D&D General (+) What Should Go in a D&D Book About Dungeons?

Reynard

Legend
I’ve always liked the idea of an organized lived in dungeon having alert stages like DEFCON.

Unaware - PCs get an advantage on stealth and perception tests to spot jnhabitants

Alert - Standard rules apply - but monsters may change locations

Inflamed - Monsters use certain items and will actively search for PCs. Move in bigger groups, take precautions like locking doors.

Collapsing - monsters know that major leaders are dead are likely to parley, flee or surrender in small groups.

Depending on the size of the dungeon this might be all the inhabitants or in large dungeons one pocket of foes. Some rules and advice for how to apply this could be good.
This is just semantics on my part but what you are describing isn't a dungeon, it is a working fortress. I don't think a dungeon is defined as a structured location with some monsters in it. I think the fact that it is ruined, labyrinthine, balkanized, re-inhabited, full of forgotten secrets, and just plain weird make it a dungeon.

If it is the place where the evil overlord forces his weapons and trains his troops for sorties against the good and civilized lands, it is a fortress. And the way PCs would interact with that place is very different than the way they would explore a dungeon. Not to mention the different motivations for doing so.

Of course, it's easy enough to say a fortress is a kind of dungeon with a specific purpose. That's fine and you can certainly have a chapter about dungeon taxonomy. But to me, the king's vault and the villain's tower would get a different classification than "dungeon" just to create a clear distinction.
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
That was my point: dungeons are an otherworld. Or,I think they are best used as otherworlds, because the moment you start trying to make a dungeon work with regular world rules, it falls apart. It doesn't have to be as explicit as I was saying -- those examples were just to counter the idea that only realism could give dungeons a consistent story. But if you want a place where a bunch of banditsive alongside a tribe of hyena-men, just around the corner from the cursed blood fountain where the vampiric mist rules, with bizarre mechanical traps between, you have to suspend disbelief and the rules.
It feels like there are different levels of belief suspension, and a long way between spreadsheets to work out food supplies and having trolls in adjacent rooms to dwarves and rooms of tomatoes and corn growing with no light. (Similar to campaign worlds needing some suspension of belief or protection from forensic accounting, but maybe benefiting from not having the most nonsensical stuff poked in the party's face).
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
This is just semantics on my part but what you are describing isn't a dungeon, it is a working fortress. I don't think a dungeon is defined as a structured location with some monsters in it. I think the fact that it is ruined, labyrinthine, balkanized, re-inhabited, full of forgotten secrets, and just plain weird make it a dungeon.

If it is the place where the evil overlord forces his weapons and trains his troops for sorties against the good and civilized lands, it is a fortress. And the way PCs would interact with that place is very different than the way they would explore a dungeon. Not to mention the different motivations for doing so.

Of course, it's easy enough to say a fortress is a kind of dungeon with a specific purpose. That's fine and you can certainly have a chapter about dungeon taxonomy. But to me, the king's vault and the villain's tower would get a different classification than "dungeon" just to create a clear distinction.

Is B2 a dungeon crawl? If I stock the map of a large IRL estate with monsters is that a dungeon? Does a dungeon stop being one if the creatures in it vaguely communicate and might organize against intruders who aren't careful?
 

Reynard

Legend
Is B2 a dungeon crawl? If I stock the map of a large IRL estate with monsters is that a dungeon? Does a dungeon stop being one if the creatures in it vaguely communicate and might organize against intruders who aren't careful?
I think the definition is folded up in its reason for being. A dungeon is (most succinctly put) there to be explored. It exists in a state of invitation to the bold and foolish. That isn't to say it is unchanging, or that any particular faction or entity in the dungeon doesn't have a specific motivation, or that PCs don't have a different motivation for going in. Maybe a group of bandits is using the dungeon as a base of operations from which to attack merchants, and they have fortified one section of rooms to that end. That doesn't make it not-a-dungeon. But if it was just a small set of caves and all there was were the bandits, by the definition I am talking about here that is not-a-dungeon.

But now I'm wondering about taxonomy for those small locations with a specific purpose and a singular motivated enemy type (the old fort occupied by goblins, say). If I want "dungeon" to mean what I described above, what do I call these other things? Or, if I accept dungeon as the generic term, what sorts of breakdown terms do I use for the different sorts of danger filled holes?

