Welcome to the Tower of the Archmage’s April A to Z Challenge!
Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “D” the number “4” and the support of readers like you.
In old school Dungeons and Dragons caution was often the most successful strategy. Get in, get the gold, and get out with as little danger as possible. Especially at low level it was the best way to increase the odds of survival. Yet it isn’t the moments of creeping slowly down a dungeon corridor, carefully mapping every step that players remember. The real memories are made when the characters engage in feats of Derring-Do!
They don’t generally happen by accident though, or at least not without a little preparation on the DM’s part. In order for the players to engage in such memorable play they need to be given the toys to play with.
Let’s work from an example: The Orc and the Pie. In this situation you have a 10x10 room with 1 door, 1 table, 1 chair, 1 orc, and 1 pie. The orc is talking to himself about the pie, and how much he is going to enjoy eating it, just as soon as it’s cool enough to do so without burning his mouth. Enter 1 adventurer. Typically the adventurer will kick in the door, and kill the orc, taking the pie for himself. But it can be so much more interesting!! What if the orc kicks over the table, sending the pie flying? The adventurer catches it in one hand, and now must decide whether to run or fight. Or what if the orc grabs the pie and holds it hostage? What if instead of kicking down the door, the character knocks, and opens a negotiation with the orc for the pie?
What each of these options shows are the characters, both PC and NPC, interacting not only with each other (pointy end going into the bad guy) but also with the scenery, the props that the DM provides. Errol Flynn couldn’t have swung across the room if there wasn’t a handy rope or chandelier. Jackie Chan doesn’t do anything that doesn’t require at least 3 different things to interact with during a fight, and it’s usually more. Your players need those props too.
The most boring thing to find in any dungeon is an empty 10x10 room. No room should ever be completely empty (unless there is a very good reason for it). There may be no monster, no treasure, no trap, and nothing “special” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t barrels of stagnant water, sacks of moldering something, stairs, scaffolding, a big red button, or a giant brass gong.
In situations/rooms where there are monsters, treasure, traps, or something special, there should be plenty of these things for everyone to play with! Fire pits, alters to crawl under or jump over, large potted plants, hanging chains, iron maidens, anything and everything that may be put to some crazy use by the players (or the monsters)!
This is something I’m doing my best to remember as I work on my megadungeon. When I forget about it I tend to get stuck. Getting unstuck doesn’t always take a feat of Derring-Do on my part, but allowing the possibility for my players will usually do it!