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D&D General Ars Megadungeon

Hussar

Legend
You folks should look up the work of Dyson Logos. He has created some tremendous mega-dungeon maps, many of them multi-levels.
His opus, if playing with 5 feet = inch scale, would be 26 feet long if printed. He admits it is impossible to use, but the inspiration.....
Oh yeah. @Dyson Logos is a GOD when it comes to megadungeon design. Definitely a master class in dungeon design if there ever was one.

There is also the One Million maps by The One Million Info by Zatnikotel on DeviantArt Zatnikotel. Fabulous stuff. Particularly if you are like me and want to run on virtual tabletop. Beautiful stuff.

Christopher West of Dungeon Magazines Map's of Mystery is another fantastic go to source. The Map Store

Really, if you want a megadungeon map, you really are spoiled for choice. There's TONS of stuff out there.
 

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Mordhau

Adventurer
I'd heard of it as linear vs circular, but both designs have their uses. A simple linear lair works for a short adventure, but a megadungeon needs to have both. My current megadungeon has multiple entrances and an open design. However, there are strategic chokepoints the builders designed to delay/prevent invaders from fully accessing everything easily. These then create an overall circular dungeon, but with areas of linear access.
To be clear I don't think these are opposites.

A good non-linear dungeon will still have chokepoints at certain places. That was the point I was wanting to make. The chokepoints offset the linearity and provide meaning to it.

Say we have two dungeon areas.

A and B. A and B are both extremely non-linear regions with lots of loops. However, there is only one obvious connection between the two. That is a highly guarded corridor with a very tough fight. This signals to the players that going from A to B is a signficant step. Without this kind of chokepoint there is no clear way to know this.

There might also be a secret door from A to B, which the players can find if they explore enough, or if they've done someone a service. There could also be a way to open up another passage from B back to A once they've reached B. These don't take away from the fact that it's easy to find the main passage from A to B but hard to get past it (Making it an achievement to do so).

Another example would be the Temple of the Serpent that lies in the dungeon. If the temple is entirely porous to the rest of the dungeon then it will sort of fade into the rest of the dungeon. The players will wander in and potentially wander out again without really engaging with the sublocation. Again putting boundaries around this area and chokepoints at entry doesn't mean the temple region itself is not non-linear.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
When I ran Rappan Athuk, I used the Keep on the Borderlands as the nearby base and tied some of the residents in with RA; as I recall, a half-elf bard had fled from the entrapment of her party in the Dungeon, and was living with the guilt of having left her friends to their fates. Another townsman was in league with local bandits, and he informed them of the party’s expedition so the bandits could “shake down” the exhausted, spell-depleted party on their exit.
There were other tie-ins too; I’d told the players in session 0 about some of the rumours and asked them to write some form of connection to RA in their backstories.
I also had local links to an Orcus cult, leaking from the depths of the dungeon.

It all made RA more of a living entity in the locale.
 


Norton

Explorer
Lots of excellent suggestions in here, and I thank you all since it may have been my reply in the DotMM thread that finally broke the duck.

Anyone have any ideas for in-person map usage? We did level 1 of the Mad Mage's dungeon and it was pretty stop and start since we had to draw every room and I needed help, requiring detailed verbal descriptions. I suppose a printed sample page or sharing digitally is possible, but the drawing still slows things way down. I screen-capped and printed maps for other adventures but that would be far too tedious for mega dungeons. As things stand, unless anyone has any ideas, they'll be virtual only.
 

Lots of excellent suggestions in here, and I thank you all since it may have been my reply in the DotMM thread that finally broke the duck.

Anyone have any ideas for in-person map usage? We did level 1 of the Mad Mage's dungeon and it was pretty stop and start since we had to draw every room and I needed help, requiring detailed verbal descriptions. I suppose a printed sample page or sharing digitally is possible, but the drawing still slows things way down. I screen-capped and printed maps for other adventures but that would be far too tedious for mega dungeons. As things stand, unless anyone has any ideas, they'll be virtual only.
The simplest answer is likely one you won't like.
For in-person maps, nothing is better than the large vinyl maps that can be purchased at almost any large gaming store. It is obviously labour intensive to copy an existing map into larger scale, or create your own. But with the right set of markers, you can reuse it for a long long time.

