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Tho I'm currently running a campaign with my friends online via roll20 that mostly consists on "Dungeon of the Week" delves, since we're all fans of dungeon delving.

The idea is to play from levels 1 to 20 of D&D Next; tho we are using the playtest right now, we plan to keep using some classes the package brought even tho we'll have to wait till August for the PHB (Yeah, pretty much I'll homebrew the Druis and some Warrior Paths when Basic comes in a few days).

But I'm more bussy doing two things that will serve for a future campaig that needs a lot of prep:

  • Making Templates of Pathfinder Classes converted to Next Playtest ruleset so I can "complete" them when Basic details some of the important progression rules.
  • Building a "Metroidvania" Inspired Mega Dungeon (I need a lot of help with this and I'll ask it here later).

That, combined with the fact I will have college classes from 2:00pm to 7:30pm, that I have to do volunteering for my curriculum, and work practices for my graduation papers, I'll have a lot in my hands.

We play once every two days and I've improvized some fun stuff, however it's way harder to improvise combats, puzzles, traps, erc and place them on a thematic dungeon (Castle Ruins, Surrrealist Desert Temple, Lava Caves, etc).

I'm also a lazy DM; I don't spend more than 1 or two hours a day prepping. I feel more relaxed building the mega dungeon as I know I'll play it in 4 or 5 months, but knowing I'll play today with the guys makes me lazy since we all get hyped for what will happen next and I spend more time thinking on the plot points than in the adventure itself, since I'm quite a "linear story teller"; I just make a convulted mess if I improvise multiple paths.

So, tho I know and use a vast array of random dungeon generators like donjon, Dyson's and else, I still just use them simply for structure since sometimes the options they present for dungeon populating are basic, very basic (I know I'm supposed to use them to imagien what else to fill in but that's my problem, I'm just extremely lazy).

Any ideas?

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4 Answers 4

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+50
  1. Generate a random and empty dungeon.
  2. Roll some dice for page numbers and get monsters from those pages, then place them in the rooms.
  3. Now think about what makes all of this monsters live together in the same place.

This is my recipe for making and/or creating random dungeons. I used it a few times back then, and we all really enjoyed it, but being 3 years after my last D&D campaign it hasn't been used in a long time.

Anyway, let's dive into details, shan't we?

Generate a random and empty dungeon

This is pretty much the easiest part. You already know some dungeon generators. With a few clicks you can give certain aspects, like the amount of doors, the corridors and the like. The map looking cool and inspiring by itself can help you later, but it is by no means mandatory. It will be made inspiring later.

Roll some dice and get the monsters

I used this technique for 3.5e so some tweaking might be needed, but the basic principle remains the same: You roll a few dice to get the page-numbers of the monsters you'll use. It doesn't matter what monsters you've got, you'll explain it to yourself later. Some of them will be common and known while others will be strange, unexpected, and uncanny. This is good, they won't know what to expect, and they will be surprised.

Then place them in the dungeon. It can be done randomly or you can do it manually. Placing them is much less work than it seems. I usually create groups of similar monsters together, like an area of orcs or a corridor full of doors to rooms where demons dwell. A friend of mine once put similar monsters away from each other.

Why they live together in the same dungeon

This is the most important part. You've got your orcs and demons and oozes and the like, why haven't they tried to kill each other? Why are they even there? Think for a second and explain it to yourself. I usually write about a sentence or two for each monster.

These orcs live in the dungeon because they're a great tribe. They don't leave because they're too scared of the light outside.

or

These goblins are scattered around the dungeon because of a failed expedition trip. Now they try to reunite without the other scary monsters finding them.

This sort of thing will create some history for your dungeon, explain far more than first meets the eye and can become quite interesting for the players if they'll want to investigate it. Furthermore, it will eliminate the feel of the randomly-designed dungeon.

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I'm pretty much the same way. I'm a very lazy DM. The only sollution I have found that works for me is to purchase a pre-built dungeon. In your case, you might want to use the Dead In Thay module, it's a 107 room dungeon.

With D&D Next playtest I have been running 3e and 2e adventures that have been sitting on shelves or that I bought in bargain bins. I've been able to "convert" the module during game play by inserting D&D Next monsters and otherwise rolling with it. It's been really great for me. In addition there are some good encounter season modules available at dndclassics.com

As a postscript... I do not know yet if this will work for D&D 5e, which you can get the basic rules to here: http://media.wizards.com/downloads/dnd/DnDBasicRules.pdf

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Grunts


I'd say the first step would be to pick a "common" monster around the CR level of the players that will encapsulate the majority of encounters in the dungeon. These are typically the "grunt" encounters of a dungeon, they exist to make the cool encounters that you plan more awesome by comparison.

