Monday, December 16, 2013

Megadungeon Best Practices XI: Multi-Room Encounters

This is part of the Megadungeon Best Practices series, linked here.

This one might seem pretty obvious, but it's nonetheless a good "best practice."

Use Multi-Room Encounters

A megadungeon is by definition, big. Big enough that monsters, factions of monsters, and even adventurers can spread out and still leave some no-man's land between their areas. Partly because of this, encounters can spread across multiple rooms - it doesn't need to be one door, one room, one monster.

Spread out bits of a single treasure (or a single failed adventuring group, or whatever) across multiple rooms.

A room with pieces you need to fetch from other places in order to complete a puzzle, a dorm complex with assorted connected rooms, a series of temples to different aspects of the same god, etc. - all of these leverage the megadungeon's size so going into one room opens up the possibility if not need to go into other rooms.

Corollary: Use Multi-Room Monsters

Monsters don't need to all hang out together in one room. Obvious, but still, it's something I sometimes forget. When you place monsters, sit back and look at the map for a while and figure out where they might hang out, move around, and who/what they might interact with.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

The Group - the monsters form a group, just geographically spread out. They will act as a group against attackers. This may be intelligent and coordinated, or a chaotic mob, or just all-out rout and return after the PCs leave the area. Groups can be homogenous (a hobgoblin tribe, a pack of phase spiders) or heterogeneous (orcs and their ogre allies, trolls and their pet lizards, etc.)

Bait Monsters - the monsters in one area are bait for another. Different from guards, these monsters are really just there to draw attention while the "main" monsters decide when, if, and how to wade in and attack you. These monsters, especially if set as guards, are likely to be in a position that makes them look vulnerable, wealthy, or otherwise important to clear out.

Opportunists - Some monsters aren't affiliated with anyone, but rather are ready to jump in to a fight if they feel like they have a chance to profit. They may be in the area on purpose or just wander in.


  1. While I love the idea of Mega Dungeoneering, my biggest problem has always been the "How the hell these got in here" problem.

    I mean, how did the giant spiders get to level 3 pass all them doors? How do you find black ooze on level 5, did it just "poof" here? Fire giants on level 10, how did they fit through there? Mimics colony on level 4, why?

    For humanoids, it's simpler of course. For the rest, every time I tried, I'm so OCD about realism (as in coherence within the context) that mapping just drove me crazy after a couple levels :)

    1. If you presuppose an under dark, a vast underground world with its own ecosystem, then add connections to it in a few places, make fissures and cracks and tunnels without doors abound, then a lot of your objections disappear.

    2. If you presuppose an under dark, a vast underground world with its own ecosystem, then add connections to it in a few places, make fissures and cracks and tunnels without doors abound, then a lot of your objections disappear.

    3. I get your objections, and in my dungeon everything there can sensibly have gotten there . . . although:

      - sensible can easily include "a wizard did it."
      - it's not always obvious.
      - I'm not going to explain what you can't detect with your senses or magic.

      So sometimes my players have joked about seemingly random, nonsensical crap - but they aren't seeing the whole situation. Plus, my dungeon is pretty big, and has multiple ways in and ways out, so like THOMAS says above, lots of those worries just disappear.

    4. Oh, it's not objections per se, as I said, I really like the idea and often tried to design some. I KNOW it doesn't really matter and you can find reasons as you mentioned too.
      But I just can't seem to do it past a certain point, my brain just explodes from all the computation trying to keep everything "realistic", keeping track of everything, finding reasons for every little thing in there, working around the politics of the various humanoids and all the ecosystem.
      And that's before the PCs even set food in there!

      I think the only time I actually ran something close to one was actually a full "a wizard did it" as you mentioned. Basically he had set up a "show" for other powerful wizards and nobles in the world and kidnapped so called "adventurers", put them in there and have people pay to watch. There was projected vision system everywhere in the dungeon, random encounters were actually "teleported" right in there to create tension in the show, some monsters were "charmed" then sent in there to act as "jokers" for the PCs when they succeeded a challenge, etc.
      The whole thing was a bit like a Truman Show in a fantasy setting so I didn't get the problem I mentioned previously since realism didn't even factor in there.

    5. Well, if you can't just take the MST3K advice and say to your self "remember it's just a show, I should really just relax" and have fun, then yeah, it's not going to work out. No one has so much gaming time they should spend it playing gets that rub them the wrong way. :)

      Me, I'm utterly enjoying the ridiculousness of it all.

    6. I sat down the other day and did some work on a hypothetical mega dungeon.

      I used a famous real world historical location with a decent sized underground. I found pretty good maps on line and worked backwards to get it as it might have been in 1000AD to 1500AD.

      I thought of some other historical underground locations that I could use as a more extensive connected underground.
      I planned to map out a fictional version of location complete with original treasure and traps then imagine what disaster occured in the fictional world and work out the next 50 years of history on the site.

      Some issues I ran into:

      I dont have any game world in my head. So not sure what events I want to happen or what sort of monsters/invasion I want. Why hasnt it been looted? Whats the logistics of using magic to excavate? Etc etc

      Real world locations arent that deep and we tend to keep our valuables at our level or up high.

      Is this really the type of campaign that I will run?


      Thats as far as I got.

      If I return to it Ill work on defining that core place then ill start below. Probably most of the easily lootable treasure will have been dragged below into the 'insert most common baddie' tunnel.

      Then under that Ill start putting the magic vaults, portals to other planes etc

  2. +Muton , I agree with you, being slightly OCD about this stuff myself. Think about the Spiders and how they may have got there. Remember that monsters have ways that a party may not have: They can squeeze into narrow spaces, small crawlways, other accessways that they can use to get where they need to go. Remember that they will also need a food source to live in the area. Spiders will have castings hanging about in their webs, signs of their existence and an aware party, especially with a Ranger, will see thew signs and be on their guard. Good luck dungeoning.

    1. And that's just assuming they eat normal food, or act like normal things. Lots of monsters don't - a soul-sucking undead can just hang around forever. Slimes may just lay inert until food comes along. And so on.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...