Nevertheless, I've been reading Peter V. Dell'Orto's articles on megadungeons, and a couple of things he's said sound interesting to me. The idea that it's impossible to completely clear the dungeon