Dang Megadungeons Break My Heart
Here are four creative ways to drop a megadungeon into your campaign.
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Raging Swan Press. And the topic is megadungeons! (Insert thunderous noise and shaking ground here.) I lurvs me my megadungeons. I happen to have several bookshelves dedicated just to these critters. Here’s a snapshot of one:
Favourites include Rappan Athuk, Night Below, Castle Greyhawk, Barrowmaze, Slumbering Tsar, and World’s Largest Dungeon.
The irony of Megadungeons is I don’t like GMing them. I love to read them and loot them for parts. But every time I’ve tried to run a megadungeon I end up getting bored. And the campaign stalls. Then we switch campaigns. Bleh.
There’s one exception to this though. It’s a megadungeon I’ve GM’d nine times. Completed, if memory serves, three times? And it tops my list of my all-time favourite megadungeons at spot #1.
However, there’s another approach to GMing megadungeons that solves the boredom problem.
Grab your heartbreaker megadungeon off your bookshelf and drop it into your campaign. Play it for awhile. Add hooks and integrations to motivate players to leave the dungeon for other quests.
While players journey away to pick up other plot threads, the dungeon broods. The PCs can come back when they want. Perhaps there’s a restock.
But no longer is the intention to trap the PCs inside, or to make the megadungeon the basis of the campaign. Instead, it’s part of the sandbox.
Which brings us to how do we incorporate your megadungeon into your campaign?
We’re not looking for megadungeon creation ideas here.
What we have is a bookshelf of already created megadungeons we’re itchin’ to GM if there was a good chance the book or box would give us awesome, long-term gameplay instead of a failed campaign.
We just need to tweak our thinking. The megadungeon is not the campaign itself. Instead, it’s a cool part of our milieu.
And here’s how you might do that.
Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go
What are the chances PCs will run afoul of the law?
And should the guards manage to capture them, instead of throwing the party into the dungeon, throw them into the megadungeon!
Keep all the adventure hooks. The rumours of treasure. The kidnapped MacGuffin. And the stories of terrible dangers and insanities.
Effective crime deterrence means promoting the 1000 instadeaths the new jail offers to Chaotic “we’re not evil” Neutrals.
Is That an Underworld in Your Pants?
<Nods to Knights of the Dinner Table Bag Wars>
A guy in high school took this grimy, wrinkled, smudgy, pencil-drawn map out of his pocket. He called it his pocket dungeon.
Make your megadungeon an alternate dimension in your campaign world.
For example, when a teleport spell goes awry. Or when a desperate fool downs a two-potion cocktail.
Put it inside a Bag of Holding or Portable Hole.
Make it the Place of the Gods.
Or, how about this one. It’s the afterlife. Make your megadungeon the underworld. The plane of the dead and misfortunate.
Megadungeon City States
Got more than one lonely megadungeon on your shelf?
Drop several into your campaign and turn them into virtual kingdoms.
Turn your megadungeons into political and economic engines rife with plots and dangers, like you would for any good old city setting.
Add a few more entrances for trade and faction access. Drop in surface encounters involving megadungeon trading parties, exploration parties, and raiding parties. Turn your milieu into one hell of a party! Megadungeon style.
The Home for Defeated Enemies Who Play Cards Together on Saturday Nights and Get to Talking
Turn your megadungeon into a Factory.
Read through and look for resources you tap to affect your campaign.
For example, put your campaign’s ultimate villain in a new, secret level. Plant your megadungeon beneath the city and have it exert overt or subtle influence on its denizens.
Or have your megadungeon recruit or attract foes who managed to escape on round two while the PCs were distracted.
Or make it Fitness Test for a crazed deity or wizard. Survivors (0 for 176 so far) get offered your campaign’s real quest.
Don’t let your megadungeon suffer in shelfie solitude any longer. Parachute it into your game using one of the ideas above. Got another way you can make a megadungeon fit nicely within an existing campaign? Let me know!