Tonisborg Dungeon, Part III - Stocking

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , , , ,

For many, the nuts and bolts of how Tonisborg was stocked is sure to be the most anticipated part of our analysis.  It gets at the heart of what a dungeon was imagined to be by a member of the inner circle of Twin Cities players at the dawn of the game.

The forums are replete with post - some I have participated in myself - about how much treasure there should be, or how many empty to inhabited rooms there should be, and so on. 


The empty to inhabited rooms ratio is particularly interesting.  In OD&D, the directions given in Volume III are "Roll the die for every room or space not already allocated. A roll of a 1 or 2 indicates that there is some monster there". (Underworld &Wilderness Adventure, 1974:7)

That leaves only 1/3 of the rooms inhabited with a monster, though traps or treasures may be in other rooms.  Looking at Tonisborg, we see that on the first level, only room 12 isn't keyed, but that appears to be more of an oversight than a deliberate choice. However, on levels 2 through 9 there are no numbered but uninhabited rooms.  Mr. Svenson only numbered rooms that had monsters in them.  There are no trap rooms and no empty but numbered rooms.  More than that, there really are very few un-numbered room spaces on any of the levels.  Usually, any space big enough to be considered a room was numbered and given a monster.  It is apparent that Greg Svenson  was not following the D&D rule that only 1/3 of the rooms on every level of the dungeon will have a monster.


It is also evident that Mr. Svenson did not follow the Monster to treasure ratio rule found on the same page of the Underworld &Wilderness Adventure D&D booklet.  This rule holds that of 50% (half) the monster inhabited rooms have treasure, the other half does not.  

Each level of Tonisborg dungeon has a little different percentages of treasureless rooms, ranging from 50% to only 6%.  The average percent of monsters having a treasure is close to 78%.  There is no reason to think these percentages were intentional.  In fact they are merely the natural result of rolling on the Treasure Types tables found in the Volume II Monsters and Treasure booklet, pages 3-4. (1974).  Those tables - a snippet of which is shown below - give a percentage chance for various treasure items.  It is entirely possible to roll across those tables and come up empty, having missed the needed percentage chance with each roll.

It is often said that OD&D dungeons were "intended" to be stocked with treasure that was either hand picked by the DM or determined using the "Level Beneath the Surface" table found on page 7 of Vol. III Underworld &Wilderness Adventure booklet of the 1974 D&D rules.  The "Treasure Types" A through I listed with each monster, were intended, it is said, only for so called "wilderness lairs".  I've argued (Within my Article Here) that this idea is nonsense, and that in fact, the Treasure Types were originally intended to be used in dungeons too. 

So it is of some interest to see what method Mr Svenson used in 1974.  We can rule out the Level Beneath the Surface table shown below rather quickly, because those LBS treasures always contain silver and never contain copper and that is clearly not the case with Tonisborg.   

However, when we turn to the Treasure Type tables and look at the treasures each type of monster could have, we find a very strong correlation to the actual treasures in Tonisborg.  For Tonisborg, Greg Svenson very definitely used the Treasure Type Tables, and never used the Level Below the Surface treasure table.  Most of the treasures conform to the Treasure Type exactly as expected, although there are a few anomalies like the ghoul on level 1 who somehow got 6800 silver instead of 6000 or 7000 silver, and 500 gold instead of 5000, but the treasures of the various creatures clearly fall in the ranges of the their particular Treasure Type and not any other scheme.  In this respect Svenson is once again falling in lockstep with Dave Arneson, who as shown in the article linked above, also relied on the Treasure Type tables when stalking Blackmoor dungeon in 1976 for convention play. 

One interesting thing to note regarding Svenson's use of the Treasure Types is his interpretation of the phrase "any #" appearing in the Maps or Magic items column.  To explain, the Magic or Maps column of Treasure Type E reads "30% any 3 + 1 scroll".  It's not exactly clear whether that means you role percentiles three times, and if any of those is less than 30% you get an item, or if you roll once, and you get 3 items if you get less than 30%,  Today, the latter method seems to be the most common understanding, but Svenson must have used the first method to obtain the results we see in the Tonisborg stocking list.  

For example, in one instance he had a room with wraiths, which according to the book have Treasure Type E.  Type E has 10% chance of 1000-10000 copper pieces, 30% 1000-12000 silver pieces, 25% 1000-8000 gold pieces, 10% 1-10 gems, 10% 1-10 Jewels, and "30% any 3 + 1 scroll".  The actual treasure of the wraiths in this case was:

12000sp, 3000gp, 10 Magic arrows, Scroll of M. Protection.

So only one of "any 3" possible magic items was awarded, along with 1 scroll.


One feature of Tonisborg dungeon that is somewhat clearer is how the monsters were chosen.  On page 10 of Vol. III is a " MONSTER DETERMINATION AND LEVEL OF MONSTER MATRIX" table followed by a grouping of monsters into 6 "Monster Levels".

The Tonisborg stocking lists conform to this method and it appears that Mr. Svenson was using these "MONSTER DETERMINATION AND LEVEL OF MONSTER MATRIX" tables - or something like them.  The issue is that there are several 1974 D&D monsters present in Svenson's key that do not appear in the Monster Level tables, including elves and grey ooze.  Presumably, someone, perhaps Greg himself or Dave Arneson, had revised these tables to include a few missing monsters.


The monster numbers appearing also look as though they were drawn directly from the 1974 D&D booklets.  These almost always fall within the ranges given in the MONSTER REFERENCE TABLE on page 3 of Vol 2.  This is the same table indicating the Treasure Types.  

There are however a few notable exceptions - such as a room with "only" 12 goblins.  Possibly Mr Svenson was merely rolling what he felt was an appropriate die - like a d6 for giants and a d20 for goblins.  Most of the monsters on the MONSTER REFERENCE TABLE have a Number Appearing range that would easily fall in the common D&D dice ranges, making it difficult to tell if this table was consulted or if the numbers happen to coincide from random rolls.


Original Dungeons & Dragons Volume III (page 6) recommends a number of tricks and trap that apparently have a lot to do with Gary Gygax's vision of a dungeon.  These include transporter rooms, shifting walls, sinking floors, trap steps, illusion rooms and maze like coiling corridors with door after door.  Tonisborg dungeon appears to have none of these exotica.  The key says nothing of traps or tricks at all.  However, Tonisborg is not totally devoid of such things.  There are plenty of secret doors, trap doors with ladders, and open shafts.  There is that mysterious note about the plate armor holding a sword, a few areas of natural cavern, and at least one pit trap marked on Level 10.


Going through this as we have, reveals a dungeon that partially conforms to the conventions of what a D&D dungeon is supposed to be "by the book", and partially does not in crucial ways.  Tonisborg reveals what at least one dungeon of the time actually was like.  We see virtually no attention paid to the guidelines presented in the D&D booklets, but a fairly strict adherence to random rolling on the tables found therein, with some creative adaptations - just as with the levels 1-6 in Arneson's convention version of Blackmoor dungeon.  We see a complex arrangement of passages, corridors, secret doors and stairwells, making the dungeon itself a exploratory puzzle.  Tonisborg is a Twin Cities dungeon, created by one of the central figures at the center of the development of D&D.  It is a historical treasure, and we are working to make it available for all to enjoy and ponder over.  Stay tuned and game on.


Geoffrey McKinney said...

Thank you very much for your analysis!

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