Scenario the first:

So there you are in the Vestibule of Evil. You’ve booted down the door, called your challenge to the darkness, and drawn aggro from the first group of trash mobs. Everything is working as intended. You’re going HAM with your murder-bros, slaying orcs and goblins and dire corbies or whatever. Then all of a sudden the sound of a war-horn echoes through the halls. Apparently one of the evil minions took a few years of trumpet as a kid, and he’s just called for backup. The entirety of the dungeon answers the call. Roomfuls of ogres and owlbears and evil lieutenants surge towards your location, and now the tides have turned. Now you’re retreating. Every friggin’ monster in the complex is chasing you back across the drawbridge, and soon you’ll be rolling up a new character.

Scenario the second:

So there you are in the Vestibule of Evil. You’ve booted down the door, called your challenge to the darkness, and drawn aggro from the first group of trash mobs. You and your team of murder-bros kill the first 1d4+1 orcs or goblins or dire corbies or whatever. Minions dispatched, you decide to hang a right and explore the next room. There, not thirty feet from the site of your last battle, is a trio of ogres. They charge in, clubs swinging, and they go down just as easily. In a nearby courtyard you stumble upon an owlbear (apparently it was hibernating through the first two fights). Past him is a group of evil lieutenants, and you can only assume that you caught them between shifts. By the time you’ve fought your way to the boss monster’s lair you’re growing suspicious. What’s up with this castle? Why isn’t anybody coming to investigate the commotion? It’s only when you arrive at the inner sanctum that you realize you your error. Instead of a boss monster you discover kindly old Professor Monkwart. You’ve mistakenly invaded the Castle Evildark School for the Deaf! The actual den of evil is next door, and boy is your face red.

This is a problem as old as dungeons, and it’s one that every GM has to figure out. How do you justify battling your way through a dungeon without fighting every inhabitant all at once? Why don’t the monsters seem to notice the sounds of slaughter emanating from the next room? The Handbook gives us one explanation, but I’m betting you all have your own headcanon for this one. So as an exercise in better dungeon-building, share your rationale down in the comments! (And, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that “dungeons don’t make sense which is why I don’t use them” is a less-than-useful answer.) All clear? Ready? Go!

 

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