Books Full of Challenges and Traps for Fantasy RPGs. Dungeon Room Design Part 1.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There’s a good reason for keeping some of the old Grimtooth’s Traps (among other) books handy.

Can’t think of traps without good ol’ Grimtooth coming to mind.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There is also a 3rd Ed D&D book called the Book of Challenges that comes in handy for designing dungeon rooms, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. We’ll discuss it further in another article. There are countless other resources throughout the years, too many to effectively list here.

Some DMs/GMs shy away from the use of “death” traps. Like they’re afraid of mangling a character or something.

I’ve always had a very light-hearted, easy going approach to traps. I’ve ground up a few characters in them. Not all of them are an instant TPK, but a good number of them do require the attention of a skilled healer afterward. That’s something you just don’t get in the newest incarnation of D&D.

If I’m running a game and I say, “click,” everyone had better be prepared to roll a saving throw of some kind. Mechanical traps are the easy ones. When we start mixing in magic- that’s where things get really exciting. Oh, plus boobytrapped/cursed items. I might have a sadistic streak in my personality? (LOL!!!)

I used to build dungeons around the notion of being a gauntlet of traps with a few creatures strewn in for good measure. Some of those dungeons had some really sweet loot, though. I find that one has to entice the characters and even the players to a certain extent. Gauntlets of Ogre Power, +5 Holy Avenger, +3 Sword of Sharpness, and the occasional +1/+3 Dragon Slayer serve as good treasure should the group survive. (*Back in the day we had a lot of Fighters, Barbarians, and Assassins in the group.)

This is a trap I’ve used before. It’s a meat grinder.

But what about the ones that get squished?

Back in the old days, if a character ate it in a particularly brutal trap, Grimtooth’s or something I made up, we let the player roll up a new character two levels lower than the party. We let the new characters roll for loot plus whatever the group salvaged off of the squished character. Usually the group was pretty cool about helping out if someone lost a character in a dungeon in such a grim way.

Then it was just a matter of working the new character into the party as soon as they left the dungeon to sell treasure or replenish supplies. I recall a few rare occasions when the new characters wandered into the dungeon and rescued the preexisting group. Most of the time cherished, long term characters would miraculously survive certain doom with clever thinking and lucky rolls.

Proper prevention is worth a pound of premade characters.

Of course, the best way to prevent character death was to be on the constant lookout for traps. It was sometimes hilarious watching the group meticulously checking every square for pressure plates, tripwires, shifting floors, subtle inclines and holes in the walls. Sometimes they’d get lucky and find a secret door or a concealed room instead.

I had a player take a dwarven miner into a dungeon once who managed to circumvent several traps and monsters by tunneling straight through the walls of the dungeon. I was caught off guard by this maneuver and really had no counter for it the first time it happened. I’ve also seen high level spells used to flood, gas, or detonate some dungeon areas. (*Note, above-ground structures are particularly vulnerable to kabooms from the sky.)

After death traps really started taking their toll in the game, a couple of players got really smart and started playing Thieves. They’d warm up the percentile dice and then we didn’t see as many characters die in trap dungeons. Monsters, on the other hand…

After 3.5 or 4th Ed, traps fell out of style.

The pillars of adventuring: Grimtooth style.

Dungeons in D&D just ain’t what they used to be. Or at least in 5E people are slightly more attached to their characters. 4th Ed was fun because of the timing elements and the way the action economy worked. 4th also saw a lot of monsters get nerfed pretty bad.

Nowadays players tend to put a lot of thought and careful background planning into their new D&D characters. It makes the DM look bad when someone’s prized Tiefling Bard of Twitch and Instagram fame buys the farm in the most awful corridor trap the DM could find in Grimtooth’s Traps. It would upset the cosplayer/player horribly, and we just can’t have that.

OSR games usually aren’t hampered by such unofficial restrictions, of course. Most of us OGs are used to the possibility of being reckless in a dungeon being the end of a character. A lot of us don’t get overly attached to a character for just that reason. Some GM/DMs are more kind than others, though.

