Help with dungeon design.


I tend to have trouble thinking of ways to make dungeons challenging and enjoyable at the same time. I know puzzles are okay, monsters are a part of it, and traps are integral as well. However I find whenever I try to design a dungeon it becomes too linear, and ends up feeling relatively dull.

That being said I would like to see what you guys would recommend for making dungeons feel more exciting/interesting to explore.

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I hear you. Feel the same sometimes. You neglected to mention the party's level. Monsters and traps are just encounter design, the real character of dungeons are environmental.

Few suggestions:
A vast chasm requiring multiple jump checks to grab hanging chains to get to other side.

A few corridors that are rivers instead of hallways.

Teleport pads to connect some rooms.

Some areas that require small size to enter, or confer squeezed condition.

Noxious gas pockets. Or flammable gases.

Mc escher stairs (upside down but still work)

Pockets of greater darkness.

Slick slanted tunnels.

Spores, molds and fungus (ghostbusters reference!)

Also good to consider all noise and light as "come and kill me" magnets.

Those seem pretty useful :)
Allow me to narrow the search for info significantly. (For characters level 10-15) Help me build the dungeon of a bard lich who would rather humiliate his intruders rather than kill them outright... he can just kill them when they get to him ;)

Silver Crusade

A machine which tars and feathers all who go in (a little bit of damage, but not enough to really hurt anything but your ego).

Lantern Lodge

1) A Tavern/Bar in the middle of the Dungeon. Run by denizens of the dungeon.

So for a Lich, maybe a undead/vampires tavern? (With victims! Do the party leave the victims to die? Or figure a way to save them or bring them along.

Cos even the bad guys need a break.

Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

a stairwell going down with a hole/weakening just beyond the first step and they fall down into a room inhabited by rust monsters.

A trap that when activated turns everything into the room bright purple. They can't see and instant humiliation. Then have one that applies pink stripes.

Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

a lever that opens a door, but it opens several doors in the ceiling releasing monsters and after 3-5 rounds the door opens and a tougher monster behind it.

oh and it closes the door at the entrance of the room obviously.

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Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

i play too much dark souls...

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looking at the bard spell list, permanent image stands out to me. Fake doors, fake passage ways that are really stone walls (walking into a wall is plenty embarrassing), falling through the floor into a pool of acid is a little more than embarrassing.

Unconscious Agenda is also awesome, maybe attach it to a custom cursed item.

Have keyed areas that instead of passwords require singing, perhaps all this is explained via magic mouth spells. Watch as the PCs struggle to sing on key to open a door, even worse is when the magic mouth was simply lying.

The best way to humiliate adventurers is to hit them with enough status effects and ability drains that they either need to retreat or become increasingly incompetent, and then begin to destroy their equipment, walking out of a dungeon poorer than when they entered it. Trapping players is also effective (but can be difficult especially at high levels without them feeling cheated), but if you can manage to cut off avenues of escape have various magic mouths offer them a way out if they beg or leave suitable tributes etc.

I also agree that the environment is important, perhaps the dungeon is really a vast and scenic aquarium, or in some mossy underwood, the tunnels walls no more than ancient roots of rare trees. Be sure to decorate it, perhaps the lich has commissioned (or done himself) various portraits of his grinning skull in foppish finery and hung them all throughout the dungeon, being sure to attach firetraps or inserted deadly gases into the frames if any adventure decided to take their anger out on them.

Finally think of the dungeon more of a home for the current denizens, give it some sort of dynamic ecology that can respond to would be home intruders.

Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

an area where ghosts are roused by loud noises, and there are some CR 1/2 zombies or something wandering around ringing bells.

Bards are also notorious for their enchantment spells. Having a decent number of charmed and dominated allies of the PCs, or good creatures, stand in the PCs' way to the lich, used as trap bait/decorations or the like should help reinforce the wickedness of the lich.

From a layout perspective, loops are good.

Either way allows reinforcements to come up behind them.

Dimensional lock/forbiddance help to reduce teleport travel.

Iron walls prevent earthswiming PCs.

Provide everything in the dungeon either the ability act in the dark or good light source.

The lich could have a literal captive audience. Glyph of warding fireball holds them all hostage.

Play some old school Zelda games for inspiration on layouts and simple puzzles.

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