Karlheinz Stockhausen on dungeon design

Sort of, at least.  Remember the prediction I made in my last post about my brain making connections between Stockhausen’s score for Mikrophonie I and dungeon design?  I’ve only scratched the surface of my analysis of the piece, but the connections started to form almost immediately.  Here’s a snippet from a 1965 introduction to the piece by Stockhausen himself:

“The score consists of 33 independent musical structures, which are to be combined by the musicians for a performance according to a specified connection scheme.  This scheme indicates the relationship between the structures.  The relationships between these structures is determined in each case by three elements: the following structure should, in relationship to the one that precedes it, be similar, different, or opposite; a relationship should remain constant, increase, or decrease; the following structure (which in fact generally begins during the preceding one)) should support, remain neutral to, or destroy the preceding one.  Thus in each case the connection scheme gives three indications for each pair of adjacent structures; for example, similar should support in a constant manner, or opposite should destroy increasingly, or different should remain neutral decreasingly, and so on.  The musicians thus choose the order of the composed structures — which were themselves also composed in a similar way — according to these predetermined criteria.  Although the relationships between the structures, in other word the connection scheme, always remain the same for every performance in order to ensure a strict and directional form, the versions of the order of the structures can be completely different from one another.”

Mikrophonie I is an example of Moment Form, in which the various musical events are composed as discrete units or “Moments”(each, according to Stockhausen, “recognizable by a personal and unmistakable character”) and then arranged together to form the larger work.  Mikrophonie I is one of several of Stockhausen’s Moment Form works that does not have a fixed order to the Moments.  Instead, the piece’s performers individually rehearse and evaluate the 33 Moments and put them in order according to the unusual “connection scheme” mentioned above.

So what is the equivalent of a Moment in dungeon design?  A room?  An “encounter area” within a level, such as a kobold lair or Chaos temple?  A full dungeon level or sub-level? I suppose it could be any of these, providing it has the “personal and unmistakable character” to differentiate it from the adjacent Moments.  One of my experimental goals for my new Dungeon project is to apply Moment form techniques to its planning and design.  My normal procedure for dungeon design has been to draw a map first and then populate it.  I may have a theme or partial layout in mind ahead of time, but oftentimes the map drawing is largely random (for better or worse) and subject to later revision.  This time, I’m going to work backwards…  For the upper levels of my Dungeon, I am going to work on the assumption that Moments are encounter areas or sub-levels.  These Moments can be generated through brainstorming or extrapolating from random table results. For example:

  • Level B (Monastery Basement): Cellar, Crypt I/Ossuary
  • Level 1 (Dungeon proper): Crypt II, Tunnels of the Rat Lord, the Brewery (Cellar II), Kobold Warren, The Covered Well (shaft to level 3, giant spiders), Bandit cave (near alternate entrance), etc.
  • Level 2: Crypt III/Evil Priest, Goblin Mines I, Giant Cave Spider Nest, Troll Bridge, Moon Pool, etc.

Each Moment is stocked and mapped on its own, as one might prepare a One-Page Dungeon, keeping in mind that connecting passages must be added later.  Once the Moments are completed, how then to best determine their placement on the map without the benefit of a correspondence scheme like that in Mikrophonie I?  Intuition suggests laying them out in a way that makes sense logically (or maybe dramatically?), but the thought occurs to me that one could create a “correspondence scheme” for a random dungeon by creating a proto-map of a number of squares equal to the number of Moments, laid out in the desired shape.  For each line/side shared by two squares, roll 1d3 for each of the three relationship axes (see below.)

1. Corresponding ( = ) / Different ( * ) / opposite ( # )
My first thought is that this refers to the general relationship between the “alignments” or natures of the Moments; this could include proper Alignment (for creatures), potential danger, or other factors.  The kobolds and ratlings on Level 1 would be corresponding ( = ) since they are both Chaotic humanoids.  Although the Covered Well and the Brewery are both  non-threatening Dungeon features, the Moments are different ( * ) because the room containing the Covered Well has giant spiders in it — definitely more dangerous!

2. Supporting (+) / Neutral ( | ) / Destroying ( – )
The relationship between Moments.  The kobolds and ratlings may have a mutually beneficial ( +) relationship, there could be bad blood between the two ( – ), or they may be indifferent to one another ( – ).  The goblin shaman on Level 2 might bathe in the Moon Pool to recharge his mojo ( + ), the goblins may be terrified of the strange lights that sometimes flicker in its depths ( – ), or it could just be another water source ( | ).  This relational layer may be more of a stretch for two “features” (i.e. Brewery and Covered Well).  If both are magical, then the nature of the enchantments bestowed by drinking from the magic keg or well could affect one another (sort of like drinking multiple potions) — effects might be doubled ( + ), negated ( – ), or have no effect ( | ).

3. Increasing (^) / Constant ( C ) / Decreasing ( v )
This axis is the most challenging for me to translate to the Dungeon.   This could refer to the power level of Moment A relative to Moment B — which is stronger?  Is one waxing or waning due to the other’s influence?  This kind of breaks down when it is applied to non-inhabitant relationships, but I’ll keep pondering this one…

Whether or not I use random methods or devise my Moments more deliberately, Stockhausen’s three relationship axes can be very helpful when it comes to fleshing out the relationships between various groups and breathing life into the Dungeon as a setting.  I’ll probably post more on this as I play around with “Dungeon Moment Form” some more.

Undoubtedly, much of the conceptual ground I’m covering that’s directly related to dungeon design has been covered by by authors and pundits more experienced or eloquent than me.  They’ve probably also done it in much more direct and efficient ways, but there’s something fun about using avant-garde music composition processes to design my dungeon…  Like I said at the beginning of this post, my brain is making the connections — I’m just running with it!

Any thoughts or suggestions on any of this stuff?


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