Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

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Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by ragray »

I have noticed a disturbing tendency in people making Let's Play series on YouTube to ignore the large dungeons that are standard in Daggerfall and use the tiny dungeons modification to play the game entirely in one block dungeons. I can understand how reasons of practicality might lead to this choice when making a video series, but to play the original game of Daggerfall faithfully, one needs to accept the much harder task of exploring full sized dungeons. It is wimpy not to.

1. Blocks and Dungeon Blocks
To make sense out of the confusing maze of rooms and corridors in a large dungeon, one must begin by understanding something about how dungeons are structured. Dungeons are composed of cubical volumes called blocks, so-called because each is shaped like a child's toy block. A block will contain dungeon structures and, if its content is deemed to be significant, then the block is said to be a dungeon block. A dungeon may be composed of up to four dungeon blocks, the sole exception being Scourg Barrow which has six.

It is useful to know the approximate volume of a dungeon block. You can get an idea of it by exploring Privateer's Hold, the default starting dungeon. It is a one block dungeon.

2. Pass Points
Blocks can be seen as instances of a container class whose definition is independent of any specific content. Picture a block as an empty cubical box with two holes punched in each of its four vertical faces. These holes are called pass points because they are the places at which a player character, assuming he can reach the pass point, can travel from the block he is currently in to an adjacent block. If the dungeon content of a block reaches a given vertical face, then both of the pass points on that face can eventually be reached by the PC. However, it is not guaranteed that all four vertical faces of a given block will be reachable.

Clearly, to be able to pass from one face of a block to an opposite face in an adjacent block, the pass points involved must be located at the same relative position on each face. Since all blocks are structurally identical, this has a consequence for opposite faces of the same block. Imagine that you could take apart the box of which we spoke earlier. If you put its Eastern face directly up against its Western face, their pass points would be exactly co-located, making the faces appear identical. This would also be true about the Northern and Southern faces.

3. How Pass Points are Located on Block Faces
The pass points on a given block face always appear at different vertical heights. One we will call the low-pass point and the other the high-pass point. The pass points will also differ in their horizontal placement on the face. Bearing in mind what we have said about the similarity of the Eastern and Western faces, the low-pass points on these faces will both lie closer to the block's Northern end, while their high-pass points will lie closer to its Southern end. Similarly, the low-pass points on the Northern and Southern faces will both lie closer to the block's Eastern end, while their high-pass points will lie closer to its Western end.

4. Standard Map Orientation
Corresponding pass points on adjacent block faces create a pass. A slight gap will be visible between the two blocks and both a high pass and a low pass can be seen within it. If the pivot point is placed on one of the passes, the 3D map can be rotated so that the two passes line up along the forward direction. The low pass should be placed in the foreground (nearer to the point-of-view) with the high pass in the background (farther from the point-of-view). When this is done, the compass direction will be either South or West.

This standard map orientation is ideal for labeling passes and provides notions of left and right, which will be useful soon. At worst you may need to zoom in a bit and adjust the vertical to get a clear view down the forward direction at the passes.

It takes a degree of experience to recognize all the passes in a dungeon and considerable exploration. Most of the time, after both passes have become visible they are recognized as being passes by their positions relative to each other. You may, however, begin having suspicions at an earlier point that you are seeing a pass.

5. Why Name Dungeon Blocks and Label Passes?
Why is it a good idea to name dungeon blocks and label the passes between them? Doing so identifies key features of what would otherwise appear as a bewilderingly complex, undifferentiated, structural mass, Clearly separating a dungeon into its constituent parts greatly reduces its overall complexity. The phrase "divide and conquer" comes to mind.

More than once I have heard players complain that they are seldom able to find their way back to the entrance of the dungeon they are exploring and therefore routinely set a Recall anchor there. Bear in mind that there are at most two points through which the PC must pass in order to return to a dungeon's entrance. (Indeed, there may be just one as the other pass can lead to a part of the entrance block from which the entrance cannot directly be reached.)

Marking critical locations such as these is a very good idea.

6. How I Name Dungeon Blocks
Every dungeon block is named by the route to it from the entrance block. For example, a dungeon block that lies directly to the East of the entrance block is named E and called the E block. If another dungeon block is recognized lying to the North of the E block, it becomes the EN block, etc. The longest chain possible in this scheme would be three characters long, For instance, ENE would be the fourth block in a dungeon. (It may be helpful to consult the tiny yellow mini-map.)

