How Dense are your 'Crawls? [Question]

Doing a little research for an upcoming post.

In general, when you’re making a dungeon (or if you don’t make your own, the type you prefer) what ratio of ‘empty’ rooms do you use vs rooms with content? By ‘empty’ I mean rooms that may have some flavor text, and maybe some treasure or other stuff, but don’t offer direct challenge, ie, they’re not monster encounters or traps or really special.

The same for hex/pointcrawls, if you do them. How much are keyed hexes outnumbered by those that are just terrain or flavor text? Do you make/know of any pointcrawls with ‘empty’ points?

Also, have you ever seen a hexcrawl with more keyed hexes than empty ones?

Myself, I tend to stick to Moldvay’s rule about 1 in 3 rooms being ‘empty’ to one degree or another. I haven’t looked at too many hexcrawls, but I don’t know of any with a high ratio of keyed:empty hexes.

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It would depend on the dungeon’s backstory, but I try to make mind have an organic feel that makes some kind of sense. Otherwise it might end up being like some weird giant house with lots of empty rooms populated by random strangeness. If rooms are empty, is there a reason for this? Have they been cleared out previously? If they’ve never been used, is this obvious? Does it seem that they were created for some purpose, but eventually were never used for that? IMHO, just chucking in empty rooms as filler tends to water down the overall theme of the place and seems just to be padding, which isn’t useful or interesting to the players. That said, this is because I tend to see the dungeoneers themselves as sleuths figuring out the situation and locale as they’re exploring it. I also don’t like the idea of them finding an empty room without any apparent information, as it just adds to potential drudgery and boredom/repetitiveness. It just feels like ‘Miss a turn’ in a boardgame. The only possible use for an empty room, from personal experience of dungeon crawling, is ‘Oh look, somewhere we can sleep’ - or, at worst, ‘Hmm, this room is strangely empty and now I’m slightly scared that a gelatinous cube might’ve been through here…’. I prefer the idea that every room has some kind of information in it, even if it’s ‘empty’ at first glance. This doesn’t have to be anything complex, but still provides some flavour within the rest of the wider dungeon environment. If you were to walk around an abandonned building - which is essentially what dungeons are - even the empty rooms would give you some idea of the past. If you look around an empty house that you want to rent or buy, walking around it still gives you some information about it’s past.

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I’m with Jerry on this. If there is no information in a room, there’s no point to the room.

No place is truly empty and without signs of its past. Every place has a history, and even a place’s emptiness should be meaningful in context. Jerry points out that a “clean” room should make D&D adventurers suspect the presence of a gelatinous cube. I want my dungeons to be places that evoke something, not blank slates. Some dungeon designers who make “empty” rooms have random contents in mind, or are faithfully following the recommendations of the founder-sages on dungeon design. For me, like Jerry, it feels like “miss a turn.” Even “emptiness” should look like something: signs of abandonment, what the place was for, or any indication that this is a place and not just “nothing happens.”

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That’s sort of what I was going for. I think I miscommunicated something. Empty doesn’t mean that it’s literally empty, rather that the flavor is all there is, no monsters, traps etc. This can still be a good place to put clues, build atmosphere, detail the history of the dungeon or foreshadow something later on. I think there’s a solid reason to include such rooms, namely that if not every room contains something, then entering a new room carries more uncertainty. That skeleton on a throne might be a monster waiting to pounce, or it might just be a skeleton. The long corridor may be filled with traps and secret doors, or it might be what it appears. I think the term is ‘negative space.’

Oh, I see. I’m completely with you on this. Rooms that have clues, atmosphere, and things other than traps and monsters and treasure are essential, to me. I actively dislike monster zoos. But I do think that every room should convey information.

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