Dungeon Exploration

Table of contents

The Basics

  • The dungeon exploration cycle (see below) is divided into a series of turns, actions, and their consequences.
  • On their turn, a character can move a distance equal to their torchlight’s perimeter (about 40ft), and perform one action. Players can use their action to move up to three times that distance, though that will increase the chance of triggering a roll on the Dungeon Events table.
  • The Warden should present obvious information about an area and its dangers freely and at no cost. Moving quickly or without caution may increase the chance of encountering a wandering monster, springing a trap, or triggering a roll on the Dungeon Events table.

Although the term “dungeon” is used here, it can be exchanged for any dangerous locale (mansions, farmhouses, adventure site, etc).

Dungeon Exploration Cycle

  1. The Warden describes the party’s surroundings and any immediate dangers (combat, traps, surprises, etc.). The players then declare their character’s intended movements and actions.
  2. The Warden resolves the actions of each character simultaneously, along with any actions that are already in progress. Remember, the Die of Fate can be a useful tool whenever the Warden is in doubt!
  3. The players record any loss of resources and any new conditions (i.e. item use, deprivation, etc). The cycle then begins again. If appropriate, the Warden should roll on the Dungeon Events table. Keep common sense in mind when interpreting the results!

Dungeon Events

Exploring a dungeon is always dangerous, and time must always be weighed against the risk of awakening the location’s denizens, natural hazards, and worse.
When the party:

  • Spends more than one dungeon cycle in a single room or location
  • Moves quickly or haphazardly through a room
  • Moves into a new area, level, or zone
  • Creates a loud disturbance

Roll on the table below.

1 Encounter Roll on an encounter table. Possibly hostile (see Reactions).
2 Sign A “spoor” (clue, track, scent, victim, droppings, etc.) is discovered.
3 Environment Surroundings shift or escalate. Water rises, ceilings collapse, a ritual nears completion, etc.
4 Loss Torches are blown out, an ongoing spell fizzles, etc. The party must resolve the effect before moving on.
5 Exhaustion The party must rest (triggering another roll on this table), add a Fatigue, or consume a ration.
6 Quiet The party is left alone (and safe) for the time being.


  • Actions are any non-passive activities such as searching for traps, forcing open a door, listening for danger, disarming a trap, engaging an enemy in combat, casting a spell, dodging a trap, running away, resting, etc.
  • Some actions have special rules (see below), while others may take multiple turns to complete.
  • Loud or noticeable actions may also trigger an encounter of the dungeon’s denizens.


  • A character can spend a turn performing an exhaustive search of one object or location in an area, revealing any relevant hidden treasure, traps, secret doors, etc.
  • Larger rooms and difficult or complex dungeon terrain may take a few turns to properly search.
  • Searching a room first is a safer way to explore the dungeon, but it has a steep cost: time.


  • A character can spend a turn resting to restore all HP.
  • A light source and a safe location are required to rest. Present or oncoming danger make rest impossible.
  • Resting does not restore Fatigue, as it is impossible to safely Make Camp in a dungeon.


  • A character that is surrounded by enemies, enveloped by darkness, or facing their greatest fears may experience panic. A WIL save is typically required to avoid losing control and becoming panicked.
  • A panicked character must make a WIL save to overcome their condition as an action on their turn.
  • A panicked character has 0 HP, does not act in the first round of combat, and all of their attacks are impaired.

Dungeon Elements


  • Torches and other radial sources of light illuminate 40ft of dungeon, and beyond that only a dim outline of objects. Torches last until they are put out by a character or their environment.
  • A torch can be lit 3 times before permanently degrading. A lantern can be relit 6 times per oil can, but requires more inventory slots.
  • Characters without a light source may suffer from panic until their situation is remedied.


  • Doors and entryways may be locked, stuck, moving or blocked entirely. Characters can try to force a door open (or wedge it shut) using available resources (spikes, glue), or through raw ability.
  • The character most at risk should save to avoid whatever danger may befall them.
  • A character can detect, through careful observation (listening, smelling, etc.), signs of life and other hazards through nearby doors and walls.


  • A cautious character should be presented with any and all information that would allow them the opportunity to avoid springing a trap. An unwitting character will trigger a trap according to the fiction, or otherwise have a 2-in-6 chance.
  • Traps can usually be detected by carefully searching a room.
  • Damage from traps is taken from Attributes (usually STR or DEX) and not from HP. Armor can reduce damage, but only if applicable (e.g. a shield would not reduce damage from noxious gas).


A party of 3 player characters (Leib, Konstin, and Gar) have entered the first level of the forest ruins of Ein Eyton, once the home of the death-cult Lunheuzo. Each character has a torch, but only Leib has one lit. There are no light sources here beyond the Moon in the night sky. The Warden reads the first room’s description:

The Courtyard

Collapsed roof (light from above streaming through). Sandy floor (chalky, glittery, lumpy). Rubble (mishapen, granite) is strewn about in a pile near the center. Humanoid statue (marble, full-sized, holding a bident) in the exact center.

