Which Edition for a Megadungeon Campaign? Why?

Reynard

Legend
I'm not asking for advice. I am not planning on running a megadungeon campaign anytime soon (although I have a long genstating one I'll get to eventually). I am more interested in the discussion broadly.

If you were to run a magadungeon campaign -- by which I mean a campaign focused around the repeated exploration of a single large, complex, dynamic dungeon environment -- which pre-5E version of D&D (or retroclone or simulacrum, I suppose) would you choose for such an endeavor? Why would you choose that version of the game?

And just for giggles, what is your theoretical megadungeon like?

I would be inclined toward B/X I think -- mostly for its simplicity, even if I think AD&D is actually "better" for a campaign never meant to move into wilderness exploration. Note that I have never played OD&D so maybe it is a better fit.

Also, my megadungeon is called The Hellstair. The first couple levels are undercity levels of a long lost, ruined capital city that has only recently been rediscovered. it's basically a California gold rush town except it's dungeons not gold mines. It is called The Hellstair because it actually came up from below (that's what killed the city) and the farther down you go the literally closer you get to Hell.
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd personally favor a not-too-lethal system, just because is dull to have a TPK far from the opening and have the new party go through the already visited layers/levels.

For megadungeon, I'd go for having a party follow the tunnel of an ever-digging giant worms who swallowed your village/dear ones/whatever, so you go through various regions that the worm dug through, like a old necropolis, a dwarf-hold, a underground forest etc, hoping to catch up with the worm and take back what's yours. In the end, the worm itself could be one living dungeon.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Probably 5E, because it doesn't force combat, but when it does it is fast and not excessively lethal.

I'd build a scenario similar to the old Interplay game "Drafon Wars" or the recent "Hades": the PCs trying to get out of some sort of magical prison realm.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'd personally favor a not-too-lethal system, just because is dull to have a TPK far from the opening and have the new party go through the already visited layers/levels.
For me personally, i think the better solution to that potential problem is to make sure there are plenty of alternative entrances and paths. Also, a megadungeon really shouldn't be "cleared" anyway.
 

Reynard

Legend
Probably 5E, because it doesn't force combat, but when it does it is fast and not excessively lethal.
::checks sub-forum::
I'd build a scenario similar to the old Interplay game "Drafon Wars" or the recent "Hades": the PCs trying to get out of some sort of magical prison realm.
The only thing I don't like about that setup is it takes a little more work to include the "home town" element I think is important to megadungeon campaigning.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
What is your favorite way of getting replacement characters in and do you ever want character background to show up in important ways?

One of my all time favorite memories is a mix of B/X, OD&D, 1e (varied by player) where every new character started at first level (basically teleported in effectively if the party wasn't leaving to camp) and it seemed a big accomplishment to live to 2nd. I was a pre-teen/young teen at the time and so part of it might have been me not knowing better. I'd still love to be able to go back and play in Bev's game at Toad Hall in Rockford IL though.

If I want lethal, the character set-up time required in 3/3.5/PF feels a bit annoying to put the effort into.
If I made days actually be days and didn't make me do montages as a player then 13th age might work.
Of the old school things 2e is my favorite system, but I'm trying to remember if we did many big dungeon crawls with it.

If I want the characters to have a better chance of living so they could explore more (checks sub-forum), nevermind.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
::checks sub-forum::
I don't view the forum through that lens, I browse new posts from all at the same time. So I'll go B/X, since it seems the most amenable to my playstyle.
The only thing I don't like about that setup is it takes a little more work to include the "home town" element I think is important to megadungeon campaigning.
Simple enough: the core of the prison, something like The Village from The Prisoner, can be a homebase.
 

Retreater

Legend
I'd choose 4E. It provides a richer, more tactical encounter experience than any other edition. Each battle can be a cinematic set piece encounter, while exploration can be handled with skill challenges or simple narrative discussions.
And I'd probably use my home mega-dungeon, Zwaarhold. Thematically it's located in the borderlands where humans have no idea they're building atop a lost civilization of duergar who are now starting to rise to the surface.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'd choose 4E. It provides a richer, more tactical encounter experience than any other edition. Each battle can be a cinematic set piece encounter, while exploration can be handled with skill challenges or simple narrative discussions.
Out of curiosity what do you do with random encounters or wandering monsters? Do they become ad hoc cinematic set pieces, or do you deal with them by way of a "combat skill challenge" (does 4E have a "fast battle" system like Savage Worlds?) or do you just not include random encounters?
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
2e. I chose that because with the change in how thief skill progression goes from earlier editions, it offers a better chance at success at lower levels and you'll need it. It makes thieves important and contributing at level 1, rather than having to level up several levels before they have a good chance at anything besides climb walls.

My ideal megadungeon? Well, having written one (Felk Mor), one thing really important is to have its own ecology if it's that large. A place or places where PCs can use as a base of operations and can defend. A food source. Allies they can lean on to train and heal.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And just like that, Snarf's back on the dark side.
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Retreater

Legend
Out of curiosity what do you do with random encounters or wandering monsters? Do they become ad hoc cinematic set pieces, or do you deal with them by way of a "combat skill challenge" (does 4E have a "fast battle" system like Savage Worlds?) or do you just not include random encounters?
Just to clarify - I haven't run a megadungeon in 4e, but it would be an experiment I would be most excited to try. (I've participated in megadungeons in all other editions already.)
I think random encounters/wandering monsters are antithetical to the design principles of 4e, where combats are intended to be more dynamic and exciting affairs (not to mention are more time-consuming in practice).
So I would use the concept of the Quick Encounters (like in Savage Worlds) and retool the experience of wandering monsters as combat skill challenges. Randomly determine surprise so if the party surprises the monsters, they can use Stealth based skills and others to avoid the conflict. If the monsters aren't surprised, roll to see their Reaction, and if they're not outright hostile, make it a social encounter.
If the monsters detect the party and are hostile, then roll some combat skills. Have failed checks result in losing Healing Surges or (maybe) random daily powers to reflect the attrition of combat.
I would handle simple traps the same way.
 

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
No hypotheticals here. I'm running a mega-dungeon campaign right now, taking my biggest and best-developed dungeon out for its fourth official spin. The system is red box OD&D, suitably modified. I picked that system initially because it was my go-to system when I was first creating the dungeon, and because it's exceedingly well-suited to mega-dungeon play right out of the proverbial box. The dungeon-stocking algorithm (for each room, roll 1d6; 1-2 = empty, 3 = trap, 4-5 = monster lair, 6 = special weirdness; empties have a 1-in-6 chance of unguarded treasure, traps a 2-in-6 chance, and monsters a 3-in-6 chance) and the treasure and magic item tables make actually crafting the dungeon a breeze (and one all too easily automated if you have some rudimentary coding chops).

My dungeon is called "Shade Abbey" -- I've discussed it before on one of your previous threads, @Reynard, and also shown off a bit more illustration on this thread. :)
 

thullgrim

Explorer
Adopting Savage World Quick Encounters to handle random encounters and simple hazards in 4e is a great idea
Mega dungeon or not. And for a tactical dungeon crawl I agree I’d run it in 4e.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for PF1. I think a core rule book PF1, 1-12 mega dungeon would be a huge amount of fun.
 

payn

Legend
Im going to say 3E/PF1 just cause its the system I have the most experience running. I seem to be able to make it do anything I want at this point. For me megadungeon is most fun when you have a variety of challenges from easy to nightmare. Loading up on loot to deck out your PCs is also fun which 3e/PF1 is all about.

I think 5E with its bounded accuracy would be 2nd choice for me. Its a system that handles a variety of challenges, including many combats in a single day easily. My absolute last choice would be PF2 because of its level banding making a variety of challenging encounters nearly impossible. That is up to taste though as I could also see a megadungeon that's "level 1 is level 1, and level 2 is level 2" but find that a little too gamey for my taste with the lack of variety that I like. YMMV.
 

I would go with OSE. Characters are quick to make and have abilities specifically helpful for dungeoneering, as a dm you'll have all the rules/info you need but not rules that you don't for the most part, and the random encounter and treasure tables will produce consistent results.
 


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