From One Dungeon to Another

Hi everyone! Time for another exciting From One Dungeon to Another, the articles where my friend Christina and I blog about the same topic, often with very different conclusions. Christina’s blog can be found here.


This week we thought we would discuss Unexpected Journeys, basically times that our players’ choices have taken the game in a completely unexpected direction. Since this is a very frequent occurrence in D&D, and I think one of the reasons the game is so fun, Christina and I agreed to narrow our discussion to one time this unexpected turn created amazing results and one time in completely exploded in our faces.

First up, the complete failure.

This was honestly a tough one for me. I have had tons of moments where players have gone “off script” but I have been playing with the same guys for over 7 years now, so I can roughly predict what style of things will appeal to them. I also plan my encounters thinking about creatures’ goals and motivations, which means I can flex around unexpected choices, and still have the players’ create awesome stories. Finally, I have quickly learned to not grow attached to any villains, as the encounters I think will be very cool always end up over fast, and the ones I expected to be easy end up a challenge.

Along those lines, the time player’s going an unexpected turn, resulting in a slightly less cool story happened in my Lost City campaign at college. My Assistant DM (ADM) and I had planned what we thought was an awesome encounter. Basically, the party was at the final part, of the middle arc, of a three arc campaign. They were invading a cult’s base. My ADM and I decided it would be very cool if in the base, the Necromancer lieutenant had the zombie minions, which were the corpses of characters that had died in the Lost City, complete with their magical equipment!

zombie We were very excited for the psychological impact fighting their old team mates would have, plus the zombies were no push over, since they had magical equipment, finally the Necromancer himself we thought was rather impressive. When the moment finally rolled up my ADM, who had done almost all the planning, was practically giddy with excitement. As he described the room we both anticipated the awesome reactions we would get, which would then descend into an awesome multi-round fight.

Not that day! One of the party members logically charged right for the Necromancer and one hit him, after which the cleric was easily able to Turn Undead making zombies fall to dust. Not quite the epic moment we pictured! I guess this isn’t completely an unexpected turn, as we figured they would fight the undead, we just didn’t picture it being such a lackluster fight…

Now onto the positive! Choosing one moment was very difficult; however, one moment, which completely changed the dynamic of the Lost City campaign, in an awesome way, kept coming to mind.

Earlier in the Lost City campaign, the party reached a point where they were aware that a powerful demon lurked underneath the Lost City, and they had concluded they wanted to slay him. One of the players, Aldo’s player in fact, was a Cleric devoted to a fire deity. He had heard of a nearby magma vein, were a very powerful Efreeti was imprisoned. Reasoning that potentially this powerful being may be worth visiting for a boon, as it was a creature of fire, the Cleric took the party on a quick journey to the Efreeti and his salamander minion’s prison. I did not see this coming, at all. I mean who would want to meet with the creature picture below, and try to make a deal! The ancients had imprisoned that creature for a reason?!


I forget what the exact initial mission was, some sort of favor, but the party, specifically the fire Cleric, made an agreement with the efreeti that they would try to free him, in return for fighting Zargon. Now the whole party, once meeting the Efreeti, realized the trip was a massive mistake, so they planned on just never following through on the bargain. Unfortunately for the Cleric, this genie was not so easily dissuaded, upon shaking hands on the deal, the Cleric was cursed, his hand blackening, and told the longer it took to free the genie, the further the deadness would spread!

This was an epic moment in the campaign, and really created a turning point in the goals and desires of the group. Half the group wished to keep the Efreeti imprisoned, help the Lost City, and try to find a cure or just let the Cleric die. The other half demanded to free the Efreeti to save the Cleric. This caused a split in the party, which resulted in me actually dividing them, them coming up with plans, and eventually fighting with each other. The faction siding with the Cleric won out, freed the Efreeti, spelling doom for the Lost City and causing the surviving party members to flee the place. This was an epic story, created a ton of memorable moments, and all my players thought it was amazing! Without a few unexpected turns along the way it would never have happened.

Well those are two moments where my D&D games took Unexpected Turns, what are sometimes this has happened for you either as a player or a DM? Was the end result better then imagined or worse?

Please take some time and see what Christina’s moments were here, I am sure she has had some really neat situations crop up!



6 thoughts on “From One Dungeon to Another

  1. Ha, I absolutely love the comment about how what you think would be a challenging fight ends up being totally easily finished in one round, vs the easy encounter that turns into the hardest moment your players fight for their lives.

    That actually happened in the same goblinoid encounter that I wrote about in my post, 2 hobgoblins, 3 goblins, 2 worgs. I figured they would get rid of the worgs and goblins first, since they have lower AC and HP, but they all went for the hobgoblins with their higher HP and AC. They had a bunch of botched unlucky rolls, so they kept missing and ignoring the goblins and worgs, having to take an extra on average 4 dmg from each goblin (which really adds up…). The battle was going for so long that I actually decided to hold off on a reveal I planned to have mid-battle since I expected them to defeat everybody except the hobgoblins. Seriously, unexpected turns and outcomes can just make a DM toss everything into the fiery abyss of the Fire Plane, am I right?

    Again, great article to read too! 🙂 I love hearing about your DM experiences. Great chance for me to learn and even gain a sigh of relief saying “Oh good, it’s just not me who feels unprepared”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Do you play with a map? I found that when we were playing 4th edition that would happen a lot where an encounter would get circumvented due to rules (and player/monster positioning on the grid). Now playing 5th edition I stay away from maps (and rules) to keep it more abstract and since it’s much more free form I find that I have more liberty to make sure encounters go the way I intended them to. At least to start with. If the players do something unexpected I tend to roll with it, but not to the extent that it just cripples the experience.

        I will say though… sometimes you set up an encounter that the players are SUPPOSED to easily circumvent (overwhelming amount of bad guys, but if they do this obvious thing they can clearly win with ease) and they just fail hard. It’s the joy of DMing really, watching your party always do the exact opposite or “wrong” thing! haha.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I do use maps, mainly because I have 6 players so with a bigger group, I find it easier to keep track of what everybody is doing, especially when they get into the bigger encounters. I use maps only in “main” encounters, if that makes sense. Right now they made their way into the goblin’s lair so I use these maps for explanation of what the paths look like (but I only brought them out when they asked). And when they’re fighting the one or two goblins walking down the hall, I don’t use the map for the combat – especially with a good roll, or my rogue using Sneak Attack, it only takes one or two hits to defeat the goblin.

      It’s mainly there to keep track of positions since so far my encounters have consisted of on average 10 creatures on the field. That’s just too many to keep track of in my head… Plus my players get really excited when I reach into the map bag….


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