The Closed Door


When I was a younger player I was utterly into combat and all my schoolmate co-players and DM were the same. That for me was what D&D (or AD&D as it was), was all about. At that point I would have baulked at the thought of role play, and exploration was just a thing that got us to the following.

  • Delve the dungeon
  • Kick the door down
  • Kill the monster
  • Take their stuff
  • Maybe level up
  • Onto the next dungeon

So there was quite a bit of Dungeon Creep/Crawl (never know which term is correct) exploration involved as well and tonnes of combat, but hardly any roleplay.

Life got in the way for a while, many years actually (shame on it/me)

After Lord of the Rings came out at the cinemas, I had a sudden hankering to play D&D again. I remembered with fondness kicking in those doors and killing and taking stuff and so, with a little trepidation now as an adult, I decided to try and find a group of adults who still played this game. It didn’t initially occur to me to look on the net. Doh! But eventually I found a group and as luck would have it, they allowed me to join them. They were playing 4th edition at the time and as I settled into the style of that edition I was again kicking in doors like part of a breaching SWAT team and we were having lots of long battles. This should have been just the tonic for me.

But something was missing.

I found myself wanting more. It occurred to me that I might slowly getting bored with combat. It was becoming (blasphemy) a let-down. You know in those good horror movies where the suspense is killing you and it grows and your fear/excitement grows, and then it lessens again only to grow again and you go on this emotional rollercoaster, and then when the thing actually happens, it almost feels like a deflation. The best part for me now was not the combat. It was the part just before. And the longer that could be teased out, the better. 4th was great because it got me back into D&D and for that I will always have fond memories of it.

When 5th came out, (and I’m not trying to start an edition war here, this is just me) it was like a breath of fresh air. It was similar in style to 2nd which I grew up on, but without all of the crap. Which was great. It had that feel that I remembered, but it also now spoke very openly of the three pillars. I had not considered these before and the role-playing aspect was actually fun now that I wasn’t a shy, embarrassed spotty young teen. The role-playing side grew on me big time. It opened doors into this magical game that I had not ever considered and hooked me completely.

Having had time to reflect on all three different editions I realise now that the edition did not matter, the combat while fun was not the best part and the role play which was non-existent in my early gaming was taking more and more of the limelight, but I realise now that probably one of the most exciting things in the history of the world of D&D for me, was the door.

Yep. That’s right. The Door. Especially the Closed Door.

Think about it. When you get to that door……..oh wow…….What is about to happen? What is going down? This is the point in the horror movie. The unknown. The cusp. This is where the music builds up as much as your adrenaline.

Is it locked? Is it unlocked? Is it barred? Is it trapped? Is it real? Is it a mimic? Does it have a keyhole? Does it have space underneath to push a mirror through? What is behind the door? Is it a trap room? A puzzle room? A hostage situation? Is it a wandering monster just waiting for you to bring it to life? Is it an ambush? Is it a treasure room? Is it a teleportation portal to Hell? Or is it a dusty old broom cupboard? What can you hear, smell, and feel behind it? Is it warm or cold to the touch? Does it have a door knock, are you going to use it. Are you going to try to turn the handle first? Will that make a noise? Are you going to try to oil those hinges? Are you ready to just kick the door in? The more you question, the greater the suspense.

The answers of course don’t actually matter at this point. They don’t mean a damned thing. It is the very fact that you don’t know. And only when you have made a decision about that door does it unfold. But never does it mean as much as beforehand. That is the point or the cusp as I like to call it, where the scenarios are endless. That is the excitement. The teasing of maybe……something, anything, everything.

Combat, once the all-powerful agent of D&D, while fun was no longer the titan it once was for me. My needs as a kid gave it might and strength.

Role-play, the once pure unholy terror of D&D, is now embraced as pure gold by myself and my co-players/DM’s. We live off it, sometimes even drool over it.

Exploration has always been there. The unappreciated cog. Hidden away, subtly subsumed in the background. Never demanding centre stage but always playing the co-star. You know the one. That great old actor who, with their power and presence alone, makes the younger star look absolutely fantastic.

Exploration is the glue that binds the world together, and the peak, the very pinnacle of exploration for me can be reduced, boiled down to one thing; the humble closed door.

So next time you adventure through a dusty castle or an ancient crypt and you come across a closed door, take a moment. Smile. Grin your Half-Orc teeth out. Savour it, because what is going to happen next is pure unknown, and that it just fantastic. That for me, is a piece of magic far stronger than any spell. That is the magic of playing D&D.

