Megadungeons Gone Wild

Megadungeons are something that interest me. As a player I may have played in a megadungeon, but did not know it.

I have read lot of articles and gather lots of notes.

As I think about my own campaign, that I touched on yesterday, and its ten great ancient cities with teleport chambers, I realize that the sewers and tunnels and caverns under each one is its own megadungeon, but each is connected to the other by the teleport chambers. The chambers have a mechanism to specify which destination, so players could end up on the far end of the empire, or on one of the islands they settled across the sea.

Obviously, I don’t want or need to map out all of this that would never be played, but the various megadungeon tables on different sites to help populate them would come in handy if players managed to jump from one ancient city to another.

I think that general areas of the city would be a natural for certain kinds of buildings, structures, events, and encounters. For example, the cemetery/necropolis would have plenty of undead from the time of chaos when the empire collapsed and troops were needed quickly to deal with the dead and defend the city. The nice people fled and the bad guys have set up shop. There would be a near limitless supply of skeletons and zombies. A high magic society would tend to have magical constructs like golems and homonculi. Perhaps trapped demons or elementals. Magic mouths to give directions around the city.

There would be places where treasure in the form of coins might be more likely, and treasure in the form of ancient weapons and other items that might not be magical, but a sage might pay for them. A collector of ancient relics might like a statue or a tapestry. There is more to treasure than just coin and magic.

If there were a zoological garden, would there be small groups of wild animals about the city? A pride or two of lions that fed off the goblins and orcs running around. Other types of creatures attracted by the niche they could fill in such a place.

Whether a city or dungeon, thinking in terms of areas and what was there originally and what is there now will help group what adventurers might find or encounter there.

An ancient cistern overgrown with vines would be a 30 foot or deeper pit, a deadly fall, unless it still held water, then it could still be a deadly fall. Ancient barrows of the early kings could be infested with wights, or other grave loving creatures. Different parts of an abandoned city could be controlled by different factions. Pirates could use the docks to trade goods to orcs or evil humans in the employ of a wizard seeking some powerful device he read about in an ancient tome. Intelligent monsters might control another area, perhaps a dragon of an appropriate size has claimed the ancient treasury. There could be turf wars by the various factions trying to control the city. There could be a big bad trying to consolidate his power and is working to sway other factions to his will and destroy those who don’t come along. Players getting in the midst of such a turf war could be in for a wild ride.

Lots of ideas present themselves, palace, barracks, temples and shrines, colleges of magic, palaces of nobles and the rich, merchants of all kinds, the old bazaar, docks, an abandoned thieve’s guild tower, homes of the populace.

Would each city be built on a similar plan, or would each be unique?

I like to think or areas or pigeon holes for parts of large areas, like a city. All you really need for a map is the rough distance from one “quarter” or section of the city and how long it will take. I just borrow maps for cities online for my use. Of course, to publish my own, if that were every to happen, would take new maps and a LOT more detail for others to be able to use it. There is a HUGE difference between enough notes for a DM to run a session, and enough description for someone new to the campaign to run it. For making your own cities or megadungeons, you just need enough information to keep play moving. You may even have to have some tables for quick random generation of buildings, their condition, and contents.

There needs to be something to break up the sameness. As I wrote this, I recalled a scenario when I GM’d Gamma World and the players found a high rise hotel and in every room were skeletons of people in sexual positions as they obviously were going to do it one last time before the end of the world. Ah the mind of a adolescent teenage boy. After a while I ran out of scenarios for number of people and positions. It was all on the fly. I did not do enough preparation to have more variety. The other guys laughed at what I came up with, so we had fun, but it had an aura of sameness to it. A list of some sort for  100 houses, 100 merchant shops, etc. like many other lists of 100 other bloggers have come up with can go a long way. If you have the spare coin to buy a PDF of a city, you can save Googling for lists, or making up your own.

I would suggest making a list of the different types of things you expect to find in a city, wells, cisterns, fountains, houses, shrines, temples, tombs, etc. and make a list of 100 of them. Use a spreadsheet like Open Office or Libre Office Calc and have a column for a present day, in-use item/building/object and a second column for what it is like in a ruined city or town. You can make your lists as detailed as you need to make it useful for working down the list or picking at random. For a more complex choice and variety, you could have columns for different descriptors to use when applying to the object or building. Obviously, more substantial buildings like temples, palaces, forts, and wizard towers would need more preparation, especially if there is anything there to find or find you. Again, there are lots of maps and free modules describing these very things.

Building your own lists has the power of giving it your own flavor. You don’t have to come up with everything from scratch, you can mix and match ideas and lists from others you find online or in your rulebooks. There is a lot you can do if you are a cash-strapped teen or an adult with other things you need your money for, like bills and trying to save for retirement. Or if you have a few dollars to spend there are a lot of good resources available on DriveThru RPG or RPGNow in the $5 or less range. The D30 DM Companion and the D30 Sandbox Companion are two great resources for the time strapped DM and give lots of ideas for how to organize one’s own tables.

I really appreciate all the other DMs and players who share all their ideas online and so much of it is free. Thank you all, fellow gamers!

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2 thoughts on “Megadungeons Gone Wild”

  1. I ran across a post from a few years back on Greyhawk Grognard [] where Joseph Bloch pointed out the same thing. I will have to find the link to that. I meant to post it before this article went up.

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