303 Dungeon Crawls

As I was listening to episode 303 I would think of the new game group I am in. I think most of them would be good with a little home brewed dungeon crawl. However we have that one guy that “only” will play pre-published adventures (sorry Sean). So thinking of the episode and thinking it would be fun to try and find a small dungeon pre-published adventure, I get on adventurelookup.com and start putting in the credentials and get a couple hundred results. Before I start diving through all of these does anyone have a favorite? And according to Brett my life is a dungeon crawl wink wink.

Thanks again for another entertaining and thought provoking episode.
Mike Hess

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What was the name of the other podcast that hit 100 episodes? I could not find the show notes to find out the info.

Tabletop Bellhop (https://www.tabletopbellhop.com)

I run Swords & Wizardry, and I’ve had a lot of fun with the mini-dungeons and adventures from Creations Edge. I’m not sure if you need, specifically, 5e product, though? If you’re ambitious, anything can be converted, I suppose.



Hi Gabe, thank you, that is awesome. Sad to say I had not heard of Creations Edge, I appreciate the tip.

After listening to this episode, it suddenly occurred to me that Bluebeard’s Bride is a dungeon crawl. It’s a gothic horror game where everyone takes turns playing the title character (the Bride) as she wanders her husband’s house on her first night before they consummate their marriage. You go from room-to-room discovering the horrible skeleton in your husband’s closet to discover if you will join Bluebeard as his murderous bride or become his next victim.



There’s a lot of definition gymnastics in this episode -

“A house is a dungeon” for example.

Let me make up a quote citing the formula from The Sphinx (Mystery men)

  • “If every house is a dungeon, you make every dungeon your house!”

Seriously tho, refining the term dungeon crawl to be the exploration of an enclosed environment is pretty dang squishy. We have other words for that definition already, such as “adventure” and “encounter area” and …

Also, the crawl nature of the phrase was instantly translated to the derogatory slog in the episode as well, with Brett saying (late in the episode) that if it’s a slog “you’re doing it wrong.” :warning: That always sets off my alarms. :warning:

To me, crawl doesn’t mean boring, it means massive and seemingly endless (as a specific design feature - to evoke a specific feelings from the players, such as hopelessness and urgency.)

Traveling the jungles of Chult in Tomb of Annihilation contains a massive jungle crawl with the nasty Death Curse as a timer, it also includes at least one major dungeon crawl.

The episode was fine in trying to share how to make crawls more interesting, but it got distracted by the semantic flubbery trying to make everything a dungeon. Not every limited-choice environment is a dungeon.


The Sphinx: Do not go there, my son! When you doubt your powers, you give power to your doubts.

Mr. Furious: Okay. Am I the only one who finds these sayings just a bit formulaic? “If you wanna put something down, you gotta pick it up”. “If you wanna go left, you gotta go right”.


I was expecting this feedback. Because I agree. It’s like saying everything that has 4 walls and a roof is a house.


After listening to @Sean read @OldSchoolDM feedback and reacting, and now thinking on this more I do agree for the most part. The nuances of any disagreement I have is more picking nits than is worth it between friends :slight_smile: - Good feedback makes us think, question, disagree, and sometimes come around to another perspective. Good stuff @OldSchoolDM - thanks!

The idea of the “slog” as bad is quite possibly worthy of an episode in itself - might have to add that one in the hopper.


Hey, @Fafhrd - Just listened to your response to my comments after reading your response here. @sean Thanks for selecting my post for Random Encounter.

First: I couldn’t agree more to thoughts like “People say they don’t know how to run a spaceship. But they do! It’s just like running a Dungeon” ← [not actual quote, because you don’t publish transcripts.]

Also in my post I did say that the meat of the episode did a good job of talking about making crawls cool.

I appreciate the followup message as well - especially after listening and feeling (from the tone of your voice) that you were grumpy; calling my response (intentionally) irritating semantics. But, from your later post, I think that now you see that I wasn’t trolling you - my comment was meant as a thoughtful critique for discussion with my peers. After all, Sean agreed. :slight_smile: I was not looking to piss anyone off.

You both know I’ve been a fan/supporter from the early days. Yours is one of only two gaming podcasts that I listen to every single episode. The format of your show explicitly invites the “what do you think” kind of feedback that I deeply enjoy. Most of the feedback value is not from my own direct participation, but from the participation of the other members of the community - who teach me so many things. You are a catalyst - and sometimes that means you generate a little heat. :fire:

I love that Random Encounter :game_die: makes up such a large part of each episode - though reading ahead might help a bit, especially with critiques.

Your Number One Fan :1st_place_medal:, OldSchoolDM


All good @OldSchoolDM - thank you for the support and feedback. And I apologize I came across as grumpy - not what I wanted to do.


Its how I’ve felt since I first started listening. Its like going out for beers with great friends every week, and I’m thankful I’ve actually been able to do that a couple weekends in my life. :slight_smile:


This interaction & civilized discussion is what makes this podcast & forum such a great place.
I understood Brent’s intent/message but agreed with Old School as - for me - “words have meaning”.

