Levels of Player Engagement with Encounters
- Nothing: literally nothing to see here—search for secret doors and move along; I try to insure that that a number of seemingly-empty rooms are, in fact, empty, to help dungeon dressing stand out further
- Dungeon dressing: spot color to maintain the game’s flow, provide distraction, and avoid player boredom; some dressing will be simple spot color, while some will be “special” dungeon dressing---dressing with inspirational potential that could build into a something of significance, and perhaps even a true encounter, depending upon the players’ actions in response (i.e., when I'm winging it); in general, dungeon dressing should also highlight the unique aspects of a level in the small, details that make A1 differ from A4 (I dislike the term “special” so if you think of a better adjective, please let me know!)
- Encounters: the usual mix of monsters, treasures, traps, hazards, riddles, puzzles, tricks, enigmas, and other dungeon features that wreak havoc upon PCs
- Centerpiece encounters: the unique and distinctive encounters that resonate with players across the years of a campaign, like the Black Reservoir and Great Stone Face of Castle Greyhawk, and the Unopenable Doors and Terrible Iron Golem of Maure Castle
Example of Dungeon Dressing: Doors
Consult this table when you want to insert some colorful doors into your dungeon; the table mixes together what I consider levels 2-4 of encounter types:
"Dungeon Strangitude: Variations on Dungeon Dressing and Setting the Tone" first appeared in Knockspell Magazine #2 (Spring 2009). This version of the article includes the errata published in FKQ#3 that fixed the entries for 31-40 and 41-47, which were dropped from table when originally published. I've also collapsed the original five levels of encounter engagement down to four after feedback from readers.