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A wonderful post. D&D has always been about the unknown, mystery, and the thrill of discovery. I have a classic dungeon door coming up in my next adventure, and I’ll be sure to make it all the more special.

For me, what really took my role-playing to the next level was when Vampire: The Masquerade first came out. The ideas of character development and personality were new to us, and it caught on like wildfire in our gaming group. Yet we always came back to D&D, and what we learned from VtM made our games all the richer and more interesting.

It’s funny that you mention the Lord of the Rings movies. Like many, that helped pull me back into gaming. Before I knew it, I was re-reading my beloved works of Middle-Earth, and picking up the 3e core books.


Magic Wordsmith
I see "roleplay" as anything you choose to have your character do while playing the game which might include battling some orcs (combat), talking to the quirky, cagey NPC (social interaction), or searching the door for traps and listening to see if you can hear anything on the other side (exploration). This avoids the perception that other people might have that combat isn't roleplaying, when it very clearly is.

I tend to find equal value in each of the three pillars. I love a good combat challenge, the more difficult the better. Social interaction challenges are also fun, if they are presented and resolved well by the DM. Sadly, I don't find that's the case with many DMs. [MENTION=6801813]Valmarius[/MENTION], my DM for Tomb of Annihilation, knocked it out of the park recently with a Snake Moot challenge in that adventure where we negotiated a deal between two different groups of villains (the yuan-ti and a rival adventuring group called the Yahtzees) over brunch. Many DMs fall short on these kinds of challenges in my experience, essentially just putting up a show of resistance to providing what is essentially an exposition dump, until it frustrates the players enough where they relent. I think some serious guidance on how to run these sorts of challenges would be welcome.

Exploration is basically anything that isn't combat or social. In my own games, I try to play up this angle a fair bit, depending on the theme of the campaign. In my Sunless Citadel game, the volume on exploration challenges is turned way up. In my Planescape game, it's somewhat more minimized compared to combat and social. I often chuckle about the frequent "D&D Door Debates" which is a classic thing over the years. I like how you laid out many of the questions that come up when dealing with something as simple as a door.

Which suggest, perhaps, that there's really more to the door than just some wood, hinges, and a doorknob, at least symbolically.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
This has me thinking about mapping. In the days when we use to have one or more players try to keep a map as we explored, it gave life to the sense of exploration. Why is that gap there? Is there a secret room? Just rock? Did I mess up in my mapping? Most players today, however, find mapping to be a slog and it does slow down the game. VTTs with partial review and fog of war is not the same. What is revealed is perfectly mapped. There is not comparison of notes, no arguments of who got it right. No fear of getting lost. Also, mapping yourself keeps the dungeon in the players' imaginations, which is why when I do use maps in a VTT or RealmWorks I am starting to prefer more oldschool maps over realistic, detailed, color battlemaps.

At the same time, though, player mapping seems to conflict with character skill. If you have a character with high survival skill and cartography tools, they should be better than the player at mapping.

In 5e I've grown into the approach of not always using Realm Works or a VTT. I just explain the rooms and it is up to them whether they want to map or just take notes. If they don't and later get lost they can make survival checks to get hints on how to find their way back, etc. If a character is actively mapping, they can have advantage on checks. If players want certainty, they need to take notes or map. If their characters are proficient or succeed in appropriate skill checks, I'll give them more information or help them correct their map.

I don't do this ALL the time, but for the occasional location, it can add a lot to the sense of the unknown and sense of danger.


You :):):):)ing Rogues man. You try to steal the limelight and now you want the door. Is it not enough that the door is your holy grail man? It is the thing that all others bow to your brilliant skills man. Leave it alone. Just leave it alone man
.....It sticks to you you like a mimic....


First Post
Picking up on [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s point, the usefulness of a door, in game terms, does seem to me to lie in its potential for stimulating conversation within the party, both between PCs in-character and between players OOC. After all, the door cannot be said to be remarkable if no-one actually remarks on it.

To the extent that doors are a shared experience, there is opportunity for bonding by agreeing on what they represent. But if different PCs can experience the door in different ways and talk about it, the game becomes more entertaining. A tank might remark on the solidity of the door as a physical obstacle; a druid might be more interested in the quality of the wood; and so on. If one is thinking of the game as a simple hack-n-slash, the conversation is a distraction whereas if one is thinking of the game as an opportunity for role-playing then the conversation is the whole point.


