“Hey what dat noise?”
“What noise dat you talk’n bout Oloorin?”
“Sounds like fight’n, maybe we go see?”
“Wha you talk’n bout? We have important job, we guard chest in 10 x 10 room. We stay put.”
“Uh… ok, if you say. What we do if someone come through dat door?”
“Probably we die. Dat da life of two orcs guarding chest in room.”
Sound familiar? Ok, maybe I’ve gone a bit too far with some stereotypes, but how many DMs have designed a dungeon that had a room with a few monster that just waited for the door to open?
Guilty as charged. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve done something like that in a dungeon and there are a few reasons for it. Mainly it’s becasue dungeons are changing. In 4e there just aren’t enough rooms in the dungeons to support a room with two orcs and a chest. In fact you could argue that dungeons as they once existed are no longer present in the current edition of D&D. For more on this read our article on Taking the Dungeon Out of D&D.
In looking at how dungeons have evolved with editions we’ve gone from large complex dungeon systems with multiple rooms of different dimensions, connected by long winding corridors to dungeons with 3 large rooms connected only by a requiste corridor as seen in the Dungeon Delves. Where once that corridor was the site of pit traps and wandering monsters. All of that has changed with 4e where traps are now a part of set encounters and wandering monsters tables aren’t even in the DMG.
Now part of me misses the old school dungeon crawls. I miss taking the dungeon one square of the map at a time, killing orcs that guarded random rooms and wondering if the chest was really a mimic. However, as much as I might miss those days I recognize it’s nostalgia talking and I don’t really want to go back. I’m not interested in dungeons that respond like bad video games where the monsters in the next room don’t attack because they are out of the aggro range.
One of the aspects I like in 4e that I’ve seen more of recently is combat occurring in waves. The D&D Championships have used this format and Ameron has been adapting them to the encounters in our current campaign. The addition of minions in 4e lends itself to this, in that not every new combatant is going to take multiple hits to kill. Having new combatants enter combat in subsequent rounds also simulates the fact that the dungeon is alive. Monsters are aware of what’s occurring in the next room and react accordingly.
Now some argue that encounters in 4e take to long complete, combat is to complicated. However, when you consider set encounters that have higher meaning than 100 rooms that are filled with various monsters waiting to be discovered, advancing through a dungeon takes less time. So really what’s the difference?
Of course there is no reason why so called old school dungeons can’t be adapted and used in 4e. In fact, encounters could be set up in the same fashion. For me I enjoy the sense of mystery that new combatants entering the encounter provides.
Do you enjoy encounters as they are laid out in 4e or do you prefer the larger sprawling dungeons from older editions?