D&D 5E What Don't You Like About Dungeons?


Magic Wordsmith
So you've decided to play this game called Dungeons & Dragons. But, perhaps after some experience with the game, you've decided you don't like dungeons. I feel like I see this a lot in various online discussions and I find it unusual to take a stance against the very thing the game was seemingly designed around and still continue playing it.

While the game can feature adventure locations and situations that aren't or don't involve dungeons, what is it specifically about dungeons that you don't like? When you hear that it's time for a "dungeon crawl," what sort of negative things does that conjure in your mind? If you're a DM, why do you avoid running dungeons in your own games?

If you do like dungeons (or at least like them as much as other adventure locations), what do you like about them? How do you approach them as a player? If you're a DM, what kind of resources do you use to help you design and run them effectively?

(I'm making this a D&D 5e thread because that is the most recent and arguably popular version of the game. If you're going to talk about other editions or even other games, please say so explicitly so as to mitigate misunderstandings as to rules or the like.)

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Once the dungeon gets too big in terms of number of encounters, things start to become stagnate. This may be moreso if the environment stays the same. I think it can be better if the dungeon changes from a church basement that leads to a set of sewers, maybe followed by an underground lake and finally ends at the cavern of overgrown mushrooms. This is loads better than just a brick basement for 20 rooms.

Mostly the same advise for the types of monsters as well. The base monster can be found in several parts of the dungeon, but add other allies, neutrals, and even allies of the PCs that could be in the dungeon.

I'm running the Against the Giants series at the moment and there is a lot of the same here, and I find it getting boring.


I think dungeons are like 80s music. Great in the 80's when they were fresh and new.
Dungeons are a convenient tool in video games because it restricts the movement of the pixel characters for easier coding.
D&D is similar.

DM: "You come to a junction and you can go left or right."
Player: "Fantastic, we go left".
DM: "You walk down a corridor 20 feet when..."
Player: "Wait, we were searching for traps and secret doors!"
DM: "..."

Riveting. I mean this has to be the most interesting adventure ever made...

Dungeons are great, but for the whole adventure or even two sessions in a row... ugh.
Once you become an adult, you have to be a particular mindset for repeating that kind of game, hour after hour.
It is fun when you are in high school, and it is fun to return to it now and then, mostly for nostalgia.

But that is one mind-numbing movie, and you will note that the underdark portion of the D&D movie was only a small fraction of the entire adventure.

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I love dungeons, but in line with some of the comments above, not when it gets repetitive, or when it is clear that rooms were added for the sake of adding rooms. I don't think there's a size limit, but it does get harder to keep it fresh and interesting as size increases.


A suffusion of yellow
I think dungeons are like 80s music. Great in the 80's when they were fresh and new.
hey! The 80’s was the perfect era of great music, I still listen to it!

but Dungeon crawls are boring, having to visit and search each room for a couple of coins and maybe the secret artifact of BBEG slaying is naff. Just gimme an overview, a roll to see if I find treasure and get me to the next part of the story.
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Dungeons are great. But they take too long to get drawn up and to maneuver around (the dungeoncrawl part). Meanwhile, just adventuring out in the world only needs a few set pieces drawn out and the rest described. Might be faster to handle via Virtual tabletop, but I think most of us are not good enough with the app we use to do so in a quick manner. The novelty of the dungeon crawl is no longer enough to carry the long wait times in a tabletop game since its been mimicked via video games for decades at this point.

The result has mainly been that we rarely do actual true dungeons in D&D these days and mostly do set pieces and roleplaying exclusively in campaigns. I don't think it's a coincidence that this is also almost exclusively what we see in Let's Plays on Twitch and YouTube, dungeoncrawling has fallen out of favor for the most part.

I often find myself liking nothing but dungeons. For example, in Tomb of Annihilation, I was kind of bored by the overland travel, but completely enthralled by the Tomb at the end. Give me stone corridors with traps and secret doors all day every day. Maybe it's because I cut my teeth on dungeons in the 80s?


I tend to equate dungeons with defined locations. A temple, a thieves guild tavern, a forgotten labyrinth in the wilderness are all dungeons to me.
What does not interest me is the old school inventory management game and the game of inventory resources vs the environment. So this means that these locations must not become too big.
The old mega dungeons were mega because a large part of the challenge was how to extend your logistics into the further reached of that location.
One of the abiding flaws is that many modern adventures and groups handwave the logistics but the game has never really replaces the original logistic rules or the assumptions that underpinned them.

The game could do with a fresh look at exploration and logistics.


Veins of the Earth provided perhaps the most inspirational and natural dungeon experience for me as a DM ever. I can't recommend it enough for the cavern system dungeon vs a more formal carved dwarven stronghold. Almost certainly my favourite D&D reference book that I have used to carve into the earth.


I'm assuming the OP means something like "why don't you like dungeon crawls, because dungeons remain integral to the game, they just tend to be smaller and interspersed with other things that typically supply a variety of different role-play and problem-solving opportunities.