Interesting. I will have to give it some thought. Does anyone in this thread have a taxonomy they like, either from a dungeon design book or of their own making?
 

jgsugden

Legend
These things aren't related. Like, at all. You can absolutely have a strong story to a dungeon despite it being a place where the regular rules are suspended. ...You don't need to know where the kobolds poop for a dungeon to be compelling and powerful. And chances are, the more real you make it, the more boring the dungeon will be, because every interesting, dramatic thing you might want to do has to pass an arbitrary "realism" test...
It isn't about compelling and powerful. It is abount being sensical. If the dungeon makes sense, you tend to try to make sense out of the elements you see. If it is random and doesn't make sense, there is no reason to try. That takes away a powerful tool for storybuilding, and a significant element of the game.

And if you think that details in a story make it boring, you're overlooking a lot of fiction from the past several centuries that contradicts the theory. There are so many positive elements of the game and storytelling in general that are reinforced by having a world that makes sense, including suspension of disbelief.

Yes, you can run a game where you throw random stuff together and players look at only the short term issue of what is right in front of them - and that can be a blast. However, there is a huge benefit to using tools that support long term storytelling more comprehensively.
So, there's a right way to play?
Yes. The one that is most fun for you and your players.

That being said, I'm describing what benefits you get from having a dungeon that makes sense. I am not saying you have to play this way or I'm taking away your dice. I'm saying that having your world make sense provides you with a very strong tool.

There are costs to it as well - the DM has to put in the time to think things through, and regardless of how good you are, you're going to overlook some things which leave you with a need to patch over the accidental error. However, there is a huge benefit to having a world in which the players have reason to consider the things around their PCs that do not appear to make sense at first. Do the benefits exceed the costs? You have to anaswer that question for yourself - there is a considerable benefit and you have to figure out how big of a cost you consider the time it takes to think things through and learn how to build sensical environments.
There are a lot of opinions here…perfectly valid opinions, mind you…presented as objective facts.

This may be your experience, but it is by no means universally shared.
The view is not universally shared, but the underlying logic is not loose opinion. A lot of people do not know how a rainbow 'works', but that doesn't change whether you'll see one or not.

I've played with a lot of DMs, and I've run for a lot of players. When the world makes sense, the players strongly tend to expect it to make sense. When it doesn't make sense, players do not look for it to make sense in the same way. If you want to label that as an opinion, you can do so - but it is based upon a lot of factual observations over decades of play. Experience, not opinion, backs it up.

There are, of course, exceptions. Some players don't pay attention to the world at all, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. If that is your entire group, then you won't reap the rewards without some effort. And other players work really hard to make sense out of a world that just dosn't make sense (which is usually frustrating for the player in question).

However, the strong majority of players, and groups as a whole, tend to strongly fall into the trends I described: When the world makes sense, they try to make sense of the things they see. If it doesn't make sense, they don't try to find the sense in it.

Why is this such a powerful tool? When something doesn't make sense, and that is unusual, then it gives a reason to investigate and further the storyline in that direction. It gives the DM a tool to develop cascading continuity. It is a tool for building story without
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Chapter X: Creating a Dungeon
  • Dungeons
    • Building a Dungeon
    • Dungeon Features
      • Walls
      • Doors
      • Traps
      • Hazards
        • Slimes and Mold
        • Webs
        • Rubble
        • Arcane Hazards
  • Dungeon Types
    • Death Trap
    • Demiplane
    • Lair
    • Manor
    • Maze
    • Mine
    • Stronghold
    • Temple
    • Tomb
    • Vault
  • Designing a Dungeon
    • Designing for Tactical Encounters
      • Building Encounters
    • Designing for Dramatic Story
      • Villainous Groups
    • Designing for Logical Ecology
      • Dungeon Environments
    • Designing for Unpredictable Wonder
      • Dungeon Random Encounters
 


dave2008

Legend
Which is a problem for 5th edition because the system is set up to not have depleting resources. Unlimited access to light and widespread access to darkvision, creating water as a 1st level spell and creating food as a 3rd level spell, and no need to carry large amounts of heavy gold and silver to advance in levels all work against that. I don't think that's something that can be addressed by a splatbook, but needs to be baked into the core mechanics of the game.
I mean it is trivial easy to make such resource management an issue in 5e, if you want /are willing too.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I mean it is trivial easy to make such resource management an issue in 5e, if you want /are willing too.
I would think so, though it run counter to the common culture of play. The first step would be a frank discussion of the level of granularity in the interaction with the world (fiction) that is desired and how best to achieve that.
 

Reynard

Legend
I would think so, though it run counter to the common culture of play. The first step would be a frank discussion of the level of granularity in the interaction with the world (fiction) that is desired and how best to achieve that.
Sure. Of you want the players to worry about light, for example, you have to talk to them.and come up with some table rules that get it done. That's generally easier, in my experience, if the official books offer those options. There's a strange psychology of "officialness" at work there that I don't fully understand but have seen time and again.
 

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