Darkest Dungeon in D&D: The Courtyard as a Dungeon

Soaked and sinking, these stone terraces and sprawling gardens are the site of long forgotten revelry…and well remembered regret.

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This week, I’m looking at how to turn the marshy gardens and courtyard setting of the Crimson Court into dungeons for D&D. This post is especially long, so most of it is going to be hidden under the cut, and I won’t go so in-depth on the design process on this post.

General Features

  • Marshwater Off the paths of the courtyard, the dilapidated gardens have decayed into pools and channels of blood-soaked stagnant mire. The marshwater of the courtyard counts as difficult terrain for creatures without a swimming speed, and varies in depth from 1 feet to 6 feet or more. Creatures attempting to hide in the water gain advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • Parasitic Insects – The courtyard is overrun with the incessant buzzing of parasitic insects that use the stagnant waters as a breeding ground, with even more bloodsuckers lurking in the reeds and waters of the marsh.
    Every 30 minutes, creatures other that bloodsuckers in the courtyard must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or suffer 1d4 piercing damage. If this save is failed more than once in a row, creatures that fail the save also gain one level of exhaustion on each consecutive failed save. A non-bloodsucker creature must immediately attempt this save if it enters the marshwater, with an increased DC of 17, which persists for every save made while in the marshwater.
  • The Crimson Curse – Creatures native to the courtyard can inflict trespassers with the Crimson Curse, a strange strain of insect-transmitted vampirism. This can be inflicted by a The Thirst  attack from a sycophant, manservant, esquire, or courtesan, as well as by a Gather the Blood attack from a supplicant. For more information on the Crimson Curse, find my full Crimson Curse rules here.
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Darkest Dungeon and The Crimson Court, as well as all art used in this post belong to Red Hook Studios. You can find more of my Crimson Court D&D homebrew here, and all of my Darkest Dungeon content here! If you want to help support my work, you can make a donation to my ko-fi here, or support me on Patreon here for

early access to upcoming content and patron-only design process posts!

Curios, Obstacles & Traps

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  • Curio – Bloodflowers – A stone pot contains strange, thorny blood-red flowers.

    A creature that touches the stems in attempting to examine the flowers or trying to pick one suffers 1d4 piercing damage from the flower’s thorns.

    A creature that succeeds on a DC 14 Intelligence (Nature) check can tell that these flowers are not native to this area, and appear to be descended from plants that must have been imported at great expense. If a creature succeeds this check by 5 points or more, they also can tell that the marshwater has seemingly had an effect on these flowers, resulting in them developing red petals and spiny stems. 

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  • Trap – Bubbling Bloodwater – A section of the path has crumbled and sunk into the mire, a bubbling pool of marshwater encroaching onto the walkway. A character that approaches this trap must make a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check to realise that the water is not a puddle but actually a deep pool. If a creature steps into the water, it must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, or fall into the 6-foot-deep water and awaken 2d6 sleeping supplicants (with noble hosts) beneath the surface.
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  • Obstacle – Collapsed StoneworkThe ground around this part of the walkway is saturated with marshwater making passage through it a deathtrap, and causing neoclassical architecture that once proudly decorated the courtyard to sink into the marsh and block what little solid ground remains. The stonework can be cleared in 10 minutes with a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check, taking 20 minutes more on a failure. If a creature attempting this check has either stonemason’s tools or a shovel, lower the DC for this check by 5. 
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  • Curio – Damned Fountain

     –  A creature that drinks the crimson fluid that fills this fountain’s basin must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for one minute. If that creature has the Crimson Curse, it does not make this check and counts as if it had drunk a pint of blood. At the bottom of the basin, hidden by the fluid, are 2d12 gold pieces.

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  • Curio – Disturbing Diversion – Creatures that examine this caged skeleton gain 2d6 stress points. Looking at it more closely, a creature that succeeds on a DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check realises that the caged individual was bludgeoned for the entertainment of those aristocrats who graced the courtyard. If this check is succeeded by 5 points or higher, the crature examining the body finds 2d6 copper coins in tattered clothing that still hangs on the caged body, indicated that the corpse was perhaps a pauper in life. 
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  • Curio – Forgotten Delicacies – A small trolley rests in the marshy ground, overgrown with rushes. Atop it, a dented platter sits unopened. If players discover a platter, roll 1d4 before they approach it. On a 3-4, it contains 1d4 days’ worth of fresh rations. On a 2, the food within is rotten, with a smell so intense that when it is opened, all creatures within 5 feet of the platter must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, or be poisoned for 10 minutes. On a 1, the food within has been eaten by a swarm of insects, which flies out to attack the creature that opened the platter. Creatures within 5 feet of the platter that succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check can hear faint buzzing coming from inside the platter before it is opened.
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  • Curio – Hooded Shrew – A cloaked figure, with insect-like features visible through tears in its robes, sits waiting for a chance to barter for blood with those who stumble upon it. The hooded shrew will trade one random common or uncommon magic item for one pint of blood. After the trade is completed, it scampers away into the marsh. If the hooded shrew is attacked, it uses the rules for the esquire, but without the duellist’s sword or pistol actions.
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  • Curio – Strange Bones – A pile of humanoid bones, yet with strange, insect-like deformities… If a creature attempts to examine these bones, it must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, suffering 1 point of slashing damage and contracting the Crimson Curse on a failed save by suffering a cut from the bones. A creature that succeeds on a DC 16 Wisdom (Medicine) check made examining these bones learns that the creatures they belonged to are a mix that included both humanoids, and humanoid-insect hybirds. The humanoid bones are scarred by bite marks, which show no signs of healing, making them the likely cause of death.
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  • Curio – Throbbing Cocoons – Within these pulsating egg clutches, the larger horrors of the courtyard are growing. A throbbing cocoon has an AC of 6, and 20 hit points, and is vulnerable to fire damage, and immune to psychic and poison damage. A character that sees a cocoon destroyed loses 2d10 Stress points, comforted by the knowledge that some of the courtyard’s horrors will never hatch into the world.

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  • Curio – Thronging Hive –  If a creature deals damage to the hive with a melee attack, 1d4 swarms of insects and 1d4 sycophants emerge from the hive. If the hive suffers damage other than from a melee attack, the swarms and supplicants emerge in the same way, but at least one must succeed on a DC 14 Perception check to determine the attacker. If this check is failed, the creature or creatures attacking the hive have one surprise round if they continue to attack the hive, before the swarms attack them. The hive has an AC of 6 and 30 hit points, and is vulnerable to fire damage, and immune to psychic and poison damage. If the hive is destroyed, it may contain coins, gear or art pieces worth 4d4 x 10 gold pieces.
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  • Curio – Winemaker’s ReserveBloodthirsty courtiers still cling to their ties to decadent nobility, despite their degeneracy. A crate contains 2d4 wine bottles, half of which each contain a pint of blood.
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  • Curio – Wizened Shrew – A figure, emaciated and gasping, kneels on the path, his hands outstretched, begging for blood. The Wizened Shrew uses the stats of an esquire, but with -4 to its Strength and Dexterity scores, and only 10 hit points. If it is offered blood, either in container form or from a character, it will take the blood (either by drinking it from the cointainer or making its the thirst attack against the offered creature), and scamper off the courtyard’s path, scattering 5d4 x 10 gold pieces’ worth of jewellery or small art pieces towards creatures that gave it blood. 

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