PDA

View Full Version : Dungeon "must-haves"



Darwin
2010-10-03, 07:33 AM
What, as a player or DM, is absolutely essential in a dungeon to be a real D&D dungeon? I've recently sat down to write a new adventure for an entirely new group of D&D players (completely fresh, no rp experience save for 1 member) and it ocurred to me that what might be the perfect dungeon for my old group of well experienced players would be dull or even annoying to new players.

I'm currently designing a troglodyte lair near the surface with an open rift to the underdark from where drow soldiers have driven them out. If anyone has some direct suggestions for elements this dungeon could contain those would be very welcome too

TheEmerged
2010-10-03, 07:37 AM
At least one encounter or trap that is, in reality, either a painful pop culture reference or an even more painful pun.

For example, a dinosaur that seems to be afraid of the party. Of course it's just a sendup for you to describe this... nervous rex.

Kurald Galain
2010-10-03, 07:43 AM
A bottomless pit. Everybody loves bottomless pits.

Reinboom
2010-10-03, 07:55 AM
To expand on Kurald's suggestion: may I also recommend pits that go topless?



Anyways, the requirements for me are walls made of a substance that would lend you to believe that it is more practical to try to navigate the dungeon rather than just dig/blast through. In addition to this, hazards to navigate.


That's... about it. Many times, you can even lenient on these two things.

Darwin
2010-10-03, 07:59 AM
A bottomless pit. Everybody loves bottomless pits.


To expand on Kurald's suggestion: may I also recommend pits that go topless?

Hubba hubba :smallbiggrin:

Anyway, I might make the descent to the drow area in the underdark a bottomless pit with a branch somewhere down there that'll lead them the right way.

Quietus
2010-10-03, 08:10 AM
To expand on Kurald's suggestion: may I also recommend pits that go topless?

Most awesome thing I've read all day. Have a cookie! :smallbiggrin:

Anyway, slightly more serious : luminescent fungus. It glows. You don't know why. It's also bitter to the taste, but can be eaten, and dwarves use it for beer. No, you don't know why for that one, either.

Also : A cave with a small underground stream running through it that smells heavily of trogs and urine. It's their latrine, and feeds into the pit to the underdark. The waterfall of tainted water that falls into the pit smells even worse than the trogs do.

Thespianus
2010-10-03, 08:30 AM
May I suggest that they find a dead Drow with two scimitars next to the corpse?

Soranar
2010-10-03, 08:57 AM
my players know to expect the following in any dungeon I made

traps

kobolds (someone's got to make those traps, they're also great to waste higher level spells spent by trigger-happy casters)

some type of killer jello (something hilarious about that creature, when in doubt I always put one somewhere)

some kind of eldritch abomination made by a mad/drunk/? wizard

to mix things up and keep the whole thing confusing

a group of NPCs doing their own quest (sometimes evil, sometimes not, no matter what they're also looting the place, messing up encounters and give opportunity for roleplay and backstabbing)

FelixG
2010-10-03, 08:59 AM
May I suggest that they find a dead Drow with two scimitars next to the corpse?

+1 internets for this man

Morph Bark
2010-10-03, 09:00 AM
To expand on Kurald's suggestion: may I also recommend pits that go topless?

I am now imagining pits that don't go topless, but prefer to have flower-patterned bikini tops.


...what?

Coidzor
2010-10-03, 09:02 AM
May I suggest that they find a dead Drow with two scimitars next to the corpse?

Ahh, yes, the old dead Drow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luL04dSHl54&feature=related) with scimitars next to a corpse gambit...



Err.... Also, they should find some packs of coffin nail cigarettes and bottles of...

...What is it Trog drinks all the time anyway? Ahh, dragon liver busters with titan's toenails...

Or Gin and Tonic... So probably tapped out there...

Greenish
2010-10-03, 09:10 AM
You need Earth elementals. They shall fear the very ground they tread on!

yaklin
2010-10-03, 09:47 AM
have a circular room with identical doors evenly spaced on the walls, watch as your group gets paranoid that the wall will spin getting them stuck. Also, have a hallway or series of hallways that change the parties orientation, meaning have a hallway where you are walking on the ceiling then the wall (or even both walls).

