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Offline Strolen

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Collaborative Quest with roleplayingtips.com
« on: September 16, 2007, 05:21:28 PM »
In association with Johnn Four, and all the fine folks subscribed to his Roleplaying Tips Weekly mailing list at http://www.roleplayingtips.com, we bring you our first collaborative Quest:

You can submit your dungeon as a quest submission at www.strolen.com or email johnn@roleplayingtips.com

The Five Room Dungeon Quest. Quest ends Sept 26. See the following message from Johnn on contest rules and prizes.

Looking forward to seeing your Dungeon!


 _________________________________________________ ______

 A Brief Word From Johnn at roleplayingtips.com

 5 Room Dungeon Contest
 This week's tips are about a quick format template for
 making easy designs and entertaining game sessions. The 5
 Room Dungeon is perfect for busy GMs with little prep time
 or those who dislike long crawls.

 In conjunction with the fine folks at Strolen's Citadel, the
 5 Room Dungeon contest gives you a chance to win some loot,
 have fun wielding your creativity, and help other GMs with
 your designs.

 To enter the contest, send in one or more 5 Room Dungeons of
 your own creation. Use the tips in this issue to help build
 your designs. Use the example at the end of the tips as a

 * Make each room 1-3ish paragraphs long. Your 5 Room Dungeon
 can be as short as five paragraphs, or longer if you like.

   Room One: Entrance And Guardian
   Room Two: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
   Room Three: Trick or Setback
   Room Four: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict
   Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist

 * Keep your designs as rules-free as possible. The best
 designs should serve as skeletons that other GMs can pick up
 and flesh out for their game system and campaign. No need
 for stat blocks or complex rules annotations.

 * Maps are definitely optional. Most 5 Room dungeon designs
 won't need a map as the layout will be intuitive.

 * Multiple entries are welcome.

 * As with past contests, entries will be edited and given
 back to the community for free so all GMs can benefit from
 your designs.

 * Winners will be drawn at random, so don't worry if you
 aren't confident about your designs - every entry has an
 equal chance of winning, and it's just your participation
 that counts. Have some fun with it.

 * E-mail, text files, Word docs, and Open Office files are

 * E-mail your entries to johnn@roleplayingtips.com or submit
 them at the Strolen's Citadel website:

 Please submit your entries by September 26.

 The following prizes have been generously supplied to
 support this contest. Please visit sponsor sites and check
 out their products.

 1 x D&D Icons Gargantuan Black Dragon
 From: Legend Games

 3 x MyInfo Personal Reference Software licenses
 From: Milenix Software

 3 x D&D modules:
 * DCC #46 Book of Treasure Maps
 * DCC #47 Tears of the Genie
 * DCC #50 Vault of the Iron Overlord by Monte Cook
 From: Goodman Games

 5 x Adventure PDFs:
 * 1 on 1 Adventures #5 Vale of the Sepulcher
 * #6 Shroud of Olindor
 * #7 Eyes of the Dragon
 * #8 Blood Brothers
 * Advanced Adventures #3 The Curse of the Witch Head
 From: Expeditious Retreat Press

 To summarize, craft your own 5 Room Dungeons and submit them
 for a chance to win some great loot. Entries will be edited
 and formatted and given back to the community so others can
 have more fun at every game.

 Good luck!


 Johnn Four

_________________________________________________ ______

 5 Room Dungeons

 By Johnn Four

 The following tips originally appeared in Issue #156, and
 they are among my favourite. I thought it was time to
 feature them again with some edits, a new tip or two, and a

 1. Why Do I Like 5 Room Dungeons?
 This format, or creation method, has a number of advantages:

 * Any location. Though I call them 5 Room Dungeons, they
 actually apply to any location with five or so areas. They
 don't have to be fantasy or dungeons. They could take the
 form of a small space craft, a floor in a business tower, a
 wing of a mansion, a camp site, a neighbourhood.

 * Short. Many players dislike long dungeon crawls, and ADD
 GMs like to switch environments up often. In addition, some
 players dislike dungeons all together, but will go along
 with the play if they know it's just a short romp. This
 helps ease conflicts between play styles and desires.

 * Quick to plan. With just five rooms to configure, design
 is manageable and fast. Next time you are killing time, whip
 out your notepad and write down ideas for themes, locations,
 and rooms. Knock off as many designs as you can and choose
 the best to flesh out when you have more time and to GM next

 * Easier to polish. Large designs often take so long to
 complete that game night arrives before you can return to
 the beginning and do one or more rounds of tweaking and
 polishing. The design speed of 5 Room Dungeons leaves room
 most of the time to iterate.

