Designing dungeons for multiple excursions

Cor Azer

First Post
One of the things I've always really enjoyed about games like The Legend of Zelda is that you're encouraged to return to dungeons you've already "completed" so you can reach new areas that were previously unexplored. The main ingredient here is that the player can see the unreachable area well before getting there. Often they'll spend a long time trying to figure out if they can access it, but eventually they'll notice a hint that shows them that they need a later item (ie, in the case of the Zelda's, perhaps you see a hookshot target, which says you need the hookshot before returning), or simply grow frustrated and leave. With luck, they'll remember to come back later, and thus find a hidden McGuffin.

Note that I'm not really talking about dungeons that are just so big that the players can't really help but leave, rest in town, and come back. Rather I'm looking at the situation where while en route to defeat the evil cult, they notice a weird golden door across an uncrossable chasm. Then a few adventures later, they learn that the weird golden door is the entrance to a hidden tomb filled with riches - and now that the party can fly, they decide to go back are loot.

To be fair, I'm not explicitly trying to create a situation where it's impossible to get to the "unreachable" area - on occasion my players are more creative than I and come up with a way to access the unaccessible, so I don't want a situation that is necessarily a simple "magic barrier that says no until the DM says go". Maybe it's a wide chasm, maybe it's an ancient dwarven door with a magic riddle waiting to be solved, or maybe it's an incredibly high wall.

Ideally the obstacle can be overcome with either player or character knowledge, or character abilities, but even plot items (as simple as a key, or perhaps a magic bean that grows a climbable vine) can be valid "solutions".

So with that in mind, do other DMs try to design dungeons to support this? How do you do so? Is it successful, or are your players like mine and often grow frustrated being unable to "complete" the dungeon in one go?
 

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Walknot

First Post
We just left behind a dungeon with unexplored area(s) because there were some urgent need to do some other things before it was "too late" (in game). SO, in general including plotlines that create a "time is of the essence" mood can contribute to a multi-visit dungeon.

Another idea (have not played this one) is to use tides. For instance a literal tide (ocean tide) could prevent exploring certain area until such & such a time. But there could be other tides, such as a tide of goblinoids that has so infested an area that it is unsafe (even for heros). Or a tide in the affairs of men, such as allowing seasoned guides (a must in this example) only after the harvest is in.

Of course, combinations of tides could present the group with "windows of opportunity" to explore a certain stretch of a dungeon. Depending on time constraints.
 

Another approach is not a single dungeon, but a complex that includes multiple dungeons. For example, a necropolis that includes multiple tombs, each of which is its own dungeon. Each delve is a mission to a specific dungeon within the complex ... but if the players want to wander about and enter another one, they're welcome too.

Just beware the one in the big hill with the stones set in the shape of a grinning skull ...
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
A possibility I've used in the past is having some other kind of monsters moving in to the areas the PCs cleared out. . . so they return a year or so later and the place while mostly the same, might have new areas excavated, others collapsed, new traps or blockades, etc. . .
 

Nebulous

Legend
A possibility I've used in the past is having some other kind of monsters moving in to the areas the PCs cleared out. . . so they return a year or so later and the place while mostly the same, might have new areas excavated, others collapsed, new traps or blockades, etc. . .


This is sort of what i'm going to do with Tallow's Deep, an old 1e or 2e adventure from Dungeon magazine i'm updating to 4e. I ran it years and years ago for the group, and i have one player now who has been in it, but i want to change it up some. Not that he'll remember much except the river trap and the deadly conclusion.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This is sort of what i'm going to do with Tallow's Deep, an old 1e or 2e adventure from Dungeon magazine i'm updating to 4e. I ran it years and years ago for the group, and i have one player now who has been in it, but i want to change it up some. Not that he'll remember much except the river trap and the deadly conclusion.


Tallow's Deep is one my favorite adventures of all time and those players from that group who are still around still talk about it to this day.

A very brief discussion of how the adventure fit into that old campaign can be read here.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Tallow's Deep is one my favorite adventures of all time and those players from that group who are still around still talk about it to this day.

Indeed, we still talk of that adventure with great reverence. It taught the DMs alot about three dimensional traps, and how to make the puny goblin a truly fearsome foe. I hope i can do the 4e version of it justice!
 

Raven Crowking

First Post
Just wanted to say that this is a great thread, which I am following with interest.

In a 3e example, the first place the PCs explored was a cave system that had at least two more branches that their goal didn't take them to. One of the branches was a kobold lair, the other led deep underground.

I like to include potential other sites in nearly every adventure if I can manage it. So, passing on an unused roadway, PCs might see cracks that lead down to a space with rushing water....wonder what's down there? Or they might see something a long way off, or hear a story of another location from an NPC.

I love the idea of players who have too many options, and hate having too few, no matter what side of the screen I am on.


RC
 

Nebulous

Legend
I love the idea of players who have too many options, and hate having too few, no matter what side of the screen I am on.

RC

I agree with this to an extent, but with a few caveats. I remember telling my brother once that our current campaign had 14 ongoing subplots. I was pround of that, but looking back, they only followed a few, probably didn't finish ANY, and were ultimately a little confused. I've tried to reign in the "go anywhere, do anything" style some. I've also played in games where there are so many options you lose track of what you're doing.

Although having too few options is almost as bad.
 

In the Age of Worms adventure path, IIRC, the dungeon you visit in the very first adventure contains a disactivated portal that you activate (and go through) a few adventures later.

AR
 

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