Hiya! doors. Actually, any "portal" really. It's exactly as you said, @rgoodbb, its the whole anticipation and unknown that has my imagination whirling. One of the things I do often...but not describe a dungeon door for no particular reason. It serves three parts: One, it lets me just 'go wild' with my imagination and free-flow a description. Two, it instantly engages my players focus and imagination. Sometimes, when things start to drift off into "general socializing" as opposed to playing the game (we are all friends, obviously, having been playing for a couple decades together), describing something in the a door/portal ;) ...gets everyone's focus back to the game. Third, it keeps the players from automatically assuming "Oh, THIS door is special because the DM is describing it more!". I do this with a LOT of things in the game, not just doors/portals. Chests, stairs, goblets, books, torches, furniture, swords, shields, etc.

As for the Three Pillars...I'm definitely partial to the third; Exploration. I find this the MOST enjoyable part of the game. One of the things that has me in a love/hate relationship with MMORPG's online. A large world to explore...hampered by pre-scripted "encounters", level-capped areas, glass walls, and all that other stuff that keeps me from being able to cross that river, or move through that forest. :( But in an RPG? :D All those limits are removed. My players can just wander off in some random direction, and they often do, and I look at my notes of the area and just start "winging it"...and that section of the world breaths it's first breaths of life. And doors? This is the potential that they all have; the potential for the players AND the DM to discover something new...something that nobody at the table expected.

Raises mead tankard to the sky..."To Doors!" [glug glug glug].


Paul L. Ming
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Just wait until you have roleplayed so much and in so many variations that it also loses its thrill.

And then you just have The Door.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Just wait until you have roleplayed so much and in so many variations that it also loses its thrill.

And then you just have The Door.

At that point, it is finally time to take the plunge...



First Post
"Wait until you realize that there is no door", says the oracle.

DM: You come to a doorway but there is no actual door. The passage continues 30ft ahead.

Brother Candle: "Let us give thanks to the keeper of doors and pray for its speedy return."

Paranoid Albert: "But why is there no door here? It could be a trick! Perhaps it's an invisible door?"

Fingers McThumb: "I steal the ... um ... I examine the ... um ... doorway. Yes, that's it, I examine the doorway."

DM: The doorway is worked stone, quite old, and built into the wall. There is a faded inscription carved above it, which reads, in common, THIS IS NOT A DOOR.

Paranoid Albert: "I told you it was a trick! No-one would write that if it wasn't a trick! I push Fingers through the doorway in front of me."

Fingers McThumb: "Hey, no pushing! I'm wearing my Dwarven Boots of the Firm-Footed. I resist the push."

DM: Albert, I'll treat that as a Shove attack with disadvantage because of the Boots.

Brother Candle: "Gentlemen, gentlemen, let us not fall to petty squabbling. I will cast Detect Missing Doors.

DM: You do not detect a missing door.

Paranoid Albert: "Oh no! It's an invisible door that resists detection! I put down my torch, close my visor and grip my halberd firmly in both hands. I have the Alert feat and cannot be surprised."

Fingers McThumb: "I Hide in Albert's shadow."

DM: Albert, as you douse your torch and your eyes become accustomed to the gloom, you see that the corridor is dimly-lit by phosphorescent moss. Fingers, make a Stealth roll, please, but with Disadvantage because there are no actual shadows.

Brother Candle: "The gods have warned me not to touch the moss. It is living moss formed from the bones of the long-dead door by evil necromacy. Ahead lies the lair of a half-elf necromancer."

DM: How did you know that? Have you been reading the module? Bah! Now I'll have to change it. Okay. 30ft ahead there is a door ...

"I told you it was a trick."


You enter a dungeon, proceed down a long dusty corridor which ends in a T junction. The corridor to your right opens into an enormous room filled with everything you can imagine. The opposite corridor is short and ends at a doorway. The door is flush to the archway, tightly fitted, smooth surfaced, has no knob, no lock, no hinges. A close inspection reveals a faint inscription at eye level which reads "All that is Left."


First Post
You enter a dungeon, proceed down a long dusty corridor which ends in a T junction. The corridor to your right opens into an enormous room filled with everything you can imagine. The opposite corridor is short and ends at a doorway. The door is flush to the archway, tightly fitted, smooth surfaced, has no knob, no lock, no hinges. A close inspection reveals a faint inscription at eye level which reads "All that is Left."

We go right and stand in the midst of everything imaginable, imagining that the door to the left is open and leads to a chamber full of unimaginable delights, which are missing from the right room because they are unimaginable.

