Thursday, April 17, 2014

In response to the idea of a Megadungeon

 There are a few people in the blogosphere that I read a lot of :
John Arendt over at Dreams in the Lich House
Michael Curtis at Society of Pole, Torch and Rope
Joseph Bloch at Greyhawk Grognard

There are others, but these guys know their stuff when it comes to dungeon design. And they all discuss at one point or another how to make a mega-dungeon. Well, they may have just designed one, and not talked about it.

Quoting from John:
"If I were to boil it down to a list of bullets, here's what *I'd* have:

  • Many large levels
  • Highways in and out
  • Themed levels and sub levels
  • Set piece locations
  • Multi dimensional challenges
  • Mostly empty - 33% encounter density
  • Plan to restock!
  • Gold as XP
  • Deeper levels = greater danger
  • Resource management
  • Factions and NPCs
  • Information flow - patrons, rumors, treasure maps"
For the most part, I think Mord Mar follows these tenants. I would like to discuss where Mord Mar is for each bullet individually.

Many Large Levels: currently Mord Mar is planned to have 20 full levels, and an infinite number of sub-levels. Mapping is back at square one for the large levels, with a few changes coming down the pipe for the order of the mountain.

Highways In and Out: This is a bit difficult to quantify. I think I have highways in and out, but its difficult to tell without more playtesting.

Themed Levels and Sub Levels: The entire first level is pretty much broken down into sub levels. But, I don't think this is exactly what John means. I think Ludos' Lair is a better example, and I have a few more ideas:
Throughout the old city, there are bubbles of displaced space that materialize in place of a known or seen feature. These bubbles appear and disappear at random times, and places (and therefore are only found on the Random Encounter Tables.) It is also rumored that the Zombie Carriage and the Hellevator can bring adventurers to these elusive locales.

When they materialize, any who witness it feel time slow to a crawl, then are blinded by a flash of light. Nobody has been able to record how much time passes when the phenomenon happens. It feels like an eternity to those who witness it, but when they return to a civilized place or to someone unaffected, they notice almost no chrono-distortion.
There will be other themes running through Mord Mar as well. The first set of modules has a pretty great theme running through 3 tiny parts of the Old City.

Set Piece Locations: It seems everyone defines "set pieces" as something different. To me, these are locations or encounters that are unique, and memorable. Quite often they are points in a dungeon that are used for directions (look for the Red Wall With a Mouth, then turn left). I have at least 3 written into the first level of Mord Mar, and probably more, depending on how loose the definition is.

Multi Dimensional Challenges: This is just good DMing. You need to allow all players and characters to use their strengths. Sometimes the Rogue needs to sneak, sometimes the Wizard needs to think. I have DMed long enough to know this, and its there for sure.

Mostly Empty - 33% Encounter Density: I'm not sure that I agree with this. In 3.x/Pathfinder, so much time is spent doing anything, but I do have a lot of empty space none the less. We'll see what the final ratio is.

Plan to Restock: I have a long-term plan for this. I don't think Mord Mar needs restocking, so much as revamping, though. Many of the locations allow for a simple reset until the PCs fix the problem.

Gold as XP: I didn't agree with this in 1st Edition and don't agree with it now. And to top it off, Pathfinder doesn't allow for it.

Deeper Levels = Greater Danger: I had to put a twist on this staple. There are levels above and below the main floor that increase danger the further away you get. I hope this works well, but its a long thing to playtest. I hope the dynamic change makes it more fun.

Resource Management: A general staple of low level characters, and something that fades with power. I hope to get the characters lost in the dungeon, and force their hand on this a bit.

Factions and NPCs: I have been working a lot on both of these. I think they will be a high point of the project when its all said and done.

Information flow - Patrons, Rumors, Treasure Maps: Patrons are covered in the Adventurers Guild. Rumors are somewhere near 1000 at this point and growing. I need to refine them a bit, but they are around. Treasure Maps, well PCs keep on your toes.

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