Monday 17 October 2011

A to Z of UK RPG in the 80s - D is for Dungeon Floors

As some of you are aware I am based in the UK and I've blogged before about how the roleplaying scene differs in Blighty to that across the pond (and probably that over in the Eurozone to boot).  Here's an attempt to pick out some of the highlights of what it was like to be a roleplayer back in the dark days of Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s (cue the V for Vendetta trailer)...

D is for Dungeon Floors

No self respecting DM in the 80s could get away without using cardstock dungeon floor plans.  Back in the 80s we didn't have photoshop and photo-quality printers, so if you wanted nice floorplans you needed to either make your own (and be very arts and crafty) or you could pop-along to your local specialist retailer and buy some ready made ones.  There were quite a few ranges to choose from:

Endless Plans (Endless Games 1983-?) - Not much info has survived about these other than that they were mostly two colour plans and were also featured in The Complete Dungeon Master series of boxed sets and Tortured Souls magazine.  There were at least 8 sets, with Set 8 being Forests, and they were very architectural in design.  As I recall you were meant to cut them out along the dotted lines and you could then build up quite intricate and irregular dungeons by layering pieces one on top of another.  This approach was novel, but futile and unplayable unless you had access to plenty of magic tape and an A3 photocopier.  The wilderness tiles did have overlayed crosses for movement but they were far too intricate to be really useful (in comparison with the Dungeon Planner or Dungeon Floor Plans sets around at he same time.

Example of Endless Plans floorplans
(as found in CDM3 The Watchers of the Sacred Flame)

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Floor Plans (Games Workshop 1979) - Published by under license from TSR these are the granddaddy of all the Games Workshop floorplan sets and were reprinted in 1982 without any reference to the Dungeons and Dragons brand and also form the basis for the Dungeon Planner series reusing the same ground artwork. 

Dungeon Planner (Games Workshop) - Neither of these are the traditional type of floorplans.  Each box set came with an A2 map of the area in question (1in to 5ft scale) and a booklet for the DM to write scenario specific information in blocks corresponding to the numbered locations.  The covers of the booklets also doubled as a DM's screen containing Encounter Tables and a black and white DM's version of the map with the rooms and doors numbered.  I particularly liked the fact that the doors were seperately numbered as it is irritating when running a commercial scenario to find the status of the doors in the last line (or worse buried in the middle) of the room description. 
  • Set 1: Caverns of the Dead (1984) - (Artist: Gary Chalk) - This map depicted a typical dungeon and came with an extra A4 map of the region of Koss.

  • Set 2: Nightmare in Blackmarsh (1984) - (Artist: by Albie Fiore and Robert Neville) - This set was part of a waterside village called Blackmarsh.
Set 1: Caverns of the Dead Set 2: Nightmare in Blackmarsh

Dungeon Floor Plans (Artist Uncredited) - Designed in the same style as the Dungeon Planner series and based on the original Dungeons and Dragons Floorplans tile design.  The latter sets included an overlayed cross grid to aid movement which was also used in the Judge Dredd RPG floorplans which were included in the boxed game.  This series included: 
  • Dungeon Floor Plans (1982) - 12 Sheets of generic dungeon floors including;  4 sheets of grey "crazy paved" stone floor, 3 sheets of beige flagstone floors, 1 sheet of wooden floors and 1 sheet of stone steps.

  • Dungeon Floor Plans 2 (1982) - 12 Sheets of exterior floors including; 3 sheets of grass, trees and Hedges, 3 sheets of water, 2 sheets of grey corridor features, 2 sheets of beige and 2 sheets of beige flagstone floors.

  • Dungeon Floorplans 3 (1983) - 12 Sheets of exterior features including; 4 sheets of roof tiles, 2 sheets of roof junctions, 2 sheets of timber features, two sheets of boats and two sheets of stone/dirt features.

  • Dungeon Floorplans 4 (1984) - 12 coloured sheets including; 5 rocky cavern floor Three Tunnel and Cavern walls 2 sheets of junctions openings and corners, 1 sheet of Cave features and 1 sheet of mine rails, rail junctions and accessories such as wagons, wheelbarrows and buffers.
Dungeon Floor PlansDungeon Floor Plans 2
Dungeon Floor Plans 3Dungeon Floor Plans 4

DUNGEON Floor Plans (Games Workshop) - The previous sets released by GW all had a very flat feel to them, being at most 3 spot colours and no attempt was made to light, shadow or texture them.  The next floorplans series attempted to fix that and hence moved to a full colour printing process but the lack of a defined grid made them far less useful for roleplay even though they were very pretty.  The series was made up of:
  • Dungeon Floor Plans 1 (1986) - (unknown artist) - A re-imagineering of the 1982 set with full colour artwork including doors and furniture.