It is possible to write the name of a dungeon block on a map marker and place it at some location within the block, but I prefer not to do this. Firstly, there is no standard location for such a name label and, secondly, I am heavily dependent upon map markers during the course of exploration and I therefore eschew cluttering the map with them. There is a better way,

7. How I Label Passes
When two unlabeled passes have been recognized and they join a named block to an unnamed block, it is time to find a name for the unnamed block and label the passes. (If neither block is named, you cannot perform this step yet.) You can find the direction to an unnamed block with the 3D map. For example, if the named block is E and you are looking North over the passes at the unnamed block, then EN will be the new block name. Simple enough, but sometimes there can be issues of visibility.

I prefer this procedure. It uses the easy-to-remember left/right rule, which is:
left = S/E, right = N/W.

Obviously, if the standard orientation points South, the transverse directions are E and W, and if it points West, the transverse directions are S and N.

For example, assume that the named block is still E and that, when we orient the map along the unlabeled passes in the standard way, we get a clear view to the West. Then if the unnamed block is visible to the right, it lies to the North and its new name is EN.

If we now begin again in block EN and the standard orientation along the unlabeled passes points to the South and the unnamed block is seen on the left, then the unnamed block is ENE.

This may appear complicated, but it is easy to learn.

Map markers should now be used to label both of the unlabeled passes with the name of the block that was just established. It may seem oddly asymmetrical to label passes with a block name. Which side of the pass does the named block lie on? The answer will always be evident from the last character of the label and the left/right rule.

Let me mention that it would be very helpful to have a choice of shapes and colors for map markers like green cubes, red balls, et cetera for various purposes like pass labeling.

Incidentally, do not confuse blocks with block faces. When we travel from the EN block to the ENE block, we are travelling East. But we are leaving EN from its Eastern face and entering ENE through its Western face.

Finally, I have to mention the case of a block named: ENW. This is a perfectly acceptable name for this block. However, you might notice that this block has an alias of N. Using that name, block EN also gets an alias of NE because there are two routes to it and thus four passes along two of its faces. I suggest labeling the Southern face EN and the Western face as NE.

8. Pass Caps (or Plugs)
If a block's dungeon content reaches one of the block's faces, there must be something present on the other side of that face's pass points, or the PC could potentially step out into the 'void'. Assuming there is no adjacent dungeon block, a pass cap must be provided. This may be an endcap room, a small dungeon structure or, of special interest, a structure I call a pass connector. This is a single dungeon structure that caps both pass points at once and also serves to connect them. You have doubtless encountered pass connectors on the exterior faces of dungeon blocks.

I deem the dungeon content of blocks like these to be insignificant and therefore I do not consider them to be real dungeon blocks. (You may have wondered why I have been drawing a distinction between blocks and dungeon blocks.) There is no real point in labeling the passes to blocks like these and I do not recommend doing so. However, the naming and labeling procedure I have described does work perfectly well in these cases.

9. A Question
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it helped motivate you to explore real, large dungeons. I have other discoveries and advise to offer and discuss regarding the game of Daggerfall. However, I am not entirely certain that this forum is an appropriate venue for information that does not bear directly upon Daggerfall Unity per se. If you know of another forum where such content would receive a wider audience, I would appreciate your providing a link to it in the comments. Or you may feel that content relating to gameplay is welcome here. In any case thank you for your feedback.

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by pango »

Thanks for sharing!
I agree that knowing how dungeons are made helps a lot with navigating them; I sometimes take the time to explain that to streamers that have trouble finding their way in dungeons (but it's a kind of gamey knowledge, so it also depends on the streamer and what (s)he wants to experience).
I don't feel the need to be as systematic at naming things, knowing the direction of the entrance beam is usually enough for me, even if it's probably less optimal at times. Also doesn't work as well with some main quest dungeons, because some of their "pass points" are actually closed, so I have to be extra careful with those.

Learning to use the 3D map well also helps a lot. It has lots of hidden useful features though.
Left drag on 3d view to translate, Right drag on 3d view to rotate, wheel to zoom.
Mouse up/down while pressing wheel to control transparency, F2-F3-F4 transparency modes.
Double-click to leave a note, right double-click to remove it.
Right double-click anywhere else to set pivotal point.
You can go a long way just knowing those.

