The Dungeon Turn; Do you use them?

I’m going to be honest, I’ve never used the Dungeon Turn rules in any rpg. I’ve always thought that it wouldn’t mesh with my looser style of running games. However, watching this Questing Beast video a while back got me curious about them.

So I want to hear from all you, what are your experiences with codified dungeon procedures?

  • Do you use dungeon turns? What rules (whether homebrew or from a system) do you use?
  • What are the main benefits of using these rules? Or if you don’t use dungeon turns, why?
  • Any other thoughts on Dungeon Turns?

Personally, I haven’t messed around with Dungeon turns but I have considered using Dungeon Turns to emulate traveling and exploring large dungeons and complexes.

The main benefit I can see is that Dungeon Turns gives structure to dungeon crawling and allows for each member of the party to get something to do in some form. Rogues can check for traps, Martials can be on the look out for monsters, Casters can map the dungeon while scanning for threats magically, etc.

I feel like the Dungeon Turn is an outgrowth or the parent to hex crawl rules but serve to lends to consistency in play since many of the AD&D players were war gamers and were interested in having procedures for different activities at the table.


I use dungeon turns for sure, you’d be remiss to omit them from your game.

Two main reasons:

  1. It keeps track of time in the dungeon (how far do they go per turn? How else do you know what time it is?)

  2. It tracks random encounters, how else do you know when to roll?

It’s simple, they go a direction, I follow them on my 10’ grid map, every 10 minutes (which is related to their movement, my party moves at 60 ft per turn) I roll for encounters and do a tally to mark off 10 minutes.

If the party does something intensive like searching a room I always do it in 10 minute increments and mark off and roll random encounters accordingly.

I’m lax on resting every hour or whatever the rules officially state because that slows down the game more than necessary in my opinion.

My question to you is how do you know what time it is or when to roll to see if you have an encounter if you don’t use turns? Just guess or wing it? If so, try the turn - it’s more structured and works well.


There are those who think that “you’re not playing right” if you don’t use dungeon turns. Of course, there is no one right way to play, and you should feel free to ignore them! There are, however, different styles of play and different preferences, and it’s fun to experiment.

I never used dungeon turns in the old days. We had plenty of wonderful sessions without them. You don’t need them.

Last year, though, I decided to try them. Along with the dungeon turn came random wandering monsters and tighter resource management.

I wrote about it here (it’s a bit long) and assessed my experience with them. There was some interesting feedback, too, in the comments to that post.

The summary is that dungeon turns make the game more structured and a lot more like a board game. That can be fun, and it’s worth a try. But the main thing I’d suggest is that the dungeon turns are not really meaningful without time-related side-effects such as

  • torches/lanterns running out on the clock (with a player keeping track of them)
  • random hazards triggered by passage of time (or random monsters–note I don’t say wandering monsters anymore because you can have wandering monsters not linked to a clock–hence the emphasis on random)
  • the need to rest or face a penalty (not to mention eating meals during longer excursions)
  • players able to choose to proceed at varying rates depending on how cautiously they go

As someone who has enjoyed both ways of playing, I encourage you to try it. I also suggest that some dungeon scenarios (like the Barrowmaze that we are using) are more suited to dungeon turns than others. I don’t think my players would now enjoy a session of the Barrowmaze without the dungeon turns and the procedures that go with them, because it’s been part of their experience of the place.

Oh, to answer one of the original questions, I use home rules (that are not D&D at all), but the dungeon procedures are modeled closely on Moldvay’s Basic D&D.

If you try it, let us know how it goes for you!


On the other hand, time-related side-effects are a lot harder to manage without dungeon turns. That’s the main reason I use them (when I do use them): they make the resource management easier for both the GM and the players.

When I don’t use them, it’s because I don’t want to handle the time-related effects. Without those things to handle, another type of turn is just more hassle.


That’s an interesting thought, adapting dungeon turns to outdoor exploration :thinking:

Yeah, I usually roll a random encounter if the party stops to rest or if they’ve been making a lot of noise or been hanging around the same area for a long time.

This is a great point. I always tell my players to mark how many torches they have and then I forget haha. The dungeon turn seems to be a way to fix that problem.

I find turns hugely helpful in general, just to act as guidance so that when a character does something the world moves forward. Without turns and / or a very basic procedure I find myself hand waving a lot. That might not necessarily be a bad thing in its own right, but I am a very soft GM without procedures holding me to account (a pre-emptive pushover - I don’t even wait for my players to ask before rolling over)! Turns give me a self-imposed structure for tracking resources and encounters.

I find it interesting that a lot of (though not all) games wouldn’t think of having combat without a procedure for a combat turn - players can’t always rely on their GM’s memory to ensure they get their turn (it can be enough of a struggle even with an individual initiative system!) - but feel that anything outside of that can be casually run.

I now try and run games with turns always ticking along in my head / notes, even when characters are milling around in town. I wrote a blog post with the turn guidelines I use - it’s as simple as everyone can do one significant thing a turn, and turns vary in length according to what the gameplay requires. It works for combat - it can be elongated. When tied into diagetic time-based descriptions, it then helps track resources.

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I do use a notion of “turns”, but I don’t explicitly use the steps outline in the LBBs or BX. I play everything by ear based on the situation, but I do track things in roughly 10 minute chunks, and do try to keep characters to the outline rest rates.

I tend to use an overloaded encounter die and to tick turns over in relation to interactions. I’m not too big on D&D’s kind of silly movement rates, but this is a debate going back to before the game’s publication. I mostly follow the intent of dungeon turns, but I am not strictly beholden to any game’s particular formats, and have had some unfortunate games where players start measuring out the dungeon map and discussing wandering monster probabilities, which is a behavior I really don’t want in my games.


Oh yes. I like using Dungeon Turns. I combine it with my “Doom Die” (also known as the “Overloaded Encounter Die” or “Hazard System”) to manage time, resources, and wandering monsters all in one slightly abstract/elastic roll. Finally characters are eating their rations and burning through torches. I’ve doing this a few years now and I really like it. The old “roll every 10mins and something happens on a 1” never worked to well for me. It was too much rolling with no result and I never remembered expendable resources. Now, it is the rare roll where they get a “free turn”! I also use it for wilderness travel and town turns.

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Very cool! If I’m going to start incorporating Dungeon Turns, I’d probably try something like your “Doom die”. Handling it all of it in one roll seems to produce the wanted time-related side effects without taking too long to determine and it lets the players stay immersed in their dungeon crawling endeavor. For your “Doom Die”, is it based on this blog post?

That’s one blog. There’s a more involved post on there called the Hazard System. Another is the Dungeon of Signs blog.
Heres a link to my blog where I talked about it a bit, though the actual table has changed a bit.

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I’ve played with dungeons turns and they really create a sense of danger and add some stress to the players. Without them and their structure, the environment is not so dangerous, the only real danger come from the monsters and from the DM mind. With turns, the danger come from the dungeon himself, and it’s like the dungeon is breathing, at his own rhythm, and will eat you if you take your time too much.