With the first level complete, it’s time to move deeper down into the dungeon to see what awaits us as the monsters gets tougher and the underworld gets weirder. The first quadrant of Level Two is available here.
This section is a little different from the previous four. The first level was a pretty straight classic dungeon level, but as Stonehell starts getting deeper, I wanted to start working with ideas and themes that aren't quite as vanilla. For the first time, I found that the two-page method of dungeon notation failed me in what I wanted to do with it. The level is fully fleshed out in regards to monsters, treasures, and assorted dungeon weirdness, but I found I wasn’t quite able to convey what I had in mind for this section on paper. I think this is one of those times when the dungeon doesn’t read as well as it plays.
In short, what I wanted to do was instill a feeling of madness and dementia throughout this section. My intention was to start playing up the idea that Stonehell is something more than a collection of halls and chambers that house things to be killed and their possessions to be looted. There’s something greater, if not quite tangible, in those dungeon halls and I wanted this section to be the adventurers' first hint that it’s not just stone and mortar that comprise the building blocks of the place. There’s something bad here – really, really bad – and it starts to creep in around the edges when you’re not looking.
The Asylum is inhabited by the mad. Whether they originate from the original prisoners or if they’re later additions from a time after the prison was liberated, I’ve left vague. Having been left to their own devices down in the dungeon, the madness of these inhabitants has flourished and bloomed into many different varieties. It’d be all too easy to run every one of these denizens as a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic. Instead, I prefer to spice up the mix with strains of less visible psychoses. But that’s difficult to convey in the space allotted. I’ll just have to run with what I have in my head and let others interpret it as they will.
Two notes about this level: One, I’ve taken the liberty to include a few anachronism into the mix. There are rooms and items that would seem out of place in a fantasy setting, but I feel that they not only help convey the overall sense of “wrongness” about this place, but also reflect my cardinal rule of dungeon building, which is “Stop worrying and love the dungeon.” Secondly, the inmates of the asylum are all referred to in the notes as Neanderthals. The reason for this is that I wanted to continue laying the dungeon out with an eye towards ease of reference to Moldvay/Labyrinth Lord. Rather that writing them up as Inmates (See Neanderthal for stats), I noted it directly. This is just a case of me filing off the serial numbers of another monster to use in a different manner.
The next update to Stonehell should be following close on the heels of this one. Look for it early next week. Until then, stay crazy.