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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Hello All,

    I'm hoping you can help me with something. I'm running Princes of the Apocalypse (PotA) for some friends. It's the first module I've ever run (I've DM'd before, but only ever made stuff up). It's becoming clear to me that PoTA is a massive dungeon crawl. Currently the characters are entering the "Temple of the Black Earth".

    The problem I can't get my head around:

    Why doesn't a whole dungeon of monsters get alerted they are under attack and hit the party all at once? I can't make sense of it. If I just start throwing all the monsters from near by rooms at them, the party will die. If I just l have monsters I know are 20 feet away wait for their door to be opened, I will die a little inside.

    Maybe this setting isn't really best for me, or maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Please help!

    How are dungeon crawls supposed to work?

    Thanks :)

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    What might help is this: ask yourself why those monsters would care if there was a fight going on outside. I mean, for the most part, the monsters that live in these caves and dungeons are evil, chaotic, or both. In those situations, there's bound to be fights between them all the time. A band of orcs are always brawling with each other, and occasionally killing each other. That's built into their backstories. So, if someone got up and ran to the door every time they heard a scuffle going on, they'd never get to play cards, throw dice, sleep, etc. Now, if your party is infiltrating a peaceful village, or castle, where the sounds of battle aren't likely outside the practice grounds, that's a different story.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Make them thicker doors.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    I would also say that in a cave-like system, noise would easily get distorted as it passed along the corridors. So the sounds of battle might be mistaken for a forge or a rowdy wrestling match. In addition, noise attenuates, meaning that the further away you get, the less chance you have of the noise reaching you at a level that you'd actually detect. Certainly, noise would travel further in a cave than above ground (thanks to the corridors providing a nice tunnel for the sound to travel rather than the noise spreading out), but even then, if chambers are far enough apart, they won't hear what is going on in other chambers all that well.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Princes of the Apocalypse is one giant dungeon that they have split up into multiple linked smaller ones to try and make it look less like a mega-dungeon :)

    That splitting up does provide one answer to the question "Why doesn't everyone run in?", which is that the people in the next room are often rivals of the ones you are fighting, and don't want to get involved. But here are some other answers:

    Noise, and minding your own business

    A lot of areas in PotA are already noisy (forges, torture chambers, waterwheels, etc.). People in other rooms won't necessarily hear your fighting over those existing noises. This is especially true if players avoid Thunderwave and other noisy spells. Conversely if they do go in all thunder blazing then of course other foes will come running, and you will have your fight turn into either a massacre or a chase. If players suspect that there are more enemies nearby then they should use stealth (sneak attacks, silence spells, poison).

    What's more a lot of areas in PotA are already making noises that people will ignore. If you fight in the torture chamber in the Temple of Black Earth, or the prisoner's cells under Sacred Stone, then no one will pay attention to your screams and thumps ... there are screams and thumps aplenty already.

    Motivations : who wants to help their friends?

    A lot of the cult minions in PotA don't have much love for their neighbours, even the ones that are supposed to be on their side. Lots of the 2nd and 3rd in command characters are just waiting for their rivals to get defeated so that they can take their places. If they hear their rival getting murdered next door they are going to react ... but they won't run in until it is already too late. Many other rooms are filled with sleeping guards, slaves, and loosely affiliated monsters (e.g. the Lizardmen), who similarly will be reluctant to get involved.

    If your PCs do it right, and research what they are fighting, then they will know when they can get away with an all out fight and when they cannot.

    Distance

    I'm of the personal opinion that the distances on the PotA dungeon maps make little sense. They are supposed to represent an entire city, but half the districts are only a 100 yards across, with 4-5 2-room houses as the only habitation. By that measure Tyar-Besil was no more than a village. Yet at the same time many of the 'passages' are 20 ft wide!

    My own choice was to use the maps only as guidelines for the relative placement and shapes of rooms, and enlarge the scale to better suit a city. i.e. where the Air Quarter shows 1 empty house at the south end, I had five tiered streets full of empty and abandoned mansions cut into the cavern wall. Where the Water area shows a few structures around the central square on the island, I had crumbling tower-block like pillars full of packed dwarven slaves. If you view the city like that then it starts to feel a lot less like a dungeon crawl. You aren't fighting in the next room, you are fighting in the next house.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Ask yourself this:

    1. Are all the beings in the dungeon allied with each other?

    2.Do the beings in the other room have a reason to show up in the middle of the fight rather than preparing themselves for the oncomming fight and waiting for the adventurers to be weakened?

