log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General What do you think of mega-dungeons for online D&D play?

Klaudius Rex

Explorer
Normally, i dont like large scale dungeon crawls for in-person D&D...but i'm starting to think it might be well suited for online D&D with like Roll20 or whatever...

Even during in-person play, storylines while some very interesting can still be hard for players to decide on what to do, or where to go, or what exactly is going on...and i think this may be even more challenging for players to keep track of storylines and side quests and the like while playing online...

so, i'm thinking about running the Dungeon of the Mad Mage mega-dungeon so players dont have to worry too much about the larger story and at least players will be engaged regularly if it was a sort of video game style combat heavy survival mode dungeon crawl resource management with some but low backstory and social NPC interaction but mostly big XP rewards for combat and exploration.

i just think players will be more involved if they knew what was going on in the moment as it relates to thier very survival... with a backstory and hook in the back of thier mind while slogging through each level...get from point to point without dying on the regular!

My pitch is to allow any race/class combo and players will either be from or working for the Zhentarim guild hired to delve into Undermountain (for reasons) ...yada, yada, yada...be ready to fight sucka!

By the way, i understand that not all Dungeon of the Mad Mage is entirely combat and dungeon crawling...but i know a lot of it is...and i will definitely incorporate as much social interaction and allowing players to sneak or deceive monsters...whatever they need or come up with...but lets be honest, it is a long term dungeon slog

Let me know if you think this idea sucks? In particular, let me know if this will work better for online D&D as opposed to in-person play. And, while this isnt a recruitment post, we are always looking for new players, so if you're interested, send me a message.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Retreater

Legend
Quick answer: dungeons are great on VTTs. I am DMing Barrowmaze, playing in Caverns of Thracia, and DMing an original dungeon I've created for an OSR game.
So I've had some good success running Barrowmaze for 5e exclusively on Roll20. The automation is good enough to keep combats running fast. The dynamic lighting (or even legacy fog of war) can make mapping very quick.
That said, I specifically disliked the Dungeon of the Mad Mage as an adventure and mega-dungeon. If you would like me to share my review in this thread, I'll be happy to do so, but I don't want to derail the thread about the quality of DotMM.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
"The story" is what the characters do in the context of the setting as they set about pursuing their goals. Exploring a dungeon, killing or allying with its denizens, recovering treasure, and improving over time as a player and character is a fine goal that makes for an exciting, memorable story. So, yes, a mega-dungeon will give you many sessions worth of great stories whether online or in person.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
I've been running a dungeon-focused OSR game for almost a year now, originally centered on Dyson's Delve (Dyson Logos' "mini-megadungeon") as my tentpole dungeon, with Tomb of the Serpent Kings, James V. West's Crypt of the Worm Idol, and several other smaller dungeons scattered around the landscape.

I've also played for a few months off and on in an OSE game of Barrowmaze, another in Stonehell for a while, and have recently been poking into a version of Castle Greyhawk in an OD&D game.

Long story short, yes, I think it's very suitable for this sort of play.

Being able to set up dungeon levels I find much easier than running the 5E game I was previously, with tons of overland travel, in which I was accustomed to often improvising battlefields and antagonists using markers on a Chessex battlemat and my extensive collection of wargames and D&D miniatures. Initially when Covid hit I found trying to transition that game to Roll20 too intimidating to really face, and I started the OSR dungeon-crawling game in part to teach myself Roll20. It worked well and that game has continued, though the 5E game had to go on hiatus due to other real life issues for the players.

One logistical item you'll need to figure out your group's preferred answer to, depending on your session length and which system you're using, is how you handle travel into and out of the dungeon, and to what extent "clearing" it is possible. Random Encounters are definitely part of the fun of old-school dungeon games, and managing the risk from them is part of the skill of delving.


 
Last edited:

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
While I don't do dungeons, even now that I'm VTT only, I do think VTT would work really well for dungeon crawls. The limited sight lines, light sources (or lack therein) does add something.

It's probably about the only thing I'll miss about VTTs when we go back to play in person. Especially since I DM and people have to come to our house. :)
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Yep, I ran the Doomvault on Roll20, works great! Even if you don't have things like dynamic lighting, dungeon crawling still works really well in an online format.

I do recommend spending the extra few $ getting the material pre-made for you on whatever platform you use. Unless you have a lot of free time, it is a big hassle to upload the maps and file every room with the necessary tokens and enemies. For something like Dungeon of the Mad Mage, it's just better to spend some dollars and have it all done for you.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
VTT is great for tactical play. Practice makes perfect and the more time you spend laying down DL boundaries in Roll20 the better you get at it. It's just a lot of clicking. And then, once you've got that laid down, you're almost done.

Words of warning: You're going to want to break up the dungeon into manageable sections. Your game is realistically only as fast as your slowest player's computer.

Do NOT use Roll20s AV system. It's terrible. Roll your own with either Discord, Zoom, Skype, or whatever. Just not Roll20.
 

beast013

Explorer
Supporter
Dungeon crawls work great in a VTT environment. Fog of war makes for a suspenseful adventure. I'm going to run Steading of the Hill giants via VTT as part of my on-going campaign.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Dungeon crawls work great in a VTT environment. Fog of war makes for a suspenseful adventure. I'm going to run Steading of the Hill giants via VTT as part of my on-going campaign.
My group played that one a few months ago (as well as the subsequent modules) on Roll20. We were a heavy metal band called Rage Against the Giants. In Steading of the Hill Giants, we had to clear the place out as it was to be a big venue for our upcoming concert to launch our most introspective album to date, plus we needed treasure to square our debt with the record label.
 

I have definitely been leaning harder into dungeons (not usually my thing) while things have been forced digital. Giant sprawling battlemaps with well-defined boundaries plays to the strengths of VTT.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Personal opinion here, nothing universal.

I find that we need to work harder to be fully engaged in the game online. As a player everyone is at a remove, I have a computer where I could read a thread on ENworld if I'm not immediately involved in a scene, and even if I just space out who's going to catch it on the few-inch-square video? As a DM it's harder to catch cues and body language that someone is disengaging, as well as harder to project to everyone and captivate them.

As such, I find that puzzles (which don't engage everyone and there's little need to retain once they are solved) and combat (with significant time between actions) are two places where it's easier to become disengaged. I know these are both common occurances in many mega-dungeons.

For myself personally, I'd want to aim for a different experience than those. So I would look for a mega-dungeon that has more full-party-engaging (but not combat) exploration and discovery; I think that could work well.
 

Klaudius Rex

Explorer
Quick answer: dungeons are great on VTTs. I am DMing Barrowmaze, playing in Caverns of Thracia, and DMing an original dungeon I've created for an OSR game.
So I've had some good success running Barrowmaze for 5e exclusively on Roll20. The automation is good enough to keep combats running fast. The dynamic lighting (or even legacy fog of war) can make mapping very quick.
That said, I specifically disliked the Dungeon of the Mad Mage as an adventure and mega-dungeon. If you would like me to share my review in this thread, I'll be happy to do so, but I don't want to derail the thread about the quality of DotMM.
sure.
im open to anything.
put a link or whatever you got (or send me a personal message with the info) whateverz
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Let me know if you think this idea sucks? In particular, let me know if this will work better for online D&D as opposed to in-person play. And, while this isnt a recruitment post, we are always looking for new players, so if you're interested, send me a message.
I think the megadungeon beside a large city is a classic D&D trope. I don't by any means play that every time or even most times. I would be happy to do it though on occasion. I played Monte Cooke's dungeon a day and it worked out well. Being able to return to home base easily is a boon for PCs. So I would definitely detail out the city and provide some hooks there as well. Then the PCs, as they gather wealth, can move up in the city.

One idea might be to provide some ancient heirloom that gives access to the dungeon. In this case the dungeon would be more "static" and not a hive of humanoids. The only way into the dungeon is using the heirloom. So the rest of the surrounding area knows about the existence of this fabled dungeon but only the PCs inherited the heirloom from their grand old archmage uncle. Yet, what they didn't anticipate is that there are two "keys" to this dungeon. Another group has gotten the other key and will be rivals for the treasures to be found. They may even be working for some evil organization or they might be working for a LG high priest.
 

