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Monday, September 17, 2012

What Defines a "MegaDungeon"?

Found on Gnome Stew ;)
Just like the OSR doesn't have a "one and only" definition, it appears defining what constitutes a "MegaDungeon" is, if not nebulous, certainly open to interpretation.

Is there a minimum size?

Can it be too large?

Does it need to be "sandbox-like" in nature?

Does it need to support a wide range of character levels?

Does it need blank rooms for GM customization?

Does it need diverse environments?

Does it need a theme?

Do different sections need their own themes?

Whimsy - yes or no?

What defines "MegaDungeon" for you?


  1. For me a megadungeon simply has to (a) be big and (b) have repeat playability - everything else is icing on the cake.

  2. Hard to tell. I can tell you what it is not: Ruins of Undermountain. Tghis was a booooring one if i remember correctly. Barrowmaze perhaps or Rappan Athuk...

  3. basically as Tim says -- large enough it takes several expeditions to deal with. I prefer that it be coherent, with distinct regions and different environments to deal with.

  4. Big enough to provide a lenthy campaign, but not too large such that the environment becomes boring or that you never have a hope of finishing.

  5. It seems to me that it refers to an environment that is large enough not to be finished (completely explored) in a single or even a few sessions. It should be impossible to "clear", even when fully explored (usually because it is continuously restocked with new arrivals or whatever). It should, however, have a "solution", in which the players can achieve some final goal (Castle Greyhawk's slide to the other side of the world, for instance - which shows that even this "final" goal can lead to further adventures). Because it is designed for long-term play, it must be able to support a wide range of character levels.

    With those elements, the megadungeon can be a funhouse, or it can be completely themed, or anything in between. It can be uniform (though it seems to me that such would be rather boring) or have diverse environmental themes. It can be whimsical or completely serious. It should probably have empty rooms, some for customization and others to build tension. It should probably be sandbox-like, though I can envision a story-based megadungeon so that's probably just a preference of my own. I can't see a hard minimum size limit, but there is certainly a size below which a megadungeon becomes impossible. I imagine that there is also an upper limit, but that limit, as I envision it, is so large as to be practically infinite. One could have a megadungeon be the "dungeon dimension", for instance, where an entire universe is composed of corridors, rooms, and levels, and reached by a magical portal or whatever.

    The most significant feature, though, is that a megadungeon should be able to (but need not, if the players and referee choose to engage in other locations) serve as the sole significant location in the campaign.