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Narrative Elements for Solo Dungeon Crawling


I'm pretty new to solo RPGs, and, as in conventional RPGs, my favorites are solo Dungeon Crawling ones. I am really not trying to make a discourse out of it and I´m not gonna talk about it here, but imo, generally, dungeon crawling systems are not the most narrative heavy RPGs in all its facets. But yeah, I really think that all RPGs need narrative elements in order to not become a board game, and again I also do not have a problem with them. 

On my initial evaluation, all solo dungeon crawl games (my own included) are (and have to be imo) heavily procedural, and, despite my little experience with these games, I've always had difficulties implementing narrative elements in this procedural tangle. I know that this aspect is very subjective and that I may be doing a paradox of creating a mechanical procedure to implement narrative elements, but I need that and decided to share it with you.

What I'm going to try to implement here is a journaling aspect along with the generator tables. Yes, in addition to a dungeon map you will have/can attach a description that will be guided by some questions, I will give some examples and try to make things clearer while moving the narrative forward within the exploration.

1.Generator: What type/kind of dungeon is this?

Narrative Questions: 

  • Why are the PC(s) here?

  • What kind of rumors did they hear about it?

  • What do they expect to achieve here?

  • Who currently inhabits the dungeon? Were there previous inhabitants, if so, what happened to them?

  • What do the characters intend to do with the inhabitants? Avoid them (because they are too strong)? Make alliances? Bribe them? To decimate them because they are an evil force? You can insert more aspects here.

2. Generator: Rooms/Corridors

Narrative Questions:

  • What clues do the PCs have on why this room is the format it is? Did the PCs expect this format? 

  • If there are doors: why are they closed or open?

  • Is it a natural rock formation or is it a constructed/escaved structure? Who dug/built them and why? Which instruments/technologies were used? Do the builders have any style, and does it stick in every room?

  • Why are the items/elements found in the room here? Who brought them here and how was it made? Who holds them now?

  • If there is a trap: How and by whom was it built/set up? Was the intention to kill invaders? To enslave them? To put them away? To warn the inhabitants?

  • Are there any decorative elements, even if rudimentary? How do they intertwine with the stories/rumors about the dungeon?

  • If there are monsters in this room, what exactly are they doing here? Wandering? Standing guard? Asking for help?

3. Generator: Special/Secret Rooms

Narrative Questions:

  • What is the function of this room? Why was it built/excavated?

  • All other previous questions can be answered.

  • Also, what exactly are monsters or NPCs in this room doing?

  • This is definitely a room that was built or manipulated in some way. If you want to, find out how it was done.

4. Generator: Boss/Final Room (For this one I suggest that the answers are given before random rolling/generating)

Narrative Questions:

  • What and who do you expect to find in this room?

  • Who is the boss and what do they mean to the dungeon’s society and structure?

  • Under what regime does this boss maintain this dungeon? Democracy? Tyranny? Monarchy?

  • What loot is found here?

  • Do PCs really need to enter this place according to the initial expectations?

  • If the boss is defeated, what will be the local (inside the dungeon) and global (outside the dungeon) consequences for the setting the PCs are playing in? (This answer should be or can be answered after the random generation).

  • At the end of the confrontation (if necessary) compare the answers with the random generation and theorize/rationalize about the,.

Not all questions need to always be answered and they shouldn't always make complete sense to one another. It is interesting that the narrative, in terms of details, increases together with the exploration. The moment after all the exploration/session will become (at least for me it has) one of the most interesting moments of it all, as I try to close and understand the narrative created.

Overall, the game will become much more laborious and slower. I know it is not the intention of everyone who plays this type of games. As I said, these are just suggestions for incorporating narrative elements.

I hope it's useful for someone, as it was for me. Thanks for reading, I'm very happy to hear your impressions or even reports of this tool implementation in your games.

Thanks C.A. Berlitz for editing!!!


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