Retreater

Legend
sure.
im open to anything.
put a link or whatever you got (or send me a personal message with the info) whateverz
I'll just share my brief comments about Dungeon of the Mad Mage here and not full-on rant about it.
It is really big, but it's also bland and has numerous empty/boring areas. My players would go through entire sessions encountering no monsters, traps, or interesting features whatsoever. In face-to-face play, I would have been able to easily add stuff, but on a VTT after I had spent around $50 on the official adventure, it was a hassle to add stuff and change things on the fly.
To try to lead my players to the "better" stuff, I just walled off entire sections of the complex, hoping they would be lead to the "good" stuff. Even that didn't work, and they lost interest.
There's not a good theme, unifying concept, or reason to go into the dungeon. You can add this, but there are so many great dungeons already out there that you could likely find something better.
We were on Roll20, where module content was largely limited only to official WotC releases. We shifted to "Tales from the Yawning Portal." The dungeons in that are more varied, interesting, and are short enough to string together into a "dungeon campaign" without being exactly a megadungeon.
It took a lot of work for me to add Barrowmaze onto Roll20, but it's superior in nearly every way to Dungeon of the Mad Mage. I have also added Frog God Game's Rappan Athuk, also better than Dungeon of the Mad Mage. If you are just learning the ropes of VTTs, I wouldn't recommend trying to convert a megadungeon right away.
If you're not on Roll20, other VTTs might have better selections of 3PP content. But if you are looking for good dungeons ready to go on Roll20, I would recommend Tales of the Yawning Portal over Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Conversely, you could run Tomb of Annihilation and start at the fairly big dungeon at the end.
But if you do decide on Dungeon of the Mad Mage, be ready to add encounters, traps, and a plot. As it is, it's very bare bones. (Just want to add that I'm writing my own mega-dungeon for publication, so I've been studying the mega-dungeon design for a few years now. I would never have submitted something like Dungeon of the Mad Mage to my editor.)
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
I am currently running Dungeon of the Mad Mage on Roll20 and my players and I are loving it. I would NEVER run this particular adventure in any other way besides VTT.

I highly recommend the Dungeon of the Mad Mage Companion from DMsGuild - it goes a long way towards providing an actual overarching story to sustain the campaign as well as ideas to improve every level.

Earlier in the pandemic I ran Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury and in general would agree that VTTs are great for dungeon crawls.
 



Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
So, today is the day! We'll be starting Dungeon of the Mad Mage via Discord and I decided on Owlbear Rodeo.

...wish me luck....!!

Good luck! My group is on level 2 of the dungeon but we only play for 2 hours every other Monday, so you will probably pass us. Let me know if you want to compare notes!
 

jgsugden

Legend
In my experience, they have advantages and disadvantages.

Focus is more of an issue in online games because there are so many more distractions around us (from family, to internet, to pets, etc...) Mega dungeons tend to have less story, and can be harder to make engaging. I'm playing in DotMM right now, and the ongoing storylines in that are weak. It is a less engaging game for me. I am playing in another campaign that has a "side" megadungeon (Similar to the Happy Fun Ball in Critical Role Season 2, it is a dungeon we can enter whenever we want. So far, it is just a chaotic collection of challenges and treasure with no real storyline reason for being there.) When a player is absent, we often delve into it (as the story allows). It is a disappointment when we go from the main game storyline to these random dungeon antics.

I am also playing in Odyssey of the Dragonlords onlight right now and running a couple homebrew campaigns as a DM online. The central storyline in all three is more engaging and we have a lot less "distraction" problems (but, obviously, still some). In my games, and in Odyssey to a lesser extent, there is a lot of scrambling to handle PCs going where you did not expect. I have some places that I want to be iconic locations in my game, but I have not built all of them on Roll20 as I plan to transition back to F2F later this year (I hope to, at least) and I did not expect the PCs to visit or see it until then... but PCs scry, and once they can teleport....

All in all: I highly recommend it for DMs that lack the time to do a lot of preparation. On the other hand, if you have excess prep time, I think you'll find more player engagment and involvement if you give them the more expansive world to live within.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've been running Rappan Athuk going on two years. When I started, we were playing in person and I was using RealmWorks to display the map on a horizontal display, revealing areas manually as they explored. Eventually, I used Maptool because it was easier to pull up and use a map without any preparation.

Eventually, because of COVID and work, we went full VTT and I now run it in Foundry.

Megadungeons are great in VTTs for all of the reasons others have listed. If you like a lot of tactical play in your games, if you want lighting and line-of-sight to matter, VTTs make it easier--if you have the walls etc. set up.

The problem I ran into is that Rappan Athuk has over 100 digital maps and these are not small single location battlemaps of one or a few rooms. They represent entire levels or large sections of a level. I've gotten very good at prepping maps in my VTT. The VTT I use, Foundry, makes adding wall easy and I will make sure I prep several maps where the party is most likely to end up. Sometimes a single map last the entire 8-hour sessions or several sessions.

But Rappan Athuk is also just riddled with an insane number chutes & ladders like connections. Besides stairs nicely connecting one level to another, there are underground rivers, trap doors over chutes, teleportals, giant rat tunnels, etc. A DM can quickly find that the characters have wandered into an area that he has not yet prepped.

So, if you are not running an adventure that is already prepped for you, it is important that the VTT you select can allow you to quickly load a map, apply fog of war, drop some tokens on it and run it by revealing areas manually. It sounds like your will not have this issue if you bought the official version of DOTMM through Roll20, etc.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top