On dungeons, and what happens when they’re not being crawled

The dungeon crawl game playtest is progressing, and I’m thinking about parts that need expansion. (There’s a potential name in discussion, too. Finally!)

The question of the moment: what happens when adventurers exit the dungeon?

Some mechanical parts of that have already been written, naturally: adventurers can heal up to full Health, and have the option to buy a point of Level. But beyond the mechanics (or, perhaps, things that are not yet modeled by the mechanics), there’s more afoot. Presumably, time passes, which is important. It may not be a lot of time, but it’s important to remember that the game world is progressing at the same rate as the characters, of course. For game balance purposes, if nothing else, the adventurers’ benefit from exiting the dungeon should be mollified by a shift of some sort in the dungeon as well. This is not “game-changer” material a la hitting the Danger Level, but the adventurers should not expect that everything in the dungeon has “paused” to allow them to replenish their resources without escalating in response – otherwise, the challenge of the dungeon diminishes as it stays the same while the adventurers improve.

The most basic use of exiting the dungeon is to heal at a faster rate than camping. Health is of course a useful resource, and it stands to reason that the “Health” of the dungeon replenishes as well – not just that of monsters, but of traps and other hazards. Essentially, if the party gets to heal back to full, so should the dungeon. That doesn’t mean all plot advances have been reset, or that destroyed doors reform and chasms shrug off improvised rope bridges, but the dungeon is now aware of the adventurers and the threat they pose, and will respond appropriately: the denizens of the dungeon might bring a new threat to bear in a dangerous area previously cleared, such as weakening the rope bridge so that the adventurers must make a test to cross it safely. Some traps can be reset, but others can be replaced; monsters can wander in from previously unexplored areas (there’s always at least one new  corridor to follow, as the rules point out); et cetera.

This replenishment rate should scale to the party’s gain from exiting: if one or more characters decide to buy Level, for instance, there should be correspondingly greater pushback from the dungeon, so to speak.