Let’s Build an Absurd Dungeon! | D&D Adventure Creation
Are you a dungeon master whose players binge on all the OP character build videos on YouTube? Ranking videos that tell them which feats will power their PCs up the most? How build a PC with 300 hit points at level one? The top 5 most broken spells that they should be using? If so, perhaps it’s time to fight fire with fire…
We are going to build an absurd dungeon that will help you, my dear frustrated dungeon master, keep pace with all the RIDICULO-CITY your players bring to the table. Today we’re going to have some fun!
As follows are five COMPLETELY BROKEN, yet often OVERLOOKED, elements that you are probably FORGETTING to use in your D&D adventures. Oh, and make sure you stick around to the very end because I’ll be revealing my super-secret method for OP dungeon crafting! (Was that a bit too on the nose?)
By the way, if you’re a new dungeon master feeling a bit OVERWHELMED by everything involved in running a D&D game, I completely understand. Being a DM isn’t always easy, and my personal goal is to help game masters by providing information and resources to make your life easier! That’s why my team and I make all these articles and videos.
However, Lairs & Legends is another such resource. With over 700 pages of adventures, monsters, puzzles, traps, and other 5e GM resources, you can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce your prep time and still run amazing games for your players.
Watch or listen to this article by clicking the video below.
#1 The Splash Trap
This deviously beautiful trap selectively targets characters that have certain optimal levels of certain classes splashed into them. For instance, any PC with two or three levels of warlock splashed in, or a wizard with one level of cleric splashed so they get to wear heavy armor. What this trap seeks out is characters build using metagame knowledge of low hanging power fruit for certain classes, such as the paladin with 2 levels of warlock and 2 levels of sorcerer.
Now this trap can be placed anywhere really, but my suggestion is to have it on a door in the dungeon that the group must pass through to complete their objective. This is one instance where a liner map design, which is otherwise heavily frowned upon, is going to be your friend. Make it so that the characters have NO CHOICE but to go through that darned door. And if it feels just a little bit like you’re stealing player agency, good. That means you doing the Splash Trap right.
This 100% undetectable and un-disarmable trap activates an invisible magical field that when a character passes through, strips said character of all classes that have 3 or fewer levels in them, completely removing all class traits and features from classes thus striped. Two levels of warlock? Gone. One level of cleric? Gone. And that 2 paladin 2 sorcerer 2 warlock? Looks like we’re back in level 0 commoner territory, baby!
#2 The Phalanx
This perfectly petty tactic utilizes the feats polearm master and sentinel…only leveraging it for your bad guys. I’ll wager that any dungeon master who’s DM’d for at least a few minutes has seen a PC using this build; now it’s time to turn this exploit against not just one PC, but the entire party! Punish everyone for one player’s mania, I say.
This is quite simple. Take an entire squad of monsters, we’ll use gnolls for this example, give them halberds, and the polearm master and sentinel feats. Then have them form a straight line that stretches across an area of the dungeon. As soon as a character comes within ten feet, up to three gnolls can use their reactions to attack the character, and if the attack hits, the character’s speed becomes zero. This stops them just out of range of being able to attack the gnolls, and they are screwed. Then, you just rinse and repeat this for every PC who dares approach the gnoll phalanx’s line. One their turn, the gnolls attack with their halberds and then fall back at least five feet so that PCs are now 15 feet away, and if on their turns they want to approach the gnolls in melee, they’ll have to enter their polearm reach again, provoking reaction attacks that can ONCE AGAIN reduce their speed to zero.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about ranged PCs and spellcasters? Well, that’s why your gnoll phalanx is supported by gnoll crossbowman with the following feats: crossbow expert, sharpshooter, and mage slayer. Their job is to rain fury and destruction down upon ranged PCs and PC spellcasters. Thanks to their feats, each gnoll can shoot at least twice per round, can do an extra 10 damage per shot, and imposes disadvantage on any spellcaster who needs to make a Constitution saving throw or lose a spell they are concentrating on.
But Luke, you say, it’s it ri-DONK-ulous, even ABSURD, to have monsters just conveniently take these combinations of feats and use these tactics? And we can’t use them in EVERY ADVENTURE either, can we? And to that I say… It’s no more ridiculous and absurd for characters to do the same. And don’t characters use the same feats and tactics in every dungeon they venture into? Why then can’t dungeon masters do the same?
Well, Luke, you say, because it gets old and boring for the players if the DM does that. And to that I say… don’t you think it gets old and boring for the DM when players do it?
