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D&D 5E Megadungeon delving as a campaign’s core; is it compatible with modern play?

Hussar

Legend
That is a current I am happy to row against.
Yeah, but, after twenty years? Like I said, 5e is no different than 3e or 4e in this sense. HP haven't been a logistical resource since AD&D, and, even then, they were barely that. I cannot possibly be the only group out there that had two clerics in the party. The longest any rest ever took was a couple of days. And, again, that's ignoring the pile of potions, scrolls and various magical doodads that granted HP.

There's a very good reason why HP isn't used as a logistical resource anymore. It hasn't been one for decades.
 

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I cannot possibly be the only group out there that had two clerics in the party.

Depends on the table I was at. My experiences ranged from me playing the cleric cause literally no one else (in a 6 person table) wanted to play one, to being a mage in a 7 person party that had a paladin, a cleric, a druid, and a gnome thief/cleric where we couldn't burn through the healing fast enough. Most of my experiences were at tables that had one cleric though. Enough to cover healing, but not enough to be superfluous.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yeah, but, after twenty years? Like I said, 5e is no different than 3e or 4e in this sense. HP haven't been a logistical resource since AD&D, and, even then, they were barely that. I cannot possibly be the only group out there that had two clerics in the party. The longest any rest ever took was a couple of days. And, again, that's ignoring the pile of potions, scrolls and various magical doodads that granted HP.

There's a very good reason why HP isn't used as a logistical resource anymore. It hasn't been one for decades.
I had a lot of problems with 4e healing (among other things), and my 3e group agreed that CLW wands were stupid and didn't use them. Most of my experience with actual play prior to 5e was 1e, and the lore I read the most and appreciated was 2e. Your argument may be true in general, but it isn't for me.
 


Oofta

Legend
Maybe is it is just that most of my encounters are Deadly! but in the games I run there can never be enough healing. Though in one of my games there is a druid but no cleric and in the other, a paladin and no cleric.
One of my games has a cleric, but they're grave domain so they refuse to heal people unless they're at 0 HP because if they cast a spell on someone at 0 HP the healing is maximized. They rarely cast any 1st level spells even though multiple cure wounds cast at 1st level actually heals more than a single cure wounds cast at a higher level.

My way of mercy monk heals more than the cleric does. Did I mention we can't ever buy healing potions? That you only recover half your spent HD on a long rest? Tell me again how HP can't be a depleted resource if the DM wants?
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Huh? Your experience with LTH is opposite because of teleport? If your party is teleporting in and out to rest, why would they need LTH? If they are not, and are using LTH to rest anywhere they want, then why isn't the situation worse when they emerge?
Teleportation circle is limited. It took a year and spending a lot of gold with the mages guild to get wizards to travel the long distance to their castle to create a permanent teleportation circle in their castle. Before that it would mean teleporting weeks worth of travel away. Even their castle is more than a days travel from where their castle is. Once they had the teleportation circle in their home base, it would mean 8 hours for the long rest and more than a days travel to get get back to the dungeon and then they would have to travel back to the location they left. A lot can change in that time and just getting back to the area they left can be very dangerous. So LTH makes more sense until you get 7th level spells. If you have a Druid, Wind Walk can help, but really until you have Teleportation, you are not able to just blip in and out of a location.

Even at higher levels, if you can find a place to set up LTH, you can have characters who need the rest take it while other characters can still scout, etc. Sure, at higher levels, teleportation is usually the more logical option. The party has explored enough of the dungeon and set up safe areas through alliances and spending a lot of gold on troops to secure areas, etc. So they can teleport back into a safe area to make another attempt at an area where they were forced to retreat from via teleport. There, however, some areas that warded against magical travel. So, it is not always an option.

LTH doesn't get as much use at higher levels, but sometimes it is still useful.

For me, if you stop short of an objective and making a safe space, you are probably going to have to start over (though things will have changed, for better or worse). Doesn't matter if you use teleport or LTH or are just allowed to bar a door.
Yes, that often is the case. Depends on the nature of the enemy and availability of reinforcements. Also the nature of traps, magic wards, etc. and how they were overcome the first time around.

It depends, sounds a lot like you are thinking a megadungeon has to be run as kick-in-the-door and not used like a dynamic setting with lots of factions and locations. When used in a such a way, time management is no different than any other setting
Not really. There are lots of factions and things can be very dynamic. Areas you clear will not stay cleared if you don't find a way to secure them. Enemies learn about and prepare for the party. There is political intrigue among many groups and actors with competing and often hidden goals.
But my group runs 2 hours sessions, and we are used to stopping in the middle of battles when we have to. We don't have the expectation that every game session needs to be wrapped up like some chapter in a book or TV episode.

That's the advantage of playing weekly, our memories are still good enough we can remember where we were a week past.
Two hours is too short for me. We run eight-hour games, generally about once per month. But I would hardly say that I try to treat each game session as a TV episode in terms of storytelling. But I do try to find a good place to stop where the party goes back to their home based or a secured location in the dungeon. This is mostly because I want to have flexibility so that people can drop in and out of the campaign. The core four players may nearly every game and we schedule our sessions around the five of our schedules. But we have others who play when they can. So, while I have had game end mid-battle, I try to avoid that, even if we end the game early.
 

