Restocking Monsters & Empty Rooms

Had been following a conversation between a couple of my friends (Alex, Gumbo, Weird Writer) about the usefulness of empty rooms, especially to speed up session prep. Had two thoughts during the course of this:

"i wonder if rooms being empty, straight-up, is part of why they seem to have gone through so many rooms per session in the 70s"

The tendency now is to have super fleshed-out, flavorful dungeons (best exemplified by the jewelbox form that goes heavy on quality per quantity of room description). This makes for more engaging individual rooms, but means that you are spending more game-time in each room rather than navigating the whole place. Empty rooms, by being empty, make the overall place feel bigger since the actual points of interest are spaced out. Nothing wrong with either, but they're useful for different kinds of places.

"NPCs being in a room just means they're there now but not necessarily later. good way too to eventually build up room descriptions as NPCs use the rooms they inhabit"

We can think of "monster rooms" as being predetermined random encounters—not because they're random, because they aren't by the time the players are there—but because they are (or can be) ephemeral. There one session and gone the next. By extension, if NPCs were doing something in a room in one session and now they're gone, that room probably still has the remnants of whatever they were doing. The room's active/temporary function at the time then becomes part of that room's persistent description!


Either one of Nick LS Whelan's versions of flux space (connective or structural, so to speak) do well to abstract empty rooms as dead space between real points of interest (set pieces, puzzles, monsters, treasure), but there's something to be said for how concrete empty rooms make the space feel bigger while also potentially serving as stages for encounters. When each approach is used probably depends on how the site is "paced", and they can probably be used concurrently to represent different kinds of dead space.

A lot of fantasy media uses the setting as a backdrop or literary conceit rather than as the thing really being explored. Take as an example my beloved Sword Art Online. The setting or system of the virtual reality game itself is totally unimportant compared to the personal relationships between the characters and the factional interests that develop between them. Can this be exploited in tabletop games? Is the world's setting necessarily as important as how the characters react and change? This won't hold for all games, but it's an approach that only now occurred to me.

The ball is in the others' court now! :P


  1. I think the trick with empty rooms is to remember that empty of monsters or whatever isn't empty of atmosphere. There may be sounds, smells, air moving, a slight change in temperature... Something to make the room or corridor feel real even if not much time is spent on it.


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