I used to not be very big on dungeon crawling because I felt it didn't worked. But I've been playing Old-School Essentials and it sooo works
So I've been revisiting 5e's very few dungeoneering rules, and the first that begins to signal why dungeon exploration doesn't quite work is time.
Within a dungeon you could travel 200ft/min. Which is crazy fast for an environment that's trying to kill you
For comparison in OSE it's 120ft per 10 minutes, it's assumed you are looking out for danger
This is, of course, related to tone and genre. While not explicitly stated is not controversial to say that 5e's tone is very "heroic" the PCs are not assumed to be the underdogs, so they enter guns blazing and don't get really tired, they are Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible. So it makes sense they move at superhuman speed
While in OSE, any false movement might kill them, they are Bruce Willis is Die Hard. Crawling trough this space is gonna take a while
Character progression from OSE to 5e is obviously different, and the probably the source of most of the game's changes, but in particular Hit Dice is a big one.
For starters Hit Dice in 5e are incomprehensible, because they feel so detached from the rest of the game, but more over in 5e you gain one HD by level, and in OSE your HD are caped
This keeps the lower HP throughout all progression.
Not to mention OSE's highest HD is a d8, which is the norm in 5e.
I'm including a screenshot as reference but for starters
The highest HD in OSE is d8 vs d12 in 5e
The lowest in OSE is d4 vs d6 in 5e
Moreover in OSE you roll for your HP to start and in 5e you begin with a fixed amount
These differences stack so that in 5e you become an HP mountain affecting the effectivity of the default improvised damage in 5e
The HP conversation goes far beyond dungeoneering which is my main focus right now, but one final note Is that your Hit Points CON bunus works sort of the same in both games, but the fact that there's Ability Improvements in 5e and that retroactively can affect your HP contributes a lot to the whole effect
(CON bonus stops working at LVL 9 in OSE as well as gaining extra HD)
Next is healing. Dungeon delving, as intended seems to be about push your luck and resource management. In OSE healing comes from magic or resting a full day (just 1d3 per day)
While in 5e you can rest one hour and get, at least, 1HD+CON so you can push further
That should be good because you *can* push, but that often means GMs are inclined to introduce more combat encounters which, in turn, drag the game pace.
So while as a player you are inclined to push further, pushing is boring as heck
So 5e's DMG has at least two sections that are kind of beefy regarding dungeons:
- Chapter 5 Adventure endironments
- Apendix A: Random Dungeons
the former considers things like who built the dungeon and with what purpose, even sounds and other things to "dress it". The second has tables to roll a dungeon in the moment (tempted to try that)
BUT... Apendix B: Monster Lists has no list for Dungeons. The game calls dungeons an adventure environment, but no list of antagonists to find there
I started this exercise because I had the gut feeling that by introducing just some time and equipment tracking, modifying movement rates and using some OSR assumptions I'd find that 5e could be a serviceable dungeon crawl game (somewhat contrary to my own experience)
But I'm staring to think a dungeon crawl in 5e needs much more than that
I'm planning a single 10ish room dungeon crawl in 5e anyway just to make the experiment
I'm also thinking of a five torches deep review I saw a few months ago and the changes it made for 5e including the level cap
And I'm thinking about Ironsworn Delve, and how even though it's not OSR by any means it captures the feeling that the dungeon "is supposed" to have
Aaaand I'm thinking I need to check Trophy
So. That's the whole chapters of Basic Fantasy on Adventuring and Running Adventures.
A pretty good read honestly. Extremely dense but very readable. As far as dungeon delving I still have some things to check regarding both games but so far I think I've learnt a lot
So. At this point having read several OSR and retroclone games, I'd say that where 5e gets it wrong is not entirely the dungeon delving, tho it's part (as the thread suggests) it is that the PCs can be extremely home town independent
Mechanically this relates to how much they are able to push forward, but if I squint I can see how that starts to burden GMs because there's no default well established place for the PCs to return to
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