D&D General Designing Adventure: Can a Megadungeon... not be a dungeon at all?

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Technically, it has to be a dungeon to be a megadungeon.

However, if you want to put aside that technicality, here are a few things I've used in the past to create a megadungeon feel. To me, this would be anything that requires more than a5 levels of character development to explore.

* The 4 Realms: In my setting, the Ethereal, Shadowfell and Feywild are reflective planes that mimic the real world. I've had adventures where the PCs travel through each version of a ruined city. You end up with the 'same map', but each drastically different in threats and lore. The most recent example was explored between 6th and 13th levels, and required the PCs to go back and forth between the planes often to navigate. It was my version Myth Drannor (not set in the FR, but definitely an homage).

* Hexcrawl: With small hexes and abundant natural barriers, an outdoor region can feel a lot more like a mega dungeon than a wilderness adventure. One short campaign I ran began in a forest village in a valley surrounded by a dark forest. The village was dying off cue to a curse, and the PCs were the first to venture into the dangerous forest in decades. It was a maze of natural (and supernatural) barriers that was controlled by a demonic force that was keeping the villagers locked away to enjoy their despair. The PCs stepped into the forest at first level and found their way out to the outside world at 7th.

* 'Urban' adventure: I ran a campaign highly inspired by Babylon 5. In it, the PCs were on an island where diplomats were gathering to renegotiate peace accords that had governed for the past 1000 years. There were 200 delegations that had each been assigned their own spaces, and those spaces had been prepared to suit their needs over the past 5 years. When the adventure began, the first delegates were starting to arrive and the PCs began to be pulled into a combination of diplomatic, political and combat encounters. Things broke down faster than they developed, and right before the actual negotiations were to begin, the evil forces at the root of the situation broke the existing peace with sneak attacks plunging the world into war - and the diplomatic island into immediate brutal conflicts. How was this a megadungeon? The PCs adventured across it in the building time, then again once built, then again in conflict, and again after the devastation. Each was a different situation, but their knowledge of the situation changed. It was not intended to be a megadungeon, but it definitely had the feel. The entire campaign of 11 levels was on the island (with some brief sea and interplanar travel).

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