Floor: A cursory investigation will reveal that the “sand” is actually pulverized bones.
Rubble: Pieces of very humanoid statues; very realistic. A red jewel glints wthin a tight stone fist.
Statue: The cult’s Death Goddess, marred by time. One eye socket is empty, in the other is a red jewel.
Removing the eye: The statue comes to life with ferocity, slicing the bident in a 10ft arc around it. Contact with the bident turns the victim to stone.
East Exit: to Storeroom. Wooden (rotted), locked (rusted, iron).
West Exit: to Offering Hall. Stone archway, open tunnel.

The Warden describes the room as “A courtyard. Moonlight drifts through the collapsed roof from the night sky. The floor is sandy, chalk-white that sparkles in the moonlight. Rubble is piled in the center, near a statue of a woman holding a weapon, her face chipped. There is a closed wooden door on the East side, and an open archway into a dark tunnel to the West.”

[The characters then declare their intended actions.]
Leib: “I’ll search the room for clues about its purpose, as well as any traps and treasure. I’ll start with the odd sand, then the rubble.” Konstin: “I’ll check out the wooden door. What can you tell me about it?” Gar: “I’m going to get a better look at that statue. What can I learn without actually getting too close?”

Any character could have asked about the sand and received the same answer as below, Leib just happened to roll his question into a larger search action.

Warden: “Alright. “Leib, the white sand is grainy and quite odd, clearly not from any beach ‘round these parts. It is bleached white in color, and kicking your foot at a small lump in the ground reveals a half-decayed human skull. You realize the sand is actually bone!” Meanwhile, the rubble looks extremely heavy, and difficult to move.”

The Warden then moves to describe another character’s actions, as they are happening simultaneously.

Warden: Konstin, the door is locked, ancient, and partly rotted. It bears a rusted iron lock. What do you do now?”

Konstin: “Seeing that I have no lockpick, I think I’ll put my ear to the door to see what’s on the other side.”

Warden: “OK, that will set up your turn, then. But first, let’s see what Gar is doing as well.”

Gar: “I light my torch and get a closer look at the statue.”

Warden: “The statue’s face is chipped away; one of its eyes is missing entirely. The other eye however is embedded with a beautiful red jewel. In its hands it holds an unusual weapon: a bident, made of white stone.”

Gar: “That’s just creepy! I want no part in this, not until we learn more about what this room was for. I’m going to circle back and explore the open archway into the tunnel.”

The Warden now describes the results of each character’s choices.

Warden: Leib, you’re confident that there are no traps hidden beneath the sand here, and you let your comrades know. Holding your torch high, you see something red and shiny glinting in the cracks of the pile. What do you do?”

Leib: “I dig it out, of course! But carefully.”

Warden: “You pull a broken stone fist from the rubble. Inside glints the red jewel you spied earlier. The fingers are wrapped around it quite tightly; you’ll need to work hard to get it loose!”

Leib: “I’m going to stash this thing in my pack for later investigation.”

Warden: “OK. It’s bulky on account of its weight, though.”

Leib: “Damn. Fine, I’m going to chisel away at with the edge of my dagger and a block of rubble. Noise be damned!

Warden: “OK, you do that. It makes a lot of noise, but eventually the jewel comes lose. You can store it with your other gold pieces. It is worth 25gp.”

Warden: “While this is all happening, Konstin places an ear on the door, but hears only a faint rustling on the other side. It could be the wind.

Konstin: “How busted is the keyhole? Could I see through it? What about the door itself? You said it was rotted.

Warden: “The keyhole is intact, and too dark to look through. You could shine a light through it, or you could use one of the gaps in the door.”

Konstin: “That works. I light my torch and hold it aloft so that I can see through.”

Warden: Konstin, Through the cracks, you can see a gray cement floor. Something gleams on the ground, flickering in the torchlight. It is shaped like a large, wet footprint!”

Konstin: “Eek! I let the others know.”

Warden: Konstin: You move to notify the others of your discovery, and notice that Gar has left the room, but see his torchlight flickering down the Western corridor. You meet up with Leib just as he digs up the stone fist. You tell him what you’ve discovered, and point out Gar’s absence.”

Konstin: Gar, get back here, you dummy!”

Warden: Gar, The tunnel bends South and out of view. The walls are crumbling here, but you can’t see much more. Do you continue?”

Gar: “Yes”.

Warden: “You follow the tunnel bend towards the South-west. It ends at a closed wooden doorway. It is rotted, it iron lock rusted and coming off the hinges. It would take only a small push to open.”

Gar: “I think I’m going to head back, rather than enter this new area alone.”

Warden: “As you do, you hear a loud banging noise coming from room your friends are in.”

Warden: “Alright folks. You’ve each completed a full round. Accordingly, Leib made a ton of noise [Leib’s player winces], which means I have to roll on the Dungeon Events table!

The Warden rolls on the Dungeon Events table. The result is a 1: an Encounter. The Warden’s prep indicates that the Zombies in the adjacent room will react to nearby noise, so…

Warden: “The shuffling sound Konstin heard earlier behind the East door suddenly becomes much louder. Then, something large and powerful begins slamming itself into the wooden door! It creaks and groans under the assault, until finally it explodes from the top! Through the newly-created hole, Leib and Konstin can clearly make out the face of a decayed human man, his flesh flaking beneath layers of slime. He appears clearly undead, and very, very, angry.”

Combat ensues between the party members in the Courtyard - a turn undead spellbook is used, and the player characters are quickly (and brutally) victorious. Gar returns from the tunnel just as the fight is ending.