The best advice for handling traps in most games:

Talk about it before characters are made. That way someone might want to make a Thief. The group might want to hire some added help. (Alas, poor Jimmy the Torchbearer, back for more dungeon romps.) Knowing death could be lurking around any corner, the players may wish to brush up on Dungeoneering 101 somewhere. There are some key survival tactics out there if you read up.

On the other hand, if the prospect of traps that can literally swallow a character whole terrifies or slightly concerns the group? Please refrain from using them? Especially new players might be turned off of gaming if one of their characters runs afoul of one of the Grimtooth style character grinders.

The other rule I’ve incorporated into my game over the years is the “Click” Rule. If the DM/GM says “Click!” while the group is wassailing around in a dungeon, we go around the table and each player gets to describe one action before the trap goes off. I forget exactly who came up with this rule, but I love it. It has made traps far more interesting when players do all kinds of crazy, paranoid things because they think the trap is on them.

Remember, as a GM/DM you always have the option to not use traps or nerf them.

You can always select a less lethal option or just omit the trap all together. When I make a Five Room Dungeon, (*See Johnn Four’s Five Room Dungeon Guide for more.) I like to make at least one of the rooms some sort of trap element. There’s also usually a room with a puzzle or special lock.

The idea, of course, is to make the players think on their feet a bit more. If every room has a trap, the group is likely going to get bored. Or start finding ways to set everything off without their precious characters getting greased. (Alas, poor Sparky the Squirrel familiar. May he rest until summoned again.) But, if carefully planned and executed, traps can be a heap of fun.

I hope you found some use of this article. Traps are one of my favorite dungeoneering aspects to any fantasy game. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. Game on!

Disclaimer: Never build or use any traps in real life. Someone could be seriously injured or worse. In short- It’s just not worth it. Be kind. Talk it out.

New Dungeon Creation for Dungeon Crawl Classics.

After pulling the dragon down and remaking it in her own image, the demon learned of arcane magic and its corrupting influences. She began making minions using crystals from the ground and common spiders and ticks from the surrounding area. Now, a terrifying subterranean structure lies in wait for anyone who unwittingly stumbles into it. Will you survive?

Working title: Warrens of the Arcane Spider Dragon.

Hundreds of years ago, a demon worked its way out of the bowels of hell itself and built a terrifying labyrinthine lair to begin hatching its horrifying minions. But it needed fodder for building its forces. Unfortunately for one dragon, it would lead to horrifying mutations.

After pulling the dragon down and remaking it in her own image, the demon learned of arcane magic and its corrupting influences. She began making minions using crystals from the ground and common spiders and ticks from the surrounding area. Now, a terrifying subterranean structure lies in wait for anyone who unwittingly stumbles into it. Will you survive?

For the Judge:

This dungeon is designed for advanced characters (DCC Levels 6-7 or higher.) There are a variety of challenges over three levels. Some parts of this dungeon will spell certain death for unwitting adventurers. Caution is recommended.

There are multiple points of entry into this dungeon. Depending on where the Player Characters stumble, choose, or get dragged into, it could be the deadliest encounter of the dungeon. However, with great danger comes fantastic magical loot from the dragon’s hoard and everything collected thereafter.

There are multiple levels to this dungeon along with secret passages, trap doors, and various arachnid-based monsters. Feel free to edit anything in this dungeon. It’s in your hands now!

The end boss herself may have actually tunneled away ages ago. The dragon has never hunted during the day for some reason. Is it just a terrifying myth? Maybe the arcane generator burned out and some of the sentries no longer function. The Judge is free to modify or even tone down some of the lethality as they see fit.

For the players:

Rumors and stories have been passed from bar room to tavern table for centuries about a creature so incredibly foul it could have only crawled out of the bowels of Hell itself. There is a dragon with six legs and two arms, a head with 8 eyes and a maw of terrifying mandibles and meat-rending fangs. Its leathery wings propel it through the air at frightening speeds and its webs resist even the sharpest blades.

