Doors. Every dungeon has them. Rules governing traps and locks have made them an essential part of every dungeon crawl. Unfortunately, the narrative influence of doors on a given game’s events is a sadly underplayed phenomenon. Ask any adventurer about what they remember most in a campaign and it will likely be an enemy, a critical fail, a cleverly role-played moment, or some other non-door related… thing. Here’s how you can fix that. The following are some fun things you can do with doors in dungeons that can bring a little unexpected character development, charm, and role play to your game.
Doors blessed with the power of speech can offer a variety of different role play situations.
- A door that begs the players not to open it desperately. The door claims that opening causes it severe pain. If the players open the door, set up a dangerous encounter with no loot. If the players agree to leave the door be, it opens revealing treasure as a reward for their empathy. This can also impact their moral alignment.
- A door that the player characters are emphatically warned to avoid and never open no matter what. An innocent voice behind the door begs to be let out. If opened, reveal an incredibly powerful enemy capable of killing the entire party. You did warn them!
- A common enough dungeon trope, two doors each promise to be the correct passage forward, one always speaks the truth, the other only lies. They both claim to be the correct door and only one can be chosen.
- A door that only opens when it stops paying attention to being closed. The way past this door is engaging it with a good distracting conversation. You can improve the drama of a door like this if you provide the party with a good reason to get through the door quickly, forcing them to come up with an interesting topic to discuss with the door before it becomes too late.
- A door that must be convinced by the party to open through verbal persuasion.
Simple Conditional Doors
These doors allow passage only after some specific tangible condition is met.
- A door that only lets those with a secret through. You whisper the secret into the keyhole (i.e. The dm’s ear) and the rest of the party does the same. But once you’re through the passageway the entire party now knows that they each have a secret, that they have not shared with each other and the DM knows them all.
- A door the requires each player to recall their most painful memory.
- A door that requires the character to respond in improvised rhymes.
- A door that requires an interpretive dance.
- A door that speaks an extremely rare language.
Abstract Condition Doors
These doors requirements for entry are more mysterious and may require more than a simple trinket or task.
- A door that only opens when you give up trying to open it. Taunting the players to force them to keep trying.
- A door that costs a memory to pass. The player would willingly sacrifice a memory of a person, place, or event in their life in order to pass through the door. This could invite some interesting future consequences.
- A door that only opens when you give up trying to open it.
- A door that only opens for a party of adventures that are united in their motivations.
- A door that allows entry only if one member volunteers to stay on the other side.
Hopefully these ideas can be thrown into your next campaign to provide a little unexpected door drama where there was none before.