I am designing a Mountain Dungeon for a story in a video-game style. For those who are not familiar with what is a dungeon in a video game terminology, simply put:

A dungeon is a series of monster-riddled "floors" where players go through sequentially to reach the last floor and complete their objective (such as defeating a boss, getting loot, saving the princess, etc.).

Normally, dungeons are underground where you go one floor through the next from B1F, B2F, B3F, downwards until the players reach the final floor. (There are also dungeons in ascending style)

In video-games, you have no choice but to descend/ascend normally because of the game mechanic. However, in a story-setting and mountainous dungeon, you can theoretically bypass the floors by using flying magic from the sides or from behind it. So for the sake of this question, teleportation and flying is forbidden.

Question: How could I keep my players entering through the standard path (from one layer onto the next) instead of trying to scale up the sides and behind? (Geography wise or strategy wise)

Please note that the standard path is more dangerous (because of monsters) than going through the sides/back, but I need reasons to force the players to choose this regardless.


  • The main reason in raiding this dungeon is to retrieve an item from the top.
  • Each layer is more difficult than the previous one
  • This is for a story
  • I'm trying to prevent flight and possible exploits from going through the sides/back of the mountain


  1. Dead zone - cannot be passed
  2. Top of mountain - final floor
  3. The angle of elevation - downward, like a mountain

enter image description here


closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Ash, ArtificialSoul, Frostfyre, Ender Look Jul 24 '18 at 14:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A bit stupid but: Maybe because the mountains of around are so high that there isn't enough oxygen? $\endgroup$ – Ender Look Jul 24 '18 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ Make the mountain itself harmful or corrupted. Nasty coils of nonburnable black and sticky vines cover the mountainside. The air is covered in a red fog, and there are no animals to be seen. $\endgroup$ – Joe P Jul 24 '18 at 2:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Real mountains range from the Ozark speed bumps to the Himalayas. Make the mountain part of a range that is impassible, loaded with lots of precious minerals from near the Earth's mantle. If they try to go over or around it they'll have a difficult time (think LOTR Caradhras), so they have to go through it, and the possibility of treasure is icing on hte cake. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jul 24 '18 at 3:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In fact you might be better off on rpg.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – John Jul 24 '18 at 5:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bwrites the solutions to questions tabletop games and video games are often the same., your question is very unclear about what you are trying to prevent you should edit it. Additionally if you are trying to prevent flying then you will need to establish what the relevant rules of magic and monster are in your setting. Also be clear whether this is a story or a game, it has a big effect on answers. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 24 '18 at 6:15

There are several ways of doing it, several have already been mentioned, but i'll explain the favourites.

Path of least Resistance

Yes, the monsters make the dungeon more dangerous... but do they. Lord of the Rings, among others have shown very well that going over instead of through was very likely going to end in death, by people freezing/falling/being crushed by rockfall etc. K2 is a mountain in real life, and while it has no monsters on it , it is still incredibly dangerous to climb, even if you take the lack of oxygen out of the equation, its still treacherous, and people do die climbing it with all of the gear and all of the idea, let alone (no offence intended) your band of Tomb Raiders, with all the gear and likely no idea when it comes to complex rock climbing at altitude. no matter good their swan dives, or dual wiedling pistols might be!

Just because going round has no monsters (but you could add some if you wanted) doesn't mean its always easier

Because it's good and proper and should be done that way

Why do people walk to the top of Kilimanjaro? or swim the channel? or do anything that can be done so much easier by getting a lift or using some better equipment: because the challenge is key. if your players were challenged by say the elder of the village to fight their way to the top and collect X then going round is a bit like cheating, it should always be an option to cheat, but there should be repercussions for doing so, whether it being treated by the townsfolk as cheaters etc or something else

Protecting People

What if the townsfolk asked them to go and collect X but while up there see if they can stop the monsters that come out of it from attacking the town. then they'd have to enter it to kill of the monsters. maybe have an extra reward fro the townsfolk for doing this.

Knowledge is power

Again Why do people bother to uncover fossils, etc, because they want to learn, this can be done with finding hidden texts that explain X,Y and Z or be done through XP as others have already suggested, maybe they don't know how to open the treasure chest at the end, but the clues are hidden throughout the dungeon on the way there

Actual Power is also power

Very similar to the knowledge section, but why not have the locking mechanism for the final floors treasure be controlled/powered from various other points in the dungeon???

