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Addicted to Megadungeons 
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Ungern
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Post Addicted to Megadungeons
Well I think I can now say that I'm addicted to megadungeons. Just before Christmas I bought Barrowmaze Complete and Forbidden Caverns of Archaia. Shortly after I purchased Rappan Athuk. I bought them all in hardcover. I've read the first two, but not the third yet, as I'm currently reading the OSRIC Advanced Adventures Compendium Two, which I also recently bought. Then last night I found both volumes of Cyclopean Deeps on super sale on the Frog God site. So I bought 'em. I will most likely never play all of these. Given how little time I have to actually game (as opposed to just reading modules), it could be years before we finish one of them. But they sure are fun to read and remind me of those teen years hacking and slashing in my parents' basement with my friends. And it's fun to find places to drop them into my homebrew campaign and link them to my own adventures and story lines. Long live the megadungeon!


Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:38 am
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Maukling
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Admitting you have a problem is the first step man...good job! :D

I like megadungeons, but I can't say "addicted." I have all the classic D&D/AD&D ones (ToEE is probably my all-time favorite) and I really like Castle of the Mad Archmage (especially with CZ added to it). Megadungeons, if well thought out, are pretty dang sweet!

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:14 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
I'm addicted in terms of buying them. Besides, your not really addicted until you buy Slumbering Tsar, Worlds Largest Dungeon, Worlds Largest City and Ptolus. Once you have those, then we can talk. :D

In terms of running them, I hate running them. I much prefer using bits and pieces of them mixed in with other material.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:12 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Make sure to pick up Anomalous Subsurface Environment. You can find it on Lulu. The first volume is a work of genius.

Stonehell is another megadungeon to take a look at.

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:05 pm
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Any dungeon crawl/megadungeon adventure published by TLG you could recommend?


Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:18 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
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Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:20 pm
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Mist Elf
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
serleran wrote:
The A-series.

And it's expensive, last I knew, but I liked Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works.

For others, like regular modules and not "megadungeons" then there are several TLG modules I like. The first one that springs to mind is Heart of Glass.



A Series: I read A0 and A1, not great dungeons, I'll check on the following adventures.

Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, I've got em all on pdf, I even found a scanned version of Yggsburgh. Good to know, I'll keep an eye on it.

Heart of Glass: Is it still on print? I'll search for it.

Thanks man!


Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:36 am
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Ungern
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
I did check out ASE and read some reviews, but it didn't sound appealing. Temple of Elemental Evil is on my all-time top 10 list. I'm mildly interested in Stonehell and Castle of the Mad Archmage but I'll hold off for now since I still have several to read through.

All these do make me think about updating my own megadungeon, "Witchaven," which I wrote more than a decade ago now as part of a massive apocalyptic Infernal campaign for 1E that no group has ever finished, though a few have started. Since it's designed for levels 12 and up it may have limited appeal. But all these new monsters, spells, etc., from new books have me thinking.


Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:12 am
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Hlobane Orc
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Persimmon wrote:
Well I think I can now say that I'm addicted to megadungeons. Just before Christmas I bought Barrowmaze Complete and Forbidden Caverns of Archaia. Shortly after I purchased Rappan Athuk. I bought them all in hardcover. I've read the first two, but not the third yet, as I'm currently reading the OSRIC Advanced Adventures Compendium Two, which I also recently bought. Then last night I found both volumes of Cyclopean Deeps on super sale on the Frog God site. So I bought 'em. I will most likely never play all of these. Given how little time I have to actually game (as opposed to just reading modules), it could be years before we finish one of them. But they sure are fun to read and remind me of those teen years hacking and slashing in my parents' basement with my friends. And it's fun to find places to drop them into my homebrew campaign and link them to my own adventures and story lines. Long live the megadungeon!

I too love megadungeons. I own copies of all of those that you've mentioned, plus others (Stonehell, ASE, Maze of the Blue Medusa, etc.). I have first hand experience running Barrowmaze (awesome) and Stonehell (quite good), and have had a party adventure around (but not within) Rappan Athuk.

Of them all, though, my favorite is Dwimmermount. I love it, particularly using it in actual play with a printed and laminated copy of the Dungeon Tracker play aid to help keep track of everything. I highly recommend it.


Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:43 am
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Dwimmermount does seem to be very good. I only have it in PDF, and have yet to run any of it. Castle Whiterock by Goodman Games is also very well done.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

Grand Knight Commander of the Society.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:41 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
I'm more and more interested in megadungeons as time goes on. Just picked up a nice copy of Caverns of Thracia and am looking forward to diving into it. Have my eye on Castle of the Mad Archmage as well. I bought Maze of the Blue Medusa a while back, but haven't done anything with it yet.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 10:25 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
maximus wrote:
Have my eye on Castle of the Mad Archmage as well.
I actually played in this one. If I recall correctly, we made it down to level 8. Definitely not a MegaDungeon I would run by itself. It would be much better as one you go in and out of, frequently.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

Grand Knight Commander of the Society.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 10:50 pm
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Mordekai82 wrote:
serleran wrote:
The A-series.

And it's expensive, last I knew, but I liked Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works.

For others, like regular modules and not "megadungeons" then there are several TLG modules I like. The first one that springs to mind is Heart of Glass.



A Series: I read A0 and A1, not great dungeons, I'll check on the following adventures.

Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, I've got em all on pdf, I even found a scanned version of Yggsburgh. Good to know, I'll keep an eye on it.

Heart of Glass: Is it still on print? I'll search for it.

Thanks man!


The A series goes to A17 so far, so I don't think serleran is referring to A0 or A1. Those are beginner modules (that are excellent, in fact), but the dungeons are beginner as well.

He may be mentioning this series as the adventures and thus the dungeons get bigger and tougher as they progress.

The Dungeons of Aufstrag (A13-A17 are fabulous megadungeons. They are rich with lore, history and meaning and tie into the World of Aihrde (if you want that - they are also easily removed from a campaign setting and can be used in any world that you wish, including a homebrew).

I am NOT a fan of megadungeons - not the random internet version nor the popular big gaming companies' version of a huge dungeon. I admit to not having read about every single one of them, but after checking 3 or 4, I realize that they are not for me.

I've only played in Gary's Castle Greyhawk dungeon for a few levels for a short time, so my experience playing in a megadungeon is limited even if I've read about many of the other levels.

But from what I've read regarding the Aufstrag dungeons, methinks this is some of the greatest dungeon delving that you can run for your players.

Check it out, if you have the chance . .

Rhu - looking forward to more levels of Aufstrag!!!

:P

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Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:38 am
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
I pretty much started my gaming life between four mega-dungeons created by guy named Jerry way back when. After ten years of weekly play I think we'd only managed to clear/explore around 8 levels in Castle Misbegotten/Wolf Mountain and 4-6 levels between Janet's Wood and Cornelius' Tower. They were mapped on the 20 squares per inch graph paper and a level covered four pages on average.

Jerry never really ran them as a campaign until the latter years when I sort of forced the issue with a couple of other players. They were simple dungeon crawls that while fun, leave a lot of potential play on the sidelines. My character actually managed to wreck the kingdom's economy within six months of game time using the color cantrip which came out about that time which is what forced him to expand into an actual campaign style of play. It made things much more enjoyable, sort of like the difference between 2D and 3D character development.

I enjoy mega dungeons and they can make life a bit easier on a CK/DM whom is tied up with a lot of RL issues...and as long as some attention is given to things outside of the dungeon and simple level grinding is avoided, they can be fun for a good number of players too. Like any adventure or campaign style, they have their place.

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Mon Feb 19, 2018 1:05 am
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Ungern
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
I've never run a megadungeon, though I've read through 1 or 2 (I have Blue Medusa and it is dripping with weird flavor!).

I guess my issues are 1) it seems like a huge burden on the GM, constructing and/or maintaining a complex so large it has its own plausible ecosystem - living, breathing, changing; 2) related to the first, it runs the risk of being 'gamey', i.e. clearing levels, resting, coming back, repeat can easily make players feel more like being routine exterminators then adventurers; 3) the problem of empty rooms - you can't have continual combat, but you have to somehow fill the empty spaces with something interesting.

But I may be off-base, hope to hear about more mega-experiences.


Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:30 pm
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Ungern
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Returning to this thread I started a few months back, I'm almost finished reading the second volume of Stonehell, which I picked up a couple weeks ago at a cool gaming store called Weird Realms in Cleveland. So now, since Christmas I've read the following: 1. Barrowmaze; 2. Caverns of Archaia; 3. Rappan Athuk; 4. Cyclopean Deeps; and 5. Stonehell.

I haven't actually played or DM'ed any of them yet, but I might just post my impressions on strengths, weaknesses, themes, etc., in the next few days. I will say that I've enjoyed reading all of them as they really embody the old school feel I like. But the fact that I simply can't play that often these days means that I'd be reluctant to try and run one of these even though they could be fiddled with and levels extrapolated. All are impressive achievements and fun in their own ways and worth reading for cool ideas if nothing else.


Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:17 am
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Persimmon, if you're up at Weird Realms post a note up at that store that you are looking to run or play in a game. They'll hook you up. There's a few groups in that immediate area.

On your main point, I've played through Rappan Athuk once and run it twice. RA is definitely my fave megadungeon of all time, but BarrowMaze is written so damn well. I'm trying to fit BarrowMaze in a possible upcoming Labyrinth Lord game I may run.

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Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:25 am
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Ungern
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Omote, I wish I still lived in the Cleveland area. The guys at the store were really friendly and talking up their weekly games, but I was too booked up in my short stay home. My family is all up there but I'm in Mississippi and there's not much going on here besides 5E and Pathfinder at my local game store. Incidentally, Weird Realms also had hard copies of Dwimmermount and Anomalous Subsurface Environment.

Rappan Athuk is probably my favorite of the aforementioned megadungeons just from reading it, but they all have good points. I've actually integrated all of them into my own campaign world in terms of finding locations and seeding rumors. I've also concocted a possible hook linking Barrowmaze to Rappan Athuk, since they both have the Orcus connection. Hopefully I can get a group together to play at least one of them. Or just wait for my son and his friends to grow up....


Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:46 am
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Ungern
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Okay, here goes my short assessments of various (in)famous megadungeons:

1. Barrowmaze Complete by Greg Gillespie [Labyrinth Lord
Overview: A collection of small barrows along with a much larger traditional dungeon with almost 400 rooms. The dungeon is horizontal rather than vertical, meaning that the strength of encounters can vary quite a bit. A brief backstory, a small campaign setting, some NPCS, and rumors are provided at the start. There are also very useful tables for generating random barrows, sarcophagus contents and the like. Full stats are provided for many new monsters as well as lots of 1st edition favorites that did not appear in the core Labyrinth Lord books for which the supplement is ostensibly designed.

Pros: Very atmospheric and cool setting, especially if you like laying waste (or being wasted by) lots of undead. There ae special rules for turning undead in the Barrowmaze and lots of other extras that make it interesting to read and presumably easier to run. It would be easy to just use this for random plunder expeditions without getting into the larger plot, which is straightforward enough, but might take awhile for characters to figure out, especially if they're just on treasure grabs. In true 1st edition style there is an illustration section at the end of the module depicting some key features and rooms. There are also illustrations throughout, which are generally solid and evoke that first edition feel as well. The village of Helix offers just enough flavor to be a jumping off point/bolt hole. There are some interesting villains, though I'm not crazy about the use of factions (which I never like much anyhow) and it is easy to see how parties might just go into kill everything and take their stuff mode.

Cons: Seems very deadly for lower level characters. I would not start anyone below 4th level on this. That said, there is a lot of treasure in here and lucky parties can probably advance pretty quickly if they return home to cash in their loot (xp) and train or whatever. As noted above, the factions and meta-plot can be easy to miss, but if you just want a sandbox, this isn't a problem. Kind of on the fence about the deities included, but they make sense within the context of the setting.

2. The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia by Greg Gillespie [Labyrinth Lord
Overview: Another horizontal mega-dungeon of sorts, this one set in a canyon, from college professor Greg Gillespie. Again there is a small campaign setting provided, along with some deities, rival adventuring parties, monster stats, special dungeon rules and the like. I would describe this as Keep on the Borderlands on steroids.

Pros: Again, a very cool setting with some funky new twists on the rules that is nevertheless easy to drop into any setting. Some of the minor monster twists like the terrordactyl (a 2 or 3 headed pterodactyl) are simple, but fun. There is a lot more variety to the dungeon and it doesn't feel like there is quite as much treasure strewn about, though there is still ample loot. Once again you could easily sandbox this, though the greater emphasis upon the setting around the caverns could make things more difficult, as there are numerous factions. Also once again includes an illustration section in the back and a plethora of images throughout the book.

Cons: The meta-plot is a bit convoluted and hard to follow. If you're just sandboxing this that won't be an issue, but it could be hard for players to figure out the endgame. Again, there are lots of potential factions, some more interesting and playable than others. But you could also just go through this slaughtering most of them. The maps and their connection to one another can be confusing at times. And again, not recommended for low level parties.