What I like is that you all understood this wasn’t a dissertation or “formal report on the truth about Dungeon Crawls” - but a discussion where we’re trying to find the words to communicate a concept that doesn’t have a real life correlation.

Frankly as much pain as Brent has been in for the last couple of weeks I’m impressed he was able to communicate as well as he has been.

You guys are all awesome.


Oh - and props for the Sphinx quotes!
I love that movie.


Thanks @Rweston and @OldSchoolDM. Much appreciated.


Heaping gas on this slowly dwindling fire…

I agree that with Brett, I think “dungeon crawl” does not have to have a dungeon. I think the terms have deviated. I know I for one keep far more than cups on the cupboard, I have no gloves in my glove compartment, and if I get mud all the way to the dashboard, there’s something severely wrong with the front few feet of my car.

This is not to say anyone else is wrong, just that while I agree with Rory “words have meaning”, that meaning is likely not identical person to person, and I’m personally happy running a “dungeon crawl” in whatever environment the mentation for it seems to fit.

Also, if your dungeoncrawl, hex crawl, sandbox, or whatever is a slog, start over. Life is too short for games we don’t enjoy.

Cheers, Laramie


So, in listening to Brett’s response to Randy’s criticism of his thoughts on what’s a dungeon crawl (wow, is that a long way around, or what?) something occurred to me.

So, one of the things I think we missed is that dungeons and crawls are separate entities. We have hexcrawls, Randy used the phrase jungle crawl. Crawl indicates there are elements of travel, resource management and exploration. Dungeon, space, jungle, ocean - whatever - tells us where.

And where matters. Logic demands different things will make sense in different locations. A spiked pit doesn’t make sense in a space ship, a failed engine component doesn’t make sense in a jungle. It is, I think the particular flavors of the varying locales that adventures explore and endure that create the “I don’t know how to run (fill in the blank).”

If your GM career has been focused on fantasy games things like “the positronic drive coupler” has gone bad and the ways to create pressure with that aren’t easy to see.

Brett’s right in that we can port many of the broad concepts of a crawl to any setting, but it’s important to recognize that setting is a determinate factor in what shape things take. In a broad way it’s very much like Savage World’s use of Trappings - a fireball spell doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense aboard the Enterprise, but a flame thrower does. There are mechanical effects that are a result of the adventure being a crawl, but the shape they take will be determined by WHAT the players are crawling through.


Hey @sean and @Fafhrd, thank you for the comments on the show. I asked the game group to listen to your comments and especially Tom, the one in question. I guess I was wrong about him, yes he does prefer the pre-published adventures but he would play a home brew if it has the right hook. I guess the last time he played in 2000 he played in a home brew game and the GM was unprepared and the game was a disaster and that is his reasoning. It makes sense to me, it ruined his gaming experience. I do appreciate all of the recommendations on pre-published adventures. Carry on!


First, thanks, @LaramieWall, for continuing down this rabbit hole. While actually listening to the podcast, I, too, found myself “agreeing with Brett.” In fact, it soon became difficult to see what, exactly, was at issue. Was it

  1. That “the boys” spent an extraneous amount of time pointing to all the locations that can be considered “dungeons?”
  2. That (primarily) Brett did this at all, being too casual or reductive with his designations?
  3. Or (later) that he was “grumpy?” (I think I would be too.)

Here’s why I agree with Brett: sure, denotatively a house or a spaceship or a jungle is not a dungeon. Sure, those are thematically and evocatively and definitionally different things. But, through a game perspective, they can have identical functions.

Now, if a “dungeon” becomes a place in which to harbor prisoners, with not a trap or monster in sight, from a gamist perspective, it no longer is a “dungeon,” simply a location.

Now, if a spaceship is full of tricks and traps and monsters (no matter how they are “skinned”), it is (functionally) a “dungeon.”

But, if a spaceship is a collection of rooms for PCs to inhabit while they go to another planet, then, in this case, it is a vehicle, not a “dungeon.” It has the purpose of conveyance, not:

A dungeon is an isolated, defined space consisting of interconnecting areas containing tricks, traps, NPCs, and monsters with which to challenge PCs and excite players.


Nice clarification @Gabe!

I’ll let my original words above stand as they are. If they are unclear to anyone, I’m not sure what else I can write (they took a LONG time for me to compose as is.)

I will add this as an addendum: This discussion has gone a long way toward clarification of an idea, perhaps exactly what Brett had in mind…

Any location _can_ be GMed using the same tools & tropes used to run a [dungeon] crawl, even it that's not it's primary/default purpose.

I fully agree with this thought, and thought I’d acknowledged the episode’s utility for that in my original post, but am happy to rephrase here based on the current state of the discussion.

Final note: Form and Function have been the source of semantic debate for centuries. :slight_smile: