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Running Dungeon Crawls

by Mike on 26 February 2024

This article is one in a series where we look at particular adventure types – how to prepare them, how to run them, what pitfalls we might run into, and how we might overcome these pitfalls.

The adventure types in this series include:

This article focuses on one approach for running dungeon crawls and your own preferences may differ. That's totally fine. There are many right ways to prepare, run, and enjoy our games.

Robin Laws's book Adventure Crucible — Building Stronger Scenarios for any RPG heavily inspired this article.

Understanding Dungeon Crawls

In dungeon crawls, characters travel room-by-room through a relatively unknown maze-like location to accomplish one or more goals. Such dungeons can include crypts, caves, caverns, castle ruins, derelict ships, ruined towers, planar nodes, old temples, and other room-and-hall-based locations.

Preparing Dungeon Crawls

Consider the following steps when preparing a dungeon crawl:

Running Dungeon Crawls

At the beginning, perhaps as part of a strong start, make sure to state or reinforce the goal. Why are the characters going into the dungeon? Why is it worth risking their lives?

When the characters are in the dungeon, set up how the dungeon crawl works by asking the following questions:

As the characters explore, dungeon inhabitants might move and react to the characters activities or the GM might roll for random encounters to shake things up.

Dungeon Crawl Pitfalls

The following common pitfalls can suck the fun out of a dungeon crawl. Be aware of them and account for them in your prep and play.

Offsetting Dungeon Crawl Pitfalls

Try the following ideas to offset potential pitfalls.

The Most Common Adventure Type

Dungeon crawls are one of the most common adventure types, going back to the origins of D&D 50 years ago. With the tools above, we can use a common structure for preparation, gameplay, and avoiding pitfalls to run an awesome game for our friends.

More Sly Flourish Stuff

Last week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Awarding Treasure in 5e and Roots of the Marrow Tree – Shadowdark Gloaming Session 22 Lazy GM Prep.

Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with time stamped links to the YouTube video:

Patreon Questions and Answers

Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patrons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

RPG Tips

Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as RPG tips. Here are this week's tips:

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