Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Megadungeon Thoughts

Its been a while since I took out my notes and maps on the Forsaken Halls, but that bug has bitten me yet again, so I'm thinking of introducing the players from my Omegea campaign to it. Given that the 1st level of this mega has been redone about five times, I thought I'd restructure and reorganize the map yet again ;) , and that process has brought up some interesting ideas.

Entry Points - In the past, the Forsaken Halls have had only two entry points for the first level: the obvious main gateway, and a secret passage from the one of the enormous stone faces that flank the ramp leading down to those gates (for those who don't know, the Forsaken Halls is beneath a black hill atop which squats a ruined, 100' tall hexagonal tower/fortress, roughly the width of the Pentagon, but much taller. A wide "valley" has been cut into the side of the hill, and is flanked with great stone faces of vaguely alien aspect).

As the upper levels are quite expansive, I've decided there should be many more entry points. The Forsaken Halls is an "active" adventuring site, something of a local attraction and a magnet for adventurers, as opposed to a site that has lain untouched for centuries. Due to this, it seems logical that the hungrier of the monstrous inhabitants within would have figured out where the easiest meals are coming from - in or near the main entrance - making it difficult for inexperienced characters to get their foot in the door, without having it chewed off!

Now, there have always been a couple of hidden side entrances, but they have been discoverable only from the inside. I'm going to say that by now, rumors of these secret entrances have started to make the rounds in the taverns of the nearby base-town of Tome. Hopefully, this will give players a chance to gain entry to the Halls a bit more surreptitiously and get a bit of exploring in before the powers that be take notice (yes, there is still a dragon on the first level!).

Some of these entry points include, a drainage culvert on the side of the hill not too far south of the stone faces, a tunnel from one of the six ruined guard towers that flank the bowl-shaped depression the hexagonal tower squats within (these abandoned towers themselves are intended to serve as brief adventuring locales for lower level parties), a flooded underground passage leading from the cold river that runs along the eastern side of the area, and of course, via the sealed upper levels of the great tower itself.

I also think there should be a couple of access points, from outside, directly to the lower levels of the dungeon.

Who can suggest some cool access points to implement, or things that have worked well for them in the past?

Rival Adventuring Parties - This is something i've wanted to do for awhile, but have yet to implement. There are quite a range of options here - random groups the party might encounter in the dungeon, fully detailed and fleshed out parties that act as friendly competition to the party, or groups that are downright inimical to the party, perhaps acting as agents for some dark power or looking to prey on the party when it is loaded up with treasure but weakened from the struggle of getting hold of it.

Plus I always liked the combat example in the 1E DMG between the rival groups.

Has anyone run rival/competitive parties of NPCs, and can impart some ideas or advice?

Like Megadungeons? Be sure to check out BtBG's Megadungeon Resources Page.


  1. Great post again. Your mega-dungeons resources page cuts off. A work in progress?

  2. @ckutalik - that shouldn't be happening - try refreshing the page?

  3. Heres a few ideas for Potential Entrances:

    A natural rock chimney leading down into the first level, hidden in underbrush.

    A crack or cravesse in the roof of the dungeon, caused by an earthquake, a mighty battle or even simple settling.

    A network of tunnels carved out by an Ankheg or Bulette leading into the dungeon - maker possibly still resident. For entrances to deeper levels use a Purple Worm or an Umber Hulk.

  4. As for rival adventurers, I use two kinds:

    A party of evil characters that will backstab, ambush and generally manipulate the PC's are much as possible. These guys keep ambushing the party on their way out of the dungeon (low on hp and spells), looting treasure piles left behind when the party can't carry all a monsters treasure out at once, re-setting monster traps, placing their own traps. The list goes on and on.

    Secondly, I use a party of "neutral" rivals. They at least display some form of honour, won't attack first and might even help rescue captured or stranded PC's if the rewards are good enough. They might neogitiate seperate territories in the dungeon "you can have the goblin lair, but the orcs are ours," or even come to the PC's for help themselves.

    The NPC adventuring party from Dungeons 3rd ed "Shackled City" adventure series has good examples of "rivals, not enemies" NPC party behaviour.

  5. I, too, have a stable of NPC parties with whom my players can interact. I set up three NPC parties in the local town at the beginning of the campaign. One was evil, if charming (it featured a slightly more evil version of one of my favorite PCs from back in the day); the PCs have grown to love to hate these guys (and once successfully charmed the leader and rolled him for all his gear. great stuff!). Another was a neutral party of Skandiks, just setting off for the megadungeon. As my players proved reluctant to venture to the Halls of Arden Vul immediately, I had this group send reports back to town about their exploits. Finally I decided to add some menace to the reports and the PCs found Hrothgar (!), the leader, cowering back at the tavern drunk and frightened. I role played his experiences in a fragmentary way that served to ignite the PCs' interest in the Halls. Indeed, they ended up enlisting Hrothgar as a henchman before they set off for the Halls. Ultimately Hrothgar died, but the group forged on anyway.
    A long winded way of saying I love the recurrent NPC schtick.

  6. Ah yes that does work, many thanks. I was thinking to myself, "well that's a let down, thanks for the tease dude."

  7. I had a group of rival, evil adventurers in a former campaign. They had a wizard mentor and the PCs had a wizard mentor. Both wizards were TPK threats that kept the evil and good parties in a kind of "cold war". They harried and fought with each other, but they never actually went for the kill. Maybe it was a little heavy handed, but the players LOVED it. They enjoyed seeing their enemies (each PC had a villain paired up with them) and they loved getting the best of them when they could. It gave the players one more thing to think about. "What's the evil group doing now? What do they know? What if...." Great fun!

  8. My favorite use of rival NPC parties is in the "competitive" or "rivals" mode -- out to achieve the same mission as the PCs, and (whenever possible) a half-step or so ahead of the PC party. I have these rivals leave false clues, or obstruct a shortcut, or even convince / bribe local monsters to go after the PCs, but I have never had an NPC party attempt to outright kill the PCs. I usually have the NPC competitors be about a level higher than the PCs, and usually try to make sure there is more or less one "matching" NPC rival for each PC, a la the Hall of Justice / Legion of Doom dichotomy.

  9. You could always make one of the exits magical in nature, say a gate that's guarded by a "friendly" devil who's willing to make a deal to allow passage?

    Or a magic item that will bring you into the dungeon, but randomly to any location that it has been brought to by it's current owner?

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