Monday, October 8, 2012

More Mega-Dungeon Thoughts

Occassioned by a very strange HMS Apollyon Adventure played on G+ last weekend, and a controversial view of a well known Megadungeon by one of my players aboard the HMS Apollyon.

Not a solution to Boredom
I've been running the HMS Apollyon as a "living" mega dungeon for various groups of G+ players (mostly the same 10 or so folks) and my players seem to generally enjoy it.  I've been wondering why, based on my desire to become a better GM generally, and to keep the setting interesting.  Lately a couple of interesting sessions have occurred that have provided me some potentially useful thoughts about mega dungeon design, elaborating on the post here regarding my general thoughts on the whole megadungeon phenomenon. These thoughts perhaps came to a head yesterday when one of my players said some unflattering things about a major and well respected megadungeon project.  An argument that I have no interest in rehashing or involving myself in having not read the dungeon in question, respecting its author and having heard completely contrary opinions of the place from others who've played it. I also think I should respect my player's opinion on what he thinks is fun, these are all games after all.

The issue that it beings to mind are the inherent limitations of Megadungeon play, and the tendency (one I see myself a lot) of dungeon delve focused games to become repetitive and boring.  Eventually it doesn't matter if it's giant rats and copper coins or Demons guarding a rack of magic platinum skulls (or War Haints protecting a still operational 6-inch gun in my game): the kick down doors, avoid the trap, defeat the baddies treadmill will cause sleep in most - including the GM.

To that end I've been considering ways to split up the monotony, these encounters would be timed with player progress into the dungeon, when faction disputes start heating up or something similar.

1) Set Pieces - These are non-location keyed encounters, instead being event or time keyed that create turmoil, especially within the explored areas of the dungeon. A set battle is good - get the players feeling good about something (say hauling back a hoard) and provide them with some weaker back up (the local militia or a coalition of NPC parties) then spring some kind of counter force on them.  Suddenly it's not a dungeon delve, its a battle with the players playing both generals and shock troops.

I think this works best on a pre-set schedule e.g.  "The forces of Mugyax the Horsewizard will attack the shrine of the Deep Dwarves in Session 6, both sides will try to enlist players."  With a set schedule there's no danger of getting sidetracked, and if the players ignore the issue - of course consequences occur (no Deep Dwarf of Magic Horse allies at the least).

2)One Shot - Give the players control of another faction within the dungeon or nearby and put out a stake that matters (destruction of a useful resting spot in the dungeon say) then hand out the pregens - perhaps the Mummy King and his Wights down on Level 7 or something similar for a focused, goal directed mission against another faction that will determine who's sending a expedition up to the explored areas or if the river will be diverted to flood some key areas the players care about.

Anyway I think something needs to be done to keep Mega-dungeon play fresh, and these are the ideas I've come up with and will be trying.

Also check this Mega Dungeon design philosophy out - it's cool !

8 comments:

  1. I keep the options open for the players, they keep heading back to the dungeon. So for the most part they like it.

    I do have one player who isn't very big on dungeoneering, but he shows up fairly regularly so he's apparently good w/ just the social aspect of hanging out. Last session he got way involved in, which was kind of funny because it was more of the same dungeon, just through a different entrance.

    When they hit fifth level, the dungeon effectively "resets" because they reach Under-Miami - which is basically as bizarre as the Land of One Thousand Towers and spans miles. So things get more wilderness-y for a bit then.

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  2. So does Under-Maimi replace Denethix as the jumping off point/resting spot? I like the idea of underground wilderness is great for a dungeoneering party as it breaks up the play without shifting the campaign. I'm seeing new rest spot as necessary, or else the party just meanders - even if one cleans out the enemies and treasure, though I think Apollyon get reclaimed slowly. I'm considering a few - including the Batezu knight the one shot on Saturday returned his grandson to.

    The thing I am aiming for though is a bit of the domain play at lower levels - through Flailsnails I have a few 5th levels and the regular weekly folk are in the 2nd - 3rd level range. Hence it may be time for occasional missions like "lead this squad of guys somewhere, don't let them get eaten" - and then you can pull out the 60 monster zombie army with artillery, or the diabolic spider cavalry and have a battle with PC's trying to rally shaken units of henchmen (which seems to be fun).

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    1. Well that's up to the players. I expect they'll spend a lot of time in Under-Miami for tax evasion reasons, but on the other hand most minor infractions are punishable by death there.

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    2. Sounds like a time for the Vornhiem "legal situations" table... Also I think there's a post on here about modelling lawyers and cases.

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  3. That map looks puzzling, like oriental rug with strange blue design and I like your ideas.

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    1. Kinda pretty actually - but yeah totally strange.

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  4. I look forward to seeing how you handle the early-level domain play aspect, as that is something I am interested in as well.

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    1. War Bands I think - though the Gearmen are almost ready to set up a working Mushroom farm so that's certainly possible.

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