3. Rappan Athuk by Bill Webb [Swords and Wizardry
Overview: A massive dungeon complex filled with cultists, demons, humanoids, undead, and pretty much everything else. Has a strong connecting theme, but can also be treated as a sandbox. There is also a pretty well developed wilderness area around the dungeon that is more suitable for lower level PCs. Fairly well illustrated and the maps are good, although their connections to each other can be confusing, in part because the place is so huge even with the schematics at the beginning of the book. Includes monster stats, deities, rumors and the like.

Pros: Well-written and interesting with a strong connecting theme throughout. But there is enough variety to keep players on their toes and it keeps the dungeon from being too formulaic. And it doesn't suffer from the factionalism of the two above, though there are a few opportunities for role playing. The place just fits together well and seems realistic, if that makes sense.

Cons: It is long, complex, and deadly, but hey, we're talking about a mega-dungeon. A certain amount of luck will be needed to acquire certain items that can prove crucial in finishing the quest, though the author himself claims that no one has ever made it through the entire thing.There is a connecting thread to Tsar, another adventure by the same author, but not much is done with it.

4. Cyclopean Deeps by Matthew J. Finch [Swords and Wizardry
Overview: No strictly a mega-dungeon but rather a series of encounter locations set in the Underdark, basically a sandbox. But it's a mischievous and fiendishly different Underdark populated by eldritch horrors from or inspired by Lovecraft's works, along with links to other dimensions, demonic plots and more. The complete work is in two volumes (I nabbed them both in hardcover for $24.99 total in a sale!) and includes new monsters, unique magic items, spells and lots of NPCS. Unlike the other adventures reviewed, this is explicitly designed for high level (8th+) play.

Pros: Very fun take on the Underdark. Some reviews on the Internet claim that these are just a rip-off of the old D series, but I don't think that's the case at all. There is a deliberate effort to downplay the presence of groups like the drow here, arguing that these locations are deeper and more sinister than those occupied by the dark elves. There are duergar, however, and they're treated in interesting fashion, as a rigid society subjected to the pull of various demon lords. Most welcome, however, is the innovative treatment of the Dark Folk (Dark stalkers & Dark Creepers) and their city of Izamne, which is connected to a sinister substance called Darkmist that permeates the Cyclopean deeps. The Dark Folk are given a twisted South Asian spin and their culture is like a debased pulp rendition of medieval India and Persia mashed together. And did I mention the Folk of Leng and the serpentfolk? I've already decided to situate these regions in the northern Underdark of my home campaign world and have them connect to Hyperborea, as I also crib from Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Cons: Not quite as many illustrations as the modules above, though there are some. There are also a ton of factions and all kinds of side quests that the party can take. The problem here is two-fold. First, the meta-plot is a bit complicated and as in the other adventures, it might be nigh impossible for the party to figure out what they are supposed to be doing. Second, since most of the aforementioned factions and NPCs are varying degrees of pretty damn evil, it's hard to see how the typical good-aligned party would even choose to get involved. I know the folks I usually play with would not be likely to forge alliances with any of these groups. So that could take some creative DMing. Finally, it's a huge setting with many kinds of smaller areas and some special rules. It will take experienced DMs and players to get the most out of this. But I love the weird vision and strategic potential of this module.

5. Stonehell Dungeon by Michael Curtis [Labyrinth Lord
Overview: Innovative backstory whereby the titular dungeon was actually a prison created as a social experiment by a mad wizard (are there any other kinds) in ages past. When the king who sponsored the wizard died, the prison was "liberated" by the victors in the coup. But it has since turned into a veritable sinkhole for scum, villainy and monsters of all sorts, coming from both above and below. The full dungeon is in two volumes and there are pdf supplements available detailing the environs. Lots of new magic items, monsters, rumors and the like. Uses an interesting two-page dungeon format to map and summarize each level. There are ten total levels.

Pros: Probably the most "completable" of these scenarios in my opinion. The various sub levels are small enough that an experienced party could probably clear one out in an evening. Some are small enough that two sub-levels could be handled in say, 5 hours or so of gaming. The theme is tenuous at times, but generally holds together. In traditional fashion things get weirder and more dangerous the deeper one goes. There are some factions, but not that many and one could make it through the whole thing without too much alliance building. The maps are simple and easy to follow. As is the case with all of these modules there are fun classic D&D/80s pop references scattered throughout. I chuckled when I came across "Tails of the Gold Monkey" for example. Putting himself as an ill-informed prisoner in the bottom level of the dungeon was pure genius on Michael Curtis' part. The individual levels can easily be ported into other dungeons or settings.