    3. Can the beings in the other room actually notice the fight?

    If the answer to those three questions is "yes", the monsters in the other room will show up as reinforcement.

    Remember, the monsters being placed in a room only mean they *start* here, not that they have to stay there.

    Monsters can and should move around in a way that makes sense according to what they're able to do.

    If the PCs have to flee, so be it. They'll learn you can't be obvious about invading someone's place and expect no retaliation.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Man, so glad I asked. :)

    Thanks for all the great replies.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    To add more to the previous answers :

    I DM PotA too. I haven't start yet dungeon crawls, but I've read the whole book so I know what's inside your dungeon.

    Spoiler: PotA Spoilers
    Show

    First thing, the place is huge. 1 square is 10 feet on the book map, so we come quickly to big rooms and long corridors.

    Some sources might make noises : usual day activities of the monsters, the flow of the river. There's some mining upstairs (in the basement of the monastery), so chokes aren't that surprising. I believe (If I recall) that there's a imprisoned smith. When he works, that's noisy and a part of the rooms can't here well other noises. If he doesn't work, he may well be torture or something.

    Some enemies might be sleeping. A lot of battle sounds might awake them and they won't rush to fight because they need few minutes to fully wake up or to don their armors.
    Some ennemies are also special, with trigers to go in fight (there's one or two golems with orders linked to a door or a room).
    Sometimes, there's prisoners or slave and monsters might have orders to watch/guard them, no matter what. So if alarmed, they will stay near them.
    Some ennemies are sloppy... "Intruders in the troll chamber... Well, the trolls will kill them, i've better things to do right now."

    There are factions. You have the earth prophet being the chief, and he has "captains" leading some monsters. One is a weird Mud wizard that is his second, but study a lot apart and has his own agenda of trying to ally with the water cult. Another one is a hag that hates the mud wizard (because he's the prophet's favorite) and that is considering replace the prophet if he's defeated. I believe there's a third one, but I'm not sure. With those sort of tensions, you might well having a part of the monsters waiting for the other half to get slaughtered before acting.


    But all thoses points won't cover every situation and realism. So sometimes, ennemies will rush to the heroes. It will teach them to try to make quick fights, or silent ones, or to flee if needed.

    Here my advice:
    During preparation, evaluate ambiant noise and what can trigger alarm in other places.
    Evaluate also how the monster can react: go to see what is going on, rushing to help, fleeing to alert the rest of the crew, wait and see, prepare a trap... Not everyone need to go to the fight immediatly. Report to superior to receive orders, being afraid of situation and not leaving its own room, but with weapons in hands...
    > I don't think the answer is the same for every monster in the dungeon. It may vary also depending the situation, so you have to improvise in game, but having a general line could help.

    During the game, play this element. Notice to the players that they do a lot of noise. If back up arrive, put game warning signs, as a chief orc yelling "Everyone on the intruders" or the sight of the speedy orc running in the end of the corridor from which arrive the back ups.
    And redistribute the enemies accordingly (some to the fight, other to defend treasure/chief/prisoners etc...).
    If the players do well, they could manage it. If they don't deal with it well, they'll get in trouble and will need to evacuate to try another time.




    To give an example, I run lately the moving stone part (for players starting before level 3). They had a big fight in the room before the room of moving stones where the boss were studying patterns. As the fight was huge, (roaring, enemies yelling, etc), I decide that the chief was alert in his room. He buffs himself and hide somewhere : he has no reason to jump in the fight and blow his cover (and risk his life) right now, but wanted to be ready to defend himself well if needed.

    The fight ends. If the heroes went further, he would have surprised them (well, may have... He's not a good hider) in the next room and have a small advantage on the new fight.
    But they decide not to. They were exhausted and went in the previous room to take a short rest with close doors.
    At first, my boss waits. When it's clear that no one is coming, and that his buff is about to end, he go quietly to to room were the first fight took place. He find the bodies of his minions and find that the heroes are still here, a threat. He prepares himself to lure them in the room, by starting some tremors that modify the ground and might hurt few heroes.
    Then a big and dangerous fight went, and it was quite violent as the boss could have prepare the fight as he wished.
    Last edited by JohanOfKitten; 2017-12-05 at 11:42 AM.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Just as a heads up, there is an underlying conflict in all dungeon crawls. Resource Attrition. If your players retreat back to town, make sure the enemies react accordingly. If the players don't and keep pushing through, again make the enemies react accordingly. For example, if naturally, the enemies would discover allies or frenemies dead, they will be on higher alert. If the group is just stomping around make some rooms ready for them (cover, reinforcements, traps, etc.)

