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I Have No Memory Of This Place: Navigating The Underdark Through Your Senses in Dungeons & Dragons

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This post ties into the post about Noise & Alert in the Underdark, but can also be used seperately.

What This System Tries To Do

“Oh! It’s that way.”

“He’s remembered!”

“No, but the air doesn’t smell so foul down here.”

Gandalf & Merry

Just Follow Your Nose

A core pillar of this system is that the party has some idea of where they have to go, based on their senses. This can work several ways:

5 Senses, Underground

Sensory input in caverns can take the following forms:

Sensory Instructions & How To Follow Them

There are a few ways to play out sensory instructions and how the players interact with them.

Taking Your Time

In all 3 methods mentioned below, the party can also take 2 hours instead of a Skill Check to carefully examine every available tunnel at this intersection. This gives them all sensory information about each tunnel, but would significantly slow down their progress (tying into the Noise & Alert system).


Instead of making actual instructions, the players are simply told that they have a set of instructions.

Whenever players arrive at an intersection or crossroads, they can make a relevant check (Perception/Investigation/Survival/Nature etc.) to deduce the right tunnel based on their (abstract) instructions. A DC 10 would represent a forked path, a DC 20 would represent many paths to choose from.

On a failure, the party picks out a path they are sure is the correct one, but isn’t. They wander that path for a while before realizing their mistake and heading back, which takes 1d4 hours.

On a success, they successfully deduce the correct path (“You feel fresh air coming from the left tunnel, which corresponds with the instructions.”). The DM marks a success, with their objective being reached in a certain number of successes.


Here, the players do receive actual instructions; these can look like this, for example:

Follow the sound of crashing water until you reach the underground waterfall. From there, follow the smell of fungus, until you feel a cold wind blow. Walk against this flow of cold air to emerge at your destination.

These instructions would play out like this:

  1. At the first 3 crossroads, listen for the sound of water. This is made at DC 20, 15 and 10, as you get closer to the source. Succeeding the check means you perceive the sound and pick the right tunnel, failing the check makes you pick a wrong tunnel and wander around before heading back, taking 1d4 hours.
  2. The cave containing the underground lake and waterfall has 4 tunnels leading elsewhere. A single DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check captures your best efforts to choose the correct tunnel, a success leading you onwards, a failure costing you 1d4 hours.
  3. For the next 4 crossroads, the players are to be on the lookout for the sensation of cold air. Each of these crossroads feature only a single path splitting off from their current one, so we set the DC relatively low, to 10. Failing means 1d4 hours lost.
  4. Finally, for the home stretch, 2 intersections at which to follow the flow of cool air, at DC 15, with multiple paths to choose from.

Travel Times

The travel time between intersections and crossroads can be measured in minutes, hours or days, depending on the overall scale of the journey. Likewise, a path or tunnel can also include large caverns and a variety of environments – just keep in mind that you keep the navigational choices limited to crossroads.


This is the most elaborate method. It differs from the semi-abstract version in two ways:

Back The Way You Came

Backtracking or revisiting previous tracks should be easier than plotting new routes. Implement this by replacing all the sensory deduction with an Intelligence or Wisdom check with Advantage to emulate the memory a character has of the path.

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