I was just reading a post's answer when it said "Maybe they'll build a dungeon". Sorry if this is a stupid question, I don't know how to play D&D yet other than what I heard 😕, but I plan to get a guidebook soon. But also, why would they build a dungeon? (I'm pretty sure it was 5e).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you really mean a player creating a dungeon or a character creating one? \$\endgroup\$
    – jwodder
    Commented Jul 3 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should probably tell us which Post this is, otherwise we have no idea. You can also comment below the post and ask the poster for more details, they might be able to explain it best. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ My money is on this answer being the source of the confusion but Elvina would have to confirm: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/194909/51194 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ElvinaMoonlight No, a PC is a player character — a character controlled by a player (rather than the DM), but still not the same thing as the player themself. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwodder
    Commented Jul 3 at 23:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure about 5e but some OSR(Old School Renaissance) games such as ACK(Adventurer Conqueror King) it is something to be done. Like a wizard builds a dungeon filled with treasure which attracts monsters and then they go in or send adventurers to harvest monster parts so if you are interested in that concept that may be worth looking into. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 4 at 17:55

6 Answers 6


The Context

That comment was a little tongue-in-cheek, not meant to be taken entirely seriously.

The question was about characters who had amassed huge sums of money and ridiculously powerful magic items (which were unbalancing the game) and what to do about it. One of that lengthy answer's suggestions was, effectively, "steal their money, steal their stuff, and threaten to break their stuff." (Meaning, have NPCs do that to the wealthy PCs.)

Following that train of thought, the overall idea is, "Make them protect their stuff," which leads to the joke about building a dungeon to protect it all. It's a joke because it inverts the normal way the game is played, which often involves the PCs breaking into NPC dungeons and stealing all their stuff.

Outside of that joke, though, it's not completely preposterous: High level characters do often amass a lot of money, and in some systems they are eventually expected to develop class-appropriate strongholds with that money. Not necessarily dungeons, but not necessarily excluding them, either.

Depending on what system is involved, there may be elaborate rules to help guide the process, or it may be on the GM to improvise some rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Matthvew Colville released a book which has rules for this: Strongholds and Followers \$\endgroup\$
    – Nacht
    Commented Jul 4 at 5:38


I'm assuming you mean whether a player character could build a dungeon.

In that case, the answer would be, yes. There is no reason that a PC could not hire the workers needed, and build out a dungeon, and populate it with guardians.

The DMG has guidance for building a keep and similar buildings. In the real world keeps often had real dungeons in the sense of an underground secure area often used for prisoners. ("Dungeon" the word also had long obsolete meanings associated with certain types of above ground towers, but those can be present in keeps too).

While I suspect you are asking for something more of a Dungeon in the D&D sense of a large area populated with guardians, a keep can form the basis of that type of dungeon too.

A PC can hire hirelings to guard the dungeon, add traps, bind exotic guardians such as golems, and even capture and free "monsters" if they wanted to.

So certainly, a PC with the right resources could build a Dungeon in the sense of a large space populated with adversaries and with something valuable making it worth exploring. The DM would of course have to agree to permit it, but the necessary items are covered by the rules if the PC wanted and the DM consented.

As for why a PC would build a Dungeon in that sense, its mostly for the same reasons an NPC would. Those include:

  • It's the PCs home base and has something worth protecting inside. Perhaps the PCs have valuables they don't routinely carry everywhere because they are no longer murderhobos. So they live in a castle. They hire guards and install traps to protect the most sensitive areas. You have a complete Dungeon in the D&D sense with adversaries to stop looters/adventurers, and treasure that the PCs just view as their home.
  • The PCs have something they cannot destroy and need to make sure it never falls into the wrong hands, so they build a Dungeon deliberately to make sure its protected. Imagine the PCs have an artifact that they cannot figure out how to destroy and it is too dangerous for them to use. They might lock it in an underground room, surround it with traps, seal that room, leave traps through the path add, bind magical guardians along the path permanently, and then seal the final entrance. They want to make it as hard to get as possible, but they may need to be able to leave open the possibility of retrieving themselves later. You have a D&D Style Dungeon.
  • Similar to the last one, perhaps it is a tomb for a fallen comrade that was buried with his valuable gear.
  • Perhaps it started as something else and happenstance effectively made it a dungeon. Perhaps the party Wizard has a major experiment go wrong in his tower and the place becomes overrun with demons or something similar. The Wizard needs to flee, regather his party, and go through the dungeon he accidentally created just to get his stuff back.

