5E Help me grok mega-dungeons

Zardnaar

Hero
I never managed to grok them. A large dungeon to me is B4 The Lost City.

500+ ones like ToEE I can't get into.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
I'll take your word for it, having never heard of either one of those modules. :)

Mega, or near-mega, for each?
I can't speak for Eyes of the Stone Thief, but I would classify Emerald Spire as near-mega. While it does have a whopping 16 levels, each level is fairly small. They all fit on a Pathfinder flip-mat (24 x 30 squares, each 5') - and you can even buy a pack of maps for it (for $80).
 

Satyrn

Villager
I can't speak for Eyes of the Stone Thief, but I would classify Emerald Spire as near-mega. While it does have a whopping 16 levels, each level is fairly small. They all fit on a Pathfinder flip-mat (24 x 30 squares, each 5') - and you can even buy a pack of maps for it (for $80).
Yeah. In fact, Each level of Emerald Spire seems more like a separate Mini-Dungeon.

It reminds me more of 4e's Dungeon Delve book (a 3-encounter dungeon for each character level), but with a few more encounters and a lot fewer levels, and linked together more .
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Just for kicks (and to narrow down the definitions a bit) it might be fun to list what published megadungeons are out there. I can quickly think of:

Ruins of Undermountain (2 box sets, not sure whether the third one ever saw the light of day)
Dragon Mountain (box set)
Ruins of Myth Drannor (box set, a whole ruined danger-filled city rather than just a single dungeon)
Temple of Elemental Evil (both the original and the return-to versions)
Rappan Athuk

And a few on the fringe of mega-dom:

Dark Tower (it's big, but not quite mega)
Princes of the Apocalypse (the interlinked dungeons below might be a bordeline mega but could also be seen as 4 not-mega standalones)
Tegal Manor

I'm not sure what versions of Castle Greyhawk ever got published other than the joke version (WGA-7, was it?).

Feel free to add to this list, I know I've missed a bunch.

Lanefan
The World's Largest Dungeon
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
[MENTION=6801228]Chaosmancer[/MENTION], you'd have to do some conversion, since it's a 13th Age product, but take a look at Eyes of the Stone Thief. I'm reading it right now, as part of my deeper look at mega-dungeons, and I think you might find it exactly what you want, as there's room for both story ideas you mentioned.

Oh yeah, I'd heard of that a few years back. Even got a page saved where someone was selling a copy. The idea of a living dungeon is really cool and the artwork on the cover was really evocative
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Oh yeah, I'd heard of that a few years back. Even got a page saved where someone was selling a copy. The idea of a living dungeon is really cool and the artwork on the cover was really evocative
The World's Largest Dungeon is a living place with factions, too. It's a bit more segmented than I would like it to be. Given the amount of time that it has been developing according to the backstory, the levels would probably be more intermixed than they are. Still, it's got a good foundation.
 

Mouseferatu

Villager
The World's Largest Dungeon is a living place with factions, too. It's a bit more segmented than I would like it to be. Given the amount of time that it has been developing according to the backstory, the levels would probably be more intermixed than they are. Still, it's got a good foundation.
Oh, the Stone Thief--the dungeon in Eyes of the Stone Thief--is literally a living dungeon. It travels, it shifts levels around to try to kill the PCs, it builds new levels of itself out of what it consumes, and it actively hunts places and people the PCs love to destroy them.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Oh, the Stone Thief--the dungeon in Eyes of the Stone Thief--is literally a living dungeon. It travels, it shifts levels around to try to kill the PCs, it builds new levels of itself out of what it consumes, and it actively hunts places and people the PCs love to destroy them.
Heh. Interesting. What's the story behind it?
 

Satyrn

Villager
Oh, the Stone Thief--the dungeon in Eyes of the Stone Thief--is literally a living dungeon. It travels, it shifts levels around to try to kill the PCs, it builds new levels of itself out of what it consumes, and it actively hunts places and people the PCs love to destroy them.
Is [MENTION=6801219]Lanliss[/MENTION] aware of this?
 

Mouseferatu

Villager
Heh. Interesting. What's the story behind it?
Well, living dungeons as mindless, stationary things, aren't too uncommon in 13th Age. The Stone Thief is unique in having an actual personality (albeit not necessarily intelligence as we understand it), being mobile, etc. It's an ancient thing, but as to where it actually comes from, I'm not sure. (I haven't read the whole thing yet, and I'm not sure that question is answered more than "Here are some legends" anyway.)

