How to Save the World

Part Eight


Advanced Dungeon Designs


This chapter completely deals with the creation and design of the many types of dungeons, temples, lairs, levels, castles, and so on. Designing a good dungeon is essential to an RPG, because these dark, mysterious places present the hardest challenges, the best villains and the greatest rewards for their defeat, and everything your game will be remembered for. Do you really think gamers who have just finished the game are going to talk about how great the story line was? Well, maybe some of them will, and a good story line is essential in its own right, but when people talk about how great an RPG was, the first thing they mention is the dungeon, the bosses, and the enemies. I said earlier that half of the gameplay should be done exploring. This means that the other half is completely done in dungeons and miniature dungeons. Of course, there are infinitely many possibilities for the design of these dungeon levels. And as always, I encourage you to be creative. But there are some notable designs that for some reason seem to be repeated over and over in RPG’s. Sometimes, a design may be used to such an extent that all of the dungeons in the entire game follow the same pattern. This works well if you have a theme in mind for your dungeons, which most games do. These setups apply for both 2D and 3D games. Here are all the ones I can think of at the moment. Wherever I have incorporated a design into my game, I will make note of it.


1. Temple Dungeon: These places are mysterious lairs where a spirit or mythical being either lives or used to live. Often in a temple environment the hero is in search of this magical spirit, specifically in search of its help on the hero’s quest. The “spirit” is usually known by some different name. I have heard it referred to as “sage,” “ghost,” “ancient god,” “guardian,” and “wind fish,” to name a few. The boss is then an evil spirit that somehow has trapped the good spirit. The hero has to beat the boss to “free,” “awaken,” or “release” the good spirit. You can play with names here as much as you want; the concept is still the same. This is the most common dungeon setup for RPG’s. In hopes of being a little more creative than to follow the same pattern throughout my entire game, I have only used it once, in the first dungeon, the Clubland Temple.


2. Castle Dungeon: These work along much the same concept as a Temple Dungeon, with two notable exceptions. First, the boss at the end is not an evil spirit, but rather just a big, evil creature that is stopping you from proceeding in your game. And second, there is no good spirit at the end of the dungeon, but instead a tangible object, something the hero is on a quest for. Luckily for me, my hero is on a quest for objects called Jacks, an invention of mine that qualifies both as a good spirit and as a tangible object. Hence, I can use both of these types of dungeons. And I have in the Heartland Castle. One final difference between castles and temples is that castles are usually above ground, whereas temples can be in caves, underwater, in the clouds, anywhere. This is part of the reason why temples are the most popular of designs: they allow the most flexibility.


3. Miniature Dungeon: I believe I’ve described this enough already. See part four of this guide for reference on miniature dungeons.


4. Enemy Hideout Dungeon: The hero enters this dungeon so that he can defeat an enemy. This is often saved for the last dungeon in the game, as it is in mine. In the enemy hideout dungeon some games prefer to have a sort of review level. This means all or most of the challenges are ones the hero has already faced. The dungeon therefore is a test of the gamer’s memory more than anything else. I personally think this makes the game too easy, so I plan for big surprises in my last dungeon… more about that later.


5. Compound Dungeon: Ah, now here’s a really complicated dungeon for all of you creators out there that really want to go for the gold. Compound dungeons are extremely hard to beat, because so many things can be hidden in them. A compound dungeon by its simplest definition is a dungeon that the hero must enter, leave, and reenter in order to beat. It is a dungeon so large that it must either be split into two parts, entered at two different times, or as with the latest one I’ve seen, turned up side down in order to make room for the whole thing. Other than this, it commonly follows the temple dungeon or castle dungeon setup.


The Compound Dungeon


When I first set out to create my third dungeon, the Diamondland Halls, I wanted to create a dungeon with truly stunning special effects and underground suspense. I’ve already had two miniature dungeons lead up to this event. Remember when I mentioned that the difficulty level jumps from dungeon to dungeon? First, I had the level 1 Clubland Temple. Then I had the level 3 Hector’s Castle. Then there was the level 5 Heartland Castle, the level 7 Tumbledown Mines, and the level 8 Cloverleaf Fortress Remains. Now I will get to the level 10 (that’s the hardest possible level) dungeon.


You, Lewis, go through the opened vault door and into a chamber. You have entered the Chalcedon Caverns (cue the mysterious music). The room is a small chamber, conveniently already lit for you. Defeat two guardian Army Slugs preventing you from getting into the next room, then go forward. Strangely enough, you won’t find a huge central room. There is only another dimly lit hallway with six doors, one of which you just entered through.


Now you navigate the game by solving puzzles and defeating villains. All of these will be described in full in my strategy guide later. But just so you get an idea of what puzzles a level 10 dungeon might have, here are some examples.


Example of an enemy: Chalcedon


The Chalcedon resembles a large black butterfly. It is amazingly agile and swift in its flight. The Chalcedon attacks by sneaking from the shadows, and then closing its wings around you to create a cocoon, where it proceeds to drain you of your energy. You can either get at this creature before it hits you (two hits to destroy), or you can let loose a cherry bomb while in the cocoon. You will take damage doing this, but much less than you possibly could have. These Chalcedon characters are found throughout the Chalcedon Caverns part of the dungeon. An improved white version of the butterfly comes later in the dungeon.


