5RD, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, Five Room Dungeon, Labyrinth Lord, Maps, Old School Essentials, OSE, RPG
Over the next two to three months, I’m going to start each week with a five-room dungeon every Monday. There are a variety of reasons for this, but let’s tackle the actual concept of the five-room dungeon first.
The traditional structure of the 5RD is as follows:
• Room 1: Entrance And Guardian
• Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
• Room 3: Red Herring
• Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict
• Room 5: Plot Twist
And between the various locations we have connectors – halls, voyages, doorways, etc.
In most 5RD designs, the 5 “rooms” happen in sequence, you go from 1 to 2 to 3, etc.
These obviously don’t need to be rooms, and for this series, I’m not sticking to the methodology in question for the write-ups for these maps, but I’ve taken the challenge to draw a bunch of maps that have only five “areas” plus the connectors between them. This size of adventure location works great for episodic play and short adventures even if you eschew the 5RD concept itself. A nice small encounter area works great for a few hours of play and with some groups still provides enough material for multiple sessions (in our Empire of the Petal Throne campaign even a two-room dungeon can easily absorb 2-4 sessions of our time if it is being used by the Shunned Ones or a secret society of one of the many gods of Tekumel…)
When I first encountered the “Five Room Dungeon” on various blogs, I always thought of it as “too damned small”. Mentally it was a very small space. So constrained that it didn’t initially appeal to me until I started looking through some of my smaller maps and realized that I have drawn a number of maps with approximately 5 “areas” or even fewer that still took up a full page.
So, for the next two to three months, I’ll start each week with a Monday five-room dungeon map that tries to break from my preconceptions. Bonus points to Matthew J Neagley for writing “The Nine Forms of the Five Room Dungeon” for Gnome Stew back in 2012 from which I picked up a lot of ideas regarding layout.
I like the constraints of a five room dungeon. It keeps me from succumbing to project creep, and it also seems doable when I want to write an adventure for my blog.
Dave Clark said:
I’m excited for this because I’m running 60-90 minute episodic sessions frequently. Larger dungeons make that rather hard.
Jon Bupp said:
Big fan of 5 room dungeons! With one of my five players usually missing a session, it makes it easier to “change personnel” between sessions
Paul Stringer said:
5 rooms is almost nothing to explore. Not to mention the bigger problem: they’re too formulaic.
Dyson Logos said:
So, not a fan of the latest dungeon I posted?
I don’t know; I found my way to this post from M.T. Black’s email blast.
Bruce Capua said:
I came up with a variant, which is basically a 5 Encounters Dungeon. The difference being there are 0-2 rooms per each of the 5 expected rooms. These additional rooms typically have “Nothing”, as per the OD&D concept, as in there’s stuff there but it is nothing interesting.
I also like to randomize it using a d12, where 1-2 is an Interesting empty room (meaning it’s nothing, but there’s something that makes the room interesting, like a bed room except in place of a mattress there is a bed of nails; typically a good place to drop a clue to a secret), results of 12 are treasure, with everything in between being a Nothing result.
Gus L. said:
I think it’s worth suggesting that as an adventure form the five room “dungeon” is not really a “dungeon” in the typical sense of a fantastical space where navigation and exploration form a significant part of play. Instead it’s a fixed narrative/scene/encounter structure to guide contemporary traditional (5E/PF etc.); nothing wrong with that, but I find it intensely limits its use in other play styles.
I wish you enjoyment in drawing small maps, and expect as always they will be delightful, but it sounds like you’ve given yourself a real challenge — the Five Room Dungeon form is a stifling constraint for a map maker that wants to and something meaningful to an adventure beside decoration.
Reblogged this on DDOCentral.
Two other great essays on making the Five Room Dungeons not just a boring railroad:
Also, I made a visual Cheat Sheet to the Five Room dungeon formula: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1rljEe1l31HnItqMedsXqTVxEu2sltg9AiMf3gtdsYsk/edit
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