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, its 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 hell reveal the password.
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 dont 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 elementals home had been destroyed. Already angry at being imprisoned, the elementals rage grew and grew as he came to believe that his home and kin were destroyed. As intended, the creatures 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. Its 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 day.
Killing the elemental will be very tough. The hurricane also disperses a day after the creatures 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 realms 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 creatures 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 creatures 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.
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The five room format is simple yet allows for variety and permutation, thus its 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.
In association with Johnn Four, and all the fine folks subscribed to his Roleplaying Tips Weekly mailing list at, we bring you our first collaborative Quest.
Room One: Entrance and Guardian - There needs to be a reason why your dungeon hasn’t been plundered or why your adventurers are the ones for the job.
Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge - A trial that cannot be solved by steel alone.
Room Three: Trick or Setback - Build tension through tricks and setbacks and give them a double-dose of gameplay such as more combat or another roleplaying challenge.
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict - The final combat or conflict of the dungeon.
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist - The dungeon is complete but what is it about this dungeon that made it different or memorable. What kind of mystery have they discovered, what kind of reward have they won, and what kind of information have they recovered?
Submissions to the quest will each earn an extra 15XP can be inputted on the site as normal or can be emailed to Johnn at roleplayingtips.com.
Prizes for this quest include a D&D Icons Gargantuan Black dragon from Legend Games, MyInfo Personal Reference Software licenses from Milenix Software, DCC #46 Book of Treasure Maps – DCC #$7 Tears of the Genie - #50 Vault of the Iron Overlord from Goodman Games, and 1 on 1 Adventures #5 Vale of the Sepulcher - #6 Shroud of Olindor - #7 Eyes of the Dragon - #8 Blood Brothers - Advanced Adventures #3 Curse of the Witch Head from Expeditious Retreat Press. Winners for these prizes will be chose randomly so every submission has an equal chance of winning. Also, all the quest submissions will be combined and edited with what the folks at Roleplaying Tips come up with and they all will be offered back to the community.
------------ Strolen's Citadel Quest, Five Room Dungeon was an awesome collaborative success. The total amount of quest submissions between Johnn's Roleplaying Tips and the Citadel was a whopping 87 Five Room Dungeons! The winners of this set were chosen randomly so congratulations to all. But here are those that won a gift from the sponsors: Gillian Wiseman Tyler Turner Nik Palmer Daniel Burrage Uri Lifshitz Clayton Blanchard Jean-Christophe Pelletier Jason Kemp Pirate Queen Wulfhere Valadaar Thewizard63. Congratulations to Everybody!!!
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? Responses (11)-11
This needs to be added to the quest!
Added- And a great example of the 5 room dungeon as well as being an interesting location and setup for one.
This is a nice, solid, bit of dungeoning. I've been reading a few of the 5-Room-Dungeons and I really like the format. This is a great simple example. There are a few questions, that are easily filled in by the reader's mind with plenty of variations, and a few things I would change, but they are easy changes to make. Good work.
First and foremost a good example for the 5 room dungeon set up.
I don't think I ever commented on a single one of these five room dungeons, I could be wrong but it escapes me at the moment. Its condensed, simple, and easily maneuverable into any game. I personally like more information, but that isn't the object of the 5 Room Dungeon or so I gather.
Check out CPs 'Cursed keep of the wasteland' and 'Altar of Rgu', both are five room dungeons with a lot of information and juicy bits. In my opinion there is no size restriction on the five room dungeon. The definition of a room is a bit abstract, it could easily be an entire section.
I wasn't saying anything against the size of this, just my personal preference for information.
This is the first of the 5 Room Dungeons that I have read; going to have to read more.
This is a good base for a scenario. It can be added to, or subtracted from, without much difficulty and can make for a good encounter for the PCs. I like it.
Now I realize that you might be saying to yourself, hey, I don't want to answer these kind of questions because I want to just give an outline and have the GM decide those questions.
For me, however, while I might ultimately choose to ignore those suggestions, I prefer to see what the submitter had in mind so that I understand what the purpose of the items in the outline.
On another topic, this falls once again into the high fantasy/D&D'esque kind of submission, which is of limited utility for those of us who never play that kind of game. If I might humbly suggest an alternative? Begin with a lower magic explanation, then at the end suggest some alternatives.
For example, for this sub, the storm confluence is not the result of air elementals but simply a result of prevailing weather conditions (ala the massive fog surrounding Sable Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sable_Island ), or the fire elementals waiting to burn the collection is, instead an ancient mechanical device which was initially designed to keep the place warm, but has malfunctioned and must now be dealt with, etc.
Anyway, just my 2.839457293874193 cents worth.
What did you do to get the cool golden text? I want cool golden text.