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Author Topic: Best published megadungeon?  (Read 12370 times)

S'mon

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Best published megadungeon?
« on: October 03, 2017, 11:08:03 AM »
Thinking about stuff like Dwimmermount, Stonehell, Castle of the Mad Archmage, Barrowmaze, TSR Greyhawk Ruins, Rappan Athuk et al. What are your favourites and why?

Larsdangly

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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2017, 11:17:58 AM »
I think Rappan Athuk has to set the curve. First, for its scale.  It may have rivals in terms of total room count (though I wouldn't bet on that), but if you count 'quality' entries,  rooms and other locales where some thought was put into who or what is there and what is going on, it is simply tremendously big. Second, it has a fantastic sense of large-scale geometry and integration. It is a spider's web of entrances, levels and sub levels, and connections. I think there is something like a dozen major ways in and out, and there must be a hundred paths reaching across levels. Imagine an intricate, maze-like 3D-map of rooms in a normal scale dungeon, and then imagine each room on that map is a level. Third, it has a very large number of interesting monsters, traps and potential foes and allies. There are too many to go through in a post, but the author takes familiar ideas (vampire, giant octopus, etc.) and makes them fresh. 'Factions' are often cited as a key element of megadungeons; I'm not sure I agree; they are just one color on the pallet and can be good, bad or irrelevant. Rappan Athuk has several organized groups you could think of as factions if you like, though I don't think of them as being the main point of the place.

under_score

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Best published megadungeon?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2017, 11:38:01 AM »
I think Stonehell is fantastic as an introductory megadungeon.  It's one page dungeon inspired layout makes it ridiculously easy to start running.  It suffers from having minimal options for entry, not enough variety in layout and size (due to the format, each level is the same size essentially), and there's not really a great reason to go into the dungeon, since it was a literal dungeon with little promise of good loot from a background perspective.  But I'd still recommend it to anyone that is new to running a megadungeon and overwhelmed by the complexity of something like Rappan Athuk.

Larsdangly

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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2017, 12:30:25 PM »
Stonehell is very good as an introduction to the concept. It is plenty big, less expensive than some of the others people will discuss here, and it is very well presented and organized. It is also relatively linear; you kind of chug your way from the top to the bottom. It also has some nice touches in the way it presents groups of monsters and NPCs (my sense is that the author likes his megadungeon play to be relatively focused on factions and politics, as opposed to sneaking around and murdering stuff). I ran it once and had a good time. That said, I think if you are a seasoned DM you would rank R.A. significantly higher, and you'd probably like Barrowmaze better as well. My ranking of recent OSR megadungeons goes (top to bottom):

Rappan Athuk
Barrowmaze
Castle Zagyg: The upper works
Anomalous Subsurface Environment
Stonehell
Castle of the Mad Archmage (this can be thought of as the 'rest' of Castle Zagyg)

There are a lot of other good, bigish dungeons out there, but these are the only 6 I own that I would call OSR megadungeons. And my ranking isn't intended as a dis on any of them; all 6 are pretty great.

Edit: I also have Dwimmermount; it totally 'counts' as a megadungeon and is at least as good as 3-4 of those listed above, when it comes to production values and attempts to bring some creative flair to the concept. But it is too wordy for my tastes.

P.S. Edit: my favorite starting maps when I want to megadungeon, don't want to draw a map, but also don't want the constraints of someone else's ideas, I use Undermountain. It is fucking enormous, and the maps are beautiful. It is pretty fun to just let loose with this one.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 12:35:04 PM by Larsdangly »

S'mon

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Best published megadungeon?
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2017, 01:41:25 PM »
I just started running Stonehell, enjoying it so far but I wish all the info was in the location key, not half of it separate in the intro section. Running off the key means I keep missing stuff.

I had a great time running the Dyson's Delve mini-megadungeon. Also enjoyed running Lost City of Barakus 2004-06, but I've not tried Rappan Athuk. I have Dwimmermount but not run it; it seems very tied to the setting & its cosmology. Enjoyed Caverns of Thracia but it's a bit too small for a megadungeon, and the complex design isn't really appreciated by the players IME - I doubt mine will notice or care that Stonehell is symmetrical. I don't have Barrowmaze; I went looking for it after reading the current thread here but it seems rather expensive, as does Castle of the Mad Archmage with its 3 (+?) required books. Stonehell is definitely good value.

In general I suspect a minimimalist approach to publishing maximalist dungeons works best - keep the presentation simple enough the GM can easily add their own ideas and integrate it into their campaign (whereas Dwimmermount pretty much needs to be its own campaign). The 1-2 pages per dungeon section approach of DD & Stonehell is great for this.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 01:44:25 PM by S'mon »

under_score

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« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2017, 01:57:24 PM »
I didn't have a problem at all with Stonehell's intro/key layout.  I thought the key was perfectly written to give the vital info while running it and I just make a point of rereading the intro for a quadrant before a session is headed there.  Compared to how lengthy and spread out most dungeons are, it seemed very effective to me.

