Mapless Dungeons in Crown and Skull seem railroady


I’m still in the middle of reading through the book, and I’m having a great time. The one issue I have as a GM is that the Mapless Dungeons are set up to run sequentially: Location A, which exits into Location B, which exits into Location C, etc. If the PCs are exploring a ruined city (for example), shouldn’t there be the option of Location A going to Location C directly?

I’m a devoted follower of Justin Alexanders Node-Based Design (, and I’d like to combine Mapless Dungeon with Node Design. This would require multiple EXITs, so we could have five locations instead of four, with location 5 being the other EXIT, which would not be immediately discoverable. When a location gets crossed out, all locations above it would chunk down a slot, so there would be two EXITs (3 and 4) available.

I rather like the idea that an area could have more than four locations. If there were, say, six locations in an area, locations 5 and 6 would not available for immediate discovery. Location #4 would be an EXIT, but not the only EXIT. Locations 5 and 6 would be only discoverable after some searching, representing secret doors or just ways that are harder to find…



I haven’t tried the Mapless dungeons yet as they have not come up in my game. I could probably run a few scenarios by myself and see how it looks and proceeds.

My first thought about them was that they would be initially Mapless for the GM to run and describe, and the players would map it for themselves as they proceed. The GM should then take logical notes and explanations to start making connections. Since we are talking about huge and vast dungeons, any player worth their salt would try to keep some record of it in some way. The GM should definitely be taking notes and continue to make it cohesive.


Ok, I’ve read further along and I see that an area can have more than one exit. Great. My issue here is that there is no player agency possible regarding navigation with the rules as written.This applies to both dungeons and hex rolls. In the hex roll section there is a brief mention of PCs with the correct skill or magic item being able to to adjust the roll, and I assume the skill is scouting, but I can’t find any rules how scouting actually works. The PCs just wander around aimlessly until they they bump into what they were looking for.


This is a great observation. Since there isn’t any rules for resources while traveling, Hankerin basically stated that the Hex Roll is what takes its place instead. We can assume that the PCs are reasonably competent and know about where they are going, but don’t know what they are going to be running into, as they are too focused on what is directly in front of them. Of course, you don’t have to be too rigid with Hex Rolls and you can use them less often if it is going to slow down your game. Hexes are a way to keep track of how far you are traveling and how long it is going to take.

If you had Scout in the Plains or Forests, you can roll to improve the HEX Roll by the margin of success on both Location and Event. If you had Climbing in the Mountains or Forest, same thing. In addition to this, you could also have the player who rolled a Critical Success to speed up travel by finding faster routes (they can then note down to use later) and reduce the amount of HEXES travelled by 1 or 2.

Maybe this can help in dungeons as well with a proper Knowledge roll or Mining, they can improve their odds of finding an exit faster or outright finding a necessary exit to an already explored area. Scouting can also help by allowing the player to select which encounter in the area OR bypass all encounters that roll.


I think the Mapless Dungeon builds on the ideas in ICRPG’s “story architecture” diagram.

If you’re building your own you could use a similar diagram, multiple locations and encounters per area in the diagram.


I had a difficult time getting my head around mapless dungeons. I thought the concept was sound, but couldn’t visualise how to convey the experience to my players at the table.

I’ve now played through two (of my own design) and found the mechanic to be superb.

Of course, there are a few variables involved and the possibility of the players never rolling that 4 to find the exit, but overall everyone had loads of fun.

Lessons learned and observations made were:

  • Players thought removing the exploration of empty corridors / rooms, or dead ends was great, speeding up play and getting them straight to the action
  • I could control the speed of the exploration simply by allowing players to find the exit or area they were searching for regardless of the roll they made.
  • Allowed players to freely return to previously discovered areas, but rolled a new encounter.
  • Added NPCs with some knowledge of the dungeon, allowing players to modify their Location rolls +/- 1
  • Time saved in creating and prepping a mapless dungeon (when compared to creating a mapped dungeon) was invaluable!

I Started with players believing the mapless dungeon mechanic was too ‘board-gamey’, but by the end of the dungeon they all agreed the experience was logical, exciting, and kept the momentum flowing.

Give mapless dungeons a try if you haven’t already. It’s weird at first, but once you wrap your head around it you’ll have a great time



I found this very amusing, because the procedures in traditional mapped dungeons with 10ft squares and mapping out the area is “board-gamey” as well. I believe those procedures were pulled in from different board games, since D&D was all about taking ideas from board games and war games.


So, I think if you wanted more of a web design than a trail design, you could have the exit when rolled lead to one of two or three locations rolled randomly. So the exit in location 1 may lead to location 2, location 3, or location 4. I think this would be most suited to a labyrinth, in which getting mixed up and turned around is best reflected by the randomness. I think it tracks fairly well that you know the generally contours of a large area that you must pass through one part before getting to the next part, though you may get lost in any part by itself.


I’ve been wrapping my brain around the mapless too. I found Hankerin’s video D&D Doodlin’: Mapping the Mapless very helpful.


New here, just discovered this community.

I love the concept of mapless dungeons but I also love large, complex dungeons. I do a couple of mods to the procedure personally, though this is very much a work in progress:

  1. I use 2d4 not 1d4 for each list. This allows for more entries per list (less duplicates, more options), and probability wise, makes it a bell curve as opposed to 1 in 4 where the mid range of the numbers are more common than the extreme ends (2 and 8). Which allows for more stuff and less chance of rolling the exit right away, adding more dangerous but rare encounters, and you can assign the exit anywhere you want (or multiple exits)
  2. I add a probability roll for exits from a room whenever I feel the session needs it. If there are more than 1, then whichever the party chooses I roll as normal, but when I roll the ‘exit’, there’s a percent chance it’s a big encounter but a dead end. They have to back track and take one of the other routes. Fair warning though, this greatly extends the time the party spends in this dungeon. Often this is better for large, multi-session stuff or megadungeons.

I find this is a nice balance between more complexity, while keeping the time saving aspects of mapless dungeons.


This is a good way to do it.

If the players come up with a good way of finding an exit, you can just give it to them so they can move to a new area OR if you aren’t sure if it would work, roll the YES/NO die.