Those, and more, are all reasons that a PC might intentionally or semi-accidentally make a dungeon. They are a little outside the way D&D is normally played with the party as murderhobos...err...wandering adventurers. But there are rules that cover at least the basics of what you need to do these things with costs for keeps and similar buildings, costs for laborers, rules for traps, and PC accessible spells allowing certain types of guardians such as golems to be created and bound.

On the off chance you meant a literal player could create one, the answer would still be yes. Even putting aside the fact that many players also GM from time to time, player can certainly design a dungeon. Now, you might not want to put a player through a dungeon the player personally designed, they would know it in detail, but that isn't always a huge obstacle. Some groups play pre-written modules more than once and some players play pre-written modules at more than one table.

Either way, the answer is yes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are murderhobos, exactly? Don't you play as heroes, though I see how you could be the villains... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, how could you bind magical guardians? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ElvinaMoonlight murderhobos is a joke. Most typic D&D adventurers wander around without even having a fixed home (hobos) killing enemies (murder). Most PCs are heroes, at least from the right point of view, though evil campaigns very much exist. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3 at 22:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ElvinaMoonlight Murderhobo Q&A here on RPG.SE! \$\endgroup\$
    – Lexible
    Commented Jul 4 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman After all, what's the definition of "terrorist?" A PC Hero is one to everyone, except that Orc Clan they just almost completely wiped out. \$\endgroup\$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jul 5 at 11:36

They can, but these are usually not dungeons for other players to adventure in

When that post says the players might build the dungeon, what it means is the players have their characters build a dungeon, to protect their valuable treasures. They in principle can do that if they want, but 5e does not provide a lot of support for it in the rules.

However, such a dungeon would usually not be one that the players (or other players) then explore as part of their adventures.

History of player characters building dungeons

As player characters (PCs) get higher in level, they tend to become fantastically rich and powerful. The question for the DM then is, how to keep the game in balance and interesting?

This is actually a problem that goes back all the way to the original D&D rules and campaign from the early 70s. Back then, the more powerful players in that original campaign started to remodel the first dungeon level and build towers on top of the dungeon, and levy taxes on less powerful PCs that wanted to adventure in the dungeon. So in a way, they did partially rebuild an actual dungeon, in which other players then adventured.

And the rules included rules for players to build and maintain keeps and armies and retainers, as lords, once they got to high levels and were extremely rich, changing the nature of the game and their role at higher levels (and finding a use for all their gold - maintaining armies and fortresses is costly).

Newer editions up to 5th edition have moved away from this. The fifth edition core rules include only the most rudimentary support for such a thing - a few prices for entire buildings, but no prices for dungeon dressings like doors, secret doors etc, that those old rules provided. The focus has clearly been more on the players adventuring as one heroic group, not on building their own bastions.1.

The campaign styles also have changed. In the original campaign that led to the publication of D&D, play happened by many different groups of players all adventuring and competing for treasure in the same huge dungeon (a so-called "Megadungeon"). If one group broke down a wall or looted a chest, these actions were persistent. The next group would encounter the wall broken, and the chest looted. So players could actually build dungeons with their characters that other players experienced.

So the separation between the DM providing adventures and other players was a lot less strict. One player even set up (without others knowing about this) a hireling service in town, that other groups would hire henchmen from. But unbeknownst to them, these attractively priced henchmen would the act as spies for him and inform him on juicy treasures found but not yet secured.

In the very original Blackmoor proto-campaign that preceded even that one and invented RPGs as we know them, one of the players became a vampire, who then terrorized others in the dungeon under Blackmoor castle, which led to the invention of the cleric class. Today we tend not to play like that any more, there is a much cleaner separation between the DM, who runs the world and all the bad guys, dungeons, and other adventure locations, and the players who form a small party of characters that works (more or less well) together adventuring in that world.

In contemporary D&D and style of play, even if the PCs did build a bastion of some sort, maybe even in the form of retrofitting and building out a dungeon they cleared out from its original inhabitants, it would not be one that other players adventure in.

Example from play of players building dungeons in 5e

For example in our 5e campaign, we played "Lost Mine of Phandelver", the original intro adventure, and after clearing out the dungeon under the ruins of Tressendar manor, we retrofitted it as our new headquarters, with different players getting different rooms. We also took over leadership over the ruined castle and goblin tribe in the woods, after defeating the hobgoblins and goblins, and had the goblins protect it for us. So, depending on what you consider a "dungeon", we did build one or two, even in 5e. We also set up traps and protections like arcane locks. But of course, no adventures for other players ever took place in these dungeons.

