Add Dungeons, Ruins, and Treasure Hunts to Your Minecraft World with MCDungeon

By Jason Fitzpatrick on March 18th, 2015

If you’ve grown tired of exploring the vanilla Minecraft world and the thrill of stumbling upon the tiny dungeons or sprawling mineshafts is gone, we’ve got just the thing for you: enormous procedurally generated dungeons courtesy of MCDungeon. Read on as we show you how to pack your Minecraft world with exciting and elaborate dungeons to explore, treasure hunts to engage in, and ruins to give the place a lived-in look.

What Is MCDungeon?

McDungeon is a map modification tool that offers a highly customizable method of inserting procedurally generated dungeons into Minecraft. The short of it is this: you take a preexisting map, you run the MCDungeon application, and it works your map data over inserting large and elaborate dungeons into your map. The dungeons are packed with puzzles, traps, mob spawners and, of course, treasure in the form of randomly generated loot chests.

If you simply run MCDungeon with the default settings, you’re in for an adventure-filled treat—no tweaking or configuring necessary. If you pore over the configuration settings, however, you’ll find options for configuring dozens of dungeon features. If you’re having trouble even finding the dungeons, for example, you can increase the height of their above ground entrances and architecture to make them more visible at a distance. Find the dungeons too easy without enough mobs? You can set the number of torches to decrease the deeper you go in the dungeon to increase the number of monster spawns. Need an even bigger challenge? You can remove all the torches and increase the number of random mob spawners for a survival-of-the-fittest challenge.

Free creepy abandoned dungeon cake is still free cake.

 

There are even advanced features like the ability to regenerate a dungeon you’ve already explored to be a completely new and random experience as well as to remove all the dungeons (if you find you dislike MCDungeon) and reseed the spaces with naturally generated terrain.

Overall MCDungeon is a fantastic way to keep the general feel of Minecraft the same while adding in generously sized dungeons that nicely compliment the existing subterranean structures (mine shafts, caverns, and the tiny vanilla Minecraft dungeons) while adding in large and interesting spaces to explore. While Minecraft might be devoid of a back story, we do see the evidence of some sort of past civilization in the abandoned mine shafts, strongholds, and vanilla dungeons and the more sophisticated dungeons created by MCDungeons fit right into the general feel. After all we have elaborate structures from past civilizations in our own world, why wouldn’t such things exist in the Minecraft world?

Of course there’s a huge dungeon under the cathedral ruins.

 

If you’ve read this far and you’re not convinced that big ol’ dungeons would be a great addition to your world, there might just be one last thing we can share to convince you to use MCDungeon. Even if you don’t want elaborate dungeons to explore MCDungeon does include a very cool treasure hunt feature which doesn’t require dungeons to function and adds in a very fun over-land treasure hunt feature that really encourages you to get out there and explore.

One final note on MCDungeon before we proceed. The modification process happens completely outside of the actual Minecraft game and uses vanilla blocks and resources. This means neither you nor other players who join your LAN game or server are required to install any mods or make any changes to their game. The map is completely vanilla-Minecraft friendly and all modifications occur during the map modification process.

Sounds pretty great, yeah? Let’s take a look at what you need and how to inject some awesome dungeons into your map.

What Do I Need?

To follow along with this tutorial you’ll need a Minecraft map, a copy of the MCDungeon files packaged for your OS, and a little time to familiarize yourself with MCDungeon and run it.

For the purposes of this tutorial we’re modifying a Minecraft version 1.8.1 map with MCDungeon but you can use it with earlier versions of the game if you wish. We will also be using the Windows version of the package. The ultimate functionality of the application is not changed based on your operating system (the whole thing is coded in Python), but you will need to make minor adjustments to how you launch the application based on your OS.

Selecting the Map

First, a word on selecting your map. Although MCDungeon does its best to not interfere with player built objects and existing structures such intersections are always possible. Always, always, always, backup your world data before performing any edits on it regardless of the tool you’re using.

Before you actually unleash MCDungeon on a map you’ve invested time in, however, we’d encourage you to start with a fresh map to get the hang of even using MCDungeon. Once you’ve played around with it, possibly tinkered with the configuration files, and you like the results, then move on to running it on one of your established maps.

Installing MCDungeon

You don’t as much install MCDungeon as you unpack the requisite files and wrangle with them to a greater or lesser degree based on your operating system. Head over to the GitHub page for MCDungeon and grab the appropriate file bundle for your operating system.

