March 9, 2012

5 Things I Learned Running My Megadungeon

1. A Good Random Table Is Worth 10 Room Descriptions: A room needs a proper description only if it has some special feature inside (monster, treasure, trick, puzzle, or a combination of the above). Otherwise, it's far better to rely on random tables, as they're usually a) much faster to read and b) while you roll your dice for random furnishings your players obviously think you're rolling for wandering monsters, which increases paranoia (and this is always good).

2. Make Use Of Harmless Looking Dangerous Stuff And Vice Versa: A statue of Tsathoggua with a big-ass diamond in its jaws? Harmless. The tiles at the bottom of the stairs leading to the statue? Opens on the Neverending Pit Of Doom. In a couple of sessions the players will be scared by their own shadow (ehi, that's a  good idea; I must have the PCs fighting their own shadows somewhere in this dungeon).

3. Be Ready, Though Not Too Ready: A Megadungeon always needs to be under construction. Leave corridors leading nowhere, and bind it to your needs. It's cool to grant extra XP bonus for reaching the edges.

4. Doing Nothing Is Just As Fun: It may happens that the party finds a safe path in the dungeon, and spend the session without running into one damn monster, trap, treasure or puzzle. In that case, don't cheat on the dice; if you end the session with no wandering monster around to your need, it's not a big deal. The session is going to be just as fun, as long as the players are paranoid enough about it.

5. Maps Need Space For In Game Notes: Don't bother having nice looking maps. Leave some space at the edges to take notes during the game (like broken door, battle with goblins, dead adventurer and so on). It's always cool for the players to leave their mark in the Megadungeon, perhaps even more than facing your Saturday Night Specials.

11 comments:

  1. Good post, as always!
    I just want to ask if you can recommend / point to some dungeon dressing/content random tables that you find particularly good or prefer to use? One can never have too many, and im in the beginning of the proces of mapping, dressing and expanding my own (very first!) megadungeon, the players being 'one session in', so far.
    I have made A LOT of good use of your blog by the way! So thank you.

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    1. Kellri stuff is must have, as is anything published over at Beyond The Black Gate. Also, I found myself making a lot of use of the dungeon dressing stuff in 3e DMG (strange doors, furnishings, traps, etc.)

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  2. It's always cool for the players to leave their mark in the Megadungeon, perhaps even more than facing your Saturday Night Specials.

    This a thousand times this.

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  3. I agree...screw the pretty maps. I've wasted lots of time trying to get maps to look beautiful and perfect. This is one of the biggest killers of the megadungeon project. Work on that beautiful map in your spare time, frame it when it's done, put it on the wall in your basement (cuz, yes, it IS rad looking), but for heaven's sake leave the actually dungeon map looking raw so that you can keep adding to it, modifying it, making notes on it, etc.

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  4. It's always cool for the players to leave their mark in the Megadungeon, perhaps even more than facing your Saturday Night Specials.

    I mentioned something like this in passing to my players the other day. They jumped all over it and went off coming up with (delusional) ideas to ensure they became immortalized in the history of the megadungeon!

    Doing nothing is just as fun.

    We've had a few sessions when, after the fact, the players realized they did not have a single fight and thought it was cool.

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  5. If you want to go for reals with the gonzo mega dungeon, roll the whole thing randomly and have the player map be THE map. No easier way to have them make their mark than when it's shaped by their exploration.

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    1. This is one of the friggin coolest ideas on the topic I read from a long time.

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    2. I've tried this. I have a pretty good system of mapless dungeon generation. It works and is fun but it feels... I don't know... some times I do want to know what is around the corner in advance. In the future I think I'll try something more like what Al at Beyond the Black Gate describes, where some rooms, the big important ones, have place on the map, but there are still places that can be filled in during play too.

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    3. Is it available anywhere? Just curious :)

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