The rumors may be true. Cattle on the edge of town have been going missing for the past few weeks. Woodsmen and hunters have been missing for days. It’s as if the earth itself swallowed them whole. An unwitting farmer stumbled onto several empty, exsanguinated husks on the edge of his field and now refuses to leave his home.

Lots more to come!

I hope you enjoyed this teaser. I’m working on what is sure to be a huge dungeon, well above and beyond the usual five rooms. This dungeon was loosely inspired by one of the maps on Heroes of the Storm and an episode of Orville. I’ve been wanting to do a larger dungeon for a while now. I think it’s going to be as much fun to run as it was to create.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! Have a great day. Game on!

Artifacts of the Wolf Lord DCC RPG.

These items will be available after the final boss fight in Room 2-2 in the Catacomb of the Wolf Lord to be released soon. It’s not as easy as one might imagine to obtain one of these items.

I make no aspersions about game balance. Use at your own risk.

These items haven’t been fully tested in DCC. The items are built around the two base classes of Warrior and Thief but could be used by Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling. Please also note the wielders of these items won’t know immediately what they are capable of. Some trial and error may be in order.

These items will be available after the final boss fight in Room 2-2 in the Catacomb of the Wolf Lord to be released soon. It’s not as easy as one might imagine to obtain one of these items.

Both items can easily be adapted to other RPGs, especially OSR games.

Fang of the Wolf Lord:

This sword is forged from the physical fang of the Wolf Lord. It is granted by him to a wielder who he deems worthy. If the owner of the sword dies, the sword magically returns to the Wolf Lord in 1d6 days.

The sword is a short sword, long sword or two handed sword depending on the owner’s preference. It can be stored in the sheath of a dagger when it is not in use. It grows to the full length chosen when drawn.

In any form, it is a +2 Lawful 10 INT, 3 Banes, 3 type 1 powers, 1 type 2 power. 1d12 Special Power. Empathy.

Bane 1: Lycanthropes. +1 Damage Bonus.
Bane 2: Un-dead: +1 to hit and damage
Bane 3: Demons: +1 to hit and damage. (This is not listed in the DCC book.)

Special Purpose: Protect the Weak
Power 1: Detect Evil 1d4x10’
Power 2: Detect Invisible 1/day.
Power 3: Gives the owner Infravision 120’.

Special Power (Not listed in DCC.) Summon Spirit Wolf 1/Day:
Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 3d6 (18hp); MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL L. Always appears with Max HP. Will follow the instructions of the wielder as long as the Purpose and Banes of the sword are being followed. Disappears for 24 hours if destroyed.

May be summoned again IF the sword deems it necessary.

(Artwork to come)

Cloak of the Wolf Lord:

Granted to a roguish servant of the Wolf Lord. Upon declaring allegiance to the Celestial Pack of the Wolves, this items attunes to the person to whom it was granted. Wearing the Cloak bestows the following:

+3 AC or acts as +3 Hide Armor if none is worn (AC +6, 1d8 Fumble, No Movement penalty.)
+2 to any check involving smell or hearing while the armor is worn.
+2 Sneak Silently
+2 Hide in Shadows* Hide and Sneak bonuses also apply in woodland surroundings with sufficient cover.
Wearer will automatically be regarded as friendly by regular wolves.

More to come! Thanks for stopping by!

Items for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics and other OSR games.

DCC Catacomb of the Wolf Lord 1-5: The Long Hallway.

After the first 40′ it becomes apparent they are no longer in the dungeon they entered, but have walked through a portal into a densely forested realm. The sun is perpetually dimmed by cloud cover and there is some patchy fog around the trees in every direction. From behind, it just looks like the group kept going down the hallway. After the last PC steps in, a kodama spirit appears.

So far, it hasn’t been so bad.

The group will have to put in some effort to find these doors, but they aren’t as difficult because of their size. They are still covered in mud, but if the group takes a little time to excavate, these doors are gorgeous and telling.

