SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read Sky ov Crimson Flame then press no further!
Designing a Dungeon:
As must surely be common knowledge now, Sky ov Crimson Flame is my first major published work in the tabletop gaming realm. Before that I wrote a small piece called The Fell Mountain for Mythoard (Sept, 2015) and before that I merely designed my own adventures for my household games.
Growing up I played mainly 1st & 2nd Editions of AD&D and didn't read many adventure modules. When 3rd Edition showed up I shunned it (probably in part because my old man is a die hard THAC0 guy and in turn I was created in his likeness). It wasn't really until I got deep into the OSR that I finally read a bunch of adventure modules and those mainly of the DCC RPG variety. Long story short, I was doing some diligent research before I ever sat a finger to the keyboard.
Now my original plan was to make something simple, throw it to the wolves and see what became of it, but once I got to writing the adventure grew from a tiny keep with maybe 4 rooms to a much larger affair. When writing, I usually keep a list of things I want to see: a crazy witch, a falling red star, a resurrection of some sort, a necromaner. Those were the four many things for Sky ov Crimson Flame anyways. It was from that list I started tying the story and keep's design together.
In one of the drafts I began this idea that the Crimson Star falls early on in the adventure and from its flames the Keep grows into the massive tower that is reminiscent of the Necromancer's from another world or his past. The PCs would literally be walking on flagstones of fore to defeat the Necromancer before X event happened.
It was getting out of hand... So I toned the story back a little. That's how I write I guess, just vomit everything out onto the keyboard and see what sticks and what needs to scrapped into the trash.
I knew I wanted the players to enter the Keep from the bottom up and so devised ways in which to get them to that point, but always with the mindset of replay-ability. If you've read the adventure you know there are several sections where choices in path must be made or random items are found. This is kind of staple I'm sticking to while writing the next adventure, is it replayable? Would people actually want to run through this crazy thing a second or third time?
So if I were to dish out any sort of advice it's: Is it replayable? Is it too big and does it boggle down the story you're actually trying to convey? If so, trim that sucker down!
Looking back on my read-aloud text I wish I had trimmed them down a little more. They seem a bit heavy-handed now and hard to read to a table. I know why... I was trying really hard to invoke a true sense of the horror and macabre in every scene and when I read it aloud to myself at my desk it sounded too cool for school! As I've found out though, that doesn't always work when you trying to read three paragraphs of text to table of gamers. Secretly I must want to be a novelist... I'll do better next time folks :-p!
The amount of time it takes to play the adventure was major concern of mine as I wanted it to be ran at conventions, etc. I started combining rooms together or taking out whole chunks that just bogged down play. The adventure must keep some momentum if the players are to have fun
The library area in Sky ov Crimson Flame is a major section that can slow play down in the adventure, but only if the players want it to and so it's really on them. If they want to get the hell out of there and to the next area they can do so with a bit of figuring out.
My two cents: Write the adventure so it only slows down if the players decide to slow it down. Otherwise keep it movin'!
Yeah buddy, good monsters are a major factor to good adventure and I tired (and constantly keep trying) to come up with weirdos to fight. DCC RPG, being the wonderful tome it is, was inspiration enough. The corrupting effects of magic lead directly to the Corrupted Flesh and helped round out the Necromancer's past.
The opening scene for Evil Dead II was a major influence on the Cherub Head-bats, the fact they are baby faces and not skulls just added to the creep factor. Lovecraft and Moorcock were heavy influences for the randomly generated things that can happen in the Nexus Between Worlds. I can't remember how the Shambling Flesh monster came about, because originally the PCs just fault a bunch a cultists towards the end. Perhaps that concept bored me and I just changed it one day...
This is probably a big, "No, Duh!" but try to come up with original monsters. It's too easy to copy and past from a monster book. No lazy writing for you!
Well that's all I have for today folks. I'm not sure if you find any of this insight, or perhaps lack there of, fun or helpful, but hey... it's free right? Til next time!