1d12 Ways to Stumble into a Fantasy Dungeon.

1d12 Ways to Stumble into a Fantasy Dungeon and 1d12 Freakish but mundane nighttime occurrences.

The way into freakishly large, scary, underground complexes isn’t often marked by road signs and tourist maps.

Roll 1d12 and consult the table below:

  1. While wandering off the road to go to the bathroom, a random character tumbles down into a concealed pit. Take falling damage for a 40′ drop and look up to discover a very old necropolis.
  2. A couple of farm kids clearing a field piled up some funny looking rocks with symbols carved into them. Late one night a portal to some sort of maze opened in the new field.
  3. A Well Digger is reported missing while working on the town’s new well. He fell down onto a buried ziggurat with a large aquifer flowing around it. The Well Digger is okay aside from some bumps and bruises. Who knows what was down there in the dark with him.
  4. A local cleric discovers a secret passage leading to a previously unknown and unmentioned series of underground passages. He did not dare venture further into them alone.
  5. The group is gathering some firewood for the night and wanders right into the entrance of a bramble maze.
  6. The braying of wolves and flashing of will-o-wisps can be found on the moors late at night. One particularly playful wisp teases the group until they follow it to a mysterious cavern entrance.
  7. Insect plagues and stinging insect attacks are on the rise in a nearby farming village. This prompted the discovery of an enormous hive on the side of a cliff facing.
  8. A seemingly random monster attack in the middle of the night by some sort of burrowing beasties leads to a chase through their tunnels right into a complex underground lair.
  9. A hunter (perhaps someone in the group) following game down an old animal path discovers a long abandoned and forgotten fort lying in ruins.
  10. An orc comes running out of the bushes in fear for her life. The local kobolds have summoned something large in their warrens nearby and now the orcs are afraid their village might be destroyed.
  11. The construction of the new inn and stables went really well. Or at least until the first mule put into the stable overnight kicked open a hole leading into an underground passage.
  12. A pair of wyverns circles overhead before swooping down and capturing a stag. Clever characters can track them to their lair in a larger underground complex.
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Freakish but mundane things that happen during the night in a fantasy woodland setting.

Roll 1d12 and consult the table below to freak out whoever is on guard duty.

  1. Footsteps can be heard in the distant underbrush. Whatever it is, it’s large. However there’s nothing there but large footprints and animal tracks if investigated.
  2. Rumbling of thunder can be heard in the distance as if a storm were rolling in. There isn’t a cloud in the sky.
  3. A distant owl hoots a bit more frequently than normal. It almost seems to be moving closer. Is it trying to communicate.
  4. A fox comes out of the underbrush and cautiously investigates the camp.
  5. A couple of bats continually swoop through the air near camp catching bugs. This isn’t so bad except they keep coming down right next to one of the sentries.
  6. A trio of raccoon kits attempt to raid the camp’s food or provisions. They’re loveable and cute as well as very harmless.
  7. A large colony of wasps is discovered next to camp in an old log right after the fire is built.
  8. The patter of deer footsteps are heard going past the camp in the dark after everyone has gone to sleep.
  9. One lone large coyote can be heard circling the camp. A while later it is joined by two more. Soon the whole pack is circling the camp looking for opportune prey. They may or may not actually attack.
  10. Something very large lands in the trees not far from camp. Later it can be heard flying away. The next morning the remains of a large animal are found somewhere near where whatever it was landed.
  11. The grass and shrubs near the camp constantly crackle and rustle as if growing rapidly during the night. In the morning it turns out the grass gained an extra inch or two while the group slept.
  12. A loud whooping noise can be heard in the distance. Soon the whoop is joined by another. Tree branches can be heard far away. The thud of rocks hitting outside of camp soon follow. They aren’t accurate enough to be considered an attack, more like a warning.

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…

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