The adventure is written to make the dungeon the main plotline for mid- to high-levels. The PCs encounter it multiple times, delving for a different purpose and getting to a different depth each time, while adventuring on the surface between those encounters and trying to find ways to stop/trap/predict/kill it.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
Is [MENTION=6801219]Lanliss[/MENTION] aware of this?
No, I was not. Looks fairly similar to my idea, though a bit more malevolent. Since I last posted in my thread on it, I have decided for sure that it will be a Security system/test for a secret society of magic users, so no leaving its post to hunt for people the PCs love.
 

Mouseferatu

Villager
I'll take your word for it, having never heard of either one of those modules. :)

Mega, or near-mega, for each?
Given the other definitions being put forth in this thread, I'd have to say that the Stone Thief is probably also "near-mega," rather than full.
 

RedShirtNo5.1

Villager
Here's a list of big dungeons, many of which I only know by reputation. Some of these may not be available any more (Dragon's Delve, Mines of Khunmar), and some are more like outlines (Ptolus) .

Anomalous Subsurface Environment
Barrowmaze
Castle Blackmoor
Castle of the Mad Archmage
Castle Triskellion
Castle Whiterock
Caverns of Thracia
Darkness Beneath
Devilmount
Dragon Mountain
Dragon's Delve
Dwimmermount
Dyson's Delve Deluxe
Emerald Spire
Eyes of the Stone Thief
Grande Temple of Jing
Greyhawk Ruins
Khosura
Lost City of Barakus
Maze of the Blue Medusa
Mines of Khunmar
Operation Unfathomable
Ptolus
Rappan Athuk
Ruins of the Dragon Lord
Stonehell
Temple of Elemental Evil
Undermountain
World's Largest Dungeon
 
Why do we like mega-dungeons? Maybe because most gamers want the epic experience that is Moria from LotR. An experience, in my opinion, that most published mega-dungeons do not deliver.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Here's a list of big dungeons, many of which I only know by reputation. Some of these may not be available any more (Dragon's Delve, Mines of Khunmar), and some are more like outlines (Ptolus) .

...
Caverns of Thracia
...
I left this one off my original list and put Dark Tower in its place, as I think DT is a bit bigger...but still not true mega; just near-mega.

Some of those others you listed I've never heard of - what systems/editions are they for?

Lanefan
 

Monayuris

Explorer
The appeal, at least to me, of mega dungeons is the level of agency they deliver to players. The basic conceits of a mega dungeon usually include a sense of 'deeper you go, the greater the danger but also the richer the treasure.' This creates a a risk/reward proposition that is entirely player facing.

A mega dungeon is big enough that it can take multiple delves to explore an entire level and it also usually does nothing to block access to deeper levels (there is nothing that stops low level parity from going down stairs).

As a result it gives player the complete choice to choose their own difficulty. Do you stay on the first and second levels and expose yourself to less risk but less treasure, or do you delve down and take on greater risk but have the chance of getting better treasure?

Risk/reward is possible in any campaign, but in plot driven games it is provided by the DM in the plot or story they are providing. In a mega dungeon, it is provided by the dungeon, itself. Players have 100% agency to decide their difficultly level.

As a player, I feel like it is me against the dungeon... the dungeon itself is the adversary. As a DM, running one, I get to be challenged and surprised by the choices of the players... they decide where to goals what to do, they don't follow leads I give them. As a DM it is refreshing to react to the players.

This of course only works if the original conceit is maintained… the deeper you go the more dangerous but the greater reward. Which means running a mega dungeon means that a DM needs to know that a party of first level characters may delve down to the fourth level and encounter wights or such, and if they engage them in combat, the DM must be prepared to TPK them.
 

Matrix Sorcica

Adventurer
Here's a list of big dungeons, many of which I only know by reputation. Some of these may not be available any more (Dragon's Delve, Mines of Khunmar), and some are more like outlines (Ptolus) .

Anomalous Subsurface Environment
Barrowmaze
Castle Blackmoor
Castle of the Mad Archmage
Castle Triskellion
Castle Whiterock
Caverns of Thracia
Darkness Beneath
Devilmount
Dragon Mountain
Dragon's Delve
Dwimmermount
Dyson's Delve Deluxe
Emerald Spire
Eyes of the Stone Thief
Grande Temple of Jing
Greyhawk Ruins
Khosura
Lost City of Barakus
Maze of the Blue Medusa
Mines of Khunmar
Operation Unfathomable
Ptolus
Rappan Athuk
Ruins of the Dragon Lord
Stonehell
Temple of Elemental Evil
Undermountain
World's Largest Dungeon
Maure Castle
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I've been gaming since I was 9, back in 1983, and to this day I don't "get" mega-dungeons in D&D. I've had people try to explain it to me, and I've just. Never. Gotten it. I find even normal-length dungeons boring more often than not.

