Caves of Utter Chaos-Part 2: Monsters!

May 10th, 2017
Caves of Utter Chaos, Conventions, Gary Con, The WEGS Fray

Part II – How The Chaos Began…

As explained in Part 1 of this tale, the original Keep on the Borderlands module and its Caves of Chaos has been my dungeon of choice for years. This classic module has a series of caves lettered A through K – and I used that as the launching point for my Caves of Utter Chaos design. I expanded the encounters from A through Z, then, for fun, decided to key each cave’s monster with that cave’s letter. For example, Cave P = Pig Faced Orks. And that is where the chaos began…

Blog-600-COUC-1Chaos is good, though. It’s part of the module title – and not just chaos, utter chaos. To this end, I planned to use a Random Encounter Chart to generate every step of the dungeon. A percentile dice roll would determine the entry point to the dungeon. When that encounter was complete, another roll on the table would determine the next encounter (completed encounter results are ignored). But… but… but… what sort of tunnels/caves/halls connected all these various places together? How would something like this be mapped?!? Good questions. Answers coming in a later post.

Back to the monsters… I came up with 26 encounters for the table, syncing the inhabitants with the cave’s letter. This might seem a bit wonky, but I found this little exercise sent my brain off on an unexpected design journey. First, I had to wrack my brain and think of a monster that fit the letter. If nothing came to mind, I needed to create a monster or encounter that did fit. Sometimes I had multiple monsters that could work, so kept both in play until I circled back to weed them out. As each monster was added, I assessed how it fit in with all the other denizens on the list. Why was this monster here? What was its backstory? Is there some evil Sauron-like overlord who has drawn them all here for a diabolic reason?

“I’ll just make something up come con-time if I have to…” was my initial patch. Remember, I was under the gun to get this done in time for a playtest at Gary Con IX.

TWEGS-COUC-REC-V1he monster list was rough, fun, and good enough for its first pass. As I started slapping percentile ranges against these entries, I realized the table needed results for Wicked Success and Wicked Failure rolls (a core aspect of the WEGS system). Rolling 01, 02, 03 would trigger something good for the adventurers, whereas rolling 97 or more triggered something bad. For wicked successes, I knew Treasure and Secret Passages would add great flavor, as would Traps and Surprise Attacks for the bottom of the chart. I also decided that any encounter in the 90-96 range would trigger the dungeon’s most dangerous encounters. All these assignments tied in nicely with those mad designs I had in store for that aforementioned dungeon map.

Back to the monsters… as each monster was added, a reason formed as to why they were there. Some were just “bad ass monsters in a cave”, but some started building a whole backstory for their existence. The dungeon began to take shape around its alphabetized denizens. And, suddenly, a question popped up: Where exactly is this dungeon?

And that’s when the Skewered Mountain came into view…

Stay tuned for the Caves of Utter Chaos, Part III.


WEGS, the Wickedly Errant Game System, is designed for over-the-top dungeon crawl fun. A system inspired by the earliest editions of Dungeons & Dragons, character creation is a breeze and the heroic action is epic. Dice take their rightful place at the table as the tumbling blocks of fate, causing  lots of fun and chaos as they roll. A system best shaken, not stirred. WEGS, the Wickedly Errant Game System. Yup.

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