Dungeons, or "How do you run dungeons in 13th age?"

I've never understood how to run dungeons, and I certainly don't understand how to run them in 13th Age.

I'm running a modified version of "Curse of the Crimson Throne" and I simply do not know how I'll present this dungeon-centric adventure. Let me know what you think!


  • I'm not sure why running a dungeon would be any different than most other types of adventures, so perhaps my advice won't help. My thought is that a dungeon is a series of encounters much like any other adventure and the key is for the GM to push the characters through as many encounters as possible without rest so that they use up their resources, then give them a chance to regain, then push them again. If players opt to rest too often, throw a random monster their way. Otherwise, dungeon crawls are a matter of resource management, just like any other adventure.
  • When I have used dungeons in 13th Age adventures, I've tried to keep them small and focused. I tried to make every room have either a fight, a puzzle, something interesting (a plot item needed for that dungeon, treasure, an RP encounter, etc), or have an immediately obvious purpose to build verisimilitude (this is clearly a sleeping barracks, loot it for a few coins then move on). I also tried to have most fights be more than just "kill this monster because we're in a dungeon." Either the monster guards something the PCs need (a key, a plot item, phat lewt), the PCs need access to the room but the monsters won't let them (we need to repair this part of the dungeon to unlock this other part of the dungeon, but it's hard to repair while demon bats attack you, or the dungeon has a choke point which is heavily guarded), the monsters are doing terrible things that the PCS need to stop (sacrificing innocents, worshiping evil gods, holding a hostage), etc. Since 13th Age isn't really built for "kill the one wandering kobold" type fights, every fight should have a good motivation behind it. So far, all the dungeons I've done have been one full rest; however, if I want to make it a little longer without stretching it to two full rests, I have two tricks I've used:

    1) Have some way for the group to get some recoveries and/or recharge powers back built into the dungeon (magic statue, holy temple, healing fountain, etc). I figure if the typical character has 8 recoveries, and there's 4 fights per full rest, if you give each PC back 2 recoveries (plus a few bonus recharge rolls) per fight beyond 4, you're about right. You don't have to make it automatic, but don't make it too difficult either, otherwise they may get overwhelmed. And obviously if you want 7 or 8 fights, probably better just to have it be a two full-rest dungeon.

    2) Have "optional" fights/encounters. This can either be explicit from the start (your mission is to get back the Crown of Command, but if you also get me the Scepter of Might I'll increase your reward, but the Scepter is guarded by a pack of gorgons), or obvious during the adventure (this side room full of batsharks and treasure doesn't lead anywhere, so we can totally skip it if we want, or tackle it for the loot). That way, if the PCs do well in their earlier fights, they can decide to tackle the optional stuff, whereas if they've had their asses kicked, they can skip the optional stuff without taking a campaign loss for fleeing (of course, if they go into an optional fight and then flee, they deserve a campaign loss!).

    Also, steal appropriately leveled traps from the Organized Play adventures, re-theme them if needed, and use them. Traps in 13th Age can represent a lot of stuff, so you can sprinkle them almost anywhere in a dungeon to put some more pressure on the PCs, have a room have a challenge without having a full fight, etc.

    I have also run dungeons without maps (the Ziggurat from the end of 13 True Ways plus two of my own design), and it works ok, but ends up feeling linear. That's fine for some adventures (in one of them they were racing to the bottom of a tomb while a dragon ravaged the town overhead, so a linear dungeon was fine to create a sense of racing and pressure), but I try not to do it too often. And when I do, I try to have some PC input via montage so they don't feel completely without choice.

    Hope this helps!
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