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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Old School DMing - The Dungeon Entrance

I love...LOVE the entrance to the Barrowmound dungeon product.  In many ways the Barrowmound book presents a great many large and small details of a classic dungeon adventure and has it "right" in my opinion.

What is awesome about that product is that the main entrance to the dungeon requires the players to climb down a rope and dangle there exposed into a large open room where anything horrible could be lurking.  Players argue about who is going to go down first.  Finally one player decides their character should have the IC courage to take point.

The Tavern entrance to Undermountain uses a similar shtick with its creative elevator that goes straight from tavern down into dungeon adventure.

Whatever the dungeon and whatever the adventure you are writing take some extra time and really figure out how to draw your players into the dungeon crawl by having a really interesting, scary or exciting means to enter and something similarly cool waiting to happen to the characters the moment or shortly after the moment they get inside.

Additional little details about the complex the characters are going to explore, doors that are not just boring old doors to smash down every time, passages that do things.  Traps that don't kill the characters or party but which might kick off an especially creative and amusing combat.  All these make the difference between a fair to middle of the road night of dungeon exploring and an epic and super keen, fun night of dungeon exploring.

Trap Example to Pinch:

A group of Kobalds is in command of the intersection up ahead.  Known for creative and nasty traps this particular group has taken advantage of the high walls and shadow obscured ceiling of their cavern style section of the dungeon.  They have pulled up the hide of a cow via a rope and hook and have it hanging from the ceiling above the intersection.  The hide is painted with tar and occasionally rocks on its rope issuing forth soft squeeks as it is filled with a swarm of rats.  Also sewn inside the hide is a clay jar filled with oil.

The kobalds engage the characters at range with darts.  When the party moves up to the intersection they drop the hide on top of them and hurl flaming torches or shoot flaming missiles into the hide to ignite it.  The pot of oil breaks when the hide hits the ground or a character and the fall and mess of oil and combat stirs the swarm of rats into a rage.

By the next round the hide is ablaze and a swarm of angry oil soaked flaming rats boils out of it to swarm all over some poor player character, possibly igniting them ablaze as well as the fire maddened rats do their thing.

You can drop the damage per round this trap does or keep it about average depending on the levels of your players.  It doesn't have to kill anyone to be very amusing.

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