I have also created my own 1 inch hex grids on letter sized paper, and of course, have large chart paper for squares. If you really want a set piece room, create it on paper, and you can introduce it any time, anywhere, in the dungeon.
 

Norton

Explorer
The simplest answer is likely one you won't like.
For in-person maps, nothing is better than the large vinyl maps that can be purchased at almost any large gaming store. It is obviously labour intensive to copy an existing map into larger scale, or create your own. But with the right set of markers, you can reuse it for a long long time.

I have also created my own 1 inch hex grids on letter sized paper, and of course, have large chart paper for squares. If you really want a set piece room, create it on paper, and you can introduce it any time, anywhere, in the dungeon.
I have a pretty swank vinyl map gifted to me by my players with top notch markers, so agreed, that's the solution at present. If they don't mind the stop/start nature of it on top of the crawl, I'm happy to oblige. Much easier to stick to normal encounters, though, and it'll be hard to tack away from that for the relative hassle of a crawl.

I have also pre-made maps with printouts and they slide under my vinyl cover for clamping down but oof, the prep. Add the fact that I'm an insane perfectionist and there really isn't time in a day for it. And that's for castles and such. A mega dungeon would quickly become a Portlandia sketch, lol.
 

I have a pretty swank vinyl map gifted to me by my players with top notch markers, so agreed, that's the solution at present. If they don't mind the stop/start nature of it on top of the crawl, I'm happy to oblige. Much easier to stick to normal encounters, though, and it'll be hard to tack away from that for the relative hassle of a crawl.

I have also pre-made maps with printouts and they slide under my vinyl cover for clamping down but oof, the prep. Add the fact that I'm an insane perfectionist and there really isn't time in a day for it. And that's for castles and such. A mega dungeon would quickly become a Portlandia sketch, lol.
If you want to bypass some of the work, go to Dyson Logos' blog page, and you will find dozens and dozens of maps that he has now made public domain. Most are designed as 1 square = 10 feet, so that does require some work to modify. Or, you simply download the grid free version, then blow it up to the size you want.

If you laid out in markers, in faint lines, the grid that you wanted, on top of that vinyl overlay you have (assuming it can be marked), you could slide a blown up map under it. That still requires a lot of cutting and pasting the sheets of any downloaded map together though.
 



Retreater

Legend
The simplest answer is likely one you won't like.
For in-person maps, nothing is better than the large vinyl maps that can be purchased at almost any large gaming store. It is obviously labour intensive to copy an existing map into larger scale, or create your own. But with the right set of markers, you can reuse it for a long long time.

I have also created my own 1 inch hex grids on letter sized paper, and of course, have large chart paper for squares. If you really want a set piece room, create it on paper, and you can introduce it any time, anywhere, in the dungeon.

If you want to draw maps ahead of time, the best solution is Gaming Paper (Amazon.com), or the more affordable (and just as good) Enormous Pad of Graphing Paper, which you can easily get at Staples. Draw ahead of time on expensive vinyl mats, and they're ruined after a handful of uses.
 

Norton

Explorer
If you want to bypass some of the work, go to Dyson Logos' blog page, and you will find dozens and dozens of maps that he has now made public domain. Most are designed as 1 square = 10 feet, so that does require some work to modify. Or, you simply download the grid free version, then blow it up to the size you want.

If you laid out in markers, in faint lines, the grid that you wanted, on top of that vinyl overlay you have (assuming it can be marked), you could slide a blown up map under it. That still requires a lot of cutting and pasting the sheets of any downloaded map together though.
Cheers, and yes, I'm trying to avoid lots of prep and printing which can get super expensive with ink prices, these days. I downloaded a full complement of maps from DrveThru RPG for DotMM and they're cool and I'm tempted, but to do all of that for a few sessions when my players would probably be just as happy with a typical encounter/map means I'll likely reserve them for VTT. It seems I've answered my own question, but appreciate the reply.
 

