I’ve been playing a fair number of rules- & preparation-light games recently — as much as I adore their flexibility and resilience, I do miss the exploration element that a lot of dungeon-delving can provide. As such, I’ve been keen to find a good middle-ground that allows for minimal preparation (efficient over lacking) and thorough exploration.
I think I’ve finally found it: The term “memory palace” flits about from time to time – most recently spread by BBC’s “Sherlock”. The general concept of a large house that you know well enough to fill with mental images dates back to ancient Greek times and is often known as the “loci” mnemonic system. At the basic level, there will be a number of places in your life (or from your past) that you have memorised perfectly.
These may be your places of work, locations you’ve lived, even a favourite pub or bar.
This is your dungeon.
The Basilisk in the Bathroom: Converting the Memory Palace
Initially, you’ll want to work out if you’re using a partial section of the location or it in its entirety.
Likewise, you’ll want to decide what the orientation and layout it — in the past I’ve essentially inverted a pub I know well so instead of going upstairs, the levels descent; otherwise the floorplan remains the same.
At this stage, you’ll want to work out some other key locations – target treasures, monster lairs, &c. You can populate the dungeon in the same way — and by clearly focusing on the desired creature in the real-life location, you’ll have a pretty sturdy memory of it. Alternatively, you can create a fairly simple random-encounter table and just run that for the rooms you come across.
As you play through the dungeon, you’ll be able to clearly imagine — and describe — the layouts of the rooms. It’s perfect in that makes your skull into the optimal GM’s screen.
Quick to establish, simple to run & immensely customisable.
Try it in your next session.