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D&D General Tell Me About Your Dungeon Centric Campaigns

pogre

Legend
I am considering building out my next campaign as a mega-dungeon exploration (with a side of boom town political drama, but that's not important right now).

As I do so, I want to hear about your experiences playing or running dungeon focused campaigns. it doesn't have to be a mega-dungeon campaign, but it should be dominated by dungeons. What elements of play did you find helped make the game fun? Which ones made it tedious? If you were a DM, how much did you prep ahead of time? If you were a player, did you notice how much the DM prepped ahead of time? Was it/were they published dungeon(s)? Was it all home brew? A mix?
I have done one semi-mega-dungeon in 5e. I agree with most of what's been said about what made the campaign fun - varied encounters were important for our group. I resolved to give up complete internal consistency in favor of variability. That flies in the face of some ecologically sound dungeon principles, but I think it depends on your group. Even if an entire level should be dominated by the hobgoblin tribe, after three or four hobgoblin encounters it can turn into a slog. The other thing I did was have lots of mini goals and bigger goals for the PCs that had rewards besides treasure and XP. Probably the non-traditional rewards I used the most were favors from powerful groups and access to new areas. YMMV and all that.

I prepped a lot, but mostly creating terrain, props, and painting minis - all completely unnecessary, but fun for my group.

We went from levels 1st -20th and it was a heavily modified version of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage. It worked so well for my group because they love combat. I would not attempt with a group that does not have combat as their favorite part of the game.
 

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Reynard

Legend
I have done one semi-mega-dungeon in 5e. I agree with most of what's been said about what made the campaign fun - varied encounters were important for our group. I resolved to give up complete internal consistency in favor of variability. That flies in the face of some ecologically sound dungeon principles, but I think it depends on your group. Even if an entire level should be dominated by the hobgoblin tribe, after three or four hobgoblin encounters it can turn into a slog. The other thing I did was have lots of mini goals and bigger goals for the PCs that had rewards besides treasure and XP. Probably the non-traditional rewards I used the most were favors from powerful groups and access to new areas. YMMV and all that.

I prepped a lot, but mostly creating terrain, props, and painting minis - all completely unnecessary, but fun for my group.

We went from levels 1st -20th and it was a heavily modified version of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage. It worked so well for my group because they love combat. I would not attempt with a group that does not have combat as their favorite part of the game.
Thanks.

Out of curiosity, how long did the whole thing take in table time?
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
One question I have: did the PCs have to spend whatever treasure they converted to XP on training? If not, what use to you come up with for the masses of gold the PCs would acquire? 5E is notorious for there being few places to use treasure.
Addressing this in my game, which is using XP for gold (well, silver, as I use the silver standard), I've provided a number of costs to soak up PC money, some of them voluntary.

In addition to the voluntary expenses of carousing for more XP and buying healing potions and 1st-3rd level Mage scrolls which are commonly available, and occasionally other stuff (the abbey which sells healing potions also sometimes sells Mithridate, a sovereign antivenom, but at 1,000sp a dose; the local druid and witch sell lesser antivenoms, curatives for diseases, actual poisons, etc).

On top of that stuff I've also instituted the OD&D maintenance cost rule. 1% of your total xp in gp (sp in my game) every month. This is assumed to be spent on training, bribes and gratuities, clothes, equipment maintenance, nostrums, and other miscellaneous expenses which are the cost of maintaining health and social status as an adventurer on the rise. As a general rule, especially since I had two different parties visiting some of the same dungeons, I normally require them to leave the dungeon and go back to town at the end of each session, and I have the same amount of game time pass as has passed in the real world.

If we have one of the rare sessions where I let them end mid-adventure because of the situation and/or because I know the location they're at is highly unlikely or impossible for the other adventurers to visit and screw up the timeline, I will have time leap forward to catch up again afterward, enforcing a longer downtime before the next excursion. This is a bit artificial, but I find it worthwhile in terms of including significant downtime in the campaign and having the PCs not rocket up in levels over the course of a few weeks of game time.
 


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