Zaq
2010-10-03, 11:05 AM
I am now imagining pits that don't go topless, but prefer to have flower-patterned bikini tops.


...what?

Pit wore an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini...

World Eater
2010-10-03, 11:17 AM
The Dragon.

Logalmier
2010-10-03, 11:24 AM
A bottomless pit. Everybody loves bottomless pits.

Bottomless pits... ah how I love thee.

They're pretty simple to make. Just make a pit about 100 feet deep and put a teleportation circle at the bottom. The circle will teleport you to the top of the pit, you fall again, are teleported again, etc.

They keep falling until they pass out or starve to death. Truly one of my favorite traps of all.

grimbold
2010-10-03, 11:58 AM
even a pit that is 10 foot deep works, it teaches them early the beauty of the 10 foot pole :). One of those saved me in my first BECMI adventure :)

Zaq
2010-10-03, 12:07 PM
A treasure chest, trapped to oblivion, but with no treasure inside. Maybe a note with some kind of witty one-liner indicating that the chest was a decoy.

Then include a real treasure chest, with actual treasure inside, that's untrapped. (The door in front of it may be trapped, but not the chest or the treasure itself.)

Also, having at least one teleporting hallway is something to consider. Not an automatic "INCLUDE ME!" factor, but something to consider.

Other than that, just run down the Zelda checklist and poach liberally. Some people say Indiana Jones makes for better dungeon cliches, but I disagree. Zelda dungeons are designed for interactivity. Indy's dungeons are meant to be cinematic and flashy. One of these makes for better gaming. (Yes, Zelda dungeons will bore experienced dungeon-crawlers, not so much because they're expected as because experienced players tend to get bored with situations that have only one expected solution, but for first-timers? Yeah.)

JellyPooga
2010-10-03, 12:16 PM
Kobolds and/or Goblins are essential to the prototypical dungeon.

Being the sneaky, crafty little so-and-so's that these two respective races are, this also means lots of traps. Some should be more obvious than others; a corridor that is obviously trapped, or appears to be trapped more heavily than it actually is may deter a party of adventurers long enough for the Kobs/Gobs to prepare something more..."exciting".

Nowadays, where you find Kobolds, you find dragons, draconic things or at the very least, references to dragons; books of dragon lore, statues of dragons, jewellery in dragon shapes, etc.

Similarly, where you find goblins, you find rats and bigger "greenskins". For example, Goblin Shamans should wear charms made of rat-tails and the Goblin Chieftain should have a giant rat for a pet. The Chieftain should also be answerable to a Hobgoblin, Bugbear or Orc, who in turn is answerable to someone bigger and badder...perhaps the troglodytes like to eat goblins and the Orc/Bugbear/Hobgoblin gets some kind of reward for providing them, or perhaps the Drow use the Goblins as slave labour, but wouldn't deign to lower themselves to actually deal with the filthy little creatures, so get a Hobgoblin to do it instead.

Logalmier
2010-10-03, 03:11 PM
Gelatinous Cubes! No dungeon is complete without Gelatinous Cubes!

Morph Bark
2010-10-03, 03:15 PM
Gelatinous Cubes! No dungeon is complete without Gelatinous Cubes!

Invisible gelatinous cubes! :smallbiggrin:

Dust
2010-10-03, 03:35 PM
Invisible Gelatinous Cubes full of Invisible Wights!

Morph Bark
2010-10-03, 03:39 PM
Invisible Gelatinous Cubes full of Invisible Wights!

NO! FULL OF INVISIBLE WRIGHTS (http://bluesentaihero-x.webs.com/phoenix1.jpg)!

They'd shout "hold it (http://images.eurogamer.net/assets/articles/a/6/1/2/2/7/a_med_eg_rev_phoenix_004.jpg)!" a lot as a warning, but of course the players will just continue on if they don't find out about the cube... :smallbiggrin:

Snake-Aes
2010-10-03, 04:27 PM
Can't go wrong with gelatinous cubes.
And a maggot always crawls out of the corpse's eyesocket. Even if the corpse is inside the aforementioned gelatinous cube.