1 According to announcements from WotC, this however is going to change again. The new DMG that is soon coming out will again include rules for bastions the players can develop.

PS I would recommend to find a couple of friends and just start playing, maybe using a starter set. A lot of things will be highly mysterious and confusing to you if you have never actually played. Playing is the best and fastest (and most fun!) way to really understand what RPGs are about.


I've actually had this happen before.

I can't remember which campaign it was (It might have been a custom campaign) but I was DM'ing and it was a very casual game, we didn't take anything too seriously so I let stuff slide that I otherwise wouldn't.

Anyhow, they had a tendency to steal every bit of valuable stuff they could find and eventually amassed a stupid amount of gold. Like enough to pay NPCs to do really stupid stuff for their amusement.

Eventually I told them they have so much gold that they can barely carry it and must store it. So naturally they tried to oust the Mayor of a village to store the gold in a town barracks.

This would have disrupted the campaigns story a bit too much so I doubled the number of soldiers and gave them better weapons to fend off the players.

So instead of attacking the village, they did a quest they had ignored earlier which involved retrieving some artifact from a dungeon full of goblins.

They massacred all of them, took over the dungeon and just kind of kept it. I went along with it and they spent a good portion of their gold buying stuff from merchants to furnish and defend their dungeon. I had to make up a bunch of new NPCs selling furniture, farming supplies and traps but it was pretty fun.

The campaign concluded with them fending off the dragon they were supposed to track down on the other side of the map. That poor dragon, it was impaled, crushed and shot before it even reached the players.

I think they ended up just trapping it inside to let it starve to death?

I've never had a group that spiteful and self indulgent before or since but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @ ChellCPlus Honestly, I do find that pretty hilarious. Sooo... If that ever does ever happen to me, I'mma reunite the dead, impaled, starved-to-death bodies and reunite them. 👍👍 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 4 at 14:48

Novak in their answer covers the actual question.

Expanding upon that a bit: There are a number of other roleplaying games (not D&D itself) where base-building is more fleshed out and part of the game. Sometimes that's a stronghold of some kind, sometimes it's an estate or mansion, such as the home base in Ars Magica where the PCs do research and experiments between adventures. Warhammer FRPG even has an expansion set in the Border Princes where the PCs are lords of some strip of land, with all the management and conflicts that includes.

For D&D, I have AD&D 2nd Edition's "The Castle Guide" (1990) on my shelf, which details rules to build and run castles, both for GMs and players. Using it, PCs could build a stronghold and defend it. Not a dungeon, but AFAIK the closest you'll get as far as official, published material goes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Who is Novak, sorry if he's some famous DnD player who wrote a Guidebook and I should know him because I don't know who that is. Or is it the name of a book? DnD does get crazy sometimes, though I've never heard of a book named Novak... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 4 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ElvinaMoonlight Novak is one of the users, who wrote the answer I linked in this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Jul 4 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ D&D 3.0/3.5 has the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook, detailing how to build pretty much any building the players could want - from a simple farmhouse up to and including tunneling out mountains to create a creditable dungeon (or even a floating keep, ready to explore the planes). \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Commented Jul 4 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass thanks for adding that, I didn't know it exists. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 6 at 7:42

First, it is about defense. If we went to adventuring, we needed to protect what we had. I think it is the main purpose to build a dungeon. Of course a DM can invent anything which can break our walls, kill our allies, find our secret boxes, and sometimes it happened, but rarely.

Second, it is about attacks. Another common problem if we need things to confine, but really. For example, summoning demons is not a fine thing. You can attack things much better where you govern the environment.

Third, it is about power. Being an important player in the country level politics (level 15), continent-level politics (level 20), planar politics (level 25), interplanar politics (level 30), that needs resources. And, you need these resources. They can also provide resources.

A dungeon is not only a secret cave structure deep inside the soil of a desert. It might be, but that is a dead dungeon, expect only undeads. A good dungeon is... living. It has a purpose. It is part of a society. For example, the kings castle might be a fine dungeon. Or the cavern system below that. Or the cavern system which ends up in a gold dragons lair (who is a kings advisor in cover), and which lair has also a connection to the local wizards guild.


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