As a DM, it can be hard to think of an engaging story with plenty of interesting encounters for your players to talk to or fight with. If you are bored with your typical dungeon or cave, a creepy old mansion is the perfect change of pace that offers plenty of unique possibilities to make your adventure unforgettable. Here are some DnD mansion map ideas going over the backstory, possible rooms, and cool encounters that will definitely help you make a more interesting adventure for your players if you are a DM.
The Mansion Map Backstory Checklist
Every DM knows a backstory can make or break the adventure. Here are some elements you can – and maybe should – incorporate in your backstory to make it more believable and interesting.
- Who built it and where – Is the mansion situated somewhere in the middle of the city or in the woods. Who designed and built this place and why? How many rooms did they want, do they have a dark secret or mysterious past? Maybe there are some hidden rooms and tunnels. What about the garden? Is it large and deteriorated over the years, or is it still well-kept even though the mansion has been abandoned for years?
- The current state of the mansion – What does the mansion look like right now: Is it a new mansion that has been abandoned recently, or has it been empty for years? Does the old wooden floor crack with every step, or isn’t there a speck of dust to be seen?
- Who lived here – Much of the backstory will depend on the previous tenants of the mansion. You can think of facts like, what kind of family lived here? Did they have kids or pets, and why did they build this mansion?
- How did they die or leave – Where are the owners of the mansion now? They could still be living in the mansion, or their corpses could be sitting at the dinner table as if nothing happened. It is crucial that you have a good reason why the owners of the mansion are dead, behaving strangely, or left.
- What has the mansion been used for – Poverty and homelessness were quite common in the Middle Ages. Maybe this is the same in your world. It wouldn’t be strange for an empty mansion to attract people or bandits. They could have used it as shelter or a hideout. Are they still there or did they die?
- Are there traps and who put them there – When you are living in a house with your everyday family, you aren’t going to put up deadly traps left and right. Were the traps placed there by the original owner, or did bandits put them there? Was it to keep someone out, on in…?
- The townsfolk – Another important thing to think about is what the people living around or near the mansion have to say about it. An abandoned giant mansion is sure to have some rumors surrounding it. Another question you should ask yourself is, how much influence has the house had on its surroundings? Did children disappear, are cattle being eaten at night, or are the townsfolk trying to lure unsuspecting adventurers inside?
As you see, there is as much potential for backstories for mansions as for dungeons. In my opinion, they are some of the most underrated settings in Dungeons and Dragons. They offer a very welcome change of setting and atmosphere than quests in the woods or underground do.
Ideas For Rooms in an Awesome DnD Mansion Map
A stuffy mansion doesn’t have to be a couple of rooms on the main floor and a basement and an attic. There are a lot of different places inside and outside the house, which all could have their own encounters or interesting items lying around. Here are some ideas of rooms you could have and what monsters or NPC´s might be lurking there.
- The gardener’s shack – Let’s start in the garden. This little spot is almost always forgotten by the DM’s. This is kind of crazy because every single mansion now and in the past has had some kind of shack to store tools. Things you can find here are manure, chemicals, poisons, and old tools. This is also a great place to put a trap door.
- A glasshouse – Is your adventure – like many – taking place in a medieval European setting? A giant glasshouse can give you a way to add a bit of jungle to your world while keeping it realistic. Of course, this glasshouse doesn’t have just peaceful and interesting plants. The owner of the house might have left some evil tree sapling there which has grown large and dangerous over the years.
- Trophy room – You step into a room and all you see is animal heads and carcasses mounted on a wall. Maybe there are some heads of monsters there too, or humans… It wouldn’t be too weird to have a mansion where a couple of elf or goblin heads are mounted to a wall in a world where killing monsters is so commonplace.
- Library – No mansion is complete without a library. You can find way more than moldy and dusty books here. There could be a desk, with pens, a half-written letter or a diary in a drawer under the desk. Maybe you hear someone whispering behind the bookshelves, or from one of the books on there.
- Servants room – If the mansion is large enough to have multiple floors, there often is a servants’ room for the butler or housekeeper. Here is a great place to put some clues on what happened with the previous inhabitants. However, please try to avoid the ¨the butler did it¨ trope, it is just too obvious and played out.
- The bathroom – You can have a mansion that has a major bathing place. In this murky water, there could be something hiding and growing. Maybe your players can take a relaxing bath, or find something unexpected.
- Religious room – Often people forget that richer people in the past had separate rooms or even small temples as places of worship in their homes. Here you can have a small prayer altar, maybe some paintings, or you can go all out and have a cult with an altar for sacrifices.
- Sparring room – We are in a world where war and monsters are common. It wouldn’t be too strange to have a special room where nobles and their sons could train in swordsmanship. There could be dummies here or cages for small monsters to fight.
