One issue that I have experienced very often in the past, both as a player and a DM, with beginners and experienced people, is this phenomenon:
- The party enters a dungeon or building, and starts exploring the rooms.
- Each time they enter a room, a more or less standard ritual plays out:
- P: "Do we see anything?"
- DM: "The floor is such and such, the walls are such and such, you see a big altar in the center. ..."
- P: "I check out the altar."
- DM: "It is so and so, but you can't find anything special."
- P: "Can we test the walls for hidden doors?"
- DM: "Sure, roll a check... " ... rolls ... "nope, nothing special."
And so on and forth. The players go through all the features of the room, and basically nothing happens. They move to the next room, rinse and repeat. If they don't do it, they might miss all but the most obvious stuff (in in-game terms: "secrets" revealed to Passive Perception).
(Obviously there are exceptions, i.e. special rooms with actual "content" where something significant happens; with denizens or obviously very special objects. This question is mainly about the not-so-important, and especially the actually empty rooms which make up a larger layout.)
As a player, I find I'm easily turned off by this kind of exploration. As a DM, I notice the same with my players.
A similar question is closely related. It and its answers focus more on how to describe the rooms to make them seem more interesting. This is not the same as my question; I have no issue describing the rooms or coming up with fluff, but how to avoid a rote "checklist-based" exploration.
This is for DnD5e, if you can think of helpful tools specific to this game system.
As a DM, how do you make this more interesting, or avoid getting into this ritual? Specifically, how do you make the dynamic interaction between DM and players more interesting, rather than like a boring court cross-examination?
I am up for any kind of answer, whether it targets the preparation of the place as a DM, subtle hints to the players, the meaning of "exploration", or a reframing of my issue.