#3 The Cliffs of Doom
In this ultimate dungeon of devastation, there is a massive room stretching over 100 feet in every direction, bathed in magical darkness, and inhabited by a cabal of warlocks who have the Devil’s Sight and Repelling Blast eldritch invocations. When the characters enter the room, the warlocks beginning shooting the crap out of them with eldritch blast from 100 feet away, constantly knocking them back so that they can’t close the distance to attack the warlocks.
For extra fun, let’s have an iron door slam shut behind the characters so they can’t retreat from this supreme shooting gallery of scintillating sleaziness. Oh, and let’s have one side of the room drop away into CLIFFS OF DOOM. If characters are repelling blasted off these cliffs, they fall over 500 feet into… LAVA? How about lava? Yeah, lava sounds good.
Oh, and did I forget to mention…there is no saving throw for Repelling Blast, so there is NOTHING the characters can do about this. I feel like this is a perfectly delicious TPK. I mean, could YOU make it any better?
#4 The Dice Manipulators
Now this sleazy trick here will really show OP characters who’s boss. All the monsters in your devious dungeon of destruction splash two levels of wizard, specializing in divination, to get PORTENT. And we might as well make them HALFLINGS with the Lucky feat – I mean, at this point, why hold back? With portent, every single one of your bad guys gets to roll two d20s ahead of time and use the results in place of either their rolls or the characters’ rolls.
That’s A LOT of dice changing shenanigans we’re talking about there! And since they are halflings, if they roll a 1 they get to re-roll. And with the Lucky feat, they get to replace any d20 roll of theirs or a character with a new roll.
Also, if you want to take this strategy to all new heights of powerful, just roll all your dice behind your screen. It’s amazing what you can do when the players can’t see your dice!
#5 The Perfect Puzzle
The final element of a deliciously deadly dungeon adventure is a puzzle that your players simply can’t solve. Now, I’m not talking about making a DIFFICULT puzzle; I’m talking about a puzzle that literally has no solution. It CAN NOT be solved. And of course, it blocks the way forward or otherwise makes the adventure un-winnable.
The goal here is simply to frustrate your players. Remember how I said we’re fighting fire with fire? If your players can frustrate their dungeon masters with a multitude of OP builds and special tricks intended to exploit the rules while still following the letter of the law, the dungeon master can do the same. I mean, isn’t one of the first rules of D&D that the dungeon master can change the rules as they see fit?
My Super-Secret Method for OP Dungeon Crafting
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You’ve come to the actual point of this article: all of this is ridiculous. The never-ending arms war that players and dungeon masters wage is rather silly.
However, it’s not going to stop anytime soon. D&D YouTubers and bloggers will continue to create these videos because, well they get really good views, and we all know that views are king on these platforms, whether you like it or not. And players will continue to create powerful characters because, well, it’s really fun. This character arms race is just part of the game.
So, this is my message to all the awesome dungeon masters out there that may get frustrated by this sort of thing: embrace it. As more powerful character options are released, just level up the challenge of your adventures. As PCs get power creep, so do your monsters and traps and puzzles. This allows you to use really cool higher-level monsters that perhaps you couldn’t before. Or that nasty trap that you included as an easter egg in that last block of code you wrote – commented out, of course. It was commented out, wasn’t it?
This is the nature of the game. Don’t let it get to you…too much.
Being a Dungeon Master Shouldn’t Be an Exercise in Frustration!
When I was a new dungeon master, I was overwhelmed with everything I needed to do. Learn the rules, create the adventures, run the game, handle problem players—it was A LOT! And even as a veteran DM, it’s still a lot. You might even feel that way yourself.
This is exactly why my team and I dedicate our time to producing resources to help our fellow dungeon masters: we know exactly how you sometimes feel!
Now, if you’re stressed out with having to create all the adventures for your 5e game, or you’re looking for elements such as traps, puzzles, and encounters that you can drag and drop into your game, we have you covered. With Lairs & Legends and Loot & Lore, you’ll get over 700 pages of 5e resources:
- Twenty-nine 5e adventures spanning levels 1 to 15 and designed for groups of 4 to 6 players.
- Over 100 new creatures from CR 0 to CR 24.
- Adventure Ideas
- Encounters with Full-Color and Blackline Digital Maps
- Patrons & Factions
- Magic Items
- Random Encounter Tables
- Random Tables
Everything is designed to be EASY TO USE and QUICK TO PREP for your game. Our goal is to make game masters’ lives easier, not more complex!
Don’t spend another moment frustrated and overwhelmed as a DM. Pick up the Lairs & Legends Ultimate Bundle today and find out how much easier being a DM can be!
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