Dungeons Are Contrived for Fun Games

The ancient Egyptians used canopic jars to store the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver of corpses embalmed as mummies. I’m surprised that as a longtime D&D fan, I learned that fun fact only recently. Credit Jen Kretchmer, the author of The Canopic Being from Candlekeep Mysteries. The group for my D&D weekend started our tier 3 games with this standout adventure that built mummy lore into an ingenious villain.

After playing the adventure, I remembered that the dungeon’s lack of stairs caused a silly controversy. A preview by James Haeck reveals the feature. “It’s filled with fantasy elevators, and ledges are accessible by ramps rather than by stairs. If you have a player in your gaming group who wants to play a wheelchair-using character, this is a great adventure to borrow dungeon design ideas from. After all, it is a fantasy world. If it’s a player’s fantasy to kick ass in a wheelchair, why not?”

Some D&D fans grumbled that such a dungeon defied history or D&D tradition. In D&D, any closed environment meant to be explored, infiltrated, or raided qualifies as a dungeon, and those places almost always include substantial allowances to make play more fun, most often including oversized spaces with plenty of room for fights. D&D dungeons owe as much to history as fire-breathing dragons do. As for D&D tradition, the original 1974 D&D books recommend sloping passages and sinking rooms as tricky dungeon features. Dungeons can make such allowances and still murder characters.

James asks, “If we didn’t mention that the dungeon was fully accessible here, would you have even noticed that there were ramps instead of stairs?” True. Nobody noticed.

2 thoughts on “Dungeons Are Contrived for Fun Games

  1. Gonz

    I remember noticing the ramps and immediately thinking the in-game dungeons designers were very smart. I always had to re-think some dungeons I’ve used in my Eberron campaigns because they were built by giants, but their slaves (mostly elves) had to use them too, and giant stairs steps would have been extremely difficult to use, so I started changing them for ramps long ago.

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  2. Ilbranteloth

    That’s one of the things I miss in D&D. We were always researching history. For the mundane aspects I still research and try to incorporate as much as possible to ground things in “reality.”

    For tombs I usually start with a map from the Theban Mapping Project and modify them as needed.

    https://thebanmappingproject.com/

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