Four Favourite Dungeon Rooms
Dungeons are one of my favourite parts of D&D. I love that a dungeon crawl is usually a game session in which a lot of things happen, and there is a lot of content to explore. There is usually lots of variety in experiences and approaches room to room, and the interaction between party members tends to be very focused. Putting a party through a dungeon is a great way to develop their party dynamics and relationships, assuming the rooms you include give them the opportunity to work together and make decisions. Here are four of my more memorable dungeon rooms.
The players are investigating a mansion that possesses an evil aura, powered by an artifact in its sealed courtyard. As they move through the rooms, they encounter undead, monstrosities, magical corruption, and a constant sense of dread, sadness, and unease. They came seeking treasure, but are horrified that this place still manages to draw lost souls into its hallways to wander in endless sorrow. The party opens the door to find a well lit, well stocked bedroom. Inside it is lavishly decorated, and sitting at a writing desk with a bunch of papers sits a tiger-humanoid that has palms on the back of his hands. The tiger man is surprised by their intrusion, but reacts calmly (if not a bit nervous), and explains that he came here to study magical effects in peace. He seems unaffected by the magic of this place, and reassures the party he is actually ok and that he plans on packing up and moving out soon. The party, comprised of new players, had no idea this was a Rakshasa, an evil fiend and powerful spellcaster. He saw he was outnumbered and unprepared, and simply convinces them to let him go. Later in the campaign they would find out the true nature of these creatures, and would be shocked at their previous decision to simply let it go.
In another game, the players were again exploring an old mansion (I like hallways with rooms, ok?) though they had been abandoned for hundreds of years. They were dark, empty (except for some wandering monsters) and filled with signs of the terrible atrocities that were committed here long ago. As they moved through the house, coming to the basement, they opened a door to find a small dojo, within which was an elf-like creature meditating (it was a creature that will not die of age, hunger, etc. but can be killed). Set in the opposite wall was a safe. When they entered, they were surprised to find someone alive, and the monk told them that he had made a promise to guard the contents of the safe for the owners who would allow him to stay here to meditate. It was a room that allowed the party multiple ways to approach; engage the skilled monk in combat, try to distract him while someone broke into the safe, tunnel into the safe through the wall in an adjoining room, or convince the monk that his agreement was technically fulfilled and that he could find somewhere better to meditate (this is the route they took).
In this same dungeon/mansion there was a well decorated lounge. It had alcohols, books for reading, and comfortable seating. It was originally meant as a place that guests to the mansion were brought while awaiting audience with the mansion owner. However, if anyone is in the room for more than 2 minutes, the exits seal off with portcullises, the room fills with a knockout gas, and a panel in the floor opens up through which an iron golem rises out. This golem then collects any unconscious bodies (only attacking those who attack it first), and carry them to a cell which features a door so heavy, only the golem can open it. What was fun about this was that some of the players may not succumb to the gas, making their saving throw, and will have to figure out a way to free their companions as they watch this automated “trap” play out.
A room that I loved, set in a sort of twisted fun house, was the only room I’ve ever created where the players immediately turned around upon seeing it. They opened the door and looked into a room with no floor. The room was a deep pit, and there was a rickety wooden bridge spanning the room leading to a small platform on the other side containing a treasure chest (but no other exits). Looking down, they saw a 40 ft. drop….to a pit of bubbling green acid…within which was the circling fins of acid sharks. The players looked to each other, and collectively agreed to shut the door and move on. Though they didn’t interact with the room itself, it was so terrifying/daunting as to be memorable, and deciding to skip it was a somewhat satisfying solution. They were smart enough to know that whatever lay on the other side (if there even was anything) was not worth what would almost certainly be death for one or more party members. Very smart decision.