Windows users should grab the mcdungeon-v*win32.zip or mcdungeon-v*win64.zip bundle depending on the whether or not they’re running a 32 or 64-bit operating system (when in doubt, just grab the 32-bit package). Mac OS X users should grab the mcdungeon-v*macosx64.zip bundle. Finally users on any other operating system (including Linux) should grab the mcdungeon-v*.zip file.

The difference between the Windows and Mac OS X versions versus the more generic file is simply the inclusion of a wrapper and launcher for the required Python files that also automatically launches MCDungeon in “interactive” mode with handy prompts. If you’re using Linux or another *nix  system you’ll need to have Python 2.7 and NumPy installed. You’ll also need to manually put MCDungeon into interactive mode, if you so desire, by using the the command “python mcdungeon.py interactive”. For further instruction on using MCDungeon with the command prompt and command switches (for both *nix users as well as curious Windows/OS X users) check out the detailed run down of the command switches in the README.txt.

Regardless of the version  you’re using, extract the files to a safe place and get ready to have some fun.

Modifying Your Map with MCDungeon

With your map selected (and backed up/copied) it’s time to unleash MCDungeon on it. Run the launcher file (or manually launch it if you’re on a *nix system). The launcher will launch MCDungeon in the interactive mode which automatically reads your /saves/ directory and lists off the available worlds like so.

Enter the name of the world you wish to modify. Before you enter the name and hit enter, double check that the world is both backed up and not currently loaded in Minecraft.

Your options are to add dungeons or treasure hunts to the map, list existing dungeons and treasure hunts, delete dungeons or treasure hunts, regenerate either of the two, or generate and Overviewer map. Overviewer is another great open-source Minecraft project that creates high-resolution maps you can load in a web browser to view.

First, let’s add some dungeons to our map.

Once you select “a” to generate the dungeons you’ll be prompted to select which configuration file you want to use. There will be plenty of time for experimenting with the different configuration files later, for now we’ll stick with the default configuration to show you how the default looks.

The above is one of those prompts that you recognize if it applies to you and if it doesn’t, you can ignore it. Most readers won’t be running a multi-world Bukkit server. Those that are will know what to do here.

The value you enter in the next configuration prompt, the Max Distance, is the maximum number of chunks the generator will place dungeons from the spawn point of the map. A chunk is 16×16 blocks, for reference. If you want the dungeons to center around castle you’ve built or the like (and that castle isn’t at the map’s original spawnpoint) you’ll need to use the /setworldspawn command in the game to reset the spawnpoint to center the map on the location you wish to be the center for MCDungeon’s generation algorithm.

Also keep in mind that if you set a very large value and a low number of total dungeons it will be very difficult to find the dungeons. If that’s your goal and you want the challenge that’s fine. If you’re looking to test out MCDungeon, however, it makes sense to stick with a smaller chunk radius as it’ll be easier to find them.

The next three settings are concerned with the size of the dungeons along the West-East axis, the size along the North-South axis, and the depth (in levels not blocks). You can enter in fixed greater-than-1 values or variable amounts (e.g. 5-10). We prefer using variable amounts just because it keeps things interesting. If you know every dungeon will always be three floors deep, for example, it makes even a randomly generated dungeon a bit less exciting.

Finally, it prompts you to select the number of dungeons you want to include in your map. Remember even though all Minecraft maps are, practically speaking, just about infinite this number isn’t X number of dungeons over the entire potential Minecraft map it’s X number of dungeons over the chunk radius you specified several steps ago.

One little trick here we’ve found useful for populating our maps, once we’ve found a dungeon density, if you will, that we really like is to keep the ratio the same for future maps. For example if you find that you were liked the spacing of the dungeons when you specified a 20 chunk radius and 5 dungeons, then keep that ratio when generating other maps (40:10, 80:20, etc.) If you want to go crazy and pack as many dungeons in as the game will allow (preventing dungeons from bleeding into other dungeons or in-game structures, of course) you can always specify -1 dungeons. Be aware that using the -1 maximum-dungeon function will spawn a lot of dungeons. You’ll practically be falling over them.

It’s no small feat to generate lots of dungeons, so sit back and relax. If you specified something like a 500 chunk radius and -1 dungeons then you might be waiting until tomorrow morning to see the results. One thing worth noting here is every dungeon, as seen in the screenshot above, is listed by size, location, along with its name and other characteristics.

If you’re running a test map and you want to know the locations of at least a few of the dungeons so you can find them immediately, by all means take note. If you’re running MCDungeon to create a map specifically for the thrill of the hunt, however, you’ll want to ignore the log window to preserve the element of surprise.

