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Enter the Megadungeon


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#1 BigJackBrass

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 12:56 PM

In ages past the gigantic, multi-level dungeon was seen by many as the core of an ongoing campaign. Surrounding wilderness and towns were more like additional hazards and resupply points than destinations in their own right. This very site found fame through the adventures recording in The World's Largest Dungeon, and with the OSR (Old School Renaissance) movement "megadungeons" found a new and enthusiastic audience (or at least an old audience with renewed enthusiasm).

 

Earlier this evening I noticed that the troubled Dwimmermount project had finally been released: here's a link to the Labyrinth Lord version. Tempting though it is to pick that up - and the PDF is at a pretty fair price - I rather doubt I'll ever do much with it if I do. Most of my early fantasy gaming was in cities, and aside from a few very short forays underground it's only quite recently that I've done much with dungeon adventures; I'm really not sure I could sustain an underground campaign.

 

Do you have any thoughts on megadungeons? A particular favourite, perhaps, or a desire to hear a certain one explored on RPGMP3? Would you rather they were consigned to the Biffa bin of history?


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#2 Slartibartfast

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 06:26 PM

I think it's one of those things where the idea of it is can easily be more pleasing than the reality.  Massive underground complexes hidden form everyday life and full of wonder and monsters sounds v cool!  I haven't gamed in specifically named megadungeons but I've found that in large dungeons it can be a bit difficult to keep the momentum going and resources run out quickly and the adventures get orc-pie fatigue. 

I suppose the trick is to find the bits that are fun about a megadungeon and focus on them.  I like the idea of the enormous dungeon but would get tired of it quickly.  So, I haven't done this but I think it would be fun to run one alongside an above-ground adventure and allow the party to jump between the two as and when.  A city with a complex warren of tunnels, sewers, ruins of previous cities, ancient burial sites, alien spaceships, abandoned mines, caverns and mausoliums underneath could work.


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#3 Daniel

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 05:41 AM

I love mega dungeons. I have Rappan Athuk sitting on my shelf waiting for its chance. I think a successful megadungeon has to be more than just a big dungeon. It needs a solid story for players to uncover and each area needs to bring something new. Elsewise it will just get boring real fast
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#4 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 08:05 AM


Before commenting on this topic, I think everyone should go and download an episode of Castle Whiterock, and listen to Ieqo's epically mood-setting megadungeon intro. (Doesn't really matter which episode, they all have the same intro.)

Done? Okay. :)

Megadungeons have a cool, old-school nostalgic vibe to them, but often suffer heavily from real life attrition. Just looking at the audio on the site, Hal & Co. managed to slog through the WLD in a mere 40 episodes, and the Yorkton Gamers have been steadfastly hack-'n-slashing their way through a sizable portion of Monte Cook's Dragon's Delve, but those are somewhat rare and exceptional cases. Castle Whiterock, for instance, fizzled after only a dozen or so episodes, despite having a good team of players (including Hal, in what was probably his recorded attempt at gaming with people across the world via online link-up, in this case Skype, since G+ Hangouts weren't a thing, yet, at the time of the recording), a bunch of entertaining characters, and a competent GM.

Playing all the way through a megadungeon is a serious commitment of time and effort, both in terms of the sheer amount of gaming it takes to get all the way through the dungeon, but also in terms of bellying up to the gaming table on a regular basis for very extended lengths of time, which most people would struggle to arrange with the busy lives that everyone seem to be leading, these days.

Megadungeons are also notorious TPK generators, since you risk ending up far away from the surface world, with its temples and inns and sundry places where the PCs can safely rest and restock their supplies. The further down in the dungeon you get, the longer you have to travel through dangerous terrain when you wish to return to civilization, and the bigger the risk of other monsters showing up on the levels you've already cleared, providing additional threats on your safe return journey.

That being said, it could be fun to follow Hal's gang, or another gaming group that might volunteer, as they try to survive a classic megadungeon module from the heyday of D&D. (If only to hear how loud @Nick T. Vegan's screams of furious anguish would echo, if he ran into the blatantly unfair character-grinding traps in the Tomb of Horrors or White Plume Mountain.) ;)
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#5 Daniel

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 11:29 AM

Or Dragon Mountain...another megadungeon I'm waiting for a chance to run
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#6 BigJackBrass

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 12:08 PM

If I actually do run some or all of a really big dungeon then I suspect it's more likely to be entirely bonkers rather than dourly epic, something like the Anomalous Subsurface Environment.


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#7 Hal

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 12:18 PM

I love mega dungeons - I often think it would be fun to write one and see if anyone would care :)

 

Perhaps I can do a Pathfinder one as it seems a pretty straightforward system to write for.

 

Might get out my notebook and do a little writing and see if I can get a concept going...

 

Hal :hal:


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#8 Slartibartfast

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 07:00 PM

If I actually do run some or all of a really big dungeon then I suspect it's more likely to be entirely bonkers rather than dourly epic, something like the Anomalous Subsurface Environment.

