Five Room Dungeon?

Hey all, I’ve read about/seen video’s on the five room dungeon technique.

Some make it seem like an easy but predictable way to create an adventure. Others seem to be able to take it a bit further. I don’t know how to feel about it.

Anyway, I was thinking we could talk about it here. Are you pro/con? Is it situational? What are it’s strong suits? What are it’s weaknesses? What are some interesting variations, if any?

Thanks in advance!

Comments

  • Ah, thank you! I haven’t been keeping up with all the threads, mostly because I’m not into DnD itself, and because your discussions are usually done above my level of expertise (which isn’t hard to do, though). But thanks for pointing it out.

    Yeah, it definitely sounds more railroad-y than sandbox (and I haven’t read up on the whole aquarium thing yet, so I don’t know if it has anything to do with that category)

    Then again, railroad is a style (as you also point out) which means it isn’t bad in itself. @Eero_Tuovinen seems to be managing it well in the Prydhain game. So, in railroad mode, does it work?
  • If 5 Room dungeons are railroads, they're very short railroads, so at least there is that.

    Concise and hitting five different flavors of classic RP fun in a short amount of play time makes the railroading forgivable, in my opinion.

    If anything, this is more like Rollercoastering, voluntarily joining into the thing knowing that there is limited sandboxiness in return for focused play and fast overall resolution.
  • I don't see a meaningful distinction between railroading & rollercoasting.

    I know, I know, the old quote from Elizabeth McCoy:
    It's not railroading if you offer the PCs tickets and they stampede to the box office, waving their money. Metaphorically speaking.
    I'm like… it still is? They want to take the journey which is hopefully the case for every railroaded game.

    I think at this point in time we should be able to talk about the playstyle without it reflexively being defended from a downhill position. It's one of the most common playstyles (or at least it was for a while), it has its benefits and its problems. I personally do not enjoy it for tabletop games as a player or as a DM/GM/Keeper/MC/SM. But I can sometimes like video games that are set up that way.

    As far as Beards' question goes: if you want to do railroaded 4e read The Lazy Dungeon Master or "Get off the railroad onto the islands" essay in Unframed.
  • edited May 17
    The terms you use matter.

    Railroading got a start to describe something seen as negative.

    Rollercoastering started as a response to describe the positive version.


    In any case, if you want to see a very common version of the 5 Room dungeon, look at published standalone Call of Cthulhu adventures. CoC essentially developed the style and it was retroactively discovered for use in fantasy RPGs.

    5 Room dungeon type adventure builds work best, I suspect, for groups that are going for ( or limited by circumstance to) loosely linked, sequel or serial play. They're more like episodes of an older tv show; short, self contained, and with only limited reference to other episodes of the same show.

    They'd be like episodes of Original 1960s Star Trek, not Deep Space 9.
  • edited May 17
    Just from a geometry point of view, I don't see that a 5RD has to be a railroad. It could absolutely be a very small sandbox.

    Let's say there are rooms A through E. Imagine you can enter the dungeon at room A or E, and there are the following interior doors:

    A leads to B or C.
    B leads to E or C.
    C leads to B or D.
    D leads to C or E.
    E leads to D or B.

    A map like that actually offers a decent number of routes through it.

    A-B-C-D-E is only one possibility!
    You could also do E-D-C-B-A. (My players in my current 5E game did something like this by accident: there's a small dungeon early in Princes of the Apocalypse that doesn't have much more than about five rooms, but by going in the rear entrance, it completely changed their experience.)

    Or E-B-A-C-D.

    Etc.

    You could even introduce puzzles, monster generators, etc., that could get PCs running around from room to room.
  • Well, I referred to it as gnusto.
  • I agree the original post by JohnnFour implies a very railroady structure, with a linear path from room to room!
  • I agree the original post by JohnnFour implies a very railroady structure, with a linear path from room to room!
    That’s how it seemed to me as well.
    If 5 Room dungeons are railroads, they're very short railroads, so at least there is that.

    Concise and hitting five different flavors of classic RP fun in a short amount of play time makes the railroading forgivable, in my opinion.

    If anything, this is more like Rollercoastering, voluntarily joining into the thing knowing that there is limited sandboxiness in return for focused play and fast overall resolution.
    Which makes it a good thing for a one-shot or a sprinkle of an episode here and there during episodic play, right?
    5 Room dungeon type adventure builds work best, I suspect, for groups that are going for ( or limited by circumstance to) loosely linked, sequel or serial play. They're more like episodes of an older tv show; short, self contained, and with only limited reference to other episodes of the same show.

    They'd be like episodes of Original 1960s Star Trek, not Deep Space 9.
    That sounds about right. Predictable episodes.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. Are there other experiences or uses? Would it be less jarring, or seem less railroady/rollercoastery if it’s five scenes instead of rooms? Like, wherever they go in this sandbox, the next encounter will be this motif (guarded entryway?), then this one (social/puzzle?), then ...
    But that seems like it would get very predictable very quickly.

  • This list of what you expect from the genre or story, do you need to make it linear ("the next encounter ... then this one") ?
  • I do think that five-room dungeons can be used in a sandboxy style; the 5RD itself doesn't have to constitute the sandbox.

    Sandbox A is a megadungeon. The "units of engagement" are rooms.
    Sandbox B is an overland map. The "units of engagement" are 5-room dungeons.

    This is probably pretty common in West Marches & related forms. I know that when I ran a West Marchy game, a lot of the points of interest on the map looked pretty 5RD-ish.
  • Jeph: sure. Like The Breath of the Wild (video game)
Sign In or Register to comment.