Read aloud:

It took some effort, but you’ve uncovered two large, ornately carved, bronze bound doors. They are heavy and rounded at the top, probably to match the hallway beyond. You feel a slight chill go up your spine when you touch the door, as if touching the lid to an occupied coffin. The doors themselves give off a somber energy, as though one were taking their final walk after a life well lived. The two old, bronze rings are heavy with age and mud.

If the players clean the doors off, the left door has an ornate, lovingly carved picture of a wolf, standing on a cliff, howling. On the right door is a moon over a forest. The moon is faintly glowing. The doors are magically locked.

This was the Wolf Lord’s one last chance to howl at the moon. If the players read through the journal, it chronicles the Wolf Lord’s final journey to his resting place. The coven gave him one last chance to howl.

Unless the characters have a way to magically unlock the doors, they may howl at the moon and the doors will magically unlock. They are extremely heavy and require a DC 15 Strength Check to open.
Read aloud:

Your mighty howls seem to activate the magic in the lock and you pull the doors open with a stout heave. What lies beyond may not have been for mortal eyes. You see a painstakingly carved round stone hallway. There is a faint glow of magic in the doorway. The hall is round and tall, except for the floor, which is squeaky clean and flat. Magic globes faintly light the wall.

The Hallway seems normal for the first 20′ or so.

After the first 40′ it becomes apparent they are no longer in the dungeon they entered, but have walked through a portal into a densely forested realm. The sun is perpetually dimmed by cloud cover and there is some patchy fog around the trees in every direction. From behind, it just looks like the group kept going down the hallway. After the last PC steps in, a kodama spirit appears.

The diminutive creature rattles its head to sort of communicate. It walks among the PCs and checks them over. It stops and waves its arm. Suddenly 36 kodama appear and begin wandering through the party. They appear to be looking everyone over, but are harmless. If the group attempts to harm them, remind them that the little spirits are ethereal and mean no harm. They’re just studying the group for what comes next.

They will climb onto the PCs, inspect their gear, maybe even try to interact a little. The little spirits are trying to determine alignment. Check their alignments. This will determine which wolves they will face.

IF the group tries to turn around, all they see is forest and fog.
MAP:
Since the encounter takes place on the spiritual plane of The Happy Hunting Grounds, the Judge is free to produce any large forested area desired or throw down trees randomly. There should rarely be unbroken line of sight for more than 20′-30′ aside from the 20′ wide path the characters are travelling along.

The kodama scamper off after a few minutes except the first one. It motions them forward. As the group walks forward into the dense forest, wisps of fog surround them. It becomes readily apparent that they are not alone in the forest. Wolves are moving among the trees, yipping and growling.

There are three wolves per PC. The wolves are all the same pack, but each PC will be “tested” by the wolves matching their alignment.

The Lawful Spirit Wolves:
Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 3d6 (18hp ea); MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL L.

The Neutral Wolves:
Init +3; Atk bite +2 melee (1d4); AC 12; HD 2d6 (12 hp ea.); MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +1; AL N.

The Chaotic Dire Wolves:
Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 3d6 (18 hp); MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL C.

Tests:
The Lawful Wolves will approach and insist the characters follow. They will ask telepathically why the characters wish to see him. As long as the Lawful characters are pure of motive, no one will be attacked and they will be permitted to move on. It will be a pleasant conversation.

The Neutral Wolves will surround the group. They will circle cautiously and sniff out an alpha to challenge. Then, a Large wolf with a scar over its left eye will approach. It has AC 16 and 4d6 HD (24hp) and will only fight until significantly injured or the group’s alpha is injured.

The Chaotic Wolves will single out the Chaotic characters and fight to the near-death. They may even drag the weakest looking character off into the woods until the battle is decided.

The character who rescued the large tooth from Room 1-3 may show it, if he remembers and be automatically chosen as alpha/party leader/representative of the whole group as an emissary.