The most important thing when planning grunt encounters is to introduce some kind of battlefield hazard or something that would inhibit the PCs and prevent them from breezing through an encounter, such as a narrow walkway they have to cross to get to the grunts, the tunnel the PCs are walking into ends in a huge pit where the grunts are waiting at the top of the pit, firing down on them. Etc.

Make your grunt encounters as interesting as you can despite being grunt encounters. Give the players a puzzle to solve while they're trying to fight them and the battle will seem more like a battle and less like a slaughter.


Can't spell slaughter without laughter

You're going to hit a time during a dungeon when you're doing things that aren't really major exciting and things are starting to get a little monotonous. This is where this part of the dungeon building comes into play.

Essentially the concept is this:

Take a group of enemies that would normally be a decent challenge for a group of your Player characters at their level and put the enemies in a position that is funny and build the encounter around this. A good example of this would be enemies inside of a room with a ceiling that is consistently raising and lowering every other round. In order to fight effectively the creatures have to squat in rhythm with the ceiling of the room in order to fight the PCs.

Of course the Enemies would know about the room enough to attempt to plan around it, but you could just as easily fill the hallway on the other side of the room with enemies and have them see the PCs and bust into the room, stepping onto the pressure plate whose presence they were unaware of.


Make a Big bad

Everyone knows what a big bad is. He's the champion. The hero. The guy who exists to make your PCs lives a living hell and he's got a head full of empty and an axe full of angry. He's got more HP than you can shake 1d100 quarterstaves at and enough Damage resistance to make the sharpest weapons cause nicks and cuts. Counterbalance the DR with low armor class and you've got yourself a boss.

This is the one aspect of the dungeon you don't wanna skimp on. Make a cool boss for the PCs to fight. Make a Minotaur dual wielding bright pink battle axes wearing a silly red bandana who does ridiculous kung fu poses between rounds for no apparent reason. ( Until you get him to less than half health and he goes into berserker rage )

Make the pink battle axes really powerful for the PCs level, but only if you soak them pink paint once a day. Make the PCs spend time each day dipping the axes in paint, and scraping off the paint for the prior day. Give the axes fanciful names and give them an ego to make the PCs do silly things in between rounds to retain their full enchantment bonus. ( A +5 battleaxe where you must dip it in paint daily and do a silly pose every other round to maintain its magical edge. Whimsyaxes. )


Humor

Come up with concepts and encounters that make your game interesting, funny, or compelling on multiple standpoints.

Create a trap with a ridiculously high disarm DC filled with "unknown" poison that spits out laughing gas and marbles if the rogue fails by more than 5 points. Animate the marbles to pool under the feet of the PCs if they don't fall in the first round.

Create an NPC pirate that has lost his peg-leg that has to be led through the dungeon to find the leg, and have him run from every encounter with one leg until you assist him in retrieving his leg, then have him come back near the end of the fight and state that its lucky the PC's have him around.

Fill a room with harmless jello and make the PCs make squicky noises whenever they have to move through the ooze, if they don't make the noises they suffer a 50% movement penalty.

You can make a game as interesting or as boring as you want based on HOW you build it, even if its filled with nothing but goblins. Want to give your worldview a huge turn upside down? Literally?

Take a dungeon generated on Donjon and use the map it generates as a SIDE-VIEW MAP. Suddenly the climb skill becomes valuable and each encounter has a degree of difficulty it didn't have before. Take your dungeon and ROLL WITH IT. Make it fun, make it exciting. Do things that will surprise the PCs.

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I got a one-shot idea which is very funny and require virtually no-prep (but you have to have some rulebook with typical enemies stats if you can't improvise them):

The nightmare dungeon (of laziness +5)

Basically the players enter a strange dungeon and you just set some very strange and intriguing elements. The truth is that they entered some kind of nightmare dimension (or they are dreaming) and all (or most of) their fears occur ("do you think this bat is in fact a vampiure? OMG this was totally a vampire!")

From then on, every speculation about the dungeon, everything which is not too ridiculous will happen in the dungeon until they understand the truth and face the avatar of their fear (use their background to create a fake nemesis).

This also apply to the architecture of the dungeon, you have to ask them to draw a map and base the dungeon's architecture upon it, this can lead to non-euclidean thing like a corridor which end a one side of the paper and continue at the other border (possibly joining a previous room!).

To sum up, you just have to prep the reason why this dungeon (some mystical explanation with your universe), decide of the firsts rooms and which strange event will trigger their imagination, and then let everything driven by the players' fear. This require a minimum improvisation skill (since you just have to integrate the players' ideas) and the ability to turn ideas into frightening things.

Ah, and also decide of the outcome: did it really happen, did they actually loot anything or gained xp? All this depend on the mystical explanation of the dungeon's existence.

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