Welcome to the Dungeon! – What is a Dungeon?

Welcome to the Dungeon! – What is a Dungeon?

Wait, there was a Dungeons and Dragons post yesterday, and there will probably be a Friday Night Dungeons and Dragons post tomorrow, so even more Dungeons and Dragons?


Image Source: D&D Beyond

I wanted to talk about one half of Dungeons and Dragons, and that is the dungeon. I haven’t talked about dragons yet either, but that will be some time later. Instead, I wanted to talk about how you can build interesting dungeons in your D&D game if you want to use them. Dungeons aren’t something that I use that often, or at least what would be considered a dungeon traditionally.

So let’s define what a “dungeon” is for the sake of this article.

A Dungeon is any sort of building or location where the players need to get through it by progressing forward, either to a goal or an exit.

So that might seem wrong to you, you’re thinking of some labyrinth hidden deep under the ground in some remote area that has been long forgotten. That certainly is a dungeon, but a mad wizards tower climbing high into the air is a dungeon. A Minotaur’s labyrinth is also a dungeon. It could be the ruins of a city on the surface, or a druids grove that they’ve grown up to protect them.

All of these options really do want you to move forward or are likely to have something that you want at the end. You’re going to have to fight through monsters and deal with traps.

Let’s also talk some about what dungeons aren’t?

Dungeons aren’t a static thing. The old school dungeon was a collection of monsters and traps thrown together to create a challenge for the players. You’d have an orc in one room, a bugbear and some goblins in another room, a handful of drow the level down in the dungeon with a bunch of random traps and puzzles thrown in the middle of them.

Instead, Dungeons are living locations. While the current inhabitants might not be the original builders of the Dungeon, there is going to be a reason for the monsters to be there. Maybe there are goblins living on the upper levels, and some drow on the bottom levels of the dungeon, but they aren’t going to be living in rooms next to each other, they’d have killed each other. So maybe they would split up floors of a dungeon, leaving buffers between them. The same way, it’s going to have traps or puzzles, have the monsters figured out how to deal with them, or do they just avoid the section that has managed to squish members of the goblin tribe, so it makes where the trap is obvious to adventurers?

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Dungeons also aren’t there for no reason. Someone has built them, so they are going to have had an original purpose, which might be the same purpose as of now, but there was a reason. So there also has to be a reason why it is like it is now. But if you’re going to put a random wizard tower deep into the forest, there are going to be stories and legends about this place and a reason the wizard put it there for a reason.

So now that we’re all on the same page as to what a Dungeon is, let’s talk about what is going to come up after this?

Image Source: Wizards

We’re going to talk about the ecosystem of your dungeon and why that matters.

We’re going to talk about using puzzles in your dungeon and what that might do to a dungeon.

We’re going to talk about how traps work, and how you avoid bogging down your dungeon with traps.

We’re going to talk about why you’d use a dungeon in your game.

So join me in those upcoming articles as you think about building a dungeon for your game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

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