I love “Funhouse Dungeons”.
There. I’ve said it.
So called “Funhouse Dungeons” are the Marmite of the RPG world. Most people either love them or hate them. Personally I love them. They are, after all, the kind of Dungeons I grew up DMing and delving in.
I recently posted about the great experiences I had running White Plume Mountain in 5th Edition. It was a great experience as a DM, although my players breezed through it fairly unscathed. The diversity of the encounters was refreshing and got the characters thinking more about situations because no longer did a trap, a room or a puzzle have to make logical sense in it’s surroundings.
The recent trend towards campaign books, particularly in 5e, is great in the sense that they provide fantastical, epic storylines for DMs to immerse their players in. Stories where the world, the NPCs and the events within make narrative sense and tie back to the BBEG’s motives. However, sometime I long for a simpler time where evil antagonists were just evil. A time where a room full of Orc guards could quite reasonably reside in their guardroom next door to a water-filled room full of sharks, without the DM having to wonder how they interacted with one another when the players weren’t around.
Dungeon Crawl Classics has done a great job of bringing the Funhouse Dungeon to life again, with it’s stand-alone adventures, complete with their Gygaxian brutality. The trademark “Funnel” in particular goes even further than the brutality of 1e and B/X era meatgrinder dungeons.
It’s not a genre that I would run constantly with my players as there is no narrative cohesion, but for a one-shot or for a brief detour in an otherwise serious campaign, Funhouse Dungeons can make for some light relief and keep your players on their toes. Nothing is as expected. What is old is new again.
Delve, delve, delve. Back to the days when delving was a thing. Back to the days when you got a buzz from that orange covered Tunnels and Trolls rulebook and Grimtooth’s Traps. Relive the days of poring over those 1e modules with their evocative image panels on the front cover.
You owe it to yourself.