JonestheSpy
2010-10-03, 04:32 PM
Ceilings. Yeah, you'd think that's obvious, but there seem to so many people who believe that spellcasters suddenly become untouchable when they cast a Flying spell, I can only surmise a huge number of dungeons out there made up of nothing but gigantic galleries so high that you can't see the rafters from the floor.

Snake-Aes
2010-10-03, 04:38 PM
Ceilings. Yeah, you'd think that's obvious, but there seem to so many people who believe that spellcasters suddenly become untouchable when they cast a Flying spell, I can only surmise a huge number of dungeons out there made up of nothing but gigantic galleries so high that you can't see the rafters from the floor.

<giggle> Our bard was pretty surprised by that once.
"Won't you sprout your wings?"
"No reason to"
"Why not? You're low on hp and the melee is kinda riled up"
"Well, here is the best place I could be at"
"Are you sure?" <to dm> "I fly upwards"
<dm, a round or two and a roll later> the beast lunges at you, its tentacles grip your waist and pull you down"
"wait, what?"

Logalmier
2010-10-03, 04:38 PM
Ceilings. Yeah, you'd think that's obvious, but there seem to so many people who believe that spellcasters suddenly become untouchable when they cast a Flying spell, I can only surmise a huge number of dungeons out there made up of nothing but gigantic galleries so high that you can't see the rafters from the floor.

A dungeon doesn't have to have a really high ceiling for casters to take advantage of a flying spell. You can be in a medium sized room of regular proportions and still have a great advantage if you're flying.

Slayn82
2010-10-03, 04:42 PM
Low ceilling corridors that allow passage only for one small attacker at the same time, or causing a medium creature to advance as entangled. Medium creatures after some time crawling there would become fatigued.

The level of the ending room must be higher than the entrance room, so cloudkill spells and the like could not go up. Oil could be bumped down the corridor, dificulting even more the ascending, as per rules of a grease spell.

After a few meters, the corridor stops into a small room 10x10, and the next segment continues at a 45 angle, so defenders could take cover and lighting bolts or fireballs would not wipe the whole bunch of defenders. Meanwhile, the invaders are all in an convenient line for those spells - and no evasion for anyone in the corridor. Thunder spears - the ones that when throw become lighting bolts - become really effective. And could ignite the oil on the incoming enemies.

Traps would cause small metal doors to close each segment of the corridor, so provinding both total cover, or blocking line of sight/effect of spells, while trapping an invading party for a secondary trap - snakes, spiders, blazing oils, spears coming from the side.

Snake-Aes
2010-10-03, 04:43 PM
A dungeon doesn't have to have a really high ceiling for casters to take advantage of a flying spell. You can be in a medium sized room of regular proportions and still have a great advantage if you're flying.

Building underground is harder than most would believe. An underground building taller than 1,5x its average dweller's height is rare, stuff left to the culture's masterworks and natural caverns. At even twice a creature's height, a skirmish between a flying and a non flying creature of said height isn't impeded by the rooms height.

Low ceilling corridors that allow passage only for one small attacker at the same time, or causing a medium creature to advance as entangled. Medium creatures after some time crawling there would become fatigued.

The level of the ending room must be higher than the entrance room, so cloudkill spells and the like could not go up. Oil could be bumped down the corridor, dificulting even more the ascending, as per rules of a grease spell.

After a few meters, the corridor stops into a small room 10x10, and the next segment continues at a 45 angle, so defenders could take cover and lighting bolts or fireballs would not wipe the whole bunch of defenders. Meanwhile, the invaders are all in an convenient line for those spells - and no evasion for anyone in the corridor. Thunder spears - the ones that when throw become lighting bolts - become really effective. And could ignite the oil on the incoming enemies.

Traps would cause small metal doors to close each segment of the corridor, so provinding both total cover, or blocking line of sight/effect of spells, while trapping an invading party for a secondary trap - snakes, spiders, blazing oils, spears coming from the side.

There are actual rules for cramped space movement and combat, which is not entanglement. It's fairly good though. A -2 or -4 to attacks and ac and halved speed if I recall correctly. Evasion still works under tight space, since the evasion candidates aren't denied dex by being in a tight space. Otherwise you're right. Even a small slope on a corridor to a protected room is a major impediment.

