Five Room Dungeon


Inspired by Hank’s recent video on Five Room Dungeons, I ran a little one-shot in Thushum tonight only using these index cards:

We ran theatre of the mind and a good time was had by all. Zoom actually let us go beyond the 40 minute time limit tonight, so that was helpful too.

On a side note, roll-em bot on Discord generated 3 confirmed Crit Failures tonight. Thank the Maker for Hero Coins!

So easy a cave man could do it.


That’s a cool idea. I’ve been thinking a lot about theatre of the mind things since listening to Runehammer’s latest podcast. But I have rather limited experience with it myself.

How did you do it? Just generally describing the areas and then proceeding into turn based action as usual?


First I picked an area in Alfheim: Thushum, the Goblin Home. Using the lore from the Worlds supplement, I got some of the main characters. I have also wanted to do something with Necromancers, so I built a 5 room dungeon using the concepts mentioned in the attached video. Then I went room by room and set up my 3 T’s (Timers, Threats and Treats). Finally, I typed all this out using an index card add-on for my word processor. Once printed and cut out, I read through the cards like a player and realized I needed an explanation as to how a bunch of outsiders were going to be allowed to move through Thushum and why the goblins weren’t willing to take care of the situation internally. I used Zoom (audio only, but shared my screen for Discord rollem bot).
The important thing is that you take the time to close your eyes and describe what you see, including the party’s physical relationship to the things you are describing. Close, Near and Far are your friends here or you can just say, “you could make it to the door and still have an action if you’d like.”
Hope this helps.


Thank you for your explanation! It makes me want to experiment with a similar approach at least once.

I draw on my spare time, so it’s pretty easy to rely a bit too much on this; trying different techniques should help make the prep more meaningful.

Did you still have a kind of “bonfire” as Runehammer calls it? If yes, what was it?


Must have missed that one. I’ll assume I didn’t since I don’t recall that being mentioned yet. What do you mean?


He’s actually mentioned it here and there. I don’t remember which videos/podcasts though since it seems to come up quite often.

The bonfire he talks about is generally a gathering point, or focus on the table. Something the players can gather around, be it an intricate drawing or even food/drinks.

Still wrapping my head around the concept, but hopefully I’ve been able to mention the essence of it. :slight_smile:


Being online, we didn’t have a physical one. I did share the Discord screen over Zoom for rolls and an avenue for OOC chatting if the players desired (ie. Hey good roll man or Sneaky McGrabby Fingers fiddles absentmindedly with his lockpick tools while waiting for Brawny McSmashstuff decides which goblin to crush.)

And now I have 2 characters I have to create…


Love the idea. I have a whole adventure waiting on an index card lol. With regard to theatre of the mind. I did a game the other week with 2 new rpg players. I set up a fight in the Inn within minutes of the game beginning. I described a verrrrrrry basic Inn. Few tables around, sound of mugs clattering, maybe 30 people enjoying the end of a week and somebody playing an instrument in the corner. A few days ago I was wondering if I gave enough detail. So I asked the players separately what they thought of the inn and how they imagined it. They both had the layout I gave (if you can call It a layout), one long cowboy saloon style bar. But the details they told me were insane. Things I never said at all, They even had ideas of how many windows there were and things like that. I have learnt that our brains are clever. We fill in the gaps. Just describe sight, sound, smell and a key feature or 2. Our noggins do the rest.


It is important to note that the GM isn’t the only storyteller at the table. Like yourself, I’ve found that sometimes you just lay down some framework and let the players do their thing. I feel that it is part of a player’s obligation to fill in the gaps. As a player I like to throw in bits and pieces that give the GM something to riff off. The story results from this improvisational dialogue and some of the best moments are not the ones we tried to craft ahead of time but rather the result of the players doing something that we never foresaw as a possibility.


Definatley, players can have story gold and not even realise it, just them suggesting something small can be all it takes to inspire some cool stuff.