dungeon
E) Stock the dungeon [using the random system from OD&D, and providing six room traps, six treasure traps, and ten ideas for 'specials']
F) Filling in the final details

Moldvay then, after discussing Wandering Monsters (which actually may be part of step F, making it three pages of dungeon design advice), gives us The Haunted Keep.  He goes through and explains his six steps above, and provides a fully detailed and keyed map of one of the two towers, and a cut-away map of the two dungeon levels.

What Moldvay has done here is take the dungeon design principles of OD&D and the 'site-based' preference of AD&D and married them nicely together.  One could easily design a megadungeon using the Moldvay method, even though the text assumes smaller complexes made for their own separate adventures.  All one needs to do is decide on what sections of the megadungeon will or could be used for the various types of scenarios listed, then follow the rest of the instructions for each section.


  1. Nice post; I like your idea of a Moldvay megadungeon. Such an approach may help keep the designer focused and help avoid burnout. Also, this lends itself to a modular megadungeon design.

  2. Thanks. Man, this is an old post. And I never did finish this series, did I?