So, I'm going to try to ask it a different way.

What do you enjoy in a mega-dungeon? What do you get out of it that you can't get--or at least not get as much--in other D&D games/settings? Why do you enjoy those aspects?

(Important background: My tastes run to plot-heavy games, where the combats are almost all plot-related; and to fewer, more dangerous combats. I don't care for random encounters. I don't care for combat for its own sake. I prefer mystery-solving and social/political interaction to seeing what's in the next treasure chest.)
My last campaign involved a mega-dungeon, depending on how you define "mega," I suppose. It had 11 levels with about 15-20 areas per level. Different factions controlled various levels. It culminated in a final showdown on another plane with a shadow dragon. (I wanted this campaign to involve a dungeon and a dragon.)

The basic premise was that the dungeon was the manifestation of the dragon's power while it was trapped in another realm known as The Shade. Once a week or so, the dungeon (called "The Delve" by the locals) would appear in a cursed forest known as The Duskwood for about 24 hours. Signs and portents in the nearby town of Grimdark would point to its arrival at which point adventurers could plumb its depths. I put a timer on it: In 20 weeks, the Shadow Wyrm would escape and wreak havoc upon the land. In the meantime, the presence of the dungeon had corrupted the forest, once home to the reclusive fey.

I set it up as a town-to-dungeon D&D experience with consistent phases of play: Warm-Up Phase, Town Phase, Travel Phase, and Delve Phase. There was also a Short Rest/Camp Phase when the PCs rested. Rests were reconfigured to 8 hours for a short rest and a week for a long rest. Since the Delve only appeared for somewhere around 24 hours at a time, the players had to manage their travel time and number of rests they took per expedition. There was a hard-stop in real time around 4 hours into the session at which point the Thrice-Damned Horn would sound. If the PCs didn't beat feet out of the dungeon at that point, they risked being trapped when the Delve re-entered the Shade. (This meant your character was driven insane and became an NPC.)

To me, it was enjoyable because of the number of meaningful decisions that were built into the structure of the game. The players could figure stuff out and strategize to achieve the goals they themselves set week to week. As DM, it was easy to run because of the consistent structure and the set adventure location. This meant prep was a little heavier, but it was fun to put together.

@Lanliss and @Valmarius both played in this game, so they may have some other thoughts.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
My last campaign involved a mega-dungeon, depending on how you define "mega," I suppose. It had 11 levels with about 15-20 areas per level. Different factions controlled various levels. It culminated in a final showdown on another plane with a shadow dragon. (I wanted this campaign to involve a dungeon and a dragon.)

The basic premise was that the dungeon was the manifestation of the dragon's power while it was trapped in another realm known as The Shade. Once a week or so, the dungeon (called "The Delve" by the locals) would appear in a cursed forest known as The Duskwood for about 24 hours. Signs and portents in the nearby town of Grimdark would point to its arrival at which point adventurers could plumb its depths. I put a timer on it: In 20 weeks, the Shadow Wyrm would escape and wreak havoc upon the land. In the meantime, the presence of the dungeon had corrupted the forest, once home to the reclusive fey.

I set it up as a town-to-dungeon D&D experience with consistent phases of play: Warm-Up Phase, Town Phase, Travel Phase, and Delve Phase. There was also a Short Rest/Camp Phase when the PCs rested. Rests were reconfigured to 8 hours for a short rest and a week for a long rest. Since the Delve only appeared for somewhere around 24 hours at a time, the players had to manage their travel time and number of rests they took per expedition. There was a hard-stop in real time around 4 hours into the session at which point the Thrice-Damned Horn would sound. If the PCs didn't beat feet out of the dungeon at that point, they risked being trapped when the Delve re-entered the Shade. (This meant your character was driven insane and became an NPC.)

To me, it was enjoyable because of the number of meaningful decisions that were built into the structure of the game. The players could figure stuff out and strategize to achieve the goals they themselves set week to week. As DM, it was easy to run because of the consistent structure and the set adventure location. This meant prep was a little heavier, but it was fun to put together.

@Lanliss and @Valmarius both played in this game, so they may have some other thoughts.
Not much to add, you managed to hit all the important bits.
 

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