 

 

That looks pretty spiffy - I appreciate a gonzo table for determaning "Fashion Styles of Wealthy Gentlemen and Haute Couture for Ladies" mid-session.  Adaptable to systems other than OSR too I would imagine.  Tunnles and Trolls adaption for Wartson Hall? *koff koff*

 

I love mega dungeons - I often think it would be fun to write one and see if anyone would care :)

 

Perhaps I can do a Pathfinder one as it seems a pretty straightforward system to write for.

 

Might get out my notebook and do a little writing and see if I can get a concept going...

 

Hal :hal:

 

 

... and playtest it with audio-recording devices nearby!


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#9 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 02:32 AM

I love mega dungeons - I often think it would be fun to write one and see if anyone would care :)
 
Perhaps I can do a Pathfinder one as it seems a pretty straightforward system to write for.
 
Might get out my notebook and do a little writing and see if I can get a concept going...


*Cough Cough* Rolemaster *Koff Koff* ;)
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#10 Hal

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 12:15 PM

True - I could do it for Rolemaster but I was considering the mass appeal :)

 

Hal :hal:


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#11 ScottS

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 06:36 AM

Couple of technical considerations for this are:
a) if you're running a system which requires "downtime"/recuperation for the characters, where do they do that (i.e. do they get to retreat out of the dungeon and/or find a "refuge" somewhere underground, or are you forcing them to barricade/seal off an area every time they want to rest)?

b) if you're running a system where loot is another PC advancement track (e.g. D&D 3+4/PF), where and when do they get to buy/sell stuff, or are you just forcing them to take whatever "random" loot you hand out?

Some of the Hal podcasts represent the extremes of these ideas.  WLD is "lol you're trapped in the dungeon, lol you can't buy anything" (and although I haven't listened to most of that cast, I ran it myself with a local group and thought it was pretty meh and incompatible with a lot of standard 3e expectations).  Banewarrens is "the entire dungeon is right inside a huge city and you can leave and rest / go shopping whenever you want" (which is silly in the abstract but actually works better with 3e loot;  the joke is that Ptolus is "the world's laziest D&D setting"...).


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#12 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 06:41 AM

the joke is that Ptolus is "the world's laziest D&D setting"


Gasp! Don't say such awful, awful, awful hurtful things in front of @Lockhart! You'll break his poor little heart. :(

...But yeah, it is kinda true, really.
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#13 Hal

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 07:50 AM

I found WLD very forced in that the party are trapped and there is nowhere inside the dungeon for them to trade or rest or whatever.

 

I quite like the setup in Night Below (which I will run successfully at some point) - perhaps there is a potential 5e conversion there? :) The party start in a small farming community that has reasonable but meager resources. As they progress down into the Underdark they encounter communities that are willing to trade with them and house them when they retreat so they don't have to retreat all the way back to the surface every time.

 

I guess it is kind of like a save point. When I ran it years ago, the party were setting up a trade route out of the Underdark with NPCs who shipped goods back to the surface for sale while they remained focused on the task of getting to the bottom of things. Worked pretty nicely and seemed to balance the need to rest and resupply with the practicalities of not having to travel for miles and miles to do it.

 

Hal :hal:


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#14 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:10 AM

I quite like the setup in Night Below (which I will run successfully at some point) - perhaps there is a potential 5e conversion there? :)


Night Below 5(E): Toothless Pete Strikes Back
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#15 BigJackBrass

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:45 AM

If you really want to enter a megadungeon then how about decorating your home with some rather stylish dungeon wallpaper?

 

Sepia Dungeon III by Billiam Babble

 

 

rrrrrrimage_shop_overlay_zoom_zps49f0509

 

Also available as fabric and wrapping paper! :D


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#16 Daniel

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:48 AM

Wouldnt mind that as a wrapping paper for the geeks in my lifd at christma/birthdays. :)
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#17 BigJackBrass

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:51 AM

The designer also does dungeon tiles, if you wanted to actually use his stuff in a game. And then there are the dice bags... I really can't afford this hobby ;)


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#18 kendoyle659

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 06:19 AM

I've played a bit of the Night Below campaign adapted for 3.0. I had some fun with it but I think that I find returns to cities/towns more social roleplaying more of my cup of tea. This is interesting as most of my RPG playing has been in DnD with quite a few dungeons there. I played about half of the SHakled city which had some fun dungeons but nothing Mega about them. 


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#19 Daniel

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:16 PM

TI really can't afford this hobby ;)


I know that pain, though dice bags in fhat design is a particularly mouthwatering concept. I use a dice chest, myself (being the host), but if I ever become a travelling gamer I hope I remember they exist.

Also Christmas Feylin... *ponders*
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#20 Slartibartfast

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 01:59 AM

Those All-Rolled Up wallets are pretty awesome too.

 

And least we forget that Inked Adventuers stuff is avaliable from DrivethruRPG.com - I'm pretty sure seeking it out through one of the links on this site will swell Hal's coffers somewhat

 

;)


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