For the foreseeable future, Fridays will feature a new quadrant of Stonehell. The latest quadrant, Level 2C: Without Doors is available here.
When I sit down to work on each new section of Stonehell, sometimes I begin with a kernel of an idea and start drawing the map based on that rough nugget. Other times, I just start drawing away and hope that the map will end up suggesting something. This quadrant was one of the latter times.
As I penciled in the hallways and chambers on my sheet of graph paper, I begin to notice that there was a certain flow to those hallways; one that I didn’t really want to impede by adding too many doors or other barriers. From that observation came the decision to see what would happen if I neglected to place a single door in the entire section.
The obvious effect is that it would alter the normal dungeon exploration process. No Listen or Open Door checks. No secure place to hide or recuperate or retreat. No gaining the advantage of surprise by kicking in the door and taking the inhabitants unaware. Interesting.
As to inhabitants, such a dungeon layout would most likely not be settled on a permanent basis, stemming from a lack of easily secured and defended locales within that section. Any creatures encountered here would be of a transient or unintelligent nature. This would make for a very broad Wandering Monster table. Again, the idea intrigued me.
When all was said and done, I walked away from this section very happy with the end result. It’s not 100% door free, but the ones that are there might not be so easy to find and I wonder if any adventurers exploring the area will give up on searching for secret doors long before they come upon the areas in which they’re actually located.
There is a new monster featured in this section that requires a quick note. During their exploration, the party might encounter the Small Men. Standing 4’ tall or less, the Small Men are bald, pale humanlike creatures. They dress in loose smocks and trousers and are often adorned with tattoos and other body modifications. Each possesses some minor arcane ability that they can employ fairly often. The Small Men never speak and are often found engaged in strange labors with no obvious meaning. Such activities include painting ineffable designs on the walls, ceiling, and floor of the dungeon, constructing cairns of fallen stones and accumulated junk, hanging bizarre mobiles from the ceilings of chambers, building life-sized dioramas with dead bodies, and other weird and macabre activities. The origins and purpose of the Small Men are left undeveloped at this time, leaving the referee free to assign such details on their own or to wait for further development of these odd inhabitants in a future Stonehell installment.