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216

Note: This isn’t an answer specific to dnd-5e but, instead, explains why the maps for the older adventures updated by Tales from the Yawning Portal have those really long corridors. In other words, playing an adventure that uses old school maps means diving into old school mechanics. Long corridors informed the light management minigame Originally written ...


139

Show them the missing key The unwritten assumption about doors in an RPG is that they are meant to be opened. As long as the players think that there is a hidden way to open that door, they will either try to find it, or come up with alternative solutions (usually involving pickaxes and/or explosives). The solution: Show them that hidden way - and then ...


113

As you've noticed, pretty much the entire history of gaming has taught players that a locked door is a puzzle and there will be a solution available somewhere nearby - maybe not immediately, but in the fairly near future. (Sometimes that solution is "find the key". Sometimes it's "come back with an adamantium pickaxe and a wagon-load of explosives".) So ...


86

The goal is usually to block sound traveling and reinforcements arriving too quickly. If there are no long hallways, everything is so close together that if you shout once, you have the entire contents of the dungeon crashing down on you. Separating the rooms allows you to have distinct encounters and not worry too much about the next encounter, because ...


79

Your players are not choosing to fight from doorway choke points. You are. "Yeah, you have 4 undead zombies, 2 living suits of armor, and a weakened Lich looking at you once you open the door. Roll initiative!" All of your monsters are just standing in plain view in the middle of a well lit and empty room waiting for hapless adventurers to come along and ...


73

Talk to the players. The party isn't doing anything wrong per se. Proper use of choke-points is in fact good tactics, especially if they don't have a strong need to move in and surround the enemy. (If the party had a bunch of melee guys getting screwed over by the tactic, then it would stink.) But the easiest thing might be to talk to the players. ...


66

Your options are sort of limited here. You're asking: "In an age where people have not built any large above-ground structures, what sort of large above-ground structures are there?" You need to either reach out to fantasy or think outside the box. Natural, mazelike terrain Open-air passageways through an icy tundra, or cracks in its ice. ...


58

The main trick is to not have the players feel like they have to obsessively search every part of every room. Over time, this is dictated by your actions as the GM. (Obviously there's some switchover time if you're shifting styles.) If you hide a critical clue or tasty treasure requiring a DC 20 Perception check under the bunk of barracks room #57/100, or ...


58

As a GM, the solutions are all about providing more information: Sounds and Trails When they examine their choices, give them hints what lies down each passage. A part of the dungeon in use by kobolds looks different from one in which there is a gelatinous cube, and again different from one used by necromancers. If you tell them at a junction "Down the ...


56

It's not a bad idea to put an inscription on it, but my personal favorite is a talking face, then you can roleplay telling them to piss-off. If they attack the door, have it scream, and do psychic damage to them. Honestly, it's just a terrible idea to put anything in front of your players that you don't want them to interact with. You don't have to. You can ...


45

Width is the Shorter Side According to 5e's lead designer: "Unless the rules explicitly expand, narrow, or completely redefine a word, that word retains the meaning it has in idiomatic English". What is "Width" in English? In geometry, length pertains to the longest side of the rectangle while width is the shorter side. Per Dictonary.com's definition of ...


37

The traditional dungeon is really a literal 'node-path'. There are encounter locations represented by rooms connected by linear hallways. Really, the rooms are just physical places where combat, plot-points, or background color / descriptive bits can be handed out. The hallways are just the way you get the players from one node to the next. With this ...


34

Break it up. A gem that large is literally priceless. As in, it's worth so much that no one will be willing to buy it for more than a tiny fraction of its value. Imagine that happened on earth. Its value would be several hundreds of billions of dollars. Who would pay that much? Now think about trying to sell chunks of it. You could much more easily sell a ...


34

Disclaimer about sending mixed messages to players Building up intrigue about the door, so that it has a payoff later in the story, works in many game and storytelling contexts. But it doesn't always work well in TTRPGs, when players are naturally curious and tend to manipulate their world as much as possible. In general, when the DM draws attention to ...


30

Passive checks are your friend First, you can probably replace nearly all of your checks with passive perception (PHB 175): A passive check is a special kind of ability check that doesn’t involve any die rolls. Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used ...