IF the group becomes frightened and attack anything but the Chaotic Wolves, ALL of the wolves in the encounter will work together to fight the group. They will surround, pull, and double team the group as much as they reasonably can. They will attack weak-looking characters, spellcasters, and Halflings first.

However, the wolves will not intentionally kill any of the party. The goal is to test the group’s resolve and pure intentions for wanting to see the Wolf Lord. If accidents happen the slain party member will discover they are already in the heavenly realm of The Happy Hunting Grounds. They may choose an afterlife destination or remain has ghosts where they are.

After the encounter, the group will be led, escorted, or dragged out into the long, sloping hallway that leads to Room 2-1.

DCC Catacomb of the Wolf Lord Room 1-4

This room may seem a little lackluster compared to the others once unearthed.

This room may seem a little lackluster compared to the others once unearthed.

Room 1-4: Much like the door to Room 1-3, this door is caked in mud and earth, taking considerable effort to find. However, once discovered, the door swings into Room 1-2 with considerable ease. It opens to a narrow hole in the packed mud about 3′ in diameter, about enough for one adventurer at a time.

Once a light is shone into the room, the walls and ceiling are caked with thick mud and packed earth. At least half of the room is completely filled in. The glint of gold can be seen a little over 10′ across from the opening on what remains of the stone floor. There is about 5′ of operable space from floor to ceiling within the dimensions indicated on the map. What is possibly a hilt of a weapon or the end of a staff covered in dirt can also be seen. There is also a mud covered goblet and a bowl of a brazier sticking out of the dirt farther into the room.

And then there was trouble!
Once an adventurer enters the room, they can see the corner of a chest buried in the mud next to the coins. If they try to extract the chest, the handle, the goblet or the brazier, or do anything that disturbs the room in any way (Yell, tap the walls floor or ceiling, swing a weapon, etc) a full collapse is triggered. DC 15 Ref Save to get clear in time. The room is filled with earth! Anyone in the room takes 1d8 damage and is buried in the dirt. Suffocation Fort DC 10+1 per round buried, 1d6 Sta damage per failed save. The characters not trapped in the dirt can be excavated from the wreckage. The GM can determine how difficult it will be to dig any given player out depending on how far into the room they are buried.

IF the group managed to befriend or play nice with the elementals, they can excavate trapped PCs with ease and will gladly do so. They won’t help with the treasure, but they will save the adventurers, who clearly don’t belong in their element.

Thanks for stopping in. Room 1-5 is on the horizon. I love old fashioned dungeon crawls.

Catacomb of the Wolf Lord: Room 1-3

Room 1-3 of Catacomb of the Wolf Lord. The group may have found treasure, but is it cursed?

The “Treasure” Room.

The entrance to the Treasure Room 1-3 is concealed under a thick layer of old mud and gravel. In the dim lighting and all of the mud, the door will be difficult to find. If the group “plays” with the elementals, more earth will be caked onto the old mud. Ask the players if/how they are searching.

If the group finds the door and excavates it, it opens into Room 1-2. Beyond the door, there is a 5’x5′ unlit hallway leading to another door. Across the way, is a wrought iron bound locked door. The lock is trapped and will drop a 1 ton granite block on the trap victim and blocking the hallway. (Detect Trap DC15.)
Pick Lock DC 18. 8d6 damage from the block + being pinned. Reflex Save for no damage.

If successful, the door opens into a magically lit 15′ x 15′ room, domed ceiling with a faint glowing light in it, with a magical circle drawn on the floor. Inside the circle are four items. The first is a dagger (athame) in an ornate wooden box. The second is a leather bound book with a lock and key. It looks to be very old. The third is a gray fur cloak with an ornate wolf’s head clasp. The fourth and final item is a wolf’s fang.

Once the first character fully enters the room, a ghostly wolf appears. It speaks clearly to the group. It points to each item with its nose and states, Cleric, the dagger; Wizard, the book; Thief, the cloak, and Fighter, the tooth. Read the following aloud:

The ghost stares at you, or possibly through you. It points to each item and states clearly a second time Cleric, the dagger; Wizard, the book; Thief, the cloak, and Fighter, the tooth. Choose wisely. You make only keep one. Bring it to my final resting place for your real reward if you are so worthy.The rest are cursed.