I do like dungeon crawls. On occasion. I just find them repetitive, so they're like anything else: good in moderation.


A very OK person
For 5E specifically, a lack of good clear instructions for designing, stocking, repopulating, and using a dungeon as an adventure site are why I tend toward disliking dungeons at the moment.

And while you are free to design whatever dungeon you like for whatever reasons tickle you, it might do to consider the party’s expected capability at current level. A cliff or gap in a dungeon is an obstacle for low level parties, a mild annoyance for parties around level 4, and probably not even a mild irritation once there’s easy access to flight (as we might expect sometime in levels 5-8).

Though, really that’s true throughout 5E. A lot of assorted parts (like rules or tables) with very little instruction how to combine them. Or how and why you would want to.

And stemming from that, no real instruction how to run them either - which results in those sort non-choice (left path / right path) or other weird bits like how to handle traps. Or whether the party runs into wandering monsters. And why that might matter.

Anyway it all piles up into a lot of work for a lackluster payoff. As-written. You and I might rely on our experience and maybe guidance from other editions or games to put this stuff together in a good way - but that’s a band-aid (and a time-sink digging through my older / other books).


I like dungeons, both as a player and a DM, for largely the same reason: focus. Everything for the adventure is usually pretty clearly defined in a dungeon setting. The bad guys and goal are likely present, allowing the players to focus on resolving the immediate challenges in front of them. This is why most adventures eventually end in a dungeon, and in most APs they end a lot of chapters with one too.

Dungeons get a bad rap, mostly because of bad DMing IMO. Unless you're running a pure loot/survival game, a dungeon needs a goal and a purpose, otherwise players stop caring after a session or two. Dungeons need to have some logical sense to them, which is problematic for most DMs without architectural/engineering degrees (see the quote below). Not every dungeon has to be an underground lair, as anything with a restrained movement that keeps the PCs in focus technically counts as a dungeon.

You can't find a toilet when you need one.
This is a weird problem for the game. One of the classic adventures, Keep on the Borderlands, has a latrine area in the caves of chaos. It's strange, because apparently only 2 of the dozen groups of creatures use a latrine, but it creates a sense of realism that they'd have one. However, it does create a game problem, where the players might decide to "hole up" in there, picking off the enemy one at a time. I think these have been completely and deliberately removed from modern game design to prevent this type of strategy, plus the possibility of it offending some sensibilities (just like no one on TV or the movies ever has to go, unless its a plot point).

In general, I like dungeons and also dungeon crawls (maybe not as much as overland travel/hex crawls, but still without them a classical fantasy game feels incomplete to me).
How much I actually enjoy them is a matter of system (modern D&D: not so much; old-school D&D or Forbidden Lands: sure, why not; DCC: hell yeah!) and design (good: whimsical stuff, interesting traps and riddles, enemies that can be outsmarted; bad: a large amount of balanced encounters, traps without any sort of telegraphing or means of interaction, linear room designs), though.


  • Typically disconnected from the world. I prefer to run a game where you interact with the space you care about.
  • Dungeon spaces rarely make sense, and it takes a lot of work to change that.
  • Limited space for things like vehicles and mounts
  • Flying creatures are limited
  • Hard to justify not just collapsing or flooding the space
  • Tends to be pretty railroady
  • Puts players into crawl mode, which makes surprises hard and safe areas tedious


The High Aldwin
I like dungeons, of course, but the important thing for me is that the dungeon have a purpose and a reason to exist organically in my adventure/ game world.

I don't like to adventure in a dungeon just for the sake of playing in a dungeon.

As for the amount of time devoted to a dungeon adventure, I am happy with it taking as long as it takes. If it is a massive ancient cave system or a trek into the underdark or a Dwarven mine that is filled with traps and wonders makes no difference to me, and could take several sessions to play out. BUT, there has to be a reason for it, as I said above. :)


He / Him
I really enjoy both running dungeons as a DM and exploring dungeons as a player.

I think my friend put it best when he said that a good dungeon feels like every room is a little puzzle. You enter, figure out what is going on, and choose how to solve it. Maybe you fight, maybe you talk, maybe you look for a key, maybe you poke things. But each room promises a little challenge and a reward.

What I don't enjoy about certain dungeons:

* Dungeons without personal stakes. I want there to be a reason for my character to be in the dungeon, even if it's just the fact that I want to find gold to buy something I want. A great dungeon can be fun on its own, but a mediocre dungeon can be made great through personal stakes.

* Dungeons with ticking clocks. I know this is sometimes used to convince players not to rest too frequently, but nothing kills the joy of dungeon crawling for me more than having to constantly debate whether to spend time searching a room or moving on because there's a ticking clock. I had a DM run the Forge of Fury, but also have assassins coming after us. We wound up not exploring half the dungeons because these assassins would be arriving any day now. Not fun!

* Goblin villages. When I'm in a dungeon, I want to be killing bad guys or guardians who are corrupted, outright evil, or out to get me. I don't want to be invading the territory of a village of intelligent beings and then having to debate whether to spare the women and children or not. It just feels icky.

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