Then, my response over here to some of these ideas - 'Thoughts on 'Dragons & Dungeons' - which is an attempt to create a mini-dungeon from ecological rather than spatial principles, in line with the idea of thinking about how the monsters inhabit space, rather than thinking about the space and then filling it with random encounters. I'm quite impressed with how I ran with the idea and generated somewhat startling results from the relatively simple process of getting some monsters and really thinking how they 'live' together rather than just putting some numbers on a map and keying in pseudo-random encounters that way.
But now I want to look at a different way of examining the question of inverting the relationship between monsters and setting, one that we've kicked around as a concept already, but I'm going to mention a mechanism. Instead of a set rooms and random monsters, the idea was suggested for set monsters and random rooms. In other words, instead of building an environment and randomly generating inhabitants through a random monster table, the suggestion was for building an ecosystem, and then generating a random environment through some kind of 'random rooms table'.
Well, yesterday some friends came over who, like me and my partner, are big fans of games like Carcassonne, Alhambra and Settlers of Catan. They brought a lovely-looking game with them called The Castles of Mad King Ludwig (which I notice, in German, is called 'The Castles of King Ludwig' - perhaps calling him 'Mad' King Ludwig isn't considered polite in Germany, I don't know). The idea of the game is similar to Alhambra - the players are competing with each other to build castles (for King Ludwig, each player being literally a builder) by buying 'rooms' which are offered for sale through a semi-random process.
|Illustration from BoardGameGeek - Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Bézier Games, 2014 — sample layout (image provided by the publisher) - link above|
The game features around 80 tiles which are rooms of different functions - observatories, gardens, dining rooms, armouries, dungeons, fungus rooms - but, unlike Alhambra, also different sizes and shapes, ranging from small rooms (approximately 20' square?) to huge ones (perhaps 12 times the size of the smallest, around 60'x80' maybe?), that are square, round, oval, L-shaped and rectangular. They're a bit like the old 'Dungeon Geomorphs' that used to be around back in the day, but they actually have room names on them.
Because there is a randomised element to the game, also included is a pack of cards which more-or-less corresponds to the shapes/size, and therefore cost, of the rooms (all L-shaped rooms cost the same, but not all L-shaped rooms are the same type; all small square rooms cost the same but again are of different types). The cards are used to determine which room shapes are offered to the players each round. In theory the cards could be used to 'build' a dungeon through a process of randomising which room-shape comes next in the random sequence. There are also stair and corridor pieces to link levels and sections.
However, the cards do not match the rooms exactly - there are fewer cards than rooms, presumably so that some (random) rooms are always left unused (otherwise one could always go 'I'll hold out for the Observatory' knowing that it was bound to appear - this way there are always some room tiles that won't appear but there is no way of knowing which). Also, there is no way I could see to determine which type (as opposed to size/shape) of room could come next. I haven't closely examined all the pieces however, so I don't know whether it would be possible. But even if there isn't a way to do that, a random process which included all the possibilities (say, 'random room' tables for surface and sub-surface rooms which between them included all the options, perhaps more than once) could allow a randomised space in which a designed monster set could live.
If I bought it, it would of course be to play as 'The Castles of Mad King Ludwig'. If I could also use it as a 'random room generator' though, that would be an added bonus!