What really makes dungeons easier to navigate and faster to complete is recognizing blocks: knowing what quest locations can be, where levers are and what they do, etc. Of course the problem with that solution/advice is that it only comes with time and struggling with many dungeons first. To me that loves dungeon crawling that was a delight, but not everybody has that kind of time, for example. But at least it explains how long-time players can often find quest targets under half an hour. And hopefully enough brave players will keep trying that journey to Daggerfall dungeons mastery :)
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by ragray »

Sorry for taking so long to replay.

What would be a useful addition to the 3D map would be a control to increase the vertical scale -- in other words, to separate the horizontal layers of a dungeon block along its vertical axis. Often a block will have a lower layer, an upper layer, and a mezzanine layer. Being able to, so to speak, explode the view vertically would make it much easier to see into the center of the block. The function that hides the dungeon above the current location does not always solve this problem.

It would also be really useful to have distinct types of markers to mark these places:
  • 1. Unexplored branches to which I must eventually return.
  • 2. Passes between blocks.
  • 3. Places where I had to leave loot to which I want to return.
  • 4. Navigation points, for instance, four-way corridor crossings.
  • 5. Locations of features like switches, elevators, etc.
Thanks for replying.

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by Shalval »

I have a fairly simple heuristic when exploring dungeons in Daggerfall: every time I reach a crossroad, I check the automap to see if I walked through any of these directions already, or to see if it's connected to something I know. If they are not, I go there.

If by the time I know most of the dungeon I still do not have the quest object in hand, then I start looking for gaps in the automap (this is where DFU controls are a godsend: being able to manipulate the map like a 3D model in Blender is a time saver). Once I see such gaps, I go there by checking regularly the map if the path is complex.

The most difficult with this technique is when there is a complex vertical network of caverns. It can be a bit hard to see if you have explored everything. But with experience you get a good sense of patterns.
Last edited by Shalval on Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by Seferoth »

Tiny Dungeons are not even that "tiny". They are just better in every way(IMO). Real Men don't care how other people play their games.
Last edited by Seferoth on Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by AuntiePixel »

Well, thank goodness I'm not a real man then.

Seriously, if you enjoy the original labyrinthine dungeons, great! Play that way. If you don't, smaller dungeons is an option. Fantastic. Play that way! There's no reason to be judgmental or gatekeepy because someone enjoys the game differently than you do.

I thoroughly enjoyed the large dungeons when I was a teen and had all the time in the world. But I don't have that time now. Doesn't make me less of a gamer / Daggerfall fan.

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"REAL DAGGERFALL PLAYERS" Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by Lokkrin Zhataros »

-My post here was over aggressive and unkind, and missed the point of the OP entirely. My apologies.
Last edited by Lokkrin Zhataros on Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by Interkarma »

I align with the sentiment that people can play how they want, and smaller dungeons are a perfectly valid option. They're still quite large and intimidating for many players while providing a gentler introduction to Daggerfall dungeoneering. Smaller dungeons are disabled by default and don't affect main story dungeons. Sooner or later, every player is going to find themselves tackling a big dungeon. And if they want the OG experience, just don't enable the feature.

For me, the biggest advantage of smaller dungeons is they compress time spent in dungeons so I can do more in my limited play sessions. I'm constantly time poor and I used to just skip random dungeon quests because I didn't want to spend the time involved. With smaller dungeons, I know that I can run a quick 30-minute dungeon crawl and return the magical macguffin in time for breakfast.

Anyway, title aside there's some great dungeoneering discussion to be found in this topic. :)

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by MegaRhettButler »

ragray wrote: Wed Feb 10, 2021 2:49 am It would also be really useful to have distinct types of markers to mark these places:
  • 1. Unexplored branches to which I must eventually return.
  • 2. Passes between blocks.
  • 3. Places where I had to leave loot to which I want to return.
  • 4. Navigation points, for instance, four-way corridor crossings.
  • 5. Locations of features like switches, elevators, etc.
Thanks for replying.
I second this suggestion. Different color markers would be very helpful. I'd use them a little differently because my own system for clearing dungeons is different, but I'd want 3 colors:

- The default color for marking the path I don't take at a branching corridor.
- A second color to mark switches
- A third color to mark locked doors/movable walls/remotely activated objects.

I get by with one color of marker just writing descriptions, but because I place so many markers I tend to just run to the closest one rather than actually reading what it is.

And yes OP, only girly men play a dungeon crawler with smaller dungeons.

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Re: Real Men Don't Play in Tiny Dungeons

Post by BadLuckBurt »

Real men don't whine about what others do but instead mind their own business ;)
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