In the gaming world a "Dungeon Crawl" is used to refer to any game that has a core focus of going into a dungeon setting, fighting monsters and taking loot back the city to buy stuff with. After buying the new (and hopefully better) stuff you go back and crawl around in the dungeon some more.
Some of the new blood in the gaming world might be wondering why the word "Crawl" is in there. Shouldn't it be "Dungeon Delving" or "Dungeon Exploring"?
Way back in the day, when the Dungeons and Dragons game was the only game in town, most games took place in the dungeon. Yeah, I know that is no big surprise to you since the first word in the title is "Dungeons".
One particular rule always annoyed people; Movement. Most man-sized creatures could move 120' (feet) per turn while in the dungeon. You could run faster and movement changed during combat but the basic movement was 120' per turn.
One turn equals ten minutes in game time. Ten rounds equal one turn. This means movement, in the dungeon, was 12' per minute. Break it down even further and it takes you five seconds to move one foot! Sound like a "Crawl" yet?
After "crawling" for 50 minutes you had to spend ten minutes resting or suffer to hit penalties.
If you wanted your character to run than they could cover that 120' distance in one round (minute). Movement in an encounter is equal to 1/3 your movement (or 40' in our case) per round.
You might be looking at running speed and thinking 120' in one minute? Is every adventurer out of shape? Even in the army we were expected to run two miles in under 12 minutes. The average adventurer would be lucky to cover a quarter mile in 12 minutes while running!
So, what do the rules say about this horrendously slow movement rate?
A base movement rate of 120' in ten minutes may seem slow, but it assumes that the players are mapping carefully, searching, and trying to be quiet. It also takes into account the generally "dark and dingy" conditions of the dungeon in which characters are adventuring.
source: Basic Dungeons and Dragons Rulebook page B19
Part of the problem is the fact that parts of the game were based on miniatures rules. When playing a game with miniatures certain items of scale just go out the window. A 25mm archer figure can fire his longbow far beyond the edge of the table (if you adjust for scale) but that does not make for good gaming. Same thing with artillery in a miniatures game. Have you ever wondered why the Imperial Guard tanks and howitzers (Warhammer 40K) can't shoot through buildings and rain death on all corners of the game table? It's not because the vehicles they are based on can't it's because it makes for boring game play.
As time moved on some of the movement and time rules evolved. In most modern RPGs no one crawls through the dungeon anymore. Well, some still do but they tend to be the undead that have lost their legs.
Feeling the urge for some old school gaming? Be sure to check out Noble Knight Games. If you make a purchase a portion of the sale price will go towards keeping HMTK on the web.
Image Five to One, Baby used under Creative Commons License via flickr