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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Five Features for the Dungeon

Today's post is going to be short and sweet. Dungeons are known for their tricks, traps and generally weird stuff. Here are five typical dungeon features, each with a twist:
  • The Unpit - Pit traps are standard fare, but this one is a pit and a way forward. The victim falls on the spring loaded iron plate which opens to send them further into the right-hand branch of the pit (possibly occupied by zombified former victims of the fall. Should they survive they can struggle to rejoin their companions or explore the left hand branch, which leads who knows where.
  • The Road to Nowhere - Teleportation is a common GM trick, but in this case it goes nowhere. Place a long straight corridor somewhere, then put two long-ish teleporters in the middle of the passage. The teleporters send the characters 100 feet back along the hall. The party might notice if their marching order is spread enough to not be transported all at once, but otherwise they could be walking for a long time.
  • Amazing Maze - Most players figure out the "follow the left wall" trick for getting through a maze. It's fairly easy to build a maze where this trick doesn't work (and it gives you a reason to go vertical too). When you start drawing your maze, think of it as a room within a room and maintain a clear path (as twisty as you like) between the two. Place one entrance to the maze on the outer edge of the outer room, then place a stair, ladder or ramp in the center of the inner room. A party following either wall from either entrance will end up where they started without finding the second entrance.
  • Take a Dip - Underground pools and streams are nothing new, many natural caves are formed by water action. Instead of treating a body of water as a feature, use it as a path to other areas of the dungeon. It takes real guts (or stupidity) for a character to brave a stream that vanishes down a hole or under a ledge.
  • Tactical Advantage: Party - Giving the kobolds defensive fortifications is a common theme. Now reverse it. Place some good, empty defensive fortifications in your dungeon, then set up an encounter with a powerful foe somewhere nearby. Let your party use the fortifications to their advantage for once. To maintain suspension of disbelief a low intelligence but powerful foe is probably a good choice here.
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