    Also, don't be afraid to sprinkle in health potions and mana potions (restore abilities as if they had a long rest) into the dungeon to alleviate some of attrition. I am running ALL the dungeons in Tales from the Yawning Portal as part of my world and some of the newer players are discovering their choice of class depends on long rests to recharge. They are only in the second Dungeon Forge of Fury, but had to retreat twice because they didn't plan properly. I am very concerned for them when they get to the Doomvault from Dead in Thay. That thing has 9 or 10 parts that are all huge (The entire map is one page in the book).

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by Bahamut7 View Post
    Just as a heads up, there is an underlying conflict in all dungeon crawls. Resource Attrition. If your players retreat back to town, make sure the enemies react accordingly. If the players don't and keep pushing through, again make the enemies react accordingly. For example, if naturally, the enemies would discover allies or frenemies dead, they will be on higher alert. If the group is just stomping around make some rooms ready for them (cover, reinforcements, traps, etc.)

    Also, don't be afraid to sprinkle in health potions and mana potions (restore abilities as if they had a long rest) into the dungeon to alleviate some of attrition. I am running ALL the dungeons in Tales from the Yawning Portal as part of my world and some of the newer players are discovering their choice of class depends on long rests to recharge. They are only in the second Dungeon Forge of Fury, but had to retreat twice because they didn't plan properly. I am very concerned for them when they get to the Doomvault from Dead in Thay. That thing has 9 or 10 parts that are all huge (The entire map is one page in the book).
    Notably, if the PCs kill people and then retreat, most of the bad guys would try to hire new, tougher goons (from allied groups or mercenaries), or at minimum place new traps in the paths they know their enemies have taken.

    Hell, if the PCs are too obvious they will get identified and then people will attack them even if they're in town to recover (either because the bad guys sent goons there or because the PCs' heads now have a bounty on it).

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    Notably, if the PCs kill people and then retreat, most of the bad guys would try to hire new, tougher goons (from allied groups or mercenaries), or at minimum place new traps in the paths they know their enemies have taken.

    Hell, if the PCs are too obvious they will get identified and then people will attack them even if they're in town to recover (either because the bad guys sent goons there or because the PCs' heads now have a bounty on it).
    I did just this actually. A character based on Korg from the new Thor took over. A group of Orcs came after them in town (this was mainly an encounter to teach 2 new players 5th edition and their classes). The Orcs had manned all their stations and we were ready for the party. The group weren't able to just sneak in like last time.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    I can tell you how things might turn out from a player's perspective. My group is currently going through the PotA.

    Spoiler: Flushing out the water cultists
    Show
    My party just recently finished flushing the water cultists from Riverkeep and it's underground temple.

    Many of us wear medium or heavy armor. And we have couple Leroy Jenkins in the group. So we're not a particularly stealthy group.

    What we found is that we'd have to attack the cultist in waves (four waves total by the end of it). Typically our engagements followed these phases...

    Phase 1: Open a can of whoop a$#
    We'd tear into the enemy and the DM would start making perception checks each round to see what enemies in the area could hear the combat. He'd then have them respond (which usually took a few rounds since they couldn't just teleport right in).

    Phase 2: Withdraw
    After about a dozen rounds, we'd usually find we opened up a small window of time between the threats we just dispatched and the arrival of the new threats. So we'd take that opportunity to withdraw to a safe area (ex. the nearby woods around the keep).

    Phase 3: Long Rest
    Once we were reasonably safe, we'd take a long rest. Then the very next morning we'd head back to the enemy, rinse & repeat.

    The idea was erode them by attrition. We could recover our resources quicker then they could. So strike, disengage, recover, and get right back in as quick as possible.

    It's worth noting that after wave 2, we actually ended up recruiting the NPC bugbear mercs in the keep. By good fortune they had rolled miserably on their perception checks, so were in good shape and looking for new employment (what with us having slaughtered their employer). We also had a new player come in with a couple ally guards (story reasons). So as we started the invasion of the underwater temple in wave 3, we had a small army!

    Last edited by xroads; 2017-12-06 at 12:34 PM. Reason: Fixed grammar

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by xroads View Post
    I can tell you how things might turn out from a player's perspective. My group is currently going through the PotA.

