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Dungeon Crawl in Layers

I am setting up an expansive dungeon crawl, but in a small space. The start is with some good old modular dungeon walls. These are just craft foam (1 1/2 inch tall), tetrised into useful shapes based on an inch and a half grid.

When you spread them out, you get a dungeon.

For this dungeon, this will be the lowest layer. So it is filled with knee deep water. That is, laid out on dark blue felt.

A key bit for this is the next layer will be based on 12"x12" tiles. The inch and a half grid gives us a built in way to play an interesting crawl that also has appropriate supports to support the 12"x12" grid.

And then we add stuff to the dungeon. The big brown bits are giant mushrooms (using this technique) that will explode when attacked, or adjacent attacks don't hit the target. These are great dungeon dressing, since they are both (potentially) useful and dangerous. It is also important to figure out which ones you will or will not be able to see when the 12"x12" tiles are lifted.

Speaking of progressive reveal, here are the "hidden" monsters (circled) and treasures (in squares). You should plan your reveal to tempt and tease the players. For example, the treasure chest in the bottom square reveals without showing the monsters you need to go past in order to get to it. In the case of the raft on the right side, you see it and the monsters, so getting some additional mobility is a calculated risk.

For completeness, the key that opens the door out of the dungeon is under the mushroom in the lower right corner (triangle). The door is on the wall pointed to by the arrow.

Now we cover the lowest level with 12"x12" cork tiles. The way down is an open drop where you can see a couple mushrooms, but not much more.

And we rinse, repeat. Another layer of tricks, traps, monsters, and teases, all aligned for the next 12"x12" grid layer.

This floor is gridded. We won't use the grid, but it will look like a manufactured lower level for what is on top. This is in contrast to the dark lowest level and the rough stone second-lowest level.

While working the layout for this level, I changed the entrance point for the next lower level a bit. It's still in the same 12"x12" grid, but it's aligned differently. I had to shift a bit on the lower level as well to accomodate this.

Now we cover with dirt tiles. I happen to have a dirt tile with the center carved out. That lets me put blue felt underneath for a water pool (or neon green for radioactive slime, or whatever ...). I also have one of the rock pillars sticking up through the hole, which makes a set of stairs. That's kind of what you would expect if you were decending into a manmade area.

Since the dirt is the "top level", we will build up with a few layers from my Mayan pyramid. This is the second lowest layer so there will only be three total. But that footprint seems to work with the area.

There are a couple of monsters guarding this entrance to the underground level.

The next higher level has a solid floor.

The thrones are a "secret passage" for the adventurers to discover. Given the sparsity of things in this level and the obvious lower level of the pyramid, it's not too hard to figure out. Still, it is a "find".

Then we cap off the pyramid ...

... and decorate "topside".

Grazing pigs! Wild animals are an important part of the ecosystem in a lost valley. Maybe they're a plot device for the story, too.

The approach to the pyramid is right in the line of sight of a small village of Amazons.

Complete with a small farm.

I've spruced up the top of the pyramid with a temple. Since the monsters are lizardmen, it is a snake temple. Or rather, because I had a snake temple, I planned to put lizardmen in the lowest levels of the dungeon.

And who would brave this hazardous, eerie location ..?