This is actually my preferred method, as it gives the people an option to cheat and go round, and when they get there they find out that they wasted their time and they have to go back round and all that time is wasted. it also helps because if it causes them enough pain because they cheated, they are less likely to do so in the future as the players will know that the DM (i'm assuming you're the DM) has thought of that and has put things in place to punish them.


If something has to go a certain way then have the alternate way carry its own risk and have that risk be greater or unconquerable,

But i believe nothing should stop your players from going round, its a valid tactic in real life, but this route should always carry a heavy punishment, and in turn almost force the players to back track and realize the error of their ways

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If it were me I’d have even worse monsters hiding ‘off the beaten path’. Nothing says ‘don’t go this way’ like an angry herd of Dire Mountain Goats. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 24 '18 at 9:58

Is there a reason that the main path has to be more dangerous? One potential approach is to make some contrived reason the rest of the mountain will instantly kill anyone who strays off the approved path. It could be crawling with super poisonous spiders, the rocks could form into invincible rock monsters that kill anyone who strays out of a protected area, the mountain could be covered with poisonous plants, etc.

Another solution is to go with Legend of Zelda's "Lost Woods" approach, where there is some magic on the mountain that leads anyone who ventures off the approved path to get lost and find themselves back on the approved path.

Yet another approach is to simply make it infeasible to cross anywhere else. It could be covered with razor-sharp crags and pits that simply cannot be climbed over. Or most the mountain could be an active volcanic eruption with only the approved path not being liquid rock (if you are willing to ignore convection). Or it could be covered in such thick, dense, and thorny plants that chopping through it would take years (or perhaps the plants even grow back faster than you can cut them down).



There is the boss fight on the top of the mountain.

Directly below the top of the mountain are three areas with near-final fights. No matter which path they take, the players must go through one of them and their statistics are the same.

Slightly lower are nine areas with warm-up monsters. The players must go through one of them and their statistics are the same. The path they take here restricts the choice which near-final fight they can have.

A1 \
A2 - B1
A3 / \
A4 \ \
A5 - B2 -- Boss
A6 / /
A7 \ /
A8 - B3
A9 /

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Quantum Ogre" arguments aside, the question has been edited to clarify that this is for a story, not a game, thus there are no players to shepherd through a set of encounters and this answer is not relevant to the (edited) question. $\endgroup$ – Dave Sherohman Jul 24 '18 at 7:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DaveSherohman, although it may not be relevant to the edited question, surely this could still be useful to others that might such for this in the future $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Jul 24 '18 at 9:24

You need to think about it the other way around. Whst business do the PC's have in that dungeon?

I mean, I absolutely don't have to go to my office on my way to my dealer's house. It's a stressful environment where I have to handle [redacted] from nine to five, I can't wear what I like to wear and I can't listen to my music... But hey, it's how I get money.

Similarly, your adventurers might have to do some adventuring. If you make gold by slaying dragond, you've gotta go where the dragons are. Otherwise they may cross the mountains and go to Ibiza and have some real good time there, but sooner than later they will run out of gold and then they are going to have to sell their a... I mean, bodies just to be able to eat. Not a very glamorous career choice for paladins, wizards and clerics, mind you.


A simple way to do achieve this might be to create a time sensitive objective for them on the other side of the mountain and also make the alternative paths so absurdly long that it's better to risk going through the mountain path with all its danger since there is a chance to get to the objective faster.

Another possible method would be to have some landslide block off the side/back paths and make them impassable and difficult if not outright impossible to clear out, forcing your players to take the path you want them to.

A third option would be to give them chances to acquire really good gear and/or a lot of wealth by passing through the standard path.

I'm sure there are other ways but these are what I could think of.


So there's a similar(ish) scenario in Pokemon, where you can potentially get through the game by avoiding tall grass, buying elixirs, and outmanuvering other trainers. This is prevented by the need to level up pokemon for the unavoidable challenges like the elite four, by getting experience from battle.

I like this idea of using experience to encourage players to go through the actual levels. You could make clearing the dungeons give the player experience points and a chance to level up, and leave the back paths completely void of most obstacles, but have occasional bosses that are absolutely mandatory like maybe a dragon that circles the outside of the mountain between to dungeons. If a player tried to use the back roads they'd be

A) Kinda bored while they just spammed fly spells to get up the mountain and:

B) At a disadvantage in all boss battles.

Also, this gives the opportunity to add an extra level of strategy to things like speed running since you can balance taking shortcuts against the necessary exp gains. It also gives opportunities for nuzzlocks like getting hemmed in by monsters far beyond your level, which some people find entertaining to look for.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.