Tuesday 7 June 2022

[BEYONDE] Expedition to the Dungeons of Torda

Play report from the Dungeons of Torda, one of the more famous delves of Transylvania. Three levels, high verticality, questionable “non liner” elements. This will be picture heavy, so the rest beyond the intro will be hidden behind a <more> tag.

Torda (Romanian: Turda, German: Thorenburg) is a former salt mining town in the middle of Transylvania. Salt is wealth, salt is power; thus, the mines have been extremely important since the Romans, and became a significant source of wealth in mediaeval Hungary. The town was important enough to control all salt mining throughout Transylvania, becoming the seat of the Salt Chamber (later Salt Office), and hosting multiple national and regional diets. Here, in 1568, freedom of religion was declared for the first time in Europe, establishing the ground for the mostly peaceful co-existence of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anti-Trinitarian (Unitarian) faiths, whose effects would indirectly also apply to Eastern Orthodoxy and Judaism. (The edict, while long-lasting, was neither perfect nor unlimited: Anabaptist refugees were welcomed with open arms, but the Székely Sabbatarians, who took religious innovation to the extent of converting to a form of Judaism, would face persecution, and remained an underground faith – their last remaining stronghold, Bözödújfalu, now lies in ruin beneath a water reservoir). But let's get back to the main adventure site.

Currently, the mines show a form representative of the late 19th and early 20th century, before extraction finally ceased in 1932. The main shaft, a few side-chambers, and two of the great conical mining chambers can be visited. This makes for a surprisingly easily delineated three-level structure: an Entrance Level (the Franz Joseph passage), a Mine Level (the Rudolf Mine), and a Subterranean Lake Level (the Therezia Mine). Two secret levels, "Anton" and "Joseph" are not open for ordinary explorers. There are not one, but two dungeon entrances, one from the village, and one from the hilltop above. The vertical dimension is enormous (the mines were worked from the top down), although the horizontal elements are sadly kind of an afterthought – properly jacquaysed it is not.

Let us begin our descent…

* * *

Does your dungeon have…

… a prominent entrance stairway?

…10 foot corridors?

…mysterious, walled-off side passages?

…steep, narrow stairwells leading down to a deeper level?

...wider, more prominently decorated stairs for the nobility? (With precious salt growing on it)

...carts of crystalline treasures, worth good gold if transport can be arranged?

...horse-powered freight elevators?


...vast chasms with galleries overlooking the lower level 172 steps down, lit by levitating crystals? (For later reference: note the black spot on the lower middle.)

...pool tables? (Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone of Games Workshop fame created dungeons which did!)

...a Ferris wheel? (Perhaps in a funhouse dungeon?)

...randomly generated treasure that feels oddly out of place in this dungeon?

...a gallery overlooking Dungeon Level Three: The Subterranean Lake? (Remember the black spot? That's a big hole overlooking Level 3 from above)

...more cramped stairwells?

...a bridge across an underground lake (trollege on the right)?


...bizarre subterranean structures that definitely look made by aliens?

...bizarre subterranean structures encrusted with valuable treasure?

...odd lights beckoning from 25’ below the lake surface? A Fourth Level? A trap? Aboleths?

...a place to observe gawking dungeon monsters on an upper level gallery?

...dungeon elevators next to long stairwells? (Note potential for 10d6 Hp falling damage)

...a third, secret way up?


* * *


Other things to do around the dungeon


Visit the Church of Law

Visit the Salt Chamber and consult the governor (note architect’s name – a family relation we were surprised to discover here!)

Embarking on a wilderness expedition!

The Torda Gap: definitely our adventure location.

The weather beaten trail winds ahead into the cliff racked climes of the bear-haunted land which dominates large portions of the empire...

The Mountains encounter tables are kind to us. We bypass the 10d6 tourists. Onwards!


  1. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  2. "...pool tables? (Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone of Games Workshop fame created dungeons which did!)"

    I want to know more about this!

  3. Excellent tour. Reality can be more fantastic than fantasy.

  4. At the same time the mines are awe inspiring and twee. Tourism makes a titanic garden of a wilderness. IMO put a safety sign outside, *Deliberately Ill-lit caverns. Realistic faults and traps. 999 of 1000 citizens return alive from our mine to receive cloth badge! Funeral costs covered in full !!*

    Secondly, I have yet to see an effective mapping technique for the three dimensions. Cavers have symbols and simultaneous vertical and plan views which are no better than Jaquays' flat plans. This is less a problem of artistic rendering than inventive design. I believe a genuine artist could solve the puzzle for once and all if they noticed the problem. It is a problem of engineering and texture.

    Take for example, 2.5d surface maps, the difficulty of presenting hills and mountains. Compare Tolkien's Misty Mountains on the standard map to the Mountains of Mordor on the Return of the King map, aesthetic vs contour. When mountains are barriers, which they often are, the aesthetic approach is better. The contour design is more accurate but can be less useful for a traveller. The contours do not say "no you shall not pass here" as convincingly as the artistic markings do.

  5. Aaaaa! I've been there three years ago! The heat was extremely oppressive and the cold of the mines was soo soothing! Amazing place! Now come to Poland and visit Wieliczka Salt Mine ;)

  6. "note architect’s name – a family relation we were surprised to discover here!" He added and additional entrance, no less. I see jacquaysing runs in the family!