Two hours is too short for me. We run eight-hour games, generally about once per month. But I would hardly say that I try to treat each game session as a TV episode in terms of storytelling. But I do try to find a good place to stop where the party goes back to their home based or a secured location in the dungeon. This is mostly because I want to have flexibility so that people can drop in and out of the campaign. The core four players may nearly every game and we schedule our sessions around the five of our schedules. But we have others who play when they can. So, while I have had game end mid-battle, I try to avoid that, even if we end the game early.
On the TLH and Teleport stuff I thought you were disagreeing with me. But now I see that though our parties behaviors are different, but our views are pretty much the same.

As for session length, first, we are all remote. None of us can take a whole day (or 8 hours) to set aside to play in one big block. Families and all that. We play Wednesday nights in the evenings after work. It's much easier to make plans around family commitments with it just being a work evening. And those of us who travel for work are settled in by Wednesday night. There are always exceptions, bu it works well for us. And stopping mid battle with FG is no big deal. It picks up right where it left off with initiative, spell durations, effects and all that.

Sure, it would be fun to set aside a day once a month, but it just doesn't work into our lives.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Are the given/prepared options the only ones? That is, are the players picking from a menu, even if an extensive one, or are they "in the hotseat" and actually creating story beats? AIUI, that's the gap between adaptive "Story Before" and actual "Story Now": the difference between a standard buffet of pre-cooked food and actually participating in the cooking process. One might call it "fulfilling" vs "creating." If the players are simply fulfilling what story opportunities you offer them, that might cause issues.
The only given option is the setting location. Players needed to agree that we are going to play Rappan Athuk and have a reason for their characters to want to go into the dungeon.

Rappan Athuk is a 500-page beast of a mega dungeon with over 56 dungeon levels and several satellite dungeons with another 20 levels. There are over 100 keyed and color-coded maps. 22 wilderness areas. The timeline is pages long. There are many, many groups, factions, and important NPCs. One thing many people hate about the Frog God Games is the walls of text of lore and background information but I enjoy it. There is no menu to pick from. Find a way into the dungeon, explore, see where you end up and what happens. Based on the players actions and decisions, I'll decide how different groups react and I start writing up new plot lines.

We do keep a quest log in our VTT, that is kind of menu. Some are quests given by NPCs or from rumors. But many are quests that the players came up with--basically objectives they want to accomplish.


E.g. you said "a lot of potential plots and quests," implying picking from a prepared menu. It may be a big menu, but it's still prepared. Some "modern-style" players will chafe under those limits. Or you may feel run ragged when the players ignore every menu item and start creating brand-new dishes they want to eat.
Well, having a map is a menu. Having NPCs is a menu. This is the most player driven campaign I've ever run in D&D. If this campaign would chafe players, I wouldn't run D&D, I would run InSPECTREs or Dialect or some other system where the world building and story evolution is heavily player driven in an improvisational, yes-and, theater of the mind manner.

In my campaign the dungeon is the constraint rather than a plot. An in my experience playing in Adventurer's League games, players are more uncomfortable with too much open-endedness. One thing I noticed about all the AL games I've played in is how limited and linear many are and how many players get annoyed with players who try to go in a different direction than where the adventure is obviously pointing the party to go.

Yes, in my current campaign, you are "stuck" with the dungeon. In my first campaign for 5e, I created a huge and detailed homebrew world. And I ran it is as much like a sand box as I could, but there was SO MUCH the players could choose to go that I found it unsatisfying to completely improvise. So I ended up asking the players at the end of the session what they would like to do next, where they would like to go, so I could prep something more satisfying. I know some no-prep DMs can run games completely by the seats of the pants making everything up as they go. I'm not one of them. I find it exhausting and I would rather do some prep work than have a bunch of homework after the game trying to write up notes to have some sense of continuity. For a one-shot game of InSPECTREs, it is fun. For a years-long campaign? No thanks.

In a way, a mega dungeon is very rail-roady. All the maps are made and prepped on the VTT and its populated with monsters, factions, traps, and puzzles. But the story itself is created by what the characters do in this environment. They decide why they are their and what their objectives are. It's not for everyone, but we've enjoyed it enough to play 8 or more hours a week in it for over three years.

But perhaps this is just a poor turn of phrase. Do your players get opportunities at actually creating story themselves, rather than fulfilling a story-hook you provided them?
The only story hook is that there is a legendary dungeon surrounded by dark rumors in the wilderness. They players only have to agree that they are interested in checking it out. Their reasons for doing so, and what they do when they get in there, are entirely up to them.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
As for session length, first, we are all remote. None of us can take a whole day (or 8 hours) to set aside to play in one big block. Families and all that. We play Wednesday nights in the evenings after work. It's much easier to make plans around family commitments with it just being a work evening. And those of us who travel for work are settled in by Wednesday night. There are always exceptions, bu it works well for us. And stopping mid battle with FG is no big deal. It picks up right where it left off with initiative, spell durations, effects and all that.

Sure, it would be fun to set aside a day once a month, but it just doesn't work into our lives.
Yeah, our schedule is unusual, especially for married adults with demanding jobs, kids, etc. For us the length of the session was less of an issue than keeping to a schedule.

We decide on our next session at the end of each session. Some players had to drop out or only join occasionally. That's one reason I try to have things wrap up in a way that people can easily drop in out out of the next session, even if this means we cut the session short.
 

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