5E Building a dungeon that Meta-games

Lanliss

Explorer
Warning: I know of at least one user on here who's head might explode if you read this. It is about Meta-gaming, so consider yourself warned.

I had an idea a couple days ago, and decided to post it here now that I have my thoughts straight. Has anyone seen a Living Dungeon? It is sentient, it is intelligent, and it can see and hear everything the heroes are doing as they progress through it. By the end, it knows every power they have used, and has probably planned accordingly.

Also, it has control of itself. If the heroes pull out of the dungeon to rest, the traps and enemies (all constructs) reset and move, or entirely new ones spawn in. The longer you spend fighting this dungeon, the harder it gets to win.

Thoughts?
 

Croesus

Villager
I first saw this idea a few years back, possibly on these boards. One element was that the dungeon would close doors behind the party unless they were spiked open, but would open doors to allow monsters to attack the party. Stuff like that. Unfortunately, I can't find the link.

A similar idea was posted on a blog (see links below) where the "dungeon" is actually a lich's phylactery, which would give the dungeon an interesting theme - perhaps at the deepest level is the lich's heart, which has to be destroyed to permanently kill the lich.

http://slyflourish.com/i_dungeon.html
http://slyflourish.com/living_dungeons.html

If your players are interested, I say run with it. There's nothing meta-gamey about having an opponent watch the party and react accordingly, just make sure there's a good reason for the dungeon to exist as it does.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
There's actually a book series about this - Dungeon Born: The Divine Dungeon (https://www.amazon.com/Dungeon-Born-The-Divine-Dungeon-Book-One/dp/B01MECHQ5S), which has the concept of a "Dungeon Heart" - a sentient crystal that can magically control the dungeon and gains levels and powers by killing adventurers and monsters who are foolish enough to venture inside. It can create matter - including gold and magic items - which it uses as bait to lure adventurers inside. ;)

I had the idea of doing something similar for 5e, but instead of a magical crystal, instead it would be the Living Dungeon - the ultimate evolution of the Mimic, grown to to colossal size and becoming a dungeon that can reshape itself and split off bits of itself to create copies of creatures it has consumed.
 

Rellott

Explorer
There's a full campaign about this that was published via Kickstarter a while back called "Roslof Keep." It's really written for 1e but has a (I'd say poor) 5e conversion built in. A mad lich made a dungeon machine that stocks itself, rearranges itself, and so on. The area around it has turned it into an economic opportunity (kill the monsters and take their stuff, then export it). The machine breaks and starts attacking the area around it and the party has to delve all the way to the heart of the dungeon to reboot the machine... or turn it off for good.
 

TerraDave

5ever
You are allowed to have active and reactive environments. Not really "meta-gaming", kinda normal actually. Some force could be behind it, or just an NPC or NPCs.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Not sure I see the metagamming issue here.

Basically this is a haunted house trop, but with fantasy medieval dungeon. Could be great fun if done right.

Maybe the soul of some ancient wizards whose attempt at lichdom went disastrously wrong. His soul is now trapped in the dungeon. He needs to capture a certain number of souls in order to gain his form back. Not only can the lich-dungeon control the physical features, but it can also cast spells. I would swap out some spells from the Monster Manual lich entry with spells like shape stone, etc.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
Not sure I see the metagamming issue here.

Basically this is a haunted house trop, but with fantasy medieval dungeon. Could be great fun if done right.

Maybe the soul of some ancient wizards whose attempt at lichdom went disastrously wrong. His soul is now trapped in the dungeon. He needs to capture a certain number of souls in order to gain his form back. Not only can the lich-dungeon control the physical features, but it can also cast spells. I would swap out some spells from the Monster Manual lich entry with spells like shape stone, etc.
By "Meta-game" I mean a few key things that are usually considered metagaming. Planning ahead based on the players powers, attacking specific characters first, without any obvious sign of who they are (How do you tell the difference between the Paladin and Cleric?The dungeon has seen the difference. It knows who heals better, and it will target them.), and possibly putting an obstacle or two in their path that is damn near impossible for their skill set.

