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Dungeon room history, done right

I’ve often been annoyed by dungeon room descriptions that have tons of history. Scarlet Citadel and Arden Vul both have this problem; they tell you what’s been there before, while as a DM I need to know what’s there now.

It sucks when it says “this room was an alchemist’s lab used by the great Garbanzo the Magnificent” etc for two whole pages only to end on “anyway, now only glass shards remain”.

So sometimes I’ve thought that all that history is just in the way and shouldn’t be in the book, and many reviewers have expressed something similar.

We would’ve wanted: “This room has glass shards” and that’s it.

I”ve recently reconsidered that, especially as I reread my old post about running mysteries.

There are so many unforseen questions (especially since the party tries investigative techniques neither the module writer or me as DM thought of) that can get answered just by knowing some basic facts about the room.

But leave the history stuff last, maybe in gray, or in brackets, or a sidebar.

“This room only has glass shards. [It was Garbanzo’s lab 400 years ago up ‘til his death 395 years ago. 360 years ago it was wrecked by the bone robots from 501. Last time anyone walked through here was a party from the random rival table, 3 days before party first arrived at the island.]”

History, but not in the way, since 99% of the time it’s not gonna be used, and when it’s used it’s practical, concise, gives answer. Players might go “what shape is the glass shards?” and I’ll be like “glass tubes, cylinders, cones” or they’ll be like “Shouldn’t we have heard it break?” or they’ll be like “Are the shards dusty?” etc. I don’t even know what they’re gonna ask, that’s the point—some straight up facts help answer everything.