D&D (2024) What could One D&D do to bring the game back to the dungeon?


I'd love to see a modern version of D&D refocused on dungeon exploration, and with a new revision/spiffying up/half edition/whatever of 5E in One D&D, I wonder what rule tweaks could they do to the 5E chassis to make it work well as a dungeon crawler (as @overgeeked called it)?

The biggest issues with 5E as a good dungeon crawl game are that the exploration pillar is essentially ignored, especially in regards to resource management and environmental elements (like lighting). I think shoring up some DCs for common exploration tasks as well as upping the use of tables can help. More importantly though would be the curtailing of a lot of spells and class abilities that obviate dungeon exploration challenges. Light should not be a cantrip, for eample.


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I think the argument about 5e not being exploration-friendly is weak and doesn't track with what actually occurs on my tabletop or in most published adventures, so I'm not even going to bother addressing that premise.

The biggest problem with D&D as a dungeon crawler is that combat takes ages and mostly isn't that fun.

The other problem is that dungeon crawls are occasionally fun but emphasis on "occasionally." The game has evolved since the 1970s, and so has the playing culture. Dungeon crawls in ye olden days were very light on story - if you look at those early modules, the dungeon crawls and combat encounters were the point, with the story being there to facilitate them. I don't think most tables play that way anymore. It's great that some do - more power to 'em - but 4e was probably the most dungeon crawler friendly version of the game since AD&D and it tanked.


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Oh man. So many changes.

The nerf to exhaustion is a move in the right direction. You can use exhaustion from the "play test" without crippling the party from the off. For some that wasn't an issue but for others it was a game quitting line never to be crossed.

Light. Races would need to be changed, i.e. you'd need to not have something like 75% of all PC races have darkvision. You'd also need to remove light as a cantrip. Somehow center the effects of dim light (disadvantage on perception checks). Push for the black & white sight of darkvision to actually matter (like making lots of things dependent on color vision).

Food & Water. They are doing a bit of the work by removing the ribbon abilities from backgrounds (looking at you Outlander) along with swapping favored terrain out for expertise in the ranger. Both of these work to make exploration not automatic, which is a step in the right direction. Though with the default DCs of things like getting lost and foraging, expertise is effectively automatic exploration...but it's a start in the right direction. Also remove or nerf spells like create food & water, goodberry, etc.

Resting. This is the big one. RAW long rests in 5E give you too much. Long rests in the "play test" give you even more. You either need to nerf resting, or dramatically increase...basically everything on the DM's side of things to make 5E anything more difficult than a cakewalk. Things like wandering monsters every 10 minutes and start all those encounters at deadly. Definitely remove Leomund's Tiny Bunker.

Procedures. You'd actually need to put the procedures for dungeon crawling together in one place that's in the actual main books instead of sort of put them together in the two DM's screens focused on wilderness and dungeon exploration. And, of course, you'd need those procedures to be good and work as intended...and for that intent to be properly challenging the PCs and players.

Personally, I doubt WotC will ever do anything like most of those. Mainstream D&D has moved on. The new player base is more interested in high action, tough guy, badasses. The appetite for hard scrabble adventures with weak, near-peasant adventurers is still there, but it's a niche within a niche within a niche at this point.

I think the argument about 5e not being exploration-friendly is goofy and doesn't track with what actually occurs on my tabletop or in most published adventures, so I'm not even going to bother addressing that premise.
What do you mean "exploration-friendly"? The OP seems to be saying that what is lacking are exploration challenges, and that, while 5e has plenty of combat challenge, there are lots of things that make exploration of a space not a challenge.


PCs shouldn't have darkvision in the first place, but even if they do if played by the actual rules darkvision is a very bad way to move around a dungeon.
Kind of too late for that.
And does requiring people to carry torches that much of a challenge?

Twilight cleric definitely needs a nerf though.


Matt Colville had a video about this I seem to recall. He talked about the item list in the PHB and how it is only there now for us to fondly recall the items and then nobody uses them. He talks about 1e and being fragile. Using your 10ft pole to prod through dungeons above and below for traps- hoping to get enough coin to be able to buy a hooded lantern. Then you would not need to count your torches. Counting arrows meant something since you engaged in melee meant you could die. The game was set up around the crawl and this mundane record keeping.

I do not see going back to this myself. PCs have become heroes at 1st level and the game is less gotcha between the players and the DM. The new game is more about class and not items, magic included. Being scared to die has been so watered down that everyone expects to walk into whateer the DM/module has and not die.

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