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Matt Ventre


10+ Pieces of a Classic DnD 5-Room Dungeon

Today, we're going to do a little dungeon generation exercise and list out the concepts and ideas that we come up with to create a simple but challenging 5-room dungeon for players to experience in about a single game session (or even less than that if they're really crafty!)


    1. Roll up the room starting seeds.

    5d6 for the room starters.


    2. Determine a layout.

    1d12 to determine the general shape



    of the dungeon.

    3. Roll room theme/keyword for each room.

    1d6 for each room and you get a theme for that room. This helps us figure out what kind of stuff should be in there - monsters, treasure, traps, artwork, some bizarre curiosity, etc.



    4. Pick an entrance location.

    I'm going to start this one in the "middle" with our "device" themed room. Perhaps a curious contraption that invites the players to fiddle with it - thus exposing one or two exits to the other parts of the dungeon.

    5. Room sizes can be anything you want.

    In following with the Lazy Dungeon Master's guide (by Mike Shea), you can and should decide if some of these rooms are enormous - the sense of grandeur and awe in a single dungeon room is limited only by your imagination. For example, the "escape" room could be a massive cavern the bottom of which is out of sight but rushing water can be heard many hundreds of feet below. Across the chasm spans a single, crumbling rope bridge whose constitution the party is uncertain of.

    6. Determine the purpose of the dungeon.

    We can roll for this if need be but the themes are starting to tell a little story here:

    The "dispute" theme in the leftmost room suggests that the NPC in the rightmost room is in conflict with someone or something down here. Perhaps the NPC is a middling half-troll wizard who had a falling out with his brother. When they argued, he lost his cool and ended up freezing his brother in a block of frozen arcane energy, both hot and cold to the touch, extremely dangerous, and possibly "contagious" if examined too closely.

    Now, though, he's having second thoughts and wants to free his brother (really he wants the powerful weapon stashed on his person, but won't admit it) - but he doesn't know how to break the barrier... he's a middling wizard after all, he doesn't know everything, damn it! (He's also a hothead, obviously, so if the players offend him or show hostility, he will probably be provoked into a battle or try to trap them in the dungeon as well). He's been combing through his paltry collection of tomes to try to find a proper spell, and he occasionally ventures to the surface to hm, obtain, more materials for his studies. However, if he notices anyone in the party is a wizard or suspects they possess a grimoire, he will try to get it from them any way possible.

    7. Let's give that NPC/enemy Troll Wizard a name and some details.

    Barrzuuk is less gangly than most trolls in the region, as a result of his half-human ancestry. However, he still retains some of the extreme angles and bulbous features of the face. His skin is pale, having been locked in this dungeon for so long in his fervent studies. He wears shabby robes which he probably stole with a small gemmed scepter fastened to his waistbelt. He's at first somewhat charming, but whipsaws from joviality to vitriol at moment's notice. You can tell he's about to blow when his amber eyes narrow and his pupils all but disappear.

    Dungeon Crawl Classics stat block is:

    Barrzuuk the Half-Troll Wizard Init +4; Atk scepter +2 melee (1d4); Crit 1d4/I; AC 12, HD 4d8+4; hp 19; MV 25'; Act 1d20; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +2; AL C

    8. And, his brother who's frozen in arcane energy...

    Ummid the Half-Troll Cleric stats TBD...

    If the party can free Ummid, Barrzuuk will act like he's relieved his brother is back with him, but an intuitive adventurer might realize Barrzuuk only is after his brother's prized weapon, suspecting it's got secret magical potential.

    The item itself is an unassuming sickle. Mostly rusted, with no discernable markings. Probably used by a granger for a time. A person might imagine Barrzuuk is off his rocker coveting such a piece of junk.

    However, if Barrzuuk accosts Ummid, another fight will ensue. If the party intervenes on Ummid's behalf, they might be able to stay Barrzuuk's hand. If they slay Barrzuuk, Ummid will be overcome with grief, and being a loyal cleric of [TBD deity], must avenge all fallen kin's deaths to the end of his days. He'll attack the party, too.

    9. Add a couple of minions or summons...

    I like the idea of some beastly hangabouts here. Perhaps a hidden vent where some giant rats can poke out; or even a classic slime ooze who shows up from time to time to get a little snack from the wizard. Killing these of course will create an even more sour encounter with Barrzuuk, who considers them his friends.

    10. Make sure that trap is deadly as hell.

    A statue in the corner of the room spits stinging barbs at unwitting creatures who cross its path. A pressure plate triggers the action.

    Stinging barbs do 1d4 piercing damage on contact. SV Ref 10 to dodge the barb.

    11. The Treasure!

    The sickle is actually an ancient arcane piece. All of the markings are hidden in tarnish and grime; its legend lost to time. The scabbard is nowhere to be found:

    ANGER REALIZES SHAME. He is a small long-handled sickle steely, with an inscription of a terrifying monkey in the blade and a gilded scabbard-- only scholars know the name of this sword. Decay will not touch those slain by this weapon. Farsighted. Currently by the side of a holy warden. Bearer can cast eternal champion (wizard 3) once per week. Any failure to cast the spell using this item should be treated like a fumble. 1d5 slashing.

    12. And put some interesting stuff in the rooms; crates, objects of use or curiosities that might be taken or sold later

    I'll do this on the fly at the table likely. Don't need to have every single object figured out before hand.

    13. Name your dungeon!

    I used a name generator out of the book I've been using and I got "Hole of the Rusty Skull" which sounds hilarious.

    I bet Barrzuuk would just call it, "Home."

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