Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons - Author Notes

Here are some random little notes about DF21: Megadungeons.

Special Thanks:

In addition to my players, and the people who helped me fit 14 pages of wordy mess into 10 clean pages of actual content, I made sure to thank two other people:

"This book couldn’t have been written without the influence of Gary Gygax and James Maliszewski,"

Gary Gygax is probably pretty obvious. It it wasn't for him, I doubt I'd have been gaming. Based on what I've read Dave Arneson probably wasn't going to evangelize and publish and sell in the way that Gary Gygax did.

I also made sure to thank James Malizewski, because it was posts like this that made me decide to use a megadungeon in my DF game. (And yes, I told him that directly, because I don't think he reads my blog.)

James's blog led me to a lot of other places that influenced my decision as well. But his was the decisive influence. This book wouldn't have happened if I didn't run Felltower, and Felltower happened in part thanks to him.

Dungeon Stocking:

That's not the only way to randomly stock a dungeon, of course, but it's an oldie and a goodie and it's what I use when I'm randomly stocking some crazy level.

But using the 1d system, you can skew the results towards monsters and other stuff with a simple method. Add +1 for especially monster-filled or dangerous areas, or for smaller dungeons where 1/3 empty space (and another 1/3 monster-free) is not appropriate. A simple +1, and adding "or more" to the final entry, means you'll end up with 1/6 empty, 1/6 special, 1/6 traps, and 3/6 monsters.

You can always make your own, too. Have a trap happy dungeon? Make it 1/3 empty, 1/3 traps, 1/6 each monsters and special. And so on. You just want to get a rough idea of how many of each component you want in your dungeon and set the dice rolls to give you those. Then you roll and find out where it's all distributed.

I originally stocked Felltower with a second roll for treasure based on the first roll - straight out of D&D - but I found later that I really preferred that loot was tied to type and power of monsters, not just to chance. A broke Boss hanging out near wealthy Fodder, or unguarded loot next to critters sure to find it, and other weirdness prompted me to change my approach. I find the one in the book much more satisfying.

Spell Modifications

I use many of these modifications myself. I wish I used others - the same cost to maintain as to cast on Wizard Eye would be huge. I can't see anyone raising it to level 30 just to maintain it for free; 25 for 1 to maintain is possible, but that's about it. People would like hesitate a bit, otherwise.

One that I thought of later was to put a range limit on Dark Vision. That is, you can see in the dark, but only out to a specific range. That's for a very old-school feel - make it 20 yards or 40 yards, depending on what edition of D&D you'd like to draw inspiration from.

Point-Based Profit

Right now, I use a modified system. I may at some point shift to the one written in DF21, which I think is flat-out superior.

If you find calculating 20% of loot to be annoying, though, just make it "next tier down." If you earn enough for the previous tier, you get 2 xp. If you earn for your tier, you get 4 xp. For the first tier, you can establish an amount (20-25% is fair) or just say that any loot is sufficient loot at first, and you get 4 xp as long as you get a single copper out of the delve. Hey, life's tough at that tier anyway, especially in a megadungeon.

Why up and down on the placement tables?

Why are low monster rolls more dangerous monsters and high loot rolls more loot?

Essentially, it's patterned on the Reaction Roll Table, like it says, which isn't a new idea for results in GURPS. The higher the roll, the more positive it is for the PCs. An ideal roll would be a 19+ on monsters and 19+ on treasure - a few rat swarms guarding $100K worth of loot. Very unlikely, but hey, it's a great result for the PCs. Also importantly, though, it means a penalty is always bad for the PCs. -6 means the same thing on both tables, but why you get them isn't always the same.

I could have reversed it so +10, say, means very good loot and very nasty monsters. But that felt weird to me that a 19+ was awesome loot but you didn't want that roll for monsters. I like low roll results being bad . . . like most results rolls in GURPS.

And now you know.

Life would be easier if boss, worthy, and fodder were labels on monsters, but the terms are basic enough to DF that I felt secure using them. I use them that way in my games, so I know it does work. It just takes some thinking what "Fodder, Tough, Many" means on level 6 of the megadungeon when there is a "Boss, Tough" next door and a few traps scattered around. Are those guys hiding from the boss? Servants? Just neighbors? You really need to to give that some thought. And I think that's a positive outcome of the way things are now.


I do have more material for megadungeons and dungeoneering, so a sequel of some kind is a possibility. I have nothing more than very vague plans for one, though, so don't start making space on your hard drive for it just yet. But material does exit that could go into it.

Additional Thanks

And thanks to all of you who joined the Kickstarter to get my book, and to those who get it later and enjoy it then. I appreciate that greatly. I hope the book is useful to you!


  1. I just hope my editing didn't break anything!

    1. Not that I can see. Thanks for your editing, as well!

    2. I think the book is extremely well written and edited. Much of the reading wasn't new for someone that follows this blog, but it is very nice to have good information in one place with a nice layout. Thanks for all the hard work.

  2. Dave Arneson might not have been the guy to evangelize, but he would have tried to get a book on the sex lives of demihumans into your hands.

    1. I don't even want to know.

    2. I wouldn’t have overslept had I known it would have been the last time I saw Dave, I’ll say that.

  3. The wealth level approach to awarding treasure gives me an idea for another treasure-related work.

    Which is great because I had no ideas for more GURPS books.

    1. Oooh, nice. I hope it's compatible with what I wrote in a deeply awesome way.

  4. Peter, I meant to ask last week - how do we get one? Is it on public sale yet or just for folks that did the kickstarter? I tried to find it on a Steve Jackson site, didn't have any luck yet.

    1. I think you're stuck waiting - they've got it listed on the website but not with any way to purchase it yet. :(


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