Use Dungeon moves if your players are exploring a hostile area that you don’t already have planned completely. They’re particularly well-suited for when the characters enter a place like a new room or hallway and want to know what they find there.
Map out the area being explored as you make these moves. Most of them will require you to add a new room or element to your map. You can make these moves whenever everyone looks to you to say something, when the players present you an opportunity, or when the players miss on a roll.
Change the environment
The environment is the general feel of the area the players are in: carved tunnels, warped trees, safe trails, or whatever else. This is your opportunity to introduce them to a new environment: the tunnels gradually become naturally carved, the trees are dead and strange, or the trails are lost and the wilderness takes over. Use this move to vary the types of areas and creatures the players will face.
Point to a looming threat
If you know that something is lurking and waiting for the players to stumble upon it, this move shows them the signs and clues. This move is the dragon’s footprints in the mud or the slimy trail of the gelatinous cube.
Introduce a new faction or type of creature
A type of creature is a broad grouping: orcs, goblins, lizardmen, the undead, etc.
A faction is a group of creatures united by a similar goal. Once you introduce them you can begin to make moves and cause trouble for the players with those creatures or NPCs.
Introducing means giving some clear sensory evidence or substantiated information. Don’t be coy; the players should have some idea what you’re showing the presence of. You can, however, be subtle in your approach. No need to have the cultist overlord waving a placard and screaming in the infernal tongue every single time.
A hard application of this move will snowball directly into a combat scene or ambush.
Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature
Once the characters have been introduced to the presence of a faction or type of creature you can use moves of monsters of that type.
Use the factions and types broadly. Orcs are accompanied with their hunting worgs. A mad cult probably has some undead servants or maybe a few beasts summoned from the abyssal pits. This is a move that, often, you’ll be making subconsciously—it’s just implementing the tools you’ve set out for yourself in a clear and effective manner.
Make them backtrack
Look back at the spaces you’ve added to the map. Is there anything useful there as yet undiscovered? Can you add a new obstacle that can only be overcome by going back there? Is there a locked door here and now whose key lies in an earlier room?
When backtracking, show the effect that time has had on the areas they’ve left behind. What new threats have sprung up in their wake? What didn’t they take care of that’s waiting for their return?
Use this move the make the dungeon a living, breathing place. There is no stasis in the wake of the characters’ passing. Add reinforcements, cave in walls, cause chaos. The dungeon evolves in the wake of the characters’ actions.
Present riches at a price
What do the players want? What would they sacrifice for it?
Put some desirable item just out of reach. Find something they’re short on: time, HP, gear, whatever. Find a way to make what they want available if they give up what they have.
The simplest way to use this move is the promise of gold out of the way of the main objective. Will they stop to pry the ruby eyes from the idol when they know that the sacrifice looms closer and closer? Use this move and you can find out.
Present a challenge to one of the characters
Challenge a character by looking at what they’re good at. Give the thief a lock to pick, show the cleric servants of an enemy god to battle against. Give the wizard magical mysteries to investigate. Show the fighter some skulls to crack. Give someone a chance to shine.
As an alternative, challenge a character by looking at what they’re bad at or what they’ve left unresolved. If the bard has a complicated lie on his conscience, what steps will he take to cover it up when someone figures him out? If the wizard has been summoning demons, what happens when word gets out?
This move can give a character the spotlight—even if just for a moment.
- see a discussion on Using Dungeon Moves