Logalmier
2010-10-03, 04:58 PM
Building underground is harder than most would believe. An underground building taller than 1,5x its average dweller's height is rare, stuff left to the culture's masterworks and natural caverns. At even twice a creature's height, a skirmish between a flying and a non flying creature of said height isn't impeded by the rooms height.

I would disagree here. Yes building underground is hard, but I think that people who design dungeon encounters are more worried about what goes into a dungeon rather then making it realistic. Dungeons are often home to large and even huge sized creatures, and people who design dungeons design them with this in mind. In my experience (which I realize is not everyone's experience) dungeon rooms are usually about ten feet tall. This allows for some aerial maneuverability. Creatures would need reach weapons or ranged weapons to touch a wizard who is ten feet up in the air. I am not saying that fly is a win-button in dungeons. I am saying that it does offer a definite advantage over foes that are limited to the ground.

Tukka
2010-10-03, 05:02 PM
There are actual rules for cramped space movement and combat, which is not entanglement. It's fairly good though. A -2 or -4 to attacks and ac and halved speed if I recall correctly. Evasion still works under tight space, since the evasion candidates aren't denied dex by being in a tight space. Otherwise you're right. Even a small slope on a corridor to a protected room is a major impediment.
According to the Rules Compendium, squeezing through very tight spaces (spaces less wide than 1/2 your space) will deny you your Dex bonus to AC and requires a DC 30 Escape Artist check to even move, and you can't attack, on top of the -4 to AC and the double cost of movement. Pretty terrible.

However, from what I can tell, Small and Medium creatures have the same space (5 feet), so merely Small creatures don't have a special advantage in this scenario. Tiny creatures would have an advantage though, and there is a web enhancement to Races of the Dragon that gives kobolds a slight build feature.

hamishspence
2010-10-03, 05:10 PM
The Underdark version made more sense.

DC 30 Escape Artist check is to move through an area wider than your head but smaller than your shoulders.

Less than 1/2 your space (a 2 ft wide fissure, for example) was DC 15 Escape Artist check.

At least 1/4 of your height, was Crawl Navigable.

Narrow And Low (both height and width are less than your space, but at least 1/2 your space, was slightly easier.

Narrow Or Low (one is at least half your space, the other is not restricting) was easier than that.

Snake-Aes
2010-10-03, 05:11 PM
There are 2 degrees of squeezing there. Between your normal space and half your space and less than half your space. For the first one it's just doubled movement costs + -4 attack and -4 ac

Zhalath
2010-10-03, 05:45 PM
I recommend tight corridors with an obnoxious monster that can fill the whole corridor. This may combined with the standard gelatinous cube encounter for extra fun. Just make sure they can escape.

Also, a dragon on a hoard of treasure at the end. It's not Dungeons & Dragons for nothing. Doesn't matter what the subject matter is, a dragon boss fight is always fitting.

JonestheSpy
2010-10-03, 06:08 PM
In my experience (which I realize is not everyone's experience) dungeon rooms are usually about ten feet tall. This allows for some aerial maneuverability. Creatures would need reach weapons or ranged weapons to touch a wizard who is ten feet up in the air. I am not saying that fly is a win-button in dungeons. I am saying that it does offer a definite advantage over foes that are limited to the ground.

No offense and not to derail, but I don't think you're visualizing this too well. Even if you're flattening yourself against the ceiling, the end of your nose is only a little more than 9 feet off the ground. An average human 6+/- feet tall has about a 7 1/2' foot reach. Add a 3' long piece of sharp metal and you've got wizard pinned to ceiling.

No, in most indoor settings flying just means you're no longer able to hide behind the fighters, thus becoming an instant target, especially against foes smart enough to know to take down the wizard first.


Back on topic. Dungeons should have ways to get lost in them. Moving or spinning rooms teleport traps that place you in a room that looks exactly the same as the one you left, disappearing doors, mist-filled corridors, halls that subtley slope up or down, all fun stuff to confuse and vex explorers.