For example, a party with no thief, or otherwise designated-trap-person. Lay a whole floor full of deadly traps, and watch the party throw themselves against it. They pull out to rest? Move the traps up to the floor above that, but leave it looking exactly the same. Move triggers to traps, meaning that different tiles are safe now, while previously safe ones will trigger it. Remove the traps entirely, and watch them waste their time checking the whole floor over again, believing that it has reset.

Make traps for specific party members. Wizard has feather fall? Make a trap that triggers when a spell is cast above it, at which point it opens into a pit. The catch? Immediately below the door is an anti-magic Zone. Barbarian is strong man? Place two traps in positions where they are likely to trigger at the same time. Both of them require a great deal of strength to open, meaning he must choose one of his party members while the other suffers, and potentially dies depending on the trap. The kind of planned rooms that you probably can't get away with without your players calling BS.

One of my players likes climbing things. Constantly, he climbs something and jumps off like he is playing Assassin's Creed. This Dungeon would place traps that activated when he climbed on conveniently placed decorations. Maybe one that launches him straight up 20-30 feet, at which point all but one right within his reach pull into the walls (maybe make it look a little rusted or something. That would be a clue, since everything else in the dungeon is clean). The catch? That one is also trapped, and does the same thing. Now he faces 60 feet of fall damage.

I realize as I am writing this that it is coming off as adversarial style, but I am honestly just thinking of possibilities and examples. Not sure if I would actually do something like these specific traps.
 

UnknownDyson

Explorer
Warning: I know of at least one user on here who's head might explode if you read this. It is about Meta-gaming, so consider yourself warned.

I had an idea a couple days ago, and decided to post it here now that I have my thoughts straight. Has anyone seen a Living Dungeon? It is sentient, it is intelligent, and it can see and hear everything the heroes are doing as they progress through it. By the end, it knows every power they have used, and has probably planned accordingly.

Also, it has control of itself. If the heroes pull out of the dungeon to rest, the traps and enemies (all constructs) reset and move, or entirely new ones spawn in. The longer you spend fighting this dungeon, the harder it gets to win.

Thoughts?
You just described any layer of the Abyss.
 

Croesus

Villager
I realize as I am writing this that it is coming off as adversarial style, but I am honestly just thinking of possibilities and examples. Not sure if I would actually do something like these specific traps.
Yeah, this sounds an awful lot like the early D&D I played, which was very much in the Gygax DM vs. Players style. I personally wouldn't enjoy it. After all, if there are no limits, the dungeon (GM) can win every time, and any player victory is only because the GM allows it.

That said, you can somewhat have both. Don't make the dungeon omniscient - it doesn't know the party has a wizard able to cast feather fall until it actually happens. It doesn't know the party has trouble with traps until they fail to locate/disarm a few. In other words, it learns as the party pushes deeper. That's much more reasonable and will force the players to try different solutions (and possibly hold back on some capabilities) in order to fool the dungeon.

The key is to create a situation where the players can succeed based on their decisions, which means there have to be limits on what the dungeon can do, and why. Give it a personality, or a directive, which can be deduced by the party and possibly used against it. Give the dungeon tendencies, just as characters have, so the players can game-plan against the dungeon. Give the party clues, whether through research or within the dungeon, so they can craft strategies. Then it's not GM vs. Players, it's Dungeon vs. Party.

As I constantly tell my players, I (the GM) will never try to kill off their characters. However, the NPCs and monsters will, to the best of their abilities. Plan accordingly.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
13the Age explicitly has the concept of Living Dungeons as frequent PC adventures. The bore their way up from the underworld filled with magic. Each is unique, magical, and not necessarily needing a balanced ecology to exist.

When I run them, I give each a theme that I expand on.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I guess I meta game a lot then. I write my adventures and alter published adventures with my players in mind.

