JENNELL JAQUAYS On Jaquaysing the Dungeon

As part of a Kickstarter for producing a retrospective of her work, I got to ask Jennell Jaquays a question. There was only one question that immediately jumped to my mind and so very nice of her to entertain it!

WD: Hey JennellI have a question: How conscious were you of "Jaquaysing the Dungeon" when you wrote Thracia and Dark Tower? These modules are often (and rightly) held up as excellent examples of dungeon design with several loops, various accesses into rooms, and layered history. So, did you operate with a theory when designing them or was it more "oh this is cool"?

JJ: I would love to say that it was actually a design philosophy from the start, but I never thought of it that way. My college degree is in art. I took a lot of art classes in college, both studio classes and art history classes; enough to have both a major AND a minor in art if such a thing were possible.

Part of that study was an appreciation for historical architecture, including tombs, cathedrals, pyramids, Roman ruins and more. In fact, just before starting to play D&D, I had been in Europe as part of a month-long art class tour of cities in the UK and Europe (London, Paris, Chartres, Geneva, Florence, and Rome ... I missed much of the last part of the trip due to being hospitalized in an ancient care facility in Rome for measles, but that's another story).

Many of my early D&D designs were inspired by the structures of classic architecture, which are often intensely multi-level and interconnected. Think of the design of the great European and UK museums, monasteries, palaces, cathedrals (I visited a LOT of famous churches on that trip) and you'll get a grasp of inspirations.

One of the things about historical buildings is that they themselves have history. If one has owned an old house that has been worked on by owner after owner, one might have an idea how the use and appearance of constructed spaces changes over time. That has always fascinated me.

Next, I was intrigued by what would happen if a Pompeii-like event buried architecture and left it intact. Would the occupants of the structures dig their way out? Would others dig down to gain access to the buildings again? That was much of the premise of Dark Tower. That and Robert E. Howard's Red Nails Conan the Barbarian story.

These ideas played out over and over again in many of my designs in both table top RPGS and even to some degree, my canon Quake 3 maps on computers.

While I will admit to many of my "dungeons" having a monster hotel aspect to them, I made some effort to create an eco-system inside the spaces. Something that I have been attempting to improve on ever since.


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