You're going to tell me that the unimaginable delights are guarded by unimaginable horrors, aren't you?

I hate this game.



I hate this game.


Me too. It's rubbish init?

I mean I waste dozens of hours a week over what? A dice and cockney accent. What the heck?

I spend money on books I don't need (and sometimes hardly read)

I buy mini's that I will never use just because I think they look cool and then put them in a box and forget about them.

I buy dice by the barrel load when I need 6. Not 60 or 600. 6.

I wake up each morning and boot up my laptop and spend too long reading someone arguing .5 of a hit point of damage with someone else and then notice that the arguments fragment because somebody 1 has blocked somebody 2. This seems to pique my interest so I read some more. Why? Who knows.

It's just a game init? where you dress up and run around in fields init? It's so rubbish that I am taking the time to write about it. It's so rubbish that I'm getting all overcome with giddiness over a blinkin' door!

My hate for this game is stronger than 0.5

Block Me! ;)


First Post
The Door

Edgwin sighed. His meagre funds would get him poor lodgings in this town, flooded as it was with adventurers of every stripe boasting bags of coin to spare. The landlord of the Four Ferrets had scornfully shown him the worst room imaginable, a windowless cell under the eaves with barely space for the filthy straw palliasse that was to be his bed for the night. By the flickering light of a stub of candle he watched a small colony of bats shuffling under the thatch, beginning to stir now that the sun had set. The first to wake had already left through a small hole, high up in the end wall, that was the only ventilation in this miserable room.

The candle guttered and went out. Edgwin's eyes played tricks on him and for a moment, before the darkness was complete, he fancied he saw the outline of a door in the blank wall below the vent. It had the semblance of no ordinary door, however. This was a door. With trepidation, he felt his way to the wall. His fingers found a doorknob where no knob could be. It was cold; not just the cold of iron or brass but the cold of quicksilver, frozen in time. A frisson of fear overtook him and he drew his hand back sharply. But he could not resist the impulse to reach for it again, to prove to himself that it was not really there.

Edgwin turned the doorknob ...


Edgwin turned the doorknob ...

It didn’t move, but the sound of a deep resonating boom echoed from far beyond the secret threshold the instant he touched it. Edgwin jumped back with a start as the family of bats exploded in confused chaos and desperately swept out of their night portal.

He lay askew on the unwashed floor pent up and panting and drenched with sweat. Raising himself upon his elbows, his eyes wide like the panic of a desperate steed ready to bolt at the next sign of trouble.

There was no more noise. The vacuum itself loud in his heart-pumping ears. All of the bats had rapidly departed. All, that was, bar one. He could hear it in the black, fluttering and flittering, as if unsure where to go. He heard it above and to the right, and then it stopped. Without warning, the stub of the dead candle reignited flaring up and cast horrendous gothic shadows upon the chamber walls…

My first encounter with D&D was reading The Name of the Game in White Dwarf 52. This image has stuck with me as quintessentially what D&D is about - what’s behind the door...?


First Post
Without warning, the stub of the dead candle reignited flaring up and cast horrendous gothic shadows upon the chamber walls…

… shadows that seemed to spell out a terrible doom befalling the miserable wretch who beheld them - an implacable, inescapable curse laid upon a soul riven in twain by demonic forces beyond mortal comprehension. Edgwin cried out in terror, one hand involuntarily raised in a vain bid to ward off the inevitable but the shriek died in his throat as the doorknob began to turn, seemingly of its own volition. He looked on in horror as the doorknob slowly, inexorably, turned the wrong way and the door began to open ...
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and the door began to open ...

..He had to flee from here. The other door! Of course! He had to leave this gods forsaken bed chamber. Edgwin’s body seemed to move in slow motion, like he was stuck in some sort of ancient tree sap. As his body began the mammoth task of turning, the new portal opened a little more. The darkness in the chamber began to illuminate with a red glow. He started to forge towards the exit, one sluggish boot before the other. Freedom was near, just two steps away. His eyebrows were a sponge of saltwater and sweat was carving a new canyon between his shoulder blades. One step now, just one more.

The exit door smoothed over like melting wax in front of his very eyes. It moulded and melded until a plain wall replaced it. Edgwin could hold it in no longer, his body started shaking and he sobbed. Helplessness and hopelessness replaced all thoughts of action now.

The door behind him slammed open, waking him instantly to the horrors that were surely to come…

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