Example of a puzzle: the inescapable doors


Once you walk into this room, the door slams and locks shut behind you. In front of you are four doors, all of which you can open. One of them, however, has nothing but brick behind it. If you don’t open that one, you will see the brick when you pass through the door and look back. The next set of four doors has three that are reinforced with brick. Once you pass through the one safe door, you inadvertently step on a switch that sets off gunpowder back where you started off. Lewis gulps as he sees where this is going. The gunpowder sets off a chain reaction whereby the ceiling is now falling in a wave-like pattern headed straight toward you. It’s off to the races! In all you must pass through ten sets of doors safely. Whenever you run into brick, you must try another door. The placement of the safe doors and the not so is completely random and changes every time you attempt the feat, should you fail on your first try. But there is always at least one safe door to pass through, so there’s always hope. Get crushed, and you lose considerable energy and must try it over again.


At the end of this last puzzle, behind the last door, you step hurriedly forward into a dark room. You realize too late that the room is missing something very important to you: the floor. You fall down the pit for a few seconds, but land in water below. Get out and you will find that this room, unlike the entire dungeon up to this point, is brightly lit, with white walls and golden ornaments. There are two doors out of this room. One is locked, and the other has a sign posted on it: “Here you shall find the power.” Go through and you find yourself on an elevator headed up. It leads you to a chamber where you will find the Lightning Bomb and some matches to accompany it. The elevator goes back down where it came from, so you cannot go back that way. Before you jump from this chamber to the platform below, you throw the switch on the wall that reads “POWER.” Now you jump and land outside the vault door where you entered.


At this time, you might want to use those lightning bombs to gain access to the extracurricular sites in the Tumbledown Mines, specifically to get more Jack’s Feathers. At some point, though, you must reenter the vault. The door is closed, but it is not locked, so walk on in. But when you enter… wait a minute! This isn’t the same dungeon, is it? With the Power switch on, the place is now bright beyond belief. The floor is now white marble, not dirt, and there are twice as many lights as before. Welcome to the Diamondland Halls.


Red carpeting leads the way as you pass into the second room. All of the doors you went through before are now blocked off and locked, but there is an elevator waiting for you. Go down with the elevator and you find yourself in the same room as before. Now, the door that was locked before is open for you. Come inside and you will find the real central room of the dungeon. The Halls are filled with enemies, puzzles, and magic carpets that take you on a full tour of the seven levels of the dungeon. Actually, the carpets only go up to level six. To get to the seventh level, you must learn the secret of Hovering, a jumping technique that uses attack power, but can be done at any time in the dungeon, not just in battles. Learn to hover and you will barely be able to get past the gap between the sixth and seventh floors and land safely in front of the boss’s chamber.


This is one boss battle I will fully chronicle as an example of an extremely hard boss. Remember the Giant Swarm, and how it conveniently moved into a target so you could shoot it with your crossbow? Well, those days are gone. Walk into the room and a voice from nowhere says, “I don’t like this kind of light. POWER OFF!” And the room is black, except for the giant red eyes, even larger this time, glaring at you.


It is Pantomorph, the creature who attacked you earlier in the Mines. Now he is on his home turf, and he has huge advantages here. You might strike at where you think there is a body, but there isn’t any. The creature is completely nonexistent except for its eyes. Hit these with a crossbow shot or throwing star to inflict damage. While aiming at one, be sure not to be blindsided by the other eye, which hurdles at you like a buzz saw and takes energy off you in sweeping blows. Hit each eye three times and the “power” turns back on. The room is light again. The eyes come together, and a black creature appears behind them. He changes into several forms, like a bat, a snake, three snakes, the huge claw that pulled you into the mines in the first place, a mace (spiky ball on chain), and in all of these forms, only his eyes are vulnerable. Once in a while only his eyes will show as the rest of Pantomorph disappears. The eyes each then become a Chalcedon that comes to attack you. No matter what the attack, no matter what your defense, five solid hits to each eye and Pantomorph is blinded. Then strike his blind and flailing body without being hit by his many arms going in random directions. Three hits and you win the battle.


The Heavyweight-Featherweight


When you do, go through the door provided you. On exiting, you go up a ladder to the top of a mountain. Perched at the top is an eagle with a purple streak down his wings: the Flying Amethyst. It is not in a cage, though, so when it sees you the first thing it does is fly away. A sign next to the perch hints at what you should do next.


Hover until you reach the giant bird and climb on top for a ride. You’ll find that the Amethyst is very willing to let you come along. In the end, the feathered friend takes you to Club Town, where this all began. You dismount at your house’s remains to see the third letter from Ky waiting for you, still in tact after the bombing because it was attached to the strongest stone of your building.




I trust you found out what I just learned at the public library: the third Jack is a little big to carry with you. Well, don’t worry. The Jack only goes where he is called. Use the Remembrance Spell to call on him whenever you need a hand… or a ride. He will always take you to this spot. How do I know this? Let’s just say I’ve really been studying these birds. Did you know that all four of the Jacks are endangered species? Oh well, I thought I might tell you if you haven’t figured it out (and you probably have) that the last Jack is in Spadeland somewhere. Be careful, Lewis! That land is Dastard’s stronghold… or at least it is in your time. Good luck, Dominick. Oh, and one more thing. When we meet again, we have to talk about some local legends I’ve been hearing. Nevermind that for now. Go to Spadeland, Dominick! Time is of the essence.




Next time, Part 9: Ace