Voadam

Legend
Cheers, and yes, I'm trying to avoid lots of prep and printing which can get super expensive with ink prices, these days. I downloaded a full complement of maps from DrveThru RPG for DotMM and they're cool and I'm tempted, but to do all of that for a few sessions when my players would probably be just as happy with a typical encounter/map means I'll likely reserve them for VTT. It seems I've answered my own question, but appreciate the reply.
In AD&D I used to pre-draw mini sized quick outlines of maps on the backs of scrap paper then lay them out as the party traversed the areas. This would often roughly match line of sight distance. I could then pick up the older pages as they progressed so they could roughly see where they were while not requiring a huge wargaming type table.

It is easy to lose track of where individual sheets go if the party goes different directions than you expect, but discretely labeling the sheets like an atlas grid (column letters, row numbers for example) could work around that for some.
 


Hussar

Legend
On nice thing about the maps from WotC modules is they are not too hard to print. The Dyson Logos maps are pretty low ink - typically just black and white lines, so, for battle maps, that's probably the easiest.

OTOH, setting up a digital game table is now a pretty cheap option as well. You can buy a cheap flat tv or a projector for even cheaper, set it up to show the battle map and just use pretty much any VTT option to show the map on the surface of the table. Might set you back a couple of hundred bucks for the projector/TV and some work time setting it up, but, I do highly recommend it.
 

Norton

Explorer
OTOH, setting up a digital game table is now a pretty cheap option as well. You can buy a cheap flat tv or a projector for even cheaper, set it up to show the battle map and just use pretty much any VTT option to show the map on the surface of the table. Might set you back a couple of hundred bucks for the projector/TV and some work time setting it up, but, I do highly recommend it.
That's a dream of mine. Unfortunately, it would set me back a couple hundred thousand as I would need a house to fit it. I live in a tiny place in Philly and travel to run games. :(
 

Use Wandering Monsters, while some dungeons are exceptions, megadungeons are living environments. The creatures dwelling there have their own lives and don't sit in their rooms for eternity waiting for PCs to find them. Use additional wandering monster checks to the regular ones any times the party does something that could attract other creatures in the area to come investigate, like making loud noises as they are tearing down stuff that's in their way.
I'm not opposed to wandering monsters... but, rather than roll on a table when players make noise in an area, I have the locals respond accordingly. It might be a 1-2 on d4 means they investigate, but I use the locals rather than a table. It keeps the population of the dungeon to a relative known quantity etec.
Anyone have any ideas for in-person map usage? We did level 1 of the Mad Mage's dungeon and it was pretty stop and start since we had to draw every room and I needed help, requiring detailed verbal descriptions. I suppose a printed sample page or sharing digitally is possible, but the drawing still slows things way down. I screen-capped and printed maps for other adventures but that would be far too tedious for mega dungeons. As things stand, unless anyone has any ideas, they'll be virtual only.
Put the map (with fog of war) up on the TV. Then have the players map the rooms on your vinyl map when a battle breaks out. It's what we did for Undermountain a few years ago.
That's a dream of mine. Unfortunately, it would set me back a couple hundred thousand as I would need a house to fit it. I live in a tiny place in Philly and travel to run games. :(
Portable projector. They make some for a hundred dollars or so and you can project onto any clear wall using the same approach as above.
 

cowpie

Explorer
Reward Exploration. In addition to shortcuts, there should be ways to bypass very dangerous encounters, easter eggs with treasure and bonus information, secret treasures, etc. When giving the players information, give them enough information to know that there is a new area to explore, but keep it mysterious to incentivize further exploration. For example, they learn rumors of a section of the dungeon where an oracle will predict the future and grant a wish, but only for "the boldest of the bold". Don't explain what this means, to spark their curiosity. If there's a story reason for the players to need to make a wish, all the better.
Another cool thing to do early on, is let them see interesting locations, or additional access points to those locations, but don't let them access them from the place they're currently at. This encourages them to try and get to those places, or the find points where they could access them.
In the module "Dwellers in the Forbidden City", if the PCs approach the city from the edge of the gorge in which the city is located, they can look down and see most of the major landmarks, without being able to discern the details. They are free to choose how they descend into the city--either attempting to scale (very dangerous) sheer cliffs, or try to find the way into the tunnels that grant access to the city at ground level.
 



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