. . . [What’s] a good dungeon without thick cobwebs and odd stains, not to mention the screams wafted randomly on the wind? What does silence mean if there is no noise to contrast it?”Dushay
Last night I was reading an old issue of Dragon Magazine when I ran across the article Sights and Sounds in Dungeons & Dragons by Robert Dushay and Michael Weisberg. I dug it so much that I’ve continued working on my own “Sounds” and “Sights” tables to help add more flavor to my dungeon environments.
The original asked players to make a check every 30 minutes in the dungeon to hear a random sound. The chance of success was 25%. Now you’re more than welcome to use a percentile dice if you would like but I tend to favor using the d4 as I rarely use that die.
1 Armor clanking as though some knight were moving off in the distance.
2 A shuffling step and panting.
3 A woman’s high pitched scream.
4 A chorus of mumbling voices arguing with each other.
5 A series of explosions heard from far off, followed by a gust of air.
6 Singing in the distance, the words too indistinct to understand.
7 A series of heavy thuds, like a great weight being cast off.
8 The roars of a great beast in agony.
9 Doors slamming and hurried footsteps moving off in the distance.
11 Indistinct chanting in a dark and foul language
12 Creaking boards.
13 The slipping of stone against its mortar.
14 A squelching sound followed by more as the stepper moves further away.
15 A humming that reverberates in the chest of the listeners.
16 A sneeze
17 A man’s insane laughter fading away from the listeners.
18 The sound of an intense fight.
19 The clicking of chitinous feet striking stone.
20 A rattling that starts high and loud, and then fades away entirely with no known source.
Now the idea of the original article is that these sorts of sounds are supposed to just be heard and rarely, if ever, lead to anything. If you plan on using them that way, I highly suggest that you use them sparingly because once this trick becomes obvious its novelty wears thin quickly. I intend to use them as leads towards additional moments in the dungeons I run which is why mine tend to be more descriptive.
Much like how the Sounds is designed to tantalize your players the goal of Sights is to slightly unnerve your players by having some mysterious event happen within the rooms your players explore. These are supposed to be ephemeral events, feeling real to all the senses for a short time, and then disappearing. I intend to use them to help push the players towards exciting events that they help create by interacting with them.
1 A stone in the wall begins weeping blood.
2 The floor begins to crumble under your footsteps.
3 The wall cracks as you pass.
4 A dark green, almost black, moss rapidly grows up the wall only to die and rot away nearly as fast.
5 A light mist forms from under your feet and soon obscures the floor entirely.
6 Thick cobwebs cover nearly every surface, slowing your movement.
7 As you step across the floor blood seeps up from underneath and begins to pool.
8 The walls are scorched and smell strongly acidic.
9 The mortice glows with a purplish luminesce.
10 A chipped dagger that crumbles when you pick it up. The handle reads Lucinda, Honor or Death.
11 A slimy, trail that reminds you of a gigantic slug trail.
12 Damp patches forming a trail lead off deeper into the dungeon.
13 A dark, cloying mist that seems to chock the air out of the room.
14 The walls bulge out towards you, seeming to breath in and out with each step.
15 The shadows cast by your torch are wrong. Simple objects reveal the shadows of deadly enemies.
16 A dust so thick and settled that no one surely could have been here for hundreds of years.
17 A find dust of ash covers everything, smelling strongly of brimstone.
18 Broken skulls stare back at you, their empty sockets seem to watch your every step.
19 A trail of old blood has stained the floor leading towards a solid section of wall.
20 Shackles, rusted and fragile looking, hang from the wall. When you pass they reach out towards you as though those once bound there were trying to call for help from beyond the grave.
I’m going to be doing more of these in the future and if you’d like to do some too please send me a link. I’ll post a link to all of them under the Sights and Sounds heading in my Series tab.
Dushay, Robert and Michael Weisberg. Sights and Sounds in Dungeons & Dragons. DRAGON MAGAZINE #17. TSR Periodicals. USA, 1976. pg. 15 PRINT