A classic, old-school dungeon is a series of connected rooms, each containing traps or monsters. This is fun, but modern RPG players expect more verisimilitude from dungeon inhabitants. If there’s an ogre in one room and a roper in the next, a lot of questions naturally arise: do they know about each other? Do they get along? Will one come running if the other cries out for help when outmatched by intrepid adventurers?

In any dungeon you design (and I use the term “dungeon,” as I often do, very loosely: it just as much applies to ice caves, gambling dens, or space station corridors as to brick-and-mortar chambers), have a good sense of what every denizen thinks of the creatures around it. Very few dungeon denizens sit in their own room for their whole lives. They should at least travel a bit to gather sustenance or check on defenses. Even if a dungeon denizen doesn’t move much, like a bound demon or a construct, it still might be able to hear or smell its neighbors, and it might know them particularly well if its neighbors are mobile (like sewer-cleaning oozes or humanoids that need to forage to eat). They’ll have formed opinions about their neighbors.

Think of it this way: you have opinions about your own neighbors, whether they are family members living next door, a handy kid you know can fix your leaky sink, or even people you don’t know well (and maybe speak a different language). You have opinions even about neighbors you hardly ever see; you might think they’re creepy because they don’t come out to socialize or have few friends over, or you might be disturbed at how much time they spend at the window just looking around. Your dungeon denizens can think of their neighbors the same way!

A side note: Earlier editions of D&D tackled this position head-on by presenting dungeons as not just a series of independent rooms, but sets of rooms in which the inhabitants work together, pay attention for dangers, and probably reinforce one another in a fight. This is a great step, but pulls the question back to the next higher level: do residents of one set of room know about the residents of the next set of rooms over? And what do they think about them? The issue has become one of neighboring apartment buildings, not just neighboring houses, but the question is similar.

When I start thinking about this, I worry about the adventure’s structural integrity. If realistic dungeon denizens acted like people, they might fear violent adventurers crashing through the neighborhood. Perhaps they band together, set guards in multiple shifts, build barricades, and come running to a fight in one group at the first sign of trouble. This is probably bad for your game, as few PCs can face every dungeon residence at once in a straight-up fight. Dungeon adventures rely on the fact that the PCs need only fight monsters one at a time, or in small groups. How does an adventure writer preserve this? It’s fine if some dungeon denizens band together, but why don’t all of them?

Remember that dungeon denizens probably aren’t social. Part of the reason they’re in an isolated location is because they don’t get along with other creatures, they value their privacy, or they want to stay hidden. These kinds of neighbors won’t band together. In fact, these kinds of neighbors may actively dislike each other, and want to clear out some of their neighbors for more space or other resources—or in a preemptive strike so their insufferable neighbor doesn’t attack first. Most dungeons are, I’d bet, not a unified front of defenders but a backbiting collection of sociopaths and carnivores that wouldn’t fight together even if their lives depended on it. Which, when adventurers come calling, it does.

So you can use this dynamic in your games, as an adventure author or GM, and have some of the monsters try to use the PCs against their neighbors. Perhaps the ogre pretends to have little treasure and encourages the PCs to head to the next room to face the roper to gain its treasure instead. Perhaps the ogre even pays off the PCs to leave it alone and attack the roper in the next chamber instead. If the roper hates the ogre just as much, and involves the PCs in their feud, it goes a long way to position dungeon denizens as real people. And, usually, really awful people.