Delta’s D&D Hotspot has a second post about empty rooms, worth reading for commentary about Gary Gygax’s habits when keying dungeons. Basically, he didn’t describe room contents other than monsters and treasure, at least not in the early days.
Although I’ve long been an advocate for treating empty rooms as unoccupied, but not truly empty, I’ve also been an advocate for not cataloging room contents. It seems to me there’s more sense in just improvising room contents based on the type of room (kitchen, torture chamber, storage room) and how thoroughly the PCs search.
“You see a typical kitchen with three prep tables, storage cabinets, and a cauldron, with a smoke flue above the cauldron.”
“The prep tables have several spoons, knives, ladles, and bowls on them. One cabinet contains spices in bottles, another contains pots and pans.”
“There’s a gunky brown residue and bits of bone caked on the bottom. The underside is covered with soot.”
Each kind of search takes time and adds wandering monster rolls, of course. The main reason to have rooms not be completely empty is to force players to make decisions. There might be something valuable in those rooms. There might be something that’s at least usable, like spices you could throw in someone’s eyes or wood that can be turned into a club. There might be hidden snakes, rat’s nests, and other petty monsters.
Searching every room is probably a big mistake. But so is never searching a room.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.