Friday, January 11, 2013

What Makes a Dungeon "Mega"?

What makes a Dungeon "Mega" to you?

Is it the size? The challenge? The backstory?

Does it need to be deadly? Gonzo? Epic?

Is it a dungeon the players can leave, come back, leave and return yet again? Or is it a mini campaign, where the players keep at it to they hit their goal?

Should it have a goal? and endgame? a way to "win" or should it be primarily exploration and gathering loot?

Barrowmaze, Rappan Athuk and Dwimmermount will all play out very differently, yet they are all megadungeons.

Are some RPG systems a better fit for megadungeons? why?

You would think with all of those questions, I'd have some answers, but no. I have my thoughts on it, but I want to hear your thoughts.

What makes a MegaDungeon special for you?


  1. I scribbled this on the definitions page of the wiki for the campaign I am working on (that features a megadungeon); I think it sums up the primary issues pretty well. I think the other things are just the particular style of the megadungeon:


    There isn't a single, cut-and-dried definition of this term. Some people claim that a megadungeon is simply a really large dungeon, whereas some others claim that you must meet other criteria for your dungeon to be considered a megadungeon. An adventure locale that would be considered a megadungeon will usually meet these criteria:

    1. Large
    I. A megadungeon will typically be at least several levels deep; some may be dozens or more deep.
    II. A megadungeon does not need to be the sole focus of the campaign, but it must be large enough to support the entirety of a campaign's play if it is the focus. This is why some people call them “campaign dungeons,” or “tentpole dungeons” if it is the main “tentpole” of action for the campaign (but not the entire focus of the campaign).
    III. Some megadungeons have no end; as the players find the edge they are added to, becoming ever larger to expand the environment for play. (This often goes hand-in-hand with the mythic underworld aspect.)

    2. A rich environment for play
    I. A megadungeon has a social aspect, because it typically has many different inhabitants and the environment is expansive enough that there are motivations, politics and power plays going on between the various factions therein.
    II. There is often a sense that the megadungeon environment is the "mythic underworld," and as such may not follow all the logical rules that a player may be used to. In fact, the very environment itself may be hostile to the adventurers.
    III. Typically they are nonlinear, in that there are many paths to accomplish a goal. Whereas some dungeons may require players to go through several encounters to meet a criteria, there may be many physical and logical paths to accomplish something in a megadungeon. (Also, the author may have built out a potential goal without a method of resolution in mind, hoping that creative players will fill that in for him.)

  2. Simple.

    A megadungeon is a dungeon that is always just a little bit bigger.

    1. Yeah. If there is one thing I think makes one, it's that you couldn't clear it, because even if you try . . . well, I just added this new sub-level . . .

  3. There is always more of it.

  4. It repopulates and is larger than is safe to clear in a single push...

  5. It repopulates and is larger than is safe to clear in a single push...

  6. A megadungeon is what you get when several dungeons combine Voltron-style. ;)

  7. It's like I throw a box load of translucent Venn diagrams into a room full of different sized bookshelves and occasionally open the windows and allow them to blow around.

  8. a lair = one encounter, a small dungeon should take one session, a medeum dungeon might take more than one but if you half way through walk off to train in city for a week expect the whole dungeon to have been repopulated and factions to have changed. My players are terrible at finishing. A mega is a career. The lost city dnd module is a mega dungeon if you fill out the suggested extra levels and the whole underworld civilization and move in (no exit is given in dungeon - id make storm seal entry in ziggerutt top forever. Merchants have same problems in fallout game (how do they live - being a bandit - looter more profitable)but i generally use non human dungeon merchants like dwarf gnome and halfling dungeon borne types. One good game could pull a "pendragon" make 3 generations explore one dungeon


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