Greenish
2010-10-03, 06:18 PM
No offense and not to derail, but I don't think you're visualizing this too well. Even if you're flattening yourself against the ceiling, the end of your nose is only a little more than 9 feet off the ground. An average human 6+/- feet tall has about a 7 1/2' foot reach. Add a 3' long piece of sharp metal and you've got wizard pinned to ceiling.Or simpler yet, think of any medium character as a 5'-by-5'-by-5' cube, with 5' reach.

lsfreak
2010-10-03, 06:19 PM
No, in most indoor settings flying just means you're no longer able to hide behind the fighters, thus becoming an instant target, especially against foes smart enough to know to take down the wizard first.

And one thing many people who are against flight forget, is that you can fly 3 inches off the ground. Does wonders for mobility when you spend most of your time walking/barely hovering but can simply avoid all the normal problems with moving through a wet floor, rubble, ruined furniture, etc.

You are right that it would take a high-ceilinged area - 15 feet or so - to really make use of fly to actually fly.

JellyPooga
2010-10-03, 06:29 PM
Ooo, one thing that tends to bug me about most dungeons is the total lack of any kind of domestic facilities. You might, occasionally, see a bedroom/dormitory/pile of furs or kitchen but it's fairly rare to regularly come across dungeon complexes that actually makes any sense for things living there for a significant period of time in any comfort.

So I suggest that every dungeon include at least 3 of the following (in a practical layout);

- Kitchen (with optional pantry attached)
- Bedrooms/Dormitory
- Bathroom/Lavatory/Hole in the Ground
- Reliable Water Supply (river, well, spring, pool, etc.)
- Reliable Food Supply (nearby hunting grounds, farmed land/goods, etc.)
- Living Area (somewhere with a comfy chair, tables and entertainment)
- Furniture that isn't a plot device, treasure container or trap

Icewraith
2010-10-03, 07:16 PM
You do realize that if a room is ten feet tall, and you construct the room out of 5' a side cubes, that in 3d a medium size creature occupies a 5' cube and has 5' reach in all directions can hit the ceiling and the wizard hovering in the 10' tall room?

You need a 15' tall room for a medium size flying creature capable of hovering to be able to evade attacks from a medium size creature with a non-reach weapon that just stands under the flyer and swings at him. That is, instead of trying running jumps, grapple checks, ranged weapons, withdrawing into a tunnel, having a reach weapon, being a larger size, or other tricks.

Edit: Swordsaged. Twice. On two slightly different points.

AslanCross
2010-10-03, 07:40 PM
Toilets. Ever notice how many dungeons don't have toilets?
The only dungeon with toilets I remember seeing in a premade adventure was actually in Baldur's Gate II. Irenicus had a LOT of toilets in that.

Coidzor
2010-10-03, 07:40 PM
So I suggest that every dungeon include at least 3 of the following (in a practical layout);

- Kitchen (with optional pantry attached)
- Bedrooms/Dormitory
- Bathroom/Lavatory/Hole in the Ground
- Reliable Water Supply (river, well, spring, pool, etc.)
- Reliable Food Supply (nearby hunting grounds, farmed land/goods, etc.)
- Living Area (somewhere with a comfy chair, tables and entertainment)
- Furniture that isn't a plot device, treasure container or trap

Indeed.

Actually, most of the pre-made modules I've encountered have had some concessions towards habitation, though I imagine I'm atypical.

In the specific case of Trogs, if you're just going off of their fluff, I think you've got maybe a colder section of cave as the larder/pantry, sectioned off and organized as their resources allow. Probably favor the old cauldron/pot over fire as the zenith of their culinary technology, though spit-roasting on a wooden frame seems more likely when they do cook. I think they mostly eat things raw.

I think as far as sleeping arrangements they like making nests out of mosses and furs and things. Considering this is sub-terranean, there might be some sort of non-hostile pillow fungus they cultivate as the basis for their nests or as floor pillows in their common area if they're swank. Yeah, I'm thinking soft funguses as the padding and then mosses for the insulating and nesting...

Probably either one large communal nest or multiple small ones in the same room for the rank and file...

Don't think you'd find much in the way of furniture other than nests from trogs though.

mobdrazhar
2010-10-03, 09:03 PM
a mimic disguised as a treasure chest... that way when they check for traps they won't find any and will open it blindly

Knaight
2010-10-03, 09:11 PM
Bottomless pits... ah how I love thee.

They're pretty simple to make. Just make a pit about 100 feet deep and put a teleportation circle at the bottom. The circle will teleport you to the top of the pit, you fall again, are teleported again, etc.