    Spoiler: Flushing out the water cultists
    Show
    My party just recently finished flushing the water cultists from Riverkeep and it's underground temple.
    As an aside, my player's final attack on Rivergard (their 3rd I think), ended with a 10 day seige (storming the walls, spies, seige engines, blockades), at the end of which they managed to get an inside man to open the main gate and then had a full-session running battle through to attack the keep itself and force a surrender.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by Estrillian View Post
    As an aside, my player's final attack on Rivergard (their 3rd I think), ended with a 10 day seige (storming the walls, spies, seige engines, blockades), at the end of which they managed to get an inside man to open the main gate and then had a full-session running battle through to attack the keep itself and force a surrender.
    Out of curiosities sake, where did they get the siege engines? Did they pull some strings in one of their factions?
    Last edited by xroads; 2017-12-07 at 09:19 AM. Reason: Fixed grammar

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by Estrillian View Post
    As an aside, my player's final attack on Rivergard (their 3rd I think), ended with a 10 day seige (storming the walls, spies, seige engines, blockades), at the end of which they managed to get an inside man to open the main gate and then had a full-session running battle through to attack the keep itself and force a surrender.
    Our group was much more sneaky. They attacked at night, then had the wizard stand a little off to the side. The wizard used Minor Illusion to create an image of a glowing figure walking across the water as a diversion. While all the bandits were firing at the illusion, the rogue slipped up onto the dock, slit the sentry's throat, then allowed the fighter and cleric to climb up. He then threw a rope to the wizard, who directed the lights to move away from the dock, then swung across while the bandits looked the other way. Long story short, they hid in Grimjaw's throne room, then took him prisoner when he came back in the morning. (And the sneaky Zhentarim wizard sold the whole place to the Zhents in Bargewright Inn, the bastard.)
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    How often do fights break out between the monsters themselves? I mean, we're generally talking evil creatures, or at least an ecosystem where things get in fights all the time.

    How does a listening neighbor tell the difference between yet another fight between two monsters and a fight with PCs? How much do they care?

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    By the shear amount of time spend in the underground city and the time it takes to travel to and from, there really should be no doubt that there are invaders not just infighting. You can try and frame other cults from different sections but that will last only so long and eventually the truth will be known. So yea this mega dungeon doesn't make much sense to me.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by xroads View Post
    Out of curiosities sake, where did they get the siege engines? Did they pull some strings in one of their factions?
    One of the characters is a carpenter, with proficiency in carpenter's tools ... he built them :D

    Mostly it was scaling ladders and simple bolt throwers, no one felt up to a Trebuchet.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by the_brazenburn View Post
    Our group was much more sneaky. They attacked at night, then had the wizard stand a little off to the side. The wizard used Minor Illusion to create an image of a glowing figure walking across the water as a diversion. While all the bandits were firing at the illusion, the rogue slipped up onto the dock, slit the sentry's throat, then allowed the fighter and cleric to climb up. He then threw a rope to the wizard, who directed the lights to move away from the dock, then swung across while the bandits looked the other way. Long story short, they hid in Grimjaw's throne room, then took him prisoner when he came back in the morning. (And the sneaky Zhentarim wizard sold the whole place to the Zhents in Bargewright Inn, the bastard.)
    Presumably not Minor Illusion, since it can neither move nor shed light? :)

    I think my characters invaded Rivergard three times? The first time they came up through the secret stair, locked the keep doors from the inside, fought the people inside, freed the slaves, and captured Grimjaw. However he escaped and surrounded the keep, at which point they fled back into the tunnels and escaped that way.

    The second time they tried the stair assault again, but this time Grimjaw had fortified the bottom, and by the time they stormed it he poured boiling oil on their heads and filled the first person through the door with crossbow bolts, before filling the whole thing in with rubble.

    The third time was the siege :D

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Trying to get my head around a Dungeon Crawl

    Quote Originally Posted by Estrillian View Post
    Presumably not Minor Illusion, since it can neither move nor shed light? :)

    I think my characters invaded Rivergard three times? The first time they came up through the secret stair, locked the keep doors from the inside, fought the people inside, freed the slaves, and captured Grimjaw. However he escaped and surrounded the keep, at which point they fled back into the tunnels and escaped that way.

    The second time they tried the stair assault again, but this time Grimjaw had fortified the bottom, and by the time they stormed it he poured boiling oil on their heads and filled the first person through the door with crossbow bolts, before filling the whole thing in with rubble.

    The third time was the siege :D
    Sorry, I think it was Silent Image, possibly? Either that or my DM didn't catch the mistake.
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