By "Meta-game" I mean a few key things that are usually considered metagaming. Planning ahead based on the players powers, attacking specific characters first, without any obvious sign of who they are (How do you tell the difference between the Paladin and Cleric?The dungeon has seen the difference. It knows who heals better, and it will target them.), and possibly putting an obstacle or two in their path that is damn near impossible for their skill set.

For example, a party with no thief, or otherwise designated-trap-person. Lay a whole floor full of deadly traps, and watch the party throw themselves against it. They pull out to rest? Move the traps up to the floor above that, but leave it looking exactly the same. Move triggers to traps, meaning that different tiles are safe now, while previously safe ones will trigger it. Remove the traps entirely, and watch them waste their time checking the whole floor over again, believing that it has reset.

Make traps for specific party members. Wizard has feather fall? Make a trap that triggers when a spell is cast above it, at which point it opens into a pit. The catch? Immediately below the door is an anti-magic Zone. Barbarian is strong man? Place two traps in positions where they are likely to trigger at the same time. Both of them require a great deal of strength to open, meaning he must choose one of his party members while the other suffers, and potentially dies depending on the trap. The kind of planned rooms that you probably can't get away with without your players calling BS.

One of my players likes climbing things. Constantly, he climbs something and jumps off like he is playing Assassin's Creed. This Dungeon would place traps that activated when he climbed on conveniently placed decorations. Maybe one that launches him straight up 20-30 feet, at which point all but one right within his reach pull into the walls (maybe make it look a little rusted or something. That would be a clue, since everything else in the dungeon is clean). The catch? That one is also trapped, and does the same thing. Now he faces 60 feet of fall damage.

I realize as I am writing this that it is coming off as adversarial style, but I am honestly just thinking of possibilities and examples. Not sure if I would actually do something like these specific traps.
 

aco175

Explorer
I like the idea of a living dungeon. The problem is to keep the players from figuring it out until the end. Once they figure it out they can react to it and stop it. Not much different from a lich scrying all the time, a ghost flying through the rooms to spy on them, or a series of halls along the rooms where the BBEG spys through peepholes.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
I like the idea of a living dungeon. The problem is to keep the players from figuring it out until the end. Once they figure it out they can react to it and stop it. Not much different from a lich scrying all the time, a ghost flying through the rooms to spy on them, or a series of halls along the rooms where the BBEG spys through peepholes.
Not sure what they would be able to do to stop it, unless they spent all hours within the dungeon under a Greater Invisibility spell. but then it would probably just figure something magical is happening, and have a floor full of anti-magic fields.
 
S

Sunseeker

Guest
I meant to run a horror version of this by converting the layout of the Event Horizon into a dungeon.
 

Chryssis

Explorer
When I read this the first thing that popped into my mind was Vast: the Crystal caverns https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/170416/vast-crystal-caverns
You could essentially model the dungeon as the boardgame, as long as the dungeon has rules/a goal. ie it wants to collapse and kill everyone, in order to do that it needs to do XYZ. The party needs to take certain actions that will help the dungeon, ex open doors, break magical locks. if they don't do these things they can't progress/leave the dungeon/make it to the dragon to kill. Would be a little tricky to gauge the requirement for the dungeons vs the requirements for the party to succeed to not make it either a roflstomp for the cave, or a walk in the park for the party, but could be super fun. Party doesn't know what the dungeons goal is, or what helps it out, but the dungeon knows what it and the party wants.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yeah, this sounds an awful lot like the early D&D I played, which was very much in the Gygax DM vs. Players style. I personally wouldn't enjoy it. After all, if there are no limits, the dungeon (GM) can win every time, and any player victory is only because the GM allows it.
Not fair to call it the "Gygax" style. If I were to characterize Gygaxian 1e D&D DM style it would be "a confident and assertive DM fairly refereeing players through challenging scenarios." He didn't make things up on the fly, but he expected players to thoughtful and clever problem solvers.
 

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