Barakus I've only run a little but I really like it.  The layout is fantastic, with lots of alternate routes to choose from and different factions controlling different areas.  It's not the biggest dungeon, but I think it's a great model for how to layout a dungeon with meaningful choices for how to proceed.

S'mon

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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2017, 02:33:46 PM »
Quote from: under_score;997834
I didn't have a problem at all with Stonehell's intro/key layout.  I thought the key was perfectly written to give the vital info while running it and I just make a point of rereading the intro for a quadrant before a session is headed there.  Compared to how lengthy and spread

It doesn't take much work compared to the nightmare of running Paizo dungeons, where they spend three pages on the backstory of a monster who'll be dead in 2 rounds but don't bother with critical stuff like monster stats (it's always "see Bestiary 6"); I just thought more info could have been in the key. I'd have preferred 3 pages for the key if that meant not having to refer to two different places. One thing I like about a good published dungeon is the minimal prep requirement; in an ideal case they need no pre-session prep at all.

Gwarh

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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2017, 03:57:02 PM »
Quote from: S'mon;997830
Dyson's Delve mini-megadungeon.

My Google-Fu is failing apparently (well I'm using DuckDuckGo but anyways) do you have a link for the mini-megadungeon as I love that guys maps.

P.S.
...and krud I think I just found it.
https://www.scribd.com/document/119595903/Dysons-Delve-Deluxe

P.P.S.
F'ing Scribd trying to get ya to sign up for their paid service before downloading. Does anyone know of a link where the mini-mega dungeon can be downloaded without a Scribd account.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 04:00:46 PM by Gwarh »
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Gwarh

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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2017, 04:10:02 PM »
Don't forget the "Worlds Largest Dungeon".

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It got poor reviews but the thing is fricking massive. Here is a link to a fan site with all the maps.
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Gwarh

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« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2017, 04:19:27 PM »
As I've recently become re-obsessed with Mega-dungeons I'll add the following which I think haven't been mentioned yet.

Castle Whiterock,  from Goodman Games 3E days. The dead tree version came in a massive boxed set filled to the brim with books and maps.

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia, as others have said Greg Gillespies PDF's are expensive but the content is good. This one is the second outing of his after Barrowmaze Complete. I am already linking this one even more than Barrowmaze Complete which was excellent.

To me this is "B2 Keep on the Borderlands and it's "Caves of Chaos" done in a more believable presentation. Canyons of Chaos in this case. I always meant to make my own Fantasy Heartbreaker mega dungeon out of B2 with the Caves spread out along a long canyon to better explain how each Demi-Human tribe could live close to each other but not right on top of each other. Seems Greg has beat me to it and done a far better job than I ever would.

The Complete Roslof Keep, I own it but haven't read it yet. I guess? it could be classified as a "Mega" dungeon, or at the least a "Large" dungeon.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 04:23:38 PM by Gwarh »
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S'mon

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« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2017, 04:52:28 PM »
Quote from: Gwarh;997859
My Google-Fu is failing apparently (well I'm using DuckDuckGo but anyways) do you have a link for the mini-megadungeon as I love that guys maps.

P.S.
...and krud I think I just found it.
https://www.scribd.com/document/119595903/Dysons-Delve-Deluxe

P.P.S.
F'ing Scribd trying to get ya to sign up for their paid service before downloading. Does anyone know of a link where the mini-mega dungeon can be downloaded without a Scribd account.

Dyson's Delve free pdf - https://rpgcharacters.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/dysons-delve-deluxe.pdf

But I bought mine hard copy as part of "Dyson's Delves I" from Lulu - http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dysonlogos

fearsomepirate

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« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2017, 04:53:00 PM »
I have been running Greyhawk Ruins in 5e. It is okay. I think there is a story to the dungeon that only becomes apparent on multiple readings. The Tower of War has so far been a meat grinder that chews up parties that feel the need to mess with every single thing they see. Also there is a room full of poop.
Every time I think the Forgotten Realms can't be a dumber setting, I get proven to be an unimaginative idiot.

S'mon

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« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2017, 05:07:32 PM »
Quote from: Gwarh;997863
Castle Whiterock,  from Goodman Games 3E days. The dead tree version came in a massive boxed set filled to the brim with books and maps.

I have this on pdf on rpgnow but haven't really read it - have you gone over it? Worth running or not?

Gwarh

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« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2017, 06:16:25 PM »
I read it (Castle Whiterock) when I got it several years ago, and yes I would say it's worth playing through.

But, it's also allot of content, makes me think of Rappan Athuk (at least the glance over I did of Rappan Athuk) in that for me at least I start to glaze over with the sheer bulk of content. It is broken up into themed areas/levels/zones though which helps with the glazing over a little bit.

Could be the OCD in me which wants to know the adventure/dungeon inside and out before running it. Maybe best to let it go and let it flow.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 03:49:16 PM by Gwarh »
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Madprofessor

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« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2017, 06:30:23 PM »
I'm hardly an expert but Barakus is not bad.  Maybe it is not big enough to be a "mega dungeon" though.