Megadungeon Advice

Barrowmaze CoverNo, this isn’t a post where I am offering advice on running megadungeons. This is a post where I am soliciting advice on running megadungeons! See, I have the itch to run a megadungeon campaign over the winter in some form. I have the rules system pretty much picked out, Swords & Wizardry Complete. But I need some guidance on a couple of things.

First – I need a megadungeon! I own Barrowmaze and have dabbled in that with a campaign with the kids. It seemed to work well for the amount we played in it and could be suitable for my plans. I have Stonehell on the way, I should receive it this week. And I am not opposed to picking up something like Rappan Athuk. But with all of these choices, I need to make a choice!

What does the crowd think? Which published megadungeon do you think would be a good one to base a campaign on this winter? Why do you think one is better than another? Sell me on your favorite megadungeon and why I should use it for my nefarious plans.

Or – on a more ambitious possibility, I like to map, I like to write, maybe I should create my own megadungeon this winter and possibly turn it into a package for other folks to use. The downside is one, the work, and two, I feel like I should get the feel of an already published megadungeon to see what works and what doesn’t work before setting down the path of creating my own. So maybe this is more a future project for me.

Once I determine what megadungeon to prep and run, how do I keep it from turning into a “grind”? I expect exploring room after room will be fun for the first 4 to 6 weeks, but what about after that? What can I do as a GM to keep things interesting and not turn the megadungeon campaign into a slog partway through?

I figure I need a nearby town, so the experience can be more of a the group ventures to the dungeon, explores, and then retreats the end of the session. Rinse and repeat. Do I need to sprinkle in some non-dungeon crawl adventures on the side for “breaks” between the megadungeon? I likely need some way to keep the dungeon alive – restocking rooms, making sure to make prior decisions and combats matter later in the game, etc.

I plan on setting player expectations prior to the campaign, so players will know what they are getting into and hopefully be in the mood for a similar campaign style. I also plan on this being a 3-4 month long thing, then put it aside until next year, and so on.

What is your advice for really making a megadungeon fun and exciting?

8 thoughts on “Megadungeon Advice

  1. I enjoyed DMing Monte Cook’s “The Banewarrens”. It had a huge dungeon and a good city adventure set in Ptolus, which he later expanded upon. It took about a year of regular weekly gaming sessions, 6 hour Saturdays. Characters advanced 5 levels, it started at 6th.

    Afterward, I was completely drained as a GM, but the t was typical Monte Cook – monsters with class levels, etc. It really kept the players on their toes, never taking anything for granted.

    • I will take a look at ‘The Banewarrens’. I plan on running in a retroclone, not sure I want to do the on-the-fly conversions for complex monsters with class levels and such.

  2. Writing your own will probably be more fulfilling long term. It’s not rocket science. Just make a level or two to start. Trash it if you don’t like it.

    Or you could drop it and a published one into the same setting and let the players choose which one they want to hit.

    • I do agree that in the long term one I write is likely to be more fulfilling. For the moment though I feel like I need to see how things work in some other megadungeons so I can learn from it and apply to my own.

  3. Advice: Running a megadungeon requires a very dedicated group of players. So run the dungeon that suits your group. Also, a MG should reduce your prep time. If it doesn’t do that then forget it and move on.

  4. How do I get in on this as a player?

    Running the mega dungeon is an art. I ran World’s Largest Dungeon and I ran Underdark campaign many many years ago.It is not easy. The most important thing I believe is to keep a reason for why the PCs are doing this. I like to put in plot or expand upon the plot the mega dungeon gives me. I add in mystery and intrigue as that can keep players interested. I’ll add in hints if ancient civilizations, or clues to other adventuring party that have come before. I find NPCs that can be made into something more then an opponent to kill. It takes some work but I think it is very worth it.

    If you want to borrow any I have just ask. I have Rappan Athuk (box set and Kickstarter book), Slumbering Tsar, World’s Largest Dungeon and City, the main box sets for 2e Underdark, and many other mid to huge sized adventures.

    • Thanks Chris!

      As for being a player – we can probably make that happen! I am still trying to figure out how to schedule this during the winter months. I am also hoping to involve X as his first real campaign with other players.

      Right now I think I am down to either Barrowmaze or Stonehell Dungeon, with Stonehell Dungeon currently creeping towards the top of the list.

      And of course that has me debating whether to use S&W rules or Labyrinth Lord.

      But if you are really interested, definitely let me know. I am thinking a campaign running from December-ish to April-ish, probably an every other week game, length of sessions to be determined.

  5. Pingback: Stonehell: Base of Operations | The Iron Tavern

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