It sits and says, “I’m waiting for your answer. You may ask one question of each item if you wish. One I shed. One was my end. One was my life. One is my gift to you if you are worthy.”

The ghost, a spirit messenger of the Wolf Lord, will answer truthfully one question of each item within reason. Its answers will always be cryptic and vague. It won’t try to encourage or discourage the group from choosing any of the items. It might also answer a little more about itself.

The Wolf Lord wasn’t always a wolf. It lived for a while as a man to better understand men. He took an elven bride and had two children: Koga and Kei. Koga became feral and ran away at a young age to join a wolf pack. Kei grew up to be a refined elven lady. (Current whereabouts unknown.) The Wolf Lord eventually rejoined his spirit pack and left his mortal family behind.

After many centuries, the great animal lords were forgotten. In turn, each returned to a sacred place where a coven of followers put their bodies to rest and sealed them away from the mortal world.

*Note: If any of the cursed items have the curse removed, the item is rendered permanently inert.

A) The athame is a cursed dagger +1. It radiates strong magic. The wielder must feed it one hp per day or lose 1 Stamina each day the hp requirement is not met. The wielder may not give its own hp.

B) The Coven’s Spellbook: The Coven’s Spellbook is a cursed antithesis of all that is Lawful or Neutral. Any mage who opens it will automatically become Chaotic, and will turn more toward being un-dead with each page read. Any/all spells copied or cast from the book with automatically backfire. Any creatures summoned automatically turn on the caster. It was never meant for the world of the living.

C) The Cloak of the Gray Wolf: At first, this cloak appears to not be cursed. It offers a +1 Agility bonus to Stealth and +1 bonus to AC. Once per day it allows the wearer to shapeshift into a normal wolf. All items become part of the new form. Mental stats stay the same.

Wolf, common: Init +3; Atk bite +2 melee (1d4); AC 12; HD
as wearer; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +1;

The ability resets at sunrise.
But the cloak is cursed. At the first full moon after acquisition, the wearer transforms permanently into a wolf under the control of the GM until the curse can be lifted.

D) The tooth is a regular tooth. It is not cursed, nor is it terribly useful yet. However, it is the key to unlocking the real treasure in Room 2-2, the Wolf Lord’s burial chamber.

While the Wolf Lord is considered a demigod and will grant certain spells to his followers, this is clearly not the book to do it with. The Wolf Lord will be available as a Mage Patron and as a Demigod to be detailed elsewhere.

Once an item is chosen, the rest vanish along with the circle and the lights in the room. The eerie outline of the spirit can still be seen, but it will not interact after the choice is made.

That’s it for this room. It’s obvious the other party never made it to this room. The journal makes no reference to tests or treasure beyond a vague mention of some kind of treasure believed to be buried with the bones of the Wolf Lord himself.

Thanks for being here! I appreciate you. Can’t wait to see what happens in Room 1-4 and 1-5? Hang in there. They’re coming soon.

DCC Catacomb of the Wolf Lord Room 1-1

Over a century ago, the physical bones of the Wolf Lord were lay to rest. A sword of legend and other riches lay within the tomb.

This is the first room of my new dungeon.

Room 1-1 and the hallway leading to the dungeon. What mysteries lay within?

A couple of farm kids accidentally excavated an entrance to an ancient burial mound deep within the ground. It is perfect for adventurers who want to make a name for themselves exploring the tunnel and beyond.

The tunnel is long and unlit. The walls are mostly made of packed earth and stone with the occasional very old wooden brace. Those familiar with the earth may make a check to notice the grade of the floor. The long tunnel goes down about 3′ for every 5′ square. There are torches sunk into the walls every 30′ of the 120 foot tunnel.

