Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gary Gygax was right: If you build it, they really will come

So it's no secret that I stock my megadungeon ahead of my PCs. It's no secret I stock enough to cover a few sessions ahead of where they could possibly end up, but otherwise it's all a work in progress.

Recently, I dug out a bunch of Dragon magazines my brother-in-law passed on to me when he ran out of space to keep them. They included numbers 287-322, the ones in which Gary Gygax wrote some war stories.

One of them, in issue 296, described his player unerringly finding some hidden item he'd just placed right before the session, as if guided by some hidden knowledge.

Amusingly, I've found this to be true.

I realized at some point I didn't put enough entrances in the dungeon from the surface. So not long ago, only days before a session, I threw in a new entrance and a rumor of its location.

My players immediately rolled that rumor up on the table.

I put in a new area, realizing I had a little space to expand I hadn't used.

Like a laser, my players went right to it.

I made sure to put a back way into a dangerous area (the wight's crypts). My players stumbled into them in session 2 of the megadungeon, but didn't have their cleric with them. They were literally staring at an entrance to level 2 when the undead-hunting, True Faith with Turning-having cleric's player showed up (and thus, so did his character). They made an unknowing beeline straight for a Shape Stone-shaped wall into the wight's crypts, tore it down, and marched into a great slaughter of the undead.

It's odd how many times the players have utterly at random chosen exactly the area right for their group, or exactly the area I just filled out with details the week before.

Admittedly, this doesn't always happen. Some stuff I stuck in there and they stubbornly refuse to blunder into it. Other stuff I stick in last-minute and nothing comes of it. I know it's just coincidence. But man, it does feel like they're sniffing out the new stuff like I'm giving off clues that there is new stuff to find there.

Gary's column, when I re-read it, really struck me. I felt, okay, so it's not just me. This stuff has been going on since fantasy role-playing gaming was born . . .


  1. I must be doing it wrong. My players ignore all the stuff I have figured out and go for the "I'll work on that soon" area.

    But, I will say the best stuff I've done was from "winging it", riffing off of players. Then fleshing it out, later. Like Church of Holy Glow

    1. My experience is more like yours than like Peter's. As we joke out of play: "Oh, no, it's the plot! Hide! Run away!"

    2. Oh, my players spent an entire 10-year campaign running away from the plot, especially those parts they themselves created or initiated.

      What I'm finding is they'll miss treasure, they'll veer away from spectacular rooms full of interesting stuff - but they've casually blundered, as if by chance, into whatever I just finished writing the week before the session. Even as long-written stuff, stuff that's been there since I first started writing my megadungeon, just sits there . . .

      They haven't hit any "under construction" signs, though. I'm far enough ahead of that I can't see it happening (and I haven't written in any connections to places I don't want them to go, yet). But if they did, well, magically unopenable doors (with a key elsewhere), wandering monsters, and distracting treasure would be easily deployed. :)


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