 * Easy to move. 5 Room Dungeons can squeeze into many places
 larger locations and designs can't. If your dungeon goes
 unused or if you want to pick it up and drop it on a new
 path the PCs take, it's often easier to do than when
 wielding a larger crawl.

 * Flexible size. They are called 5 Room Dungeons, but this
 is just a guideline. Feel free to make 3-area locations or
 10-cave complexes. The idea works for any small, self-
 contained area.

 * Easy to integrate. A two to four hour dungeon romp
 quickens flagging campaign and session pacing, and can be
 squeezed into almost any story thread. It also grants a
 quick success (or failure) to keep the players engaged. The
 format is also easy to drop into most settings with minimal
 consistency issues.

 2. Room One: Entrance And Guardian
 There needs to be a reason why your dungeon hasn't been
 plundered before or why the PCs are the heroes for the job.
 A guardian or challenge at the entrance is a good
 rejustification why the location remains intact. Also, a
 guardian sets up early action to capture player interest and
 energize a session.

 Room One challenge ideas:
 * The entrance is trapped.
 * The entrance is cleverly hidden.
 * The entrance requires a special key, such as a ceremony,
   command word, or physical object.
 * The guardian was deliberately placed to keep intruders
   out. Examples: a golem, robot, or electric fence.
 * The guardian is not indigenous to the dungeon and is a
   tough creature or force who's made its lair in room one.
 * The entrance is hazardous and requires special skills and
   equipment to bypass. For example: radiation leaks, security
   clearance, wall of fire.

 Room One is also your opportunity to establish mood and
 theme to your dungeon, so dress it up with care.

 3. Room Two: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
 The PCs are victorious over the challenge of the first room
 and are now presented with a trial that cannot be solved
 with steel. This keeps problem solvers in your group happy
 and breaks the action up for good pacing.

 Make Room Two a puzzle, skill-based, or roleplaying
 encounter, if possible. Room Two should shine the limelight
 on different PCs than Room One, change gameplay up, and
 offer variety between the challenge at the entrance and the
 challenge at the end.

 Note, if Room One was this type of encounter, then feel free
 to make Room Two combat-oriented.

 Room Two should allow for multiple solutions to prevent the
 game from stalling.

 Room Two ideas:
 * Magic puzzle, such as a chessboard tile floor with special
 * An AI blocks access to the rest of the complex and must be
   befriended, not fought.
 * A buzzer panel for all the apartments, but the person the
   PCs are looking for has listed themselves under a different
   name, which can be figured out through previous clues you've
 * A concierge at the front desk must be bluffed or coerced
   without him raising the alarm.
 * A dirt floor crawls with poisonous snakes that will
   slither out of the way to avoid open flame. (A few might
   follow at a distance and strike later on.)
 * The PCs must convince a bouncer to let them in without
   confiscating their weapons.

 Once you've figured out what Room Two is, try to plant one
 or more clues in Room One about potential solutions. This
 ties the adventure together a little tighter, will delight
 the problem solvers, and can be a back-up for you if the
 players get stuck.

 4. Room Three: Trick or Setback
 The purpose of this room is to build tension. Do this using
 a trick, trap, or setback. For example, after defeating a
 tough monster, and players think they've finally found the
 treasure and achieved their goal, they learn they've been
 tricked and the room is a false crypt.

 Depending on your game system, use this room to cater to any
 player or character types not yet served by the first two
 areas. Alternatively, give your group a double-dose of
 gameplay that they enjoy the most, such as more combat or

 Room Three ideas:
 * The PCs rescue a number of prisoners or hostages. However,
   the victims might be enemies in disguise, are booby-trapped,
   or create a dilemma as they plead to be escorted back to
   safety immediately.
 * A collapsed structure blocks part of the area. The debris
   is dangerous and blocks nothing of importance, another trap,
   or a new threat.
 * Contains a one-way exit (the PCs must return and deal with
   Rooms One and Two again). i.e. Teleport trap, one-way door,
   2000 foot water slide trap.
 * The PCs finally find the artifact required to defeat the
   villain, but the artifact is broken, cursed, or has parts
   missing, and clues reveal a solution lies ahead.
 * Believing the object of the quest now lays within easy
   reach, an NPC companion turns traitor and betrays the PCs.

