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Offer Secret Paths in Dungeons or Overland Journeys

by Mike on 4 December 2023

Good dungeons and overland travel paths offer choices to the characters. We make such scenes interesting not by forcing one direction but by offering meaningful choices to take one path or another.

One of the easiest ways to expand options is to include a main path and a secret path. If the characters seek to infiltrate a hobgoblin fort, they can fight their way in through the main gate or they can sneak in through the abandoned sewers below. If they're traveling through the Shadow Realm, they can stay on the main path of the Archer's Walk, or they can take the shorter and hidden path along the Cliffs of Mother Matrede.

A secret path not only offers an alternative path but information as well. A secret path means staying hidden but perhaps running into unknown dangers. Hidden paths make the players feel good because they've discovered something – something other people don't know.

And here's a real dirty trick for you – players almost always pick the secret path. Secret paths are unique and cool. Main paths are typical and boring. Players still have the choice of one over another but the lure of the secret path is almost always too good to pass up. It's worth having a rough idea what would happen if the characters went down the main path but more useful to assume the characters take the secret one.

When you're planning a journey across the wilds or building a dungeon down in the depths, add secret paths. They'll excite your players and give them the feeling of getting a leg up on the challenges they face.

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