They keep falling until they pass out or starve to death. Truly one of my favorite traps of all.

Plus any escape from these is awesome. Except for falling asleep and preparing spells in free fall, then teleporting out, which is just boring.


No, in most indoor settings flying just means you're no longer able to hide behind the fighters, thus becoming an instant target, especially against foes smart enough to know to take down the wizard first.

I can't be the only person to have the majority of combat happen in outdoor settings, with almost no use of dungeons, which makes flight much more powerful. Of course, I don't play D&D, so ranged capabilities are pretty likely, just as nasty as melee, and work much better on some poor sap way up in the air with no cover, so it works out.

BunnyMaster42
2010-10-03, 10:16 PM
Back on topic. Dungeons should have ways to get lost in them. Moving or spinning rooms teleport traps that place you in a room that looks exactly the same as the one you left, disappearing doors, mist-filled corridors, halls that subtley slope up or down, all fun stuff to confuse and vex explorers.

Or, if you wanted to be a bit more unconventional, you could always have the dungeon separated into a number of individual sections scattered around the world and connected by a series of seamless portals so that you wouldn't even know they were there normally. You could then pull some fun tricks where if they try to backtrack they end up in a different section then they came from and other such amusing and cruel tricks.

Oh, and don't forget about some form of waste removal. Dungeons can get rather...unsanitary, what with all the adventurers killing things and what not. There's also the issue of the waste produced by whatever happens to be living in said dungeon.

My prefered method of waste disposal would be a series of Gelatinous Cubes making massive circuits around the dungeon, picking up debris as they go. Eventually they would then get to the 'junk' room where the cubes would pass through a large grate, sifting out all the inorganic material they picked up, which could then be sorted however.

Of course, I'm probably just overthinking it all. You're still going need some sort of waste disposal system (or barring that, an air circulation system) just to prevent the dungeon from getting any more cramped, stuffy, or otherwise unlivable than it already is.

Morph Bark
2010-10-04, 03:37 AM
a mimic disguised as a treasure chest... that way when they check for traps they won't find any and will open it blindly

Nonono, make it a heavily trapped mimic so that they will become extra curious (especially if they're more than halfway into a dungeon and had two encounters already, ran into traps and got a small stack of gold already). And make it so that the mimic's stickiness isn't activated permanently, of course.

bokodasu
2010-10-04, 08:07 AM
Actually, toilets are one of my favorite things to include in a dungeon - excellent opportunity to break out all those oozes and puddings you've been wanting to use and haven't found a spot for. Same thing goes for trash heaps - you can put all sorts of fun scavengers in there, and for some reason adventurers always think there's going to be treasure hidden in there somewhere. (Whether there is or isn't is up to your own discretion.)

Realms of Chaos
2010-10-04, 09:19 AM
To expand on Kurald's suggestion: may I also recommend pits that go topless?

So you're suggesting a pit that goes through the floor forever and that goes up through the cieling forever?

HAWT! :smallbiggrin:

Mercenary Pen
2010-10-04, 09:26 AM
So you're suggesting a pit that goes through the floor forever and that goes up through the cieling forever?

HAWT! :smallbiggrin:

Better to do either or in my opinion, but the ones extending upwards should be enchanted with a reverse gravity spell...

Thrawn183
2010-10-04, 11:17 AM
Every dungeon needs N+1 dragons where N is the number of dungeons the party has ventured into earlier. Each dragon encountered sequentially should have N+1 age categories where N is the number of dragons previously encountered in that dungeon.

Shenanigans
2010-10-04, 12:30 PM
Maybe it's just me, but Troglodyte lairs trike me as filled with deadly, but primitive traps; the kind of stuff the Ewoks use...pits, deadfalls, falling logs, etc.

mobdrazhar
2010-10-05, 09:57 PM
Nonono, make it a heavily trapped mimic so that they will become extra curious (especially if they're more than halfway into a dungeon and had two encounters already, ran into traps and got a small stack of gold already). And make it so that the mimic's stickiness isn't activated permanently, of course.

will have to remember that and see if i can get my PC's to fall for the Mimic trick again at some point... this time... trapped