 Another potential payoff for Room Three is to weaken the PCs
 as build-up to a dramatic struggle in Room Four. It might
 contain a tough combat encounter, take down a key defense,
 exhaust an important resource, or make the party susceptible
 to a certain type of attack.

 For example, if Room Four contains a mummy whose secret
 weakness is fire, then make Room Three a troll lair (or
 another creature susceptible to fire) so the PCs might be
 tempted to burn off a lot of their fire magic, oil, and
 other flammable resources. This would turn a plain old troll
 battle into a gotcha once the PCs hit Room Four and realize
 the are out of fire resources.

 Don't forget to dress Room Three up with your theme

 5. Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
 This room is The Big Show. It's the final combat or conflict
 encounter of the dungeon. Use all the tactics you can summon
 to make this encounter memorable and entertaining.

 * As always, generate interesting terrain that will impact
   the battle.

 * Start or end with roleplay. Maybe the bad guy needs to
   stall for time to let PC buffs wear out, to wait for help to
   arrive, or to stir himself into a rage. Perhaps the combat
   ends with the bad guy bleeding to death and a few short
   words can be exchanged, or there are helpless minions or
   prisoners to roleplay with once the threat is dealt with.

 * Give the bad guy unexpected powers, abilities, or

 * Previous rooms might contain warning signals or an alarm,
   so the bad guy has had time to prepare.

 * The bay guys tries to settle things in an unusual way,
   such as through a wager or a duel.

 * The lair is trapped. The bad guy knows what or where to
   avoid, or has the ability to set off the traps at opportune

 * The bad guy reveals The Big Reward and threatens to break
   it or put it out of the PCs' so reach so they'll never
   collect it.

 * The bad guy has a secret weakness that the PCs figure out
   how to exploit.

 * A variety of PC skills and talents are required to
   successfully complete the encounter.

 6. Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
 Here's your opportunity to change the players' bragging to
 "we came, we saw, we slipped on a banana peel." Room Five
 doesn't always represent a complication or point of failure
 for the PCs, but it can. Room Five doesn't always need to be
 a physical location either - it can be a twist revealed in
 Room Four.

 Room Five is where your creativity can shine and is often
 what will make the dungeon different and memorable from the
 other crawls in your campaigns.

 In addition, if you haven't supplied the reward yet for
 conquering the dungeon, here is a good place to put the
 object of the quest, chests of loot, or the valuable
 information the PCs need to save the kingdom.

 As accounting tasks take over from recent, thrilling, combat
 tasks, this would also be a good time to make a campaign or
 world revelation, or a plot twist. Perhaps the location of
 the next 5 Room Dungeon is uncovered, along with sufficient
 motivation to accept the quest. Maybe the true identity of
 the bad guy is revealed. New clues and information
 pertaining to a major plot arc might be embedded in the
 treasure, perhaps sewn into a valuable carpet, drawn in
 painting, or written on a slip of paper stuffed into a
 scroll tube or encoded on a data chip.

 Room Five ideas:
 * Another guardian awaits in the treasure container.
 * A trap that resurrects or renews the challenge from
   Room Four.
 * Bonus treasure is discovered that leads to another
   adventure, such as a piece of a magic item or a map
 * A rival enters and tries to steal the reward while the PCs
   are weakened after the big challenge of Room Four.
 * The object of the quest/final reward isn't what it seems
   or has a complication. i.e. The kidnapped king doesn't want
   to return.
 * The quest was a trick. By killing the dungeon's bad guy
   the PCs have actually helped the campaign villain or a
   rival. Perhaps the bad guy was actually a good guy under a
   curse, transformed, or placed into difficult circumstances.
 * The bad guy turns out to be a PC's father.
 * The true, gruesome meaning behind a national holiday is
 * The source of an alien race's hostility towards others is
   uncovered, transforming them from villains to sympathetic
   characters in the story.
 * The true meaning of the prophecy or poem that lead the PCs
   to the dungeon is finally understood, and it's not what the
   PCs thought.

 7. Example 5 Room Dungeon - Library of the Ancients
 Here is an example 5 Room Dungeon to inspire your contest
 entries. In your campaign, you'll need to flesh out some of
 the details, but this skeleton format is perfect for GMs to
 pick up and customize for their own memorable sessions.

