In Defence of Dungeon Crawls

Hey everyone,

It’s H here, and I just wanted to share my latest gaming adventure with you all.

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining a new campaign with a fantastic group of fellow gamers. We decided to play through a classic dungeon crawl, complete with deadly traps, ferocious monsters, and mysterious puzzles to solve.

I have to say, I was blown away by the creativity and ingenuity of our game master. Every step of the way, we encountered new challenges that really required us to work together as a team to overcome. And boy, did we ever need all hands on deck!

At one point, we found ourselves cornered in a room with no obvious way out. We knew we had to find a hidden door, but the clues we’d discovered so far were frustratingly cryptic. It took a few false starts and some out-of-the-box thinking, but eventually we were able to crack the puzzle and escape to the next level of the dungeon.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. We battled giant spiders, dodged boulders, and narrowly escaped a horde of goblins. But the thrill of the adventure and the sense of accomplishment we felt really made it all worth it.

In the end, we emerged victorious (though certainly worse for wear). I can honestly say that it was one of the most fun and exciting sessions of D&D I’ve played in a long time.

So if you’re looking for a new gaming experience, I highly recommend seeking out a dungeon crawl campaign. Just be sure to bring your wits, your tactics, and your trusty sword!

Until next time,



As I recently DMed and played White Plume Mountain (in VALUE) and the Death House (to start my CoS campaign) I fully agree with you. Dungeon crawls can be awesome. In fact most of the VALUE games DMed by me so far have been dungeon crawls.

Running a good dungeon crawl is not easy though, encounter balancing, puzzle design and pacing all are very important factors to make it enjoyable.

May I ask what your DM used for maps and stuff? Depending on the dungeon, I like to print maps on large-format paper or I use a regular wet-erase map; I also use a player-facing screen to display overview maps and artworks of dungeon rooms, NPCs or boss monsters.


dungeon crawls can be a lot of fun
- remembering Tamoachan [42] - :wink:

the dungeons I had to learn to despise were dungeons, with senseless layout, no story, filled with monsters, who even would not fit in the rooms they should be in

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I’ll add my voice in favor of crawls.

People play D&D for a lot of reasons. Where dungeon crawls excel is challenge. Thinking quickly and creatively, using all the tools you built into your character, sometimes depending on luck for just that right roll. This can be especially true with good modules, or the right DM, so it’s known that yes, whatever you’re doing is actually possible, and it’s up to you and your party as to whether you succeed or not.

Of course, theme, teamwork, and other things are very important to making a crawl great! Theme especially to get you involved. But DCs can be uniquely challenging as an adventure form.

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White Plume Mountain is glorious. I’m very much in if you decide to go for a re-run. (I have little memory of the exact details.)

And yes to pacing! Hugely important, yet hard to get right. I frequently struggle with this.

Then again, even some of the best scenarios also have massive pacing issues. Even in Masks, considered by many to be the best campaign ever, the early pacing leaves a lot to be desired. There should be way more focus on this aspect of scenario design. Totally agree with you.

I don’t quite agree on encounter balancing, though. I think doing so makes games far too predictable.

No idea, I wasn’t there. Following the DrakeFake, I outsourced my personality to an AI last week. And as an approximation of something I’d write … it’s not bad! Doesn’t sound entirely human, but still. For an unedited first result, it’s pretty impressive. This stuff is going to be crazy five years from now.

In any case, sounds like FakeMe had a great time!

(As for me, I just use pencil and graph paper when DMing. No need to make them pretty, because they’re not player-facing. Players do their own mapping, which led to the greatest map in the history of RPGs by the incomparable irx.)

Tamoachan is fantastic. Truly everything a dungeon should be.

The part I like best is that it’s so good at creating moments. I still remember three wow moments in your group alone. How many modules can do that consistently?

Heh. There sure are a whole lot of truly awful dungeons, that’s for sure.

I don’t think you need a story though, do you? Your tournament-esque dungeon doesn’t really have one, and it’s delightful.

I’d say the very best dungeons tend to be situations, with the story simply stemming from the players’ decisions.

Agreed, agreed. :slight_smile:

Count me as another in favour of a good old dungeon! A few years ago I was able to convince my usual group to play through Barrowmaze and it was an absolute delight. I think these kinds of games work better with more specialized systems, though: 5e is a bit too heroic to really bring the best out of a dungeon.

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