  • Dungeon Caverns (1986) - (Artist: Dave Andrews) - 12 Sheets of Caverns including 3 cavern floors, 1 cavern floor with stream, 3 curved cavern tunnels, 1 straight cavern tunnel with mine rails, 2 junctions 1 entrance and 1 sheet of cavern features such as steps, planks, treasure and weapons and a magma river.
  • Dungeon Rooms (1986) - (Artists: Tony Ackland, Dave Andrews, Colin Dixon) - 12 sheets including 23 rooms: Torture Chamber, Necromancer's Study, Armoury, Temple, Bedroom, Mausoleum, Apothecary, Guardroom and Cell, Treasure Room, Throne Room, Alchemist's Laboratory, Orc's Den, Wizard's Study, Great Hall, Forge, Kitchen, Barracks, Mortuary, Gladiatorial Pit, Library, Large Stairwell, Magic Well, Dragon's Lair plus Corridors and Passageways.

  • Dungeon Lairs (1987) - (Artists: Dave Andrews, Colin Dixon) - 10 sheets of monster lairs including: Sewers, Tunnel Complex, Troll Cave, Chaos Cavern, Chaos Temple, Ancient Temple, Barrow, Goblin Hall, Mossy Cave, Tree Root Cavern, Water Filled Cave, Ice Cavern Chaos Throne Room.

Dungeon Floor Plans 1Dungeon Caverns
Dungeon RoomsDungeon Lairs

Role-Play Floor Plans (Playtwice Ltd)  - I have one sheet (I have no idea when or where I acquired it) from one of the two sets published and they mimicked the Dungeon Floor Plans Set 1 but were slightly more colourful.  No lighting effects were present but you did get a good spread of floor accessories as can be seen in this period advert from Adventurer Magazine.

Other NoteableFloorplans from the Era
  • Halls Of Horror: Gothic Floor Plans (Games Workshop 1986) - (Artists: uncredited) - Although not technically in the "DUNGEON Floor Plans" series these came out at the same time and were squarely marketed at Call of Cthulhu players even though GW did not brand them as such (probably due to licensing issues).  12 Sheets of floorplans depicting a gothic mansion including 11 Rooms; Hall, Dining Room, Kitchen, Conservatory, Laboratory, Guest Bedroom, Drawing Room, Library, Scullery, Attic or Cellar, Master Bedroom, Bathroom and 2 sheets of accessories including 2 cars, staircases sarcophagi and some

  • Heroquest (Games Workshop / MB Games 1989) - This boardgame featured a big full colour dungeon which although it has some unfavourable design characterstics it is still quite useable for smaller dungeons. 

  • Advanced Heroquest (Games Workshop 1989) - Came with some really nice floorplans with jigsaw connectors so they didn't slide all over the place.  Far nicer and more useable than the DUNGEON Floor Plans which GW released 3 years earlier.

  • Judge Dredd: Slaughter Margin (Games Workshop 1986) - (Artist: Dave Andrews) - A campaign scenario boxset which included 8 A3 playsheets depicting scenes from the scenario but designed to be quite generic and 3 sheets of accessories like furniture and machinery.
  • Judge Dredd: Citi-Block (Games Workshop 1987) - (Artist: Dave Andrews) - 8 A3 Floorplans representing an open area, park, entrance plaza, office units, helipad/hover bus stop, 2 pipeway/corridors, and sky-rail station and 4 A4 sheets of cardstock vehicles, street furniture and machinery to populate your own Mega City block.  Fully compatible with the earlier Slaughter Margin and very useable for all manner of Sci-Fi games. 
Collecting Dungeon Floors

Despite the rise in popularity of digital roleplaying platfroms such as Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, there is a large base of players still using analog floorplans.  As result the products above can command high prices for what is essentially pieces of cardboard.  If you are a completist that doesn't matter you just have to search for Dungeon Floors on eBay.

Next: E is for Elric of Melniboné


    1. I would add that it was common practice back then for GW to include floorplans in most of their core RPG books and scenarios.

      Examples include the GW edition of MERPS, Golden Heroes (although I seem to recall that the floorplans only actually appeared in the scenario books) and of course Judge Dredd.

      Oh, and the cover to Halls of Horror is a recycled Ian Miller pic originally used as the cover for the Fighting Fantasy gamebook House of Hell.

    2. I should add that the Caverns of the Dead holds a special place in my heart as the setting of innumerable games back when I was around 9-12. I even extended it out a bit by sticking it on a bit of board and adding a bunch of Dungeon Floor Plans around it. Happy days.

    3. Awesome research. Much respect!
      More own Inked Adventures plans are heavily influenced by the Floor Plans series from the 80s. :)