 Room One: Entrance
 The guardian is a permanent hurricane situated over a small,
 rocky island that is far from civilization. Approach by air
 and sea is too difficult by normal means. The storm energies
 have attracted numerous elementals to the region as well,
 and though most can be bypassed with caution, it's likely at
 least one or two will be encountered and fought.

 Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplay
 The island has been swept clean so now it is bare, slippery
 rock. Winds threaten to carry away anything not secured to
 the ground. High up on one of the cliffs is a cave with
 flickering light streaming out. The first challenge is
 puzzling out how to reach the cave.

 At the back of the cave is a large portal sealed by magic. A
 command word is required to open the valve, and the PCs
 should have enough clues found previously to figure it out.
 Perhaps it is the name of an item or NPC.

 A castaway lives in the cave, though he is either out or
 cleverly hidden when the PCs arrive. He survives by climbing
 down a hidden, sheltered path that leads to a protected bay
 where he fishes and salvages what the currents wash up. He
 knows the command word but is insane from solitude and the
 continual violence of the storm. He craves to see the sun
 again - if the PCs can show him the sun he'll reveal the

 Room Three: Trick or Setback
 Using the command word, a special ability, or quite a bit of
 destruction, the PCs bypass the portal and travel down a
 long set of stairs. Angry booming from wind and wave echoes
 through the tunnel.

 If the PCs don't spot and flip a switch, the tunnel
 continues on until it opens up into a huge cavern full of
 bookshelves and dry, ancient tomes. Invaluable knowledge is
 stored here, as are a pair of immortal fire guardians.

 The guardians are sentient and can be parleyed with. If they
 deem the PCs worthy, they provide knowledge of the switch
 back up in the stairwell, which opens an entrance to a
 second tunnel.

 Their primary task is to protect the library from evil, and
 they will start torching the books if the PCs attack or if
 the guardians deem the action necessary.

 Room Four: Big Battle
 The secret passage leads down to a cave where a powerful
 elemental has been imprisoned. The elemental was tricked by
 the builders of the library and was told his realm was under
 attack. Over the course of weeks, the builders brought
 evidence that the elemental's home had been destroyed.
 Already angry at being imprisoned, the elemental's rage grew
 and grew as he came to believe that his home and kin were
 destroyed. As intended, the creature's rage was funneled and
 amplified until it fueled a small hurricane that surrounded
 the island.

 The builders told the elemental his prison sentence was
 1,000 years, which is true, and with that deadline and plans
 for revenge, his rage has not diminished over time.

 The elemental is free to move about in his cave, and can
 communicate in broken common with the PCs if they try. It's
 not true that his realm was destroyed all those years ago,
 which can be confirmed by any of the elementals outside. If
 the PCs can convince the creature his realm is safe, or calm
 him down another way, the hurricane will disperse after a

 Killing the elemental will be very tough. The hurricane also
 disperses a day after the creature's death.

 Room Five: Reward or Twist
 The object of the quest lies within a chest protected by the
 elemental at the centre of the cave. The builders lied and
 told the creature the last of his realm's essence was
 trapped inside the chest, and opening the chest would
 release the essence, forever ensuring a new realm could not
 be built. This further fueled the creature's rage, the chest
 serving as a goading reminder, but the creature is unwilling
 to destroy the container as it plans to wait the 1,000 years
 and rebuild.

 The chest can contain the object of the PCs' quest, or it
 can contain a map and clues to the real location of the
 treasure, which happens to be deep inside an active volcano
 thousands of miles distant. It also contains a note to the
 elemental, in case it did break open the container,
 revealing the builders' lies and rubbing the creature's nose
 in its own stupidity. This should reveal the twist of the
 backstory to the PCs if they opted to attack the creature
 and killed it. If the creature still lives it will demand to
 read the note, which will likely send it into a blind rage
 all over again, giving the PCs a bit of a dilemma.

 * * *

 The five room format is simple yet allows for variety and
 permutation, thus it's a powerful little GM tool. I feel a
 GM is always better off improving their dungeons by making
 them smaller because it gives them more planning time for
 clues, plot hooks, character involvement, twists, and so on.

 Don't forget to enter contest. If you have any questions,
 feel free to e-mail me.

 _________________________________________________ ______

Flying Squirrel – Strolenati Guild
Grothar Rockfury - Dwarvish Guild
Minor Minion - Cartographer's Guild
Level 3
STR: 5 | END: 2 | CON: 3 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 2 | INT: 6
Authentic Strolenite™©® | Llama is as Llama does.