27

Even if the dungeon is huge I feel you do not need to talk about all parts of the dungeon. Zoom in to map only for the interesting rooms. So guys you're about to enter the abandoned castle left behind after Baron von Badass died 350 years ago. How do you approach it? Do you spread out or go in a group? Are you taking your time to search all the rooms, or ar ...


24

You can use your players' intuition that the sound of battle should be important without squashing their imagination of the dungeon, while also serving your GMing need to keep the whole dungeon from going "on alert" and dogpiling them at the first clash of swords. You do this by making sound weird in these strange, underground halls, and then telegraphing to ...


22

Some ideas: I built a city in a ravine. The ravine was about 300m across and twice as deep. A town had been cobbled together inside the ravine. It was a maze of stairways, catwalks, multi-level plazas, rooftops, and arcades. A river flowed through the bottom of the ravine providing food, water and sewerage disposal. Two cranes at the top of the ravine ...


21

The Jade Temple in Secrets of the Sokol Keep in AL season 1 (DDEX 1-2) You can find "Secrets of Sokol Keep" here on DMsGuild. Part 3: The Jade Temple (starting on p. 17) describes the dungeon you're thinking of: It has a spiral shape Area 6 contains a magical jade idol that (supposedly) depicts Dagon in the center.


20

This issue was addressed in the original release of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. The Empty Spaces We find these relevant passages in Book 3 - Underworld and & Wilderness Adventures. Page 6 In laying out your dungeons keep in mind that downward (and upward) mobility is desirable, for players will not find a game enjoyable which confines them ...


19

The door opens, quite easily (there was a simple lock and trap that any competent thief of your party's level could deal with) onto a dusty empty quite normal chamber. Well, not quite empty. There is an inscription implying that on the correct date under the correct conditions the room is... Something else. The players spend just a minute or two of game ...


19

Your players are tacticians I have some players like this, and I reward them with an inspiration if they find a creative way to do anything, including solving puzzle and defeating encounter. But I have one agreement with them: same trick won't work twice. I explain the reason to them: I enjoy being amused, or even being trolled, by their creative method, ...


18

The book Castle by David Macauley is my go-to, along with pulling up floor plans of whatever various real castles I find. The book goes into details about the construction -- which will be important for describing the state of decay accurately, as well as informing what the players will need to find/do to repair/rebuild it -- as well as describing in great ...


18

To get a handle on how big this gem could be: quartz, a relatively light semi-precious gemstone, is about 160 lbs per cubic foot. That means your one-ton rock is probably under 12 cubic feet, or under 3x3x3 feet in dimension. So your primary concern is weight, not size. Some options, which may need to be combined depending on what you have available: Hire ...


17

Here are some suggestions that would be different enough that they might make things interesting: Swamps. This works best if they are bog-like and have islands of solid ground linked by pathways that are surrounded by quicksand/mud/water. This also allows for unexpected surprises if they get too close to the edges. Rooftops of a city. Say, for whatever ...


17

Forget about floors and levels, and think in sections. Split the map into manageable sections. Each section could be a large room with several entries, a corridor with some rooms and two exits, etc. Give each section a name and each exit/entrance a number. While the players explore the complex, you just handle them the relevant map section, and make ...


17

Give them very few ways to interact with it. First, make it a sliding door. It's much harder to imagine brute-forcing a sliding door open. Even more so if it descends vertically into a groove in the floor, like a portcullis but it's a solid slab. Hmm, must be some kind of emergency blast door. I wonder what the emergency was. Second, make a point of saying ...


17

Use a dungeon with an interesting map If the map has several levels, hidden entrances, ways to see into other rooms without easy access, stairways, or simply loops, players can use their map (that they draw or you provide) to deduce where corridors and doors might lead to. Repeated expeditions If the dungeon is visited several times, then the navigational ...


17

Exploring is fun! For me, dungeon crawling is not about choices, it is about thriller, mystery, and discovering new stuff. It is not about choosing between Door A or Door B for a goat or a car, it is about finding out what is behind each and every door. Ultimately, I will open all doors, whatever the order I choose. Simply stating There is a long corridor ...


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