- Trap room – If you like to give your players puzzles, you can incorporate a trap room in the mansion. If you really want to go all out, you can replicate one in your own house, and actually do some kind of escape room. This is even more fun when your party dresses up, and you have a lot of props in your house that makes your room more Dungeons and Dragons style.
If you are a bit of a sadistic dungeon master like I am, a fun thing to do is have no secret rooms or passages at all. You can place suspicious paintings, bookshelves, and whatnot over the mansion and have your player run futile perception checks. Once they get used to not finding anything, you can surprise them with some unexpected monster encounters like the ones below!
Mansion Map Monster Encounters Ideas
A mansion and its ecosystem are vastly different from what you would find in a forest or a dungeon. No giants, or Minotaur, no hordes of enemies, and the chances that you are going to encounter a dragon are pretty slim too. So what unique monsters and creepy stuff can you find in a mansion?
Animated armor – This is your chance to have your players fight a bunch of animated full knight armors. Animated armor is a great way to catch the players off guard, even more so when you are able to backstab them if they aren’t paying attention.
Gargoyles – You aren’t going to find these in the woods or in dungeons. If your players don’t have a big hammer with them, this is going to be quite a fight! These living statues are great to show the players they are entering dangerous grounds protected by the forces of evil.
Attic Whisperer – This is probably my favorite monster to use in mansions. It is pretty unknown to most players, so having one is sure going to surprise them. The attic whisperer is an undead, made out of the bones of a child and toys that are lying around. The skull however is not human, it is whatever it can find. Most often it is a fox skull. It sings creepy nursery rhymes to lure children to its hiding place. If that is not enough, the attic whisperer has the ability to steal someone’s voice and mimic it perfectly.
Moving furniture – Not all things around need to be able to kill the players. Having some moving furniture could be a great idea to set the tone or create an atmosphere. You could have chairs just move in a pattern or make an interesting puzzle out of it where a certain combination of monsters stops or summons a monster.
Mongrelfolk – These are humanoid creatures that have had experiments done on them. They are great to incorporate in a house that belonged to a mad wizard that did Frankenstein-like research on them. If the party is playing as villains, they could pick one out for themselves to run their own experiments on.
Shadows – These guys are pretty underestimated, and you almost never see them. They are really dangerous for parties who just started out on their adventure. While they have a low CR, they have a nasty ability. It is possible that they drain strength. These monsters are great to take a low AC party by surprise. If the adventures don’t have a cleric and have dumped their strength stat in general, they could be in big trouble!
Frequently Asked Questions about Mansion maps in DnD
Question: Where can I find more inspiration for mansion maps?
Answer: There are so many blueprints online from old castles and mansions, you will never run out! My favorite collection is one I found on Pinterest. It even has the first-floor plan of Balmoral Castle, where the Queen of England often goes. The best thing about using historical maps is the fact that your mansions will feel a great deal more realistic.
QUESTION:HOW SHOULD I PLAN AN ADVENTURE IN A MANSION?
Answer: Due to the huge diversity of rooms, you can have in a mansion, I would recommend you go backward. So this means you think about what you want to happen and what monsters and items should be encountered, and you plan your mansion around that. This way you have a more natural feeling of adventure instead of trying to give your players a tour of the house.
QUESTION: DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS WHEN BEING A DM USING A MANSION?
Answer: The first thing you need to think about is how am I going to use this environment. A house has a lot more clutter and trinkets than a dungeon or a forest. You have tons of everyday items there that you could use in your story.
Second, I would try to stay away from predictable things. The moment your players enter a mansion, they are going to start looking for hidden rooms and secret levers. Try to find something else. If you must use levers, try to catch your players by surprise. For example, activating a lever releases a magical impulse making suits of armor attack the player.
Third, use unique monsters! A mansion can host some of the best and most fun encounters that you won’t find anywhere else. Personally, if this is the first time you are using a map of a house, I would make sure there is a place where they will encounter an attic whisperer.
Last, there are some pretty cool traps you can use. I like to use a Rug of Smothering in places where the player shouldn’t be. Having them in the main entrance hall would not be very smart, as the lord of the house probably didn’t want to kill all his guests. Probably.
DnD Mansion Map Ideas: Last Remarks
It is clear that a mansion can have quite the change of setting, story and encounters compared to your average dungeon and forest. This is why you should not be too ambitious the first time trying them out. Mansions have many more rooms, items than a dungeon and are often part of a greater whole, like a city or village.
Just like any place in DnD both players and dungeon masters have to be quick on their feet to cover any loopholes. For example, a barbarian isn’t going to smash through the wall of an underground dungeon any time soon. The inner walls of a crumbling mansion stand less of a chance against this primordial brute force. Make sure you have a plan B as a DM to stop clever players.