2017-06-26 Running the Megadungeon

On Google+, Mike Evans asked about megadungeons. My collected comments:

I’m 49 sessions into running Castle of the Mad Archmage and it’s still working out for me. Session reports are on the Greyheim campaign wiki.

The challenge/joy of running a megadungeon is to imagine the changes brought through player activities. I know I’m lazy but I still have the harpies killed replaced by... more harpies! When these are also killed: orcs, because the players relocated some orcs from lower levels. When the players then betray and massacre the orcs, the allied lizards build a settlement. When the alliance falls appart and the players fall upon the lizards with the help of the dwarves, then the angry little men will build a surface trading post, of course. And I’m thinking of how to undermine the newly established dwarven hegemony of the upper levels. Soon, my little angry beards, your little filter bubble will burst and surely the players will once again betray their allies...

But what about the procedural details? How do you start? Where do you start? My game usually starts with a recap. People around the table try to remember what happened and they tell each other. Then we spend gold on building projects and the like, and on equipment, mostly flaming oil, some of them also by rations for a week, but nobody really cares. Gold spent is experience points gained, so some people are trying to gain a level. I make a list of all the main characters and their retainers, their war dogs, their war bears, or their velociraptors. Usually there are about four to six players at the table and up to 20 targets in the party.

The assumption is that every time we meet at the table, about a week has passed, the exact number of days doesn’t really matter. We’re at full hit-points and spells, and when the session ends, we go back to town for a week of rest and recovery. And yes, in theory the 10 rooms could have changed 100% between one session and the next, but actually the referee is just going to introduce small changes and really, who cares whether room #7 has giant rats or kobolds after a while? Nobody. They’ll all run for their lives when the party needs to go to the giant stair to level three, pass through safe dwarven territory until they get to the stairs near the dentist, down to the arena level, ignore all the idiots and move down into level 5. Now exploration starts. On the way down, I might have rolled a wanding monster check for the arena level because it’s not “safe” but that’s it.

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