Dramatic Dungeoncrawling

Frostmarrow

First Post
If the player's know of the site's layout before hand you don't need to map it as you go. Instead you can use the whole map from round 1 as the board in a board game. In an Aliens-esque scenario you can use Motion Tracker blips to represent the occurrance of monsters but not how many they are. (Picked up by some magical item of course.) Add in the time constraint a previous poster mentioned and you've got a fast-paced dungeon that should be exciting til the end.

Naturally you need to keep track of every round. So decide before hand how many rounds the party have and make some kind of visual aid to show the player's how much time is left. At the end of every round you cross one "round" out and the players should get a sense of utter emergency. Perhaps the entire site shifts into the elemental plane of fire once the time is up.
 

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mmadsen

First Post
If the player's know of the site's layout before hand you don't need to map it as you go.

At the very least, they should be able to recon the outside of any above-ground structure.

Instead you can use the whole map from round 1 as the board in a board game. In an Aliens-esque scenario you can use Motion Tracker blips to represent the occurrance of monsters but not how many they are.

Detect Magic vs. incorporeal undead?

Perhaps the entire site shifts into the elemental plane of fire once the time is up.

And if they fail?
 

Ulrich_N

Explorer
Sound Jukebox for background sounds

This idea only applies to DMs who have access to a computer during play.

I have been considering this idea but never tested it, because I still lack the appropriate software:

It would enhance the dangerous atmosphere of a dungeon crawl if you played sounds in the background (just like some people prefer to have fantasy-themed music playing in the background or even as dramatic support). This would require sort of a "jingle" or "jukebox" software which plays certain sounds (mp3 wav etc.) when a certain key is pressed on the keyboard. Of course it would be preferable to be able to define whole "groups" of related/similar/user-selected sounds to quick-assign them to a whole set of keys.

It would also be useful if you can activate loop play mode for certain sounds, so playing a looped "heartbeat" sound (maybe starting with low volume, getting louder, then staying loud, waiting for manual stop) might make the players nervous.

Such background sounds (which may be found across the net and perhaps even in some computer games you own) would enhance the oppressing feeling of a dungeon crawl, so the players may have the wish to leave such places - as they never know whether the sound they just heard was "only" atmosphere or part of the story (like the sound of shifting stone walls because a trap was activated ;) ) At least hearing the sound should be better then just describing it.

So, if anyone knows about a "jukebox" program that is a useful and perhaps even easy to use tool for the idea described above, please post the URL here! :) And if there's no tool like this out there - who will program it for us?

Ulrich_N
 
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Sodalis

First Post
Some thing just came back to mea s i was rereading the post-

put a little more thought into your traps- if someone went through the trouble of placing a trap- at least make it hard- or that they placed some thought into the trap-
I rememebered this trap from back when- it is a cheap shot- but highly effective.

Have a section of the floor that is obviously trapped- like a fallaway tile that is a different color than the rest of the floor. When they try to go around it, or jump over it, have another fallaway tile just beyond it, or to the side of it. That will catch the players off guard cause they would have thought they avoided teh trap, but the real trap was yet to come...

Another thing would be to trap the disarm. Have an obvious trap like a small gear attached to the door handle. As he tries to disarm it, it triggers a different trap.


Traps and Treachery has a lot of these fun traps- but the fun ones are ones that are simple- and has small consequences.

One that i really like is a locked door. If he searches for traps, he cant find any (the trap is hidden insie the door- out of sight) and when he goes to unlock the door, his tools are sprayed with acid. It is funny to watch a rogue try to pick the rest of the locks with improvised tools- and have him explain how is goign to imporvise....sticks and rocks will not cut it...
 

I was thinking of asking my players to each bring a torch to a session some time in the future, when they will be going through a dungeon, and switching off all the lights (an angle lamp for me behind the screen so they don't get any light from it).
 

freebfrost

Explorer
Setting the mood for game is of ultimate importance.

Background music goes a long way to setting the mood, although I like the "jukebox" idea too -- it is just harder to set up for every game.

Music that varies between slow, moody pieces and jarring selections works well, (Being able to burn your own cd's helps a lot here) and keeps the players on edge. A recent game I ran featured the original Silent Hill soundtrack. Two players were big fans of the game, and when the opening track started, both just turned to the cd player and were like "oh, no!" That set the whole tone of that night's game for them, and it quickly spread to the other players.

Another technique I have been using lately is increased flavor text. I usually gloss over dungeon dressing items rather quickly, and my players are used to having to ask for more details afterwards. Now, I have switched tactics and am describing everything in extreme detail. Even the most mundane things are now dangerous in the player's minds -- after all, why else would I be describing it all in such detail?

Timing and pacing of encounters is very important in keeping these kind of games moving too. I rarely use "standard" monsters anymore, as my players have far too much experience with D&D for that. So, pretty much everything they encounter is a new or varient creature, and they never have the comfort level of saying, "oh, it's a troll," and knowing what to do. That mystery adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the dungeon.

Finally, I would suggest never using "standard" magic items and spells wherever possible. New spells, variants of spells, and personalized magic items keeps the players guessing and interested in the game. No longswords +1 or scrolls of Magic Missiles. Now, we have a longsword that acts as a Feather Fall spell when held, and a scroll of Cloying Mist (that does 1d4+1 points of damage to 1 or more targets...)

Oh, and be sure to throw in a throwaway encounter sometimes, like a simple trap, or an easy monster. After that encounter, the players will be on edge waiting for the "real" encounter.

:)
 

mmadsen

First Post
I was thinking of asking my players to each bring a torch to a session some time in the future, when they will be going through a dungeon, and switching off all the lights (an angle lamp for me behind the screen so they don't get any light from it).

Are you in the UK, Infinite Monkey@Work? Because in the US, torch never means "electric torch" (we call that a "flashlight"), and I certainly don't want giant firebrands around my gaming table -- cool though they may be!
 

Carnifex

First Post
If you want some good background music for dungeoneering, I'd recommend you buy the first Aliens versus Predator game. The second cd has all the music on it, and can be played as any other music cd, so you can listen to all the ambient soundtracks off it :)
 

Painfully

First Post
Just the obvious dungeon dressing suggestions below.

Make the dungeon just as vivid and dynamic as the creatures in your dungeon. Walls should show the flickering of faint light before the PCs turn the corner, the ground should shake when a large creature walks, or echo when a large creature growls/roars/screeches. The walls must have something on them, right? Scribblings of a slave/prisoner, claw marks from an unfortunate encounter many years ago, roots showing through cracks (handy for enlarge or entangle spells at times).

Sound should also be important. Let's face it, it's a dungeon down there and it's dark, but you can always smell, hear, or feel things well before you can see them. Cool, moist air should precede a room with a pool of water, a strong smell should precede a creature's unkept lair littered with scraps. The latrine should be obvious even before the door is opened.

Make the walls move! That's right, don't let the players just map things out without any suprises. The inhabitants of the castle will likely have something precious to protect from outsiders, so why leave a door there? Make it impossible for anybody but those intended to get into the key "vault" area. If a vampire owns the place it makes sense to allow obvious entry only in gaseous form. Leave a clue or two, but just don't give it away--make the existance of a vault known, but it's protections unknown. The PCs might have to go and backtrack just to look more closely for the vault--it is supposed to be a secret after all.

The dungeon should also not be a void. If it isn't being cared for make sure there are rats scurrying around (and preventing a good rest for mages), rainwater dripping from the ceiling in places, puddles on the floor that hinder silent movement. The halls should echo sounds if there are no tapestries or other things covering the walls.

Personal affects should have a theme. Did the owner collect gems? The gems are probably all gone if the castle is abandoned, but he should have tools, magnifying glasses, and books on the subject lying around. Perhaps they think of their heritage as important--a series of family portraits and personal journals should be somewhere in the castle.

Throw a curse on the players, or otherwise inflict a time critical motivation. Maybe if the curse isn't cured by the next full moon it becomes permanent, that sort of thing.

You can always turn things around a bit. Let the players be captured by their intended enemy, and make them escape from the dungeon. The party should be weakened and need to get out without setting off any alarms. The first edition slaver modules were popular because experienced PCs had to begin anew with only their skills and some pointy sticks.

Of course none of this works until you've mastered the art of suspense. Do a mental walkthrough of how your players might proceed through your dungeon and try to make sure there is a motivation to move on. The PC's should know their next objective and be willing to take certain risks in order to acheive them sooner rather than later. Motivations work best when they tie in closely with each individual PC, so I you're on your own there. Use a lot of foreshadowing whenever possible.
 


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