Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Food for thought concerning MegaDungeons

James over on Grognardia talks about the list of upcoming Greyhawk products that can be found in Dragon #55. 

Later in the post he focuses on this tidbit

As with most extensive dungeon complexes, much is developed and kept in the head due to actual play, and some areas are so difficult as to be impossible for those not used to our DM style.

A while ago I talked about Minimal Dungeons inspired by my reading up books on the early days of the hobby and this picture of Gary Gygax refereeing where we see part of his notebook.

Minimal Dungeons

Minimal Dungeon Redux

As food for thought, perhaps a megadungeon "fit for sale" shouldn't be focus on presenting a product formatted like a tournament style dungeon. A dungeon map with every room keyed and written with a description. Rather a megadungeon should be focused on teaching the reader how the author ran the megadungeon. Accompanied by any aides the author used whether it is a complete map, geomorphs, or a sketch. 

Keep in mind that the work for a dungeon (or even one of my Blackmarsh style sandbox settings) grows by the square of the area covered. A map twice the size is not twice the work but rather four time the works if one try to format it like a tournament style dungeon.

When it comes to the Greyhawk Dungeon, we do know that Gygax was able to teach how to run it at least once with Rob Kuntz. My opinion that any thing we can do as humans can be taught or at least explained to other humans. 

Personally I was able to do a lot with the map to Tegel Manor because of the numerous notes and the room labels. The key served as a reference to specific content like monsters, and treasure. Occasionally a room would have a paragraph if it was a special encounter. What Tegel was missing was commentary and notes by Bob Bledsaw on how he ran the adventure. Plus a page or two page introduction for novices to running a megadungeon or for less experienced referees would be a good thing to have. 


  1. It's a really good point and one that JG products seem to favour. In a Wilderlands setting adventure there is always lots of space around the bones of the adventure.

  2. Food for thought indeed. I really want to try to run a megadungeon but the scale is something quite scary, I am reading the linked posts with interest.

  3. Probably ALL pre-written adventures could use a little "how I ran this thing" explanation from the author, not just the megadungeons.

    1. That would be incredibly helpful. I find it often takes so long to work out all the moving parts of a published adventure, and how they are supposed to fit and flow together, that it takes more time and effort than writing my own.

  4. Today, for any larger level, I'm breaking the map up into color coded zones. For example 3-8 rooms might be outlined in red, and are the "Goblin Zone". I then stat up an appropriate amount of critters and treasure, then make general notes about the rooms, such as: guard room, larder, treasure trove, chieftain's chamber, etc.. I will write down "always 4-6 guards here" for a guard room, etc.., and just kind of wing the rest, using the resources provided for that zone. It works pretty well.

  5. @Grumpy Old Man, what you do written up and edited is the kind of thing I am talking about to make Megadungeons publishable.

  6. For folks who'd like to see more "how I ran this module" commentary, you might take a look at Seth Skorkowsky's eponymous youtube channel. He has a strict policy of never reviewing an adventure without first having run it, and his vids always include significant insights on what he changed to make things work better for his table. While he primarily runs Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, and Cyberpunk rather than D&D, his style is still a good one if you're thinking about how to write (or film) your own "how to" segment in something you're creating or reviewing.

    Myself, I favor treating megadungeons as a cluster of linked zones, with varying degrees of interaction between them providing a framework for the party's actions altering the overall complex as time goes by.

  7. Subscribing to discussion!


  8. I zoomed in mega deep to that picture, trying to see the details on the lined paper. I could not make it out, but the format clearly looked like # of locations and stat blocks of some creatures. It might have been a random encounter table? The map picture is kind of nice. I feel dumb having never really done that myself, but marking small details down like musty, can be a trigger.