Thursday, May 31, 2012

My megadungeon "best" practices - Part IV

Some more so-called wisdom earned while doing my long-last first megadungeon.

Revise, revise, revise. Sometimes while I'm stocking, I realize what I put down can't be there. The dragon can't get out, the orcs can't live there because they can't get past the vampire, etc. Or it's architectural - the only thing that makes sense in the little corner is a door that's not on the map.

So I revise - I add tunnels, I block off rooms (would you leave a nest of infectious zombies a door to your lair, or brick it up?), and I fill in extra places.

Nothing is so perfect that you might not create choke points you didn't intend, or open up ways up and down or side to side that you wouldn't have.

And again, sometimes it's the luck of the stocking roll.

Never be afraid to fix something after you find out that what's in the room can't be there without fixing it.

So you're thinking you could just come up with a good reason why the dragon is there anyway, how the orcs got stuck, why the door isn't bricked up yet. And that's fine - but which takes longer?

Corollary: It's a matter time-to-benefit ratio. If you can take five minutes and come up with a good reason, great, do that. If it's going to take longer, it'll take less time to make a bigger door or draw an extra corridor or note the door is bricked up. Choose the more interesting option when possible, but don't sit and agonize over something you can fix with a couple of pencil strokes on the map.

If you think of a better idea later, use it someplace else and put the "mega" in "megadungeon."


  1. Hmm I like the idea of a dragon being stuck and orcs and a vampire. What kind of madness is this?

    Keep the updates on the process coming.

    1. Thanks Tim, I will.

      I figure if you take a couple of minutes and find a solution, or you just like the oddity, that's fine. Don't agonize about stuff you can fix with a few pencil strokes on the map in areas the PCs haven't visited (or which could have changed between visits). It's not worth spending a whole day over a room or encounter the PCs might never get to.

      But I figure, it's always better to have an answer to "Why?" even if you discard it later. If you have no idea how the dragon got stuck in that room but can't leave to hunt, well, your players might suggest a good idea or might just give you that doubtful look, take the treasure, and leave. Me, I prefer to at least have some idea of "Why?" that I'm okay with when I start.

    2. Maybe the dragon never hunts, he just orders the orcs to bring him people to eat from time to time. He might be too greedy to ever leave his lair because it would allow his treasure the chance to be taken.

  2. The DM I used to have liked Ravenloft so we played that a lot. But the players liked AD&D too so when we played our DM would make AD&D/Ravenloft type adventures where there were less monsters and more plot. The boss monsters were active in the dungeons and often commandended the humanoids to do ambushes on PCs to weaken them. The boss monsters would attack intelligently (i.e.when the odds were in their favor) and retreat when combat went against them. From a players standpoint I felt that when an encounter made sense it was more satisfying than if there was some monster place in a room with no reason as to why it was there. It also made the game more suspenseful because a lot of the time our PCs were searching the dungeon so when an encounter happened it had a lot of impact.

    1. Yeah, ideally you want the monsters to act in some kind of cohesive environment, even if they don't cooperate.

      I'm just saying, don't bang your head against the wall trying to justify an odd random monsters result when you can swipe in a map edit and just be done with it. :)


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