Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Way To Speed Up Dungeon Crawls

One thing I don't like about dungeon crawls is how slow they can go. This could be particular to the groups I play with, but it is fairly common to happen. Without a set, dedicated leader - and sometimes even with one - the group pauses every time they come to what looks like a decision point: a closed door, an intersection, multiple rooms along a hallway.

The pause happens as the group has to decide what to do. Do they go left? Do they go right? Do they keep checking for traps? Do they go stealthily? The thing is, a lot of these decisions have no real consequence. It doesn't matter if they check the door or just open it because the door is not locked or trapped. It doesn't matter which order they open the doors in because none of the doors lead to a combat or any other consequence for being opened aside from revealing more of the dungeon.

These delays can become longer as things don't happen to because the PCs will be expecting something big to break the monotony. Even worse, no one wants to be the one that does something 'stupid' and triggers the encounter.

So how do you speed it up?

Well, two things you can do.

1) don't put decisions in front of your players that don't have consequences.

2) pre-roll perception for traps/hidden things in the dungeon and use those as you go forward.

The first one is simple enough. Is the door not trapped and doesn't have enemies behind it? Just tell the players what is beyond the door when they check. Yes, this 'gives away' the surprise, but let's be honest. The PCs are skilled dungeon crawlers (unless it is their first dungeon) and even if the Players are getting bored and sloppy the characters who live this life are not. This gets better though when you add in the second suggestion.

D&D 5e has passive scores that work for this, but otherwise look at the difficulty of your various hidden objects, traps, and other things. Have the PC who handles those things roll and write down the roll. Then as you go along just tell the players what they see, what they don't see and go from there.

Yes, this uses one roll for a long dungeon, but it also lets the players put their all into that roll to get the best possible result. You can alternatively get a couple rolls from them to break it up and get more variance. Heck, roll for every single one and just check. But by doing it ahead of time you'll speed up the game.

Between the two you stop the pause at all the false decision points. The players know what traps they see, what monsters they detect, and get to hear what is behind the doors and halls they are exploring. They get told when they see a trap or hear a monster coming and can act on that information.

You are still doing a dungeon're just not stopping every minute as the party argues about who goes first, or which door they'll open first. Things move smoother, they only have to waste brain power on decisions with actual direct consequences that impact them.

Just a thought. If you're happy without, go without. Otherwise, give it a try.

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