Delegating dungeons and rotating referees

Hex crawl idea:

  1. Decide, as a group, on basic aesthetic (or agree to allow genre to evolve)
  2. Generate wilderness map (probably randomly), place starting town
  3. Each player creates one PC
  4. Each player creates one dungeon and places it on the map
  5. Each player creates a hook or rumor for their dungeon
  6. Players decide which hook to pursue
  7. Author of that hook is referee next session

If a dungeon is cleared, that player makes a new one, places it somewhere on the map, and adds new rumors to the main rumor list.

Map grows organically as needed.

This could be made more complex in various ways, resulting in a richer setting (each player also responsible for a town? a set of fleshed out random encounters? the encounter table for a given region? a custom class or race?), but I think one PC and one dungeon per player is the fertile core. Rotating referee duties spreads the prep load around and works against overly comprehensive world building. The juxtaposition of different styles creates a world with more diverse influences.

6 thoughts on “Delegating dungeons and rotating referees

  1. Scott Anderson

    That’s an idea rich with promise, for the right group of players. I love it. Perhaps each is responsible for bringing a weapon, a magic item, and a new monster in as well (subject to reasonable group veto for power level and flavor)?

    Let me suggest Welsh Piper’s method of terrain generation to start the world seed. It has some amount of randomness but still requires a person to place the terrain and features, which results in a natural and sometimes unexpected progression.

    1. Brendan Post author


      Yeah, it requires a certain kind of group that is willing to share responsibility. Also maybe: each player picks a race and class, and those races and classes are what are available for play.

      Do you have a link to the Piper post you mentioned? I would probably just use Hexographer for the random map, since it is just a few clicks of effort, but I could see how a slightly more complex process might also yield more interesting geography.

  2. imredave

    Cool Idea in theory. I’ve always had trouble in practice with one of the DMs giving out some uber magic item which wrecks the rest of the DMs dungeons. I have done some alternating DMing with my wife, but we were very good at synchronizing things. Living Realms also worked quite well with rotating DMs but that was because the treasure was predefined and 4 editions level requirement for magic items did a good job of keeping powerful magic out of low level hands. However its formulaic approach does not have a good sandbox feel to it.

    1. Brendan Post author


      Certainly, all players need to have a shared idea about what is an appropriate risk and reward balance, but I think it is doable assuming a group of people with decent communication skills. This probably falls under the initial discussion of aesthetic and genre for me.

  3. Telecanter

    I think letting players into the act of creation is one of the great missed opportunities of traditional D&D. I’ve been trying to do more and more of it. But I’m partial to the idea of having players make things– like dungeons or rumors– and then filtering them through me, the DM. That way they get to create but I get to tie things together more seamlessly and aesthetically. Also, because I see DMing as hard work, a chore at times, and I want to spare players that.


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