Cons: The images are pretty bare bones. Again, the meta-plot might take a bit of luck to figure out. But it is potentially easier to wrap up than some of the others in these adventures. I wasn't super crazy about some of the new monsters (like the vrilya, a sort of human/elf subterranean cross), but that's a matter of personal taste. Once more this seems a bit deadly to start off with 1st level characters.

So on the whole, I highly recommend all of these, even if you don't think you'll play them. All have interesting ideas, fun traps, new monsters, tables or something else you can use for your game. I listed their default rules set, but any could be used with C&C, any of the retro-clones, or 1st-2nd edition D&D or 4th edition Hackmaster with no conversions. I'd definitely suggest starting at higher levels and/or with bigger parties to survive. I know it's become convention to fetishize the 4 character party with lame-ass challenge ratings and such, but I'd say a minimum of 6 PCs are needed for any of these, with 8-10 being better in some cases. But our groups have generally run 2 characters per player. Anyhow, hope this little overview is helpful for some of you.


Wed Jun 27, 2018 3:18 am
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Rhuvein wrote:
I am NOT a fan of megadungeons - not the random internet version nor the popular big gaming companies' version of a huge dungeon. I admit to not having read about every single one of them, but after checking 3 or 4, I realize that they are not for me.


So, regarding "random internet" versions, I take you didn't like the donjon.bin.sh dungeon I used in the Xylh game?
Being random of course it was extraordinarily silly. Though I felt like at times, it was about as silly as the published ones I've read, or the dungeon trope as a hole. I kind of had fun with it.

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Wed Jun 27, 2018 9:26 pm
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Aergraith wrote:
Rhuvein wrote:
I am NOT a fan of megadungeons - not the random internet version nor the popular big gaming companies' version of a huge dungeon. I admit to not having read about every single one of them, but after checking 3 or 4, I realize that they are not for me.


So, regarding "random internet" versions, I take you didn't like the donjon.bin.sh dungeon I used in the Xylh game?
Being random of course it was extraordinarily silly. Though I felt like at times, it was about as silly as the published ones I've read, or the dungeon trope as a hole. I kind of had fun with it.


Oops, no! My bad. I like what you did. I meant to say that I don't care for random internet person created dungeons like that Castle of the Mad Archmage. I looked at the first level or two and was totally not impressed. I'm sure he worked hard on it and I know I don't want to bash it, but after seeing it - I knew that I (or anyone) could do better.

Now, here is the thing I don't care for - "sandbox" games. That said, what you've done in your game is great and because you run a great game - the sandbox works for me. Mebbe, because you offer up pretty much anything that the players wish. And if that's a typical sandbox thing, then perhaps I'm still not understanding (or still learning) what a sandbox is.

Anyway, carry on my wayward son! Let us go from Xyll to Kansas and see what happens!

:P

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Sat Jun 30, 2018 10:49 pm
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Post Re: Addicted to Megadungeons
Rhuvein wrote:
Now, here is the thing I don't care for - "sandbox" games. That said, what you've done in your game is great and because you run a great game - the sandbox works for me. Mebbe, because you offer up pretty much anything that the players wish. And if that's a typical sandbox thing, then perhaps I'm still not understanding (or still learning) what a sandbox is.

Anyway, carry on my wayward son! Let us go from Xyll to Kansas and see what happens!

:P


That would be part of MY definition of sandbox (anything the players wish -- if they can find it). The term is meant to conjure up an idea of unstructured play like in a child's sandbox. You can throw in toy trucks or dinosaurs or barbie dolls or just dig holes and it's all good, it's a sandbox, you are making stuff up. As opposed to something where there is a plotline or sequence of events you must adhere to, such as is found in some linear adventures.

Some sandboxes are "hexcrawls" -- a certain kind of sandbox where the DM side of letting you do whatever you want is made easier by plotting out what might be in random locations on a map, or some algorithm for extending the map as the characters travel.

They are just words to help talk about certain kinds of games. Most games I play mix every kind of thing together, linear, plotted, metaplotted, adventures, scrawled out notes, sandbox, hexcrawl, urban crawl, intrigue. It's just a matter of proportion.

I think A0 and A1 work well as sandbox adventures. There are locations, but you don't have to go to any of them. Some aren't described at all yet. You find those locations by talking to people, exploring the countryside, following up on leads, but you never have to take up a lead. The DM could just tell you where to go too, which isn't how I like to run it, but it can be made more connect the dots that way. The players could wander right out of the Blacktooth Ridge area and presumably you could keep the game going.

I think, knowing you, maybe you just object to the meaninglessness of the term and the implication that people weren't already playing that way all along, which I can understand.

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Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:46 pm
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