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Kobold Hall | A Dungeon Design Exercise

Designing dungeons is one of the many fun jobs of a game master. But designing a dungeon from scratch can be daunting and time-consuming. In this article, we’ll start with a simple map and your only job is to make it better. By the end, you’ll have a nice little dungeon to toss into your game or show off on social media. 

The Dungeon

Kobold Hall is a dungeon from the Dungeon Master’s Guide for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It’s simple and linear, tracking with how most 4E adventures (especially early ones) were written. It’s not a bad dungeon but it falls a bit short if you’re playing 5E. Luckily, Kobold Hall just needs a few small tweaks to become a great dungeon. That’s where you come in! 

A map of Kobold Hall, a 4E D&D Dungeon.

The Design

One idea for creating awesome dungeons is to use “Jaquaysing” design. For an in-depth look at what that is, check out this series by the Alexandrian. There’s also A Simpler Checklist for Engaging Dungeon Maps. To keep the exercise simple, I chose to focus on secret paths that introduce new areas and create new ways to navigate Kobold Hall—skipping rooms or introducing new dynamics to existing rooms.

The Exercise

  1. Get a copy of the Kobold Hall map. You can perform a Google image search or get a screenshot from the 4E DMG
  2. Recreate the map in your tool of choice: a digital map-maker like Inkarnate or DungeonScrawl, graph paper, or simply nodes (circles) and paths (lines) on a blank piece of paper.
  3. Add a secret pathway between two existing rooms.
  4. Add another secret pathway between existing rooms. In this one, include something interesting like a secret room or treasure—something fun to discover!
  5. Add an alternate route between two existing rooms to create a decision point for players.

By now, you should have a pretty interesting dungeon and one you helped design. From here, you can continue to add details to the dungeon as-is or keep adding interesting paths and new rooms. 

What I Came Up With

Here’s what I came up with. I added a secret path behind a shrine that leads to the final room. I also added a secret path and hidden shrine that leads to a ledge in the final room—adding a dynamic element to the boss fight environment. Lastly, I added a simple alternate route between two rooms. 

My version of Kobold Hall with additional passageways and loopbacks.

I hope this simple exercise showed you how easy it can be to upgrade an existing dungeon and add your own creative spark. 

Game on.