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


Magic Wordsmith
I suppose one thing I don't like about dungeons is that they don't really provide any mental challenges for the party. It's mostly physical. You travel down a corridor, you deal with monsters, you might come across some treasure, and you might come across some traps. Now the mental challenges I am speaking of aren't making a number of skill checks. I am talking about things like riddles and puzzles the party must solve in order to enter the next part of the dungeon or to open up the treasure vault. Stuff where a skill check isn't going to be handy, and where it's more a matter of being lucky/unlucky. :p

Here I was thinking dungeons are pretty famous for including riddles and puzzles. Those are the parts I don't like as a player, but they are definitely there.

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Magic Wordsmith
In any edition, I always found their prevalence in game worlds unbelievable, especially mega-dungeons. Even with magic, the cost, time. man-power etc to build them, then stock them with traps, and monsters just always seemed pretty unrealistic and unbelievable. Granted I understand that its a fantasy game and the first iterations were based on the premise of the dungeon crawl which is the only reason I can suspend disbelief just enough to accept them as part of the game. As a player I find anything over 10 rooms or so repetative and boring. As a DM designing a dungeon with any more than 10 rooms is challenging to keep it fresh and come up with new ideas, so I use them very infrequently. If Im a player and the game is mostly dungeon crawling it rarely holds my attention for any more than 2-3 sessions before I lose interest.
I believe there was a shift sometime after their introduction to focus more on "realistic" dungeons but really they are just stand-ins symbolically for The Underworld, which explains a lot of their fever dream qualities, particularly in the early days of the game. While they aren't meant to be realistic (or at least weren't), they can be made to be.


While they aren't meant to be realistic (or at least weren't), they can be made to be.
True. I havent read the OG Undermountain boxed set in years but the history and its construction for me was always one of the best explanations of a mega-dungeon that I can recall, with a detailed history that took place over a long period of time and is still evolving and constantly changing.


They tend to invite tedium.

DMs tend to feel required to make them WAY too big and make every room there into a whole thing. And that make going through them a multi-session slog that exacerbates all the 'obnoxious resource mini-game' tropes that the exploration pillar has devolved into while also cutting off most reasonable opportunities to meet new characters and do things that aren't fight and wait for the rogue or wizard to do things.


Space Jam Confirmed
I think dungeons, or, more generally, site-based adventures with explorable maps (could be a dungeon, tower, ruins, a castle, a galleon, etc.) represent the adventure style best supported by 5E's rules, and are absolutely my favorite style of play as both a player and a DM.

Such adventures should provide an exciting mix of combat, exploration, and role-playing opportunities. The adventurers should have personal reasons for being there, the location should have a reason for existing, and its denizens should have agendas and goals. There should often be multiple viable ways to approach challenges.

Site-based adventures can certainly fall flat by being too repetitive, too big, too empty, or lacking in character and cool details. This is generally an issue with the designers, the DM, or a combination of both.

As a player, I actually find site-based exploration gives me the most freedom while playing and makes me feel the most actively engaged with the physical environment of the game. Like I'm proactively in control of where my character is going and what they are doing and how they are interacting with the environment. I enjoy other modes of play, but I definitely feel like they have a tendency to be more passive/reactive to specific opportunities the DM gives me.
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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.
Where I would not go so far as to say "I hate dungeons" I am closer to that then the "I love dungeons" group... I feel they have there place and useing them in moderation is best

This game is best (IMO) when the town adventures and the wilderness adventures out number the dungeon ones... but I also feel like you need those dungoens too.
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?
for me a dungeon crawl is 70% combat 20% exploration and 10% other (and less then half that as social...) and worst of all the dreaded "Every ten foot check for traps dungeons drive me bonkers
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?

As a DM I try to break that above mentioned mold... I try to have a good mix of encounters even in dungeons, and I try to make sure there is a good story reason for it to be there and why everything that lives there does...
(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.)
I started to feel this way back in the 90's... more time in the game didn't help... some DMs useing a random dungeon creator from 3.0 that allowed a 10x10 room to have 6+ medium and large monsters in it (Now and for ever they are frat demons trying to squize in as many as they can) didn't help


Most enjoyable dungeon scenario I ran:

PCs were led blindfolded into Fane of the Night Serpent (Tomb of Annihilation) to negotiate with yuan-ti. I described what they observed with their other senses going in, then revealed what they could see deep in the dungeon. It began with really tense negotiations (hostage release in exchange for magic McGuffin item), and the drama kept ratcheting up... oh, they're holding more hostages than we thought... oh, this yuan-ti lord Ras Nsi is super evil but he makes some really good points and good be a useful ally... oh, there's intense feuding happening between a couple factions within the yuan-ti... oh, there's a tempting spellbook the wizard PC would like to steal.

What I liked about how I adapted the dungeon was that there were clear Story Beats that evoked some emotional response and required more than problem-solving thinking, but also thinking about what mattered to the character. Starting it as a primarily social scene was a really nice change of pace.

I also like how I flipped the usual script of PCs gathering at the dungeon entrance.

Other larger dungeons I've run tend to overstay their welcome because they lacked A) good "connection points" to insert emotional/character growth story beats, and B) stayed a little too "on track" to the dungeon delving formula.

I like dungeon crawls, but one thing I find myself almost always having to do is the legwork on (for prewritten adventures) is to make sure each choice of direction has at least something to make the decision more meaningful. So that rather than people always picking north arbitrarily, they can say "well, we can go towards the ominous chanting from the western corridor or through the doorway with the strange runes to the north."
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For me, personally, it's always been a struggle against my own brain to be able to slap down a dungeon (or other location) without having compelling reasons for its existence...

Why is this dungeon there - what's the reason for its existence? Who put it there? (Especially if it's out in the middle of nowhere with no other civilization around...)
If it's anywhere near civilization, why hasn't it been discovered/fully explored/pillaged yet?
Since the dungeon was obviously built for a purpose, what was that purpose? And keeping that purpose in mind, how does each room in the dungeon serve that purpose, without just existing simply to add more rooms to the map?
If it has monsters in it, how do they survive? What do they eat? How do they manage to coexist without the more badass ones killing off the weaker ones?
And, as Quickleaf mentioned in the post above, even if the rational narrative justification for having a dungeon exists, how do I make it interesting for the party? Should every last forgotten ruin have some dire magical prophesy or legendary lost item associated with it, or house some powerful enemy or faction?

Given that I've taken classes in sociology, anthropology, and psychology, and enjoy reading about history, linguistics and other stuff, it's tough for me to just add something to my game worlds without at least a rough idea of how it fits into the world around it and how it affects both the past and present of my game.

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