When it’s done it will announce “Placed X Dungeons!” and any key press will shut down the application.

Exploring the Dungeons

The next stop is, of course, loading up the map you just modified and exploring. You’ll quickly find that the dungeons you stumble across range from grandiose to very subtle in appearance.

It is, for example, almost impossible to miss the entrances of the pyramid-like dungeons that appear in the forest, desert, and ice biomes. They’re enormous and the entrance alone, regardless of the side of the dungeon beneath, is several many chunks wide.

There’s treasure at the top. Trust us.

 

Other dungeons are very subtle in appearance and you could easily overlook them while exploring if you didn’t have a keen eye. The only evidence of the following dungeon is a chest, a hole in the ground, and some stone ruins around the hole.

Looks are deceiving; this dungeon was enormous.

 

Regardless of how modest or majestic the entrance to the dungeon appears from the surface, however, you should always pack well for the journey and bring plenty of food, tools and, of course, torches; even the best lit dungeons created by the generator are still pretty dim.

Monster infested Great Halls are just the start.

 

While you’re down in the dungeons don’t forget to collect items from the numerous chests and secrete rooms like maps.

Alas, you can’t mark the traps on your map.

 

When you’re exploring a winding 8 level dungeon the maps really help you find your way back out. Why is the map so important? The levels of the dungeons are separated by layers of bedrock to ensure that once you’re in the dungeon you can’t cheat the system by just digging straight up or straight down to escape. Once you’re in the dungeon you’re in it until you find your way out or die trying.

There’s lava at the bottom. We guarantee it.

 

One of the great things about the dungeons is that once you completely clear one out, light it up, and collect all the loot, you now have a pretty awesome multi-level base ready to be filled with storage chests and largely immune to explosion damage thanks to the layers of bedrock throughout the dungeon.

Advanced Tricks

The default dungeon generator is pretty cool but there is so much more it is capable of. You can custom edit your own configuration files or just use the supplementary files included with the app to completely change the feel of the dungeons.

Not only is the default.cfg very heavily annotated and easy to understand, you can read through the configuration flag list on the MCDungeon website to get a better feel for both the dungeon and the treasure hunt configuration files. Even a simple change, like turning on the cave-fill function (which fills in natural caverns adjacent to dungeons in order to increase the mob spawn rate inside the dungeons) can completely change the feel of the game.

Speaking of treasure hunts, while the focus of this tutorial was generating enormous dungeons for your Minecraft world, we did promise treasure hunts in the introduction. The treasure hunt generator works pretty much like the dungeon generator, so we’re not going to walk you through it step-by-step, but we will show you what to expect from it.

The treasure hunt generator creates patterns of landmarks and objects on the map that encourage exploration. You’ll come across ruins, old cabins, and the like, like this ruined dwelling here.

Loot is abundant in treasure hunt mode.

 

Inside you’ll find a notebook with clues in it that guide you toward landmarks and other clues.

If you’re willing to hike for it, that is.

 

Follow the clues, and eventually you’ll find a chest with enchanted armor, gold, and/or other rare items in it.

The best advice we’d give in regard to using the treasure generator is to set fairly large distances (you can specify how many chunks the hunt will cover and how many steps there are between each clue). If you use low values the clues are practically on top of each other and the treasure hunt isn’t much fun. If you use larger values it gives it a more realistic feel (who would hide their precious treasure ten feet from their cryptic clues, after all).

Even if you skip using the dungeon generator, we highly recommend the treasure hunt generator simply because it does so much to get rid of that feeling of emptiness that pervades the Minecraft world. Just setting up a few dozen treasure hunts with a fairly low density will sprinkle all sorts of small structures like abandoned homes, ruins, and wells across the land which goes a long way toward making the world feel less barren.

Finally, the other very nifty trick included in the MCDungeon package is the Overviewer map generator. Rather than give you a static screenshot of it, which just doesn’t do justice to how cool it is and how great the graphics look, we’d encourage you to check out this interactive sample on the Overviewer website. If you’re generating an MCDungeon map to use on a server, with your kids, or anywhere that you, as the administrator and not the adventurer, want to have a bird’s eye view of where all the dungeons and special features are located then the Overviewer view of your new world is a great way to keep track of everything.


Armed with MCDungeon you have the power to create maps with far flung and elaborate dungeons and treasure hunts perfect for hours of exploration and fun. Need some more ideas for Minecraft? Check out our collection of Minecraft articles here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/18/15
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