Monday, August 6, 2012

My megadungeon "best" practices - Part V

A couple more things I learned about making a megadungeon.

Put most rooms off the hallways, not in the hallways. One thing I did a little too much of was have hallways end in rooms, and connect rooms in chains.
This isn't bad, per se, but it's limiting. It means that whatever needs to pass through that room - be it adventurers, wandering monsters or set monsters - must encounter what's in the room. When you random stock a trap in a room that blocks the only way into a sub-section, you're pretty much saying what lives in there has set the trap or is stuck because of it. If you have a monster or trap blocking the main thoroughfare, it affects what kind of monster or trap it can be.

The good side to this is it forces you to really think - maybe they pay a toll, or set that trap, or fly over it, etc. But I'd almost rather not have to. It also makes it hard to justify wandering monsters in some cases - behind the party is the entrance, and ahead are rooms with locked doors and traps and monsters, so where do those 1d6 skeletons wander from? Again, it forces you to plan more.

Plus having rooms set off to the side gives the party options - go in, or pass it by and risk leaving it in their 6. If it's the end of the hallway and it's forward or no-ward, they don't get to make that decision.

Have a lot of entrances, exits, and passages between levels. I have a number of ways into and out of the dungeon; two have been found so far and only one penetrated. There are others, and a fair amount of ways up and down. That said, the more the merrier. Put in a bunch, even if you close some off for a while with rubble, traps, platoons of elven guards, etc. It's easier to block an entrance than to add one later, and the more ways up and down the more options the players have. Plus, it means it's more and more plausible for monsters to get down there or get back out, for critters to find food, and for other adventuring parties to find their way down even if the players block the front way.

All that said, I'm still happy with what I've got, but I did have to change some encounters and modify the map a little in some areas to make sure these things happened.

The rest of the series are found here:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV


  1. Very interesting insights -- the idea of putting rooms off the hallways especially makes a lot of sense.

    1. Thanks. I ended up with a fair number of "well, how did that guy get there if he had to pass through that dusty old room with the deathtrap and the triple-locked door?" headaches.

      Plus the times my players could pass by a door made for fun decisions. "Let's pass it by." "No, I don't want enemies behind us!"

  2. I agree with Bard, and your comments. Hallways are there to get you from place A to place B.

    One thing in the typical "dungeon" is that if it's really something that has been driven, through immense effort, through the living rock of the earth itself, then every single piece of it will be efficiently laid out. Not through planning, but by natural selection. If you need to connect A and B, unless it's just "what my race of critters does," then the path between them will be straight. As straight as possible.

    UNLESS, of course, it's curved because it's EASIER to do it. "We followed the soft rock that was embedded in the hard rock" is a great reason for a critter-built cave to wander.

    I'm stream of consciousness right now, but for the typical "I tunneled into the bedrock beneath the castle" stuff, you have to ask yourself "why the FRACK would anyone ever do that?"

    1. That's a good point. I figure the only way a really big complex makes sense is magic. You can do it without that - check out - but Shape Stone and Destroy Earth make for easy transit through hard rock. Given time and patience you can make a really big underground complex and have time for things like overhead space, rooms to the side, etc.

      It's still worth giving a good think about what you're doing. If your "big storeroom" is only accessible by 10 x 10 hallways with lots of stuck doors, stairs, and is blocked by a pit trap, it's probably going to lack some verisimilitude. Better to have double doors, wide hallways, and suchlike. And so on.

  3. Sorry, it could also be curved or wandering for the same reason people did that in castles . . . purposefully, and for defense. But it'll be there purposefully, and for defense, and may very well be an obvious "gee, this jog in the architecture is a murder-hole; better be careful."

    1. I use a fair number of those, and because one of the PCs is a combat vet, he tends to recognize them. Plus my players are all pretty smart about that kind of stuff.


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