Five Room Dungeon

By : Johnn­Four

Tips on how to create five room dun­geons that can be used for any loca­tion, are short, are quick to plan, easy to polish and plan, flexible in size and easy to inte­grate into your cam­paign.

Why Do I Like 5 Room Dungeons ?

This format, or crea­tion method, has a number of advan­tages :

Room One : Entrance And Guardian

There needs to be a reason why your dun­geon hasnt been plun­de­red before or why the PCs are the heroes for the job. A guar­dian or chal­lenge at the entrance is a good rejus­ti­fi­ca­tion why the loca­tion remains intact. Also, a guar­dian sets up early action to cap­ture player inter­est and ener­gize a ses­sion.

Room One chal­lenge ideas:

Room One is also your oppor­tu­nity to esta­blish mood and theme to your dun­geon, so dress it up with care.

Room Two : Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge

The PCs are vic­to­rious over the chal­lenge of the first room and are now pre­sen­ted with a trial that cannot be solved with steel. This keeps pro­blem sol­vers in your group happy and breaks the action up for good pacing.

Make Room Two a puzzle, skill-based, or role­playing encoun­ter, if pos­sible. Room Two should shine the lime­light on dif­ferent PCs than Room One, change game­play up, and offer variety bet­ween the chal­lenge at the entrance and the chal­lenge at the end.

Note, if Room One was this type of encoun­ter, then feel free to make Room Two combat-orien­ted.

Room Two should allow for mul­tiple solu­tions to prevent the game from stal­ling.

Room Two ideas:

Once you’ve figu­red out what Room Two is, try to plant one or more clues in Room One about poten­tial solu­tions. This ties the adven­ture toge­ther a little tigh­ter, will delight the pro­blem sol­vers, and can be a back-up for you if the players get stuck.

Room Three : Trick or Setback

The pur­pose of this room is to build ten­sion. Do this using a trick, trap, or set­back. For example, after defea­ting a tough mons­ter, and players think theyve finally found the trea­sure and achie­ved their goal, they learn theyve been tri­cked and the room is a false crypt.

Depen­ding on your game system, use this room to cater to any player or cha­rac­ter types not yet served by the first two areas. Alter­na­ti­vely, give your group a double-dose of game­play that they enjoy the most, such as more combat or role­playing.

Room Three ideas:

Ano­ther poten­tial payoff for Room Three is to weaken the PCs as build-up to a dra­ma­tic struggle in Room Four. It might contain a tough combat encoun­ter, take down a key defense, exhaust an impor­tant resource, or make the party sus­cep­tible to a cer­tain type of attack.

For example, if Room Four contains a mummy whose secret weak­ness is fire, then make Room Three a troll lair (or ano­ther crea­ture sus­cep­tible to fire) so the PCs might be temp­ted to burn off a lot of their fire magic, oil, and other flam­mable resources. This would turn a plain old troll battle into a gotcha once the PCs hit Room Four and rea­lize the are out of fire resources.

Dont forget to dress Room Three up with your theme ele­ments.

Room Four : Climax, Big Battle or Conflict

This room is The Big Show. Its the final combat or conflict encoun­ter of the dun­geon. Use all the tac­tics you can summon to make this encoun­ter memo­rable and enter­tai­ning.

Room Four ideas:

Room Five : Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist

Here’s your oppor­tu­nity to change the players brag­ging to we came, we saw, we slip­ped on a banana peel. Room Five doesnt always represent a com­pli­ca­tion or point of fai­lure for the PCs, but it can. Room Five doesnt always need to be a phy­si­cal loca­tion either — it can be a twist revea­led in Room Four.

Room Five is where your crea­ti­vity can shine and is often what will make the dun­geon dif­ferent and memo­rable from the other crawls in your cam­pai­gns.

In addi­tion, if you havent sup­plied the reward yet for conque­ring the dun­geon, here is a good place to put the object of the quest, chests of loot, or the valuable infor­ma­tion the PCs need to save the king­dom.

As accoun­ting tasks take over from recent, thril­ling, combat tasks, this would also be a good time to make a cam­paign or world reve­la­tion, or a plot twist. Per­haps the loca­tion of the next 5 Room Dun­geon is unco­ve­red, along with suf­fi­cient moti­va­tion to accept the quest. Maybe the true iden­tity of the bad guy is revea­led. New clues and infor­ma­tion per­tai­ning to a major plot arc might be embed­ded in the trea­sure, per­haps sewn into a valuable carpet, drawn in pain­ting, or writ­ten on a slip of paper stuf­fed into a scroll tube or enco­ded on a data chip.

Room Five ideas:


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