The walls are old, but have held up exceptionally well over the years. The whole place smells earthy and musty. It is obvious no one has passed through here in many years.

Room 1-1: At the end of the long tunnel are 6 alcoves, 3 on each side of the wall with what at first may appear to be dirty old bronze or iron statues. Closer inspection reveals they are actually zombies that activate and attack!

6 Zombies: Init -4; Atk bite +3 melee (1d4); AC 9; HD 3d6; MV
20’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead; SV Fort +4, Ref -4, Will +2; AL C.

After the battle, the party will see two huge iron banded thick wooden doors. Both are locked. In front of the door are the corpses of what appear to be two dead adventurers. The bodies are very old, perhaps a century or more. There is little more than scraps of cloth and bones. Closer inspection will indicate the doors were closed by the adventurers before they succumbed to their wounds.

Loot: Rummaging through the deceased adventurers will yield a Silver Dagger, a pristine set of Thieves Tools, a scroll with the Level 1 Spell- Ropework, a solid staff, a Level 2 Enchanter’s (Neutral Wizard) spellbook with 7 First Level Spells, and a journal with entries regarding the Wolf Lord. (See Bevin’s Journal.)

The two large stone doors are locked. The lock is centered between the two doors. A large bronze carving of a wolf’s head is above each door. The lock is DC 15 with a Poison Needle trap within that triggers when the lock is opened with anything other than the proper key. Trap DC 15 to detect/disarm. The poison is the equivalent of Asp Poison Fort Save DC 20 1d3 Agi/1d6 Agi. Normal healing.

Once the doors are opened… To be continued.

Fantasy TTRPGs- Starting a Dungeon

Dungeon crawls. Why do they exist and who would build such a thing?

Giving the dungeon, and the module, a backstory.

Whether I’m creating a typical five room dungeon or a massive underground mega sprawl, the first question that always comes to mind is: why? And the why actually goes both ways. Why would anyone in their right (medieval fantasy) mind want to build the complex, possibly underground at all? Furthermore, why would a group of characters want to go into a dank underground complex full of terrible traps and drooling, slobbering monsters?

Now, not every dungeon adventure the party is going to face is necessarily underground. It could be a hedge maze, an old manor, a shipwreck, or something even stranger. The question always remains, why is it there?

Who built it and for what purpose?

Not every dungeon is built for a reason. Some occur naturally. But every dungeon is inhabited for a reason. (Or worse, abandoned for a bigger reason.) I mean, every creature needs a home, right? Even drooling, slobbering, scary monsters gotta live somewhere.

But a true dungeon, a real stereotypical fantasy underground complex, springs to life with a legitimate reason of some sort in mind. I find it important to decide on a cause before I start construction so I know what the centerpiece of the place is going to be. Bear in mind, a truly huge dungeon would take thousands of man hours and gold coins or lots of magic in order to build it safely. Guards and traps are extra, of course.

Then we come to the who. Sometimes it’s obvious from my GM/DM’s perspective that said BBEG or villain needs a cool lair. Sometimes (Out of character) I need a particularly deadly place to stash some epic loot the party might need some time down the road. Other times yet, it’s just for flavor, like a sidetrack or incidental.

The builder’s in-character motive always comes to mind as well. Maybe it’s a tomb full of stone soldiers constructed in memory of a forgotten general. Perhaps a power mad necromancer needed a secluded place to build his golem in peace. (Darn villagers with their torches and pitchforks…) It’s possible a well meaning group of beings long ago wanted to seal away a gate to their realm. It could be the lair of an innocent Ancient Red Dragon that just wanted to keep it’s modest filthy lucre mountain safe before he can donate it to the orphans. Maybe a group of well meaning good samaritans wanted to seal something truly horrific away forever and throw away the key. Still another reason might be to bury a powerful artifact away from those who would abuse its power.

These are mere examples. We could go all day and night coming up with cool reasons to build a dungeon. The history and lore should play an important role in the next step: getting the player characters in the door. To be continued…

%d bloggers like this: