The Cardboard Dungeon, Part 1

For our second D&D session, I was “planning” to run a classic Dungeon Crawl™. In the spirit of the previous session, I didn’t want to prepare an actual dungeon map with a key of its content. First I didn’t have time, and second, I wanted to see how I could run an improvised crawl. As I perused through my newly delivered (and yet unread) Dungeon Master Guide, I found three things I wanted to use in the game:

  • Rules for building encounters
  • Rules to generate treasure
  • A dungeon map I could use

I found all three and got familiar with them. The map I chose was a partly flooded underground complex featuring a temple complex.

As the players got settled, I picked up my setting’s stack of cards and reviewed its content to get inspiration…

That’s when I got this amazing idea.

I decided to make a new deck of index cards that were specific for this dungeon. All the cards would be based on the factions players would find within, setting-specific themes and generic, fortune-cookie like events.

I settled for 12 cards, because I was thinking I could roll a d12 to check what happened whenever I wanted to explore what might happen next.

Here’s the dungeon stack I created:

  • Factions (Name: Agenda)
    • Bullywugs: Hired by (Blank) to find the Black Pearl
    • Shauagins: Protect the Black Pearl
    • Humanoid Cultists: Awaken the Slumbering One (Volcano)
  • Alien Constructs: Dungeon Guardians
  • Wildlife Intrudes!
  • The Volcano Stirs
  • The Stormtides
  • False Alarm
  • Uncomfortable Truth
  • Disquieting Peace
  • Amazing Discovery
  • Unfortunate Coincidence (Roll twice more)

It took me about 15 minutes to create and I had enough to run a fully improvised dungeon crawl.

Stay tuned to see how that turned out!


  1. Very interesting. I look forward to reading more. I seem to vacillate between planning everything and running everything off the cuff. Clearly a middle ground, like this, would be the best way to go. I don’t know why I don’t do that.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I have a tricky session coming up this week – danger and intrigue upon an airship – and am worried about over-preparation. I’ve just recently made progress on minimizing prep and improv at the table. I want to keep that up. This will really help me write just enough to give me confidence at the table.