I like stumbling across good but obscure work, because then I can link to someone else’s stuff and call it a day. Today’s gift from serendipity is Dungeon Hacks, from Dungeon Keeper Radio. They also made a sequel, and I’m hoping they’ll make more. Each video takes a few minutes to talk about a few ways to make a dungeon more dangerous without just adding more or higher level monsters and traps, but rather using the monsters/traps the dungeon already has more effectively.
For example, Matt Colville recommends in his one-page dungeon video that you have a trap room and a creature encounter. That’s a good idea for your very first adventure, but as Dungeon Hacks point out, it’s more interesting (read: deadly) by having monsters take advantage of the trap to attack the heroes. A simple pit trap is only going to cause some minor damage by itself, but if you set it up to collapse only beneath the weight of someone who weighs over, eh, 200 pounds or so, that’s probably going to be someone wearing at least medium armor, which means one of the party’s meatshields is at the bottom of the pit and not on the front lines when your goblins spring their ambush. A particularly cunning example from the videos themselves is using skeletons to keep the party boxed into a room filling with poison gas.
Each of the two videos I linked above is full of ideas like this, a total of about twelve minutes of them. That doesn’t sound like much, and it’s not, but it’s dense with smart dungeon design, which means it doesn’t take long for you to listen to but will give you plenty to chew on in that short amount of time.