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Dungeon Crawl... how do you do it?

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First Post
I'm a new DM and I'm running the game group through the Keep on the Shadowfell campaign. My party is about to get to the point where they are heading into the keep...

so how do I run a dungeon crawl? How do you experienced DM's do it? especially in regards to how to do the maps, vision,... etc

thanks for any tips!

Some good tips already but one thing I'd add- buy one of the graph-ruled flip-chart pads at Office Depot or the like and use it for your maps. You get about 30 sheets for $15. You can then draw your dungeon as you go (in true dungeon crawl style) and as a bonus, if the party back tracks or returns to a fork or branch, you just go back to the earlier sheet.

A few other quick notes:
  • Crawls work better with some prepared stuff. Create some encounters, traps, and memorial bits to insert as needed
  • Don't be afraid to take a break to collect your thoughts on what comes next
  • A crawl is a perfect time to solicit ideas from the players. I wouldn't go so far as to ask them what is behind the door but you can usually get them to toss out ideas on their own ("I hope that isn't a wraith behind that door") and take from them what you want.


We just finished this one tonight, actually. Party was two defenders (sword/board), a warlock, a cleric and a shaman. We did pretty well throughout, with no deaths (came close a couple times), but started around 2nd level (did other things beforehand). Play dragged a bit at times in the Keep, as it was one combat after another with little role-playing. If your players are new, this may be fine. It might give them a good opportunity to learn their characters' powers. If they're not new, you might consider customizing with a few campaign specific role-playing opportunities.

Anyway, our DM has a nice rectangular homemade table - it has a piece of clear glass on top of surface tiled with 1" squares. He draws right on the table with a marker. It's awesome. He would draw out the area we were in, and erase/redraw as we went along. You could basically do the same with computer print outs - printing out 8.5x11s and adding/subtracting them as necessary.

Also, I mapped as we went. Perfect proportions and scale weren't necessary. We never had to stop the game so I could map - I wasn't counting out squares or anything. It was really more of a flowchart. We map for a few reasons: our DM allows us to zip around through found areas more quickly with less chance of danger if we some account of where we have been though; we can sell the map to the king or a sage afterward; we all just like the idea of a map - helps us get in the mood, feel like we're exploring the unknown. Oh yeah, plus, the map's kind of a sentimental, pictorial record of our adventure.

You may/may not like mapping. We do. We're not fanatic about it, but we map.
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First Post
I will only make a "flow chart" of the dungeon for the players. Or they make it themselves. I find that giving the players an accurate map with 1' tolerance is a bit silly. For combat, we map what we need for playing it on a big battlemat. But for navigating, the map will be simple and roughly the type they could come up with if the characters were actually mapping it on the fly (not using tons of time to do it either).

Most dungeons are small enough that there is no way to get lost in them, so if the players tell me "we'll go to the room with the thrones we saw earlier" I will tell them "ok, it takes you 5 minutes to find it, nothing happens on the way" if they use the same route they have used before.


First Post
In response to your 'how to map' concerns
I find that having a large map in an upright position that everyone can look at is great. For KotS, I stuck the dungeon map in a paint file and covered each room, one by one, with a white square (each as a separate layer, Paint.net). I stick the map on an LCD TV from my PC. When the players enter a room, I remove the layer covering it, so the map is large, visible to everyone, and grows as they explore.
It gets a bit tricky with secret doors, but I make it work.
Another thing I have used with lots of success is a whiteboard, standing up somewhere away from the table (no problem for me to edit since I am usually standing).

Also, if you use modules like KotS in the future, I suggest taking out at least 1/2 the fights.

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