Tube Screamer Dungeon
Part One: Proof of Concept
When building a dungeon where do you start? Tossed dice on graph paper? Let the pen go and freeform it? Meticulous and systematically plot each section out with purpose and care? Whatever method you use, have you ever started with an electrical schematic as your template? Oh, but not just any electrical schematic, the legendary Ibanez’s TS-808 Tube Screamer. Well, I did.
This crazy idea to create a dungeon based on electrical schematic came to me as I mapped my character’s way through a cavernous dungeon of natural passages, filled with twists, turns, and irregular spaces; mapping would be difficult. Anticipating trouble, I chose to make a trail map; a technique I learned from Frank Mentzer when I played at his table at a North Texas RPG Con, years ago. The concept is simple. Map with blocks and lines. Blocks for rooms and arrows or lines to connect them. Room sizes and hallway lengths or their direction don’t matter as long as the connection between the rooms is accurate. Number each block and list a brief description to identify the room. Since learning this technique, I’ve used it extensively at the gaming table with much success as seen below.
The visual similarities between trail maps and electrical schematics clicked in my head during that dungeon devel. It got me thinking. What would an electrical schematic look like drawn out as a dungeon? Would it work? Would it be playable? I wouldn’t know until I tried.
Turning an electronic schematic into a dungeon was going to be a challenge. I wanted to do something simple but with meaning. The Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer guitar effect pedal, famous for its mid-boosting tone was my choice. The circuit is fairly simple with five stages: Input Buffer, Clipping Amp, Tone and Volume, Output Buffer, and Power Supply. From my research into guitar electronics, the TS-808 is the one I’ve studied the most, making it the perfect candidate, to begin with.
I started with drawing out the schematics for the TS-808 using an internet source for reference. You will note below that I chose to only include four of the five stages; eliminating the power supply. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and adding the power supply didn’t seem necessary. Besides, I still didn’t know if it was going to work so why bother doing extra work. If it was successful, I could add it later.
With the schematic drawn out, my next step was to create a trail map of the TS-808, shown below. Starting at the input, I explored it like a dungeon; linking component to component as if they were rooms. As I plotted my way through, sure enough, it looked like one of my dungeon trail maps to me.
With it plotted out as a trail map, my first task was to figure out how to link together the shared paths: ground, +4.5v, and +9V. Each shared path connects to itself as a hallway or room. It can be any shape as long as it connects. I began with the ground first since it had the most connections. The black arrows represent the ground on the trail map. Not wanting a long hallway, I rotated the components until the grounds came together to form a large room; redrawing my trail map below.
Next, I turned to my +4.5v connections on the outside as seen above. Wanting to make this map easy to build I decided to link all the +4.5v connections as a long winding narrow hallway. The only connection that I could not put together without crossing over anything was the +9v. I left those three connections severed for the time being. I’ll find a suitable solution later.
With the basics plotted out I moved to my graph paper and started to build the dungeon. Instead of making a sprawling dungeon with many hallways with various sized rooms I choose to make it as simple as possible. Keeping the rooms equal in size and close together. I labeled each room with the correct component as I went along, so I would not get lost. This produced a condensed door heavy dungeon layout as seen below.
Flexing my artistic license and made some design decisions. I made the doors red on the grounds for my visual reference and impeded access to all the Grounds by a normal-sized character. The narrow passageway linking all the grounds is too small for an adventurer to travel through but wide enough for the circuit to link. The entrances for the +4.5v connections are concealed doors into the hallway. The rheostats (R15, R16, & R18) I turned into one-way trapped doors leading into their adjoining rooms. The diodes (D1 & D2) which allow electricity to flow in only one direction, I made one end a normal door and the other a secret door that would only open in from the hallways. On the Q1, Q2, and JRC4558D I left the +9v connections alone. As mentioned before, I’ll tackle this later. I’m currently brainstorming a creative way to connect them.
Well, it worked! An electronic schematic can work as the base structure for a dungeon; the TS-808 no less. But it’s kind of ugly the way it is. It needs more refinement before it’s ready for the table. This project isn’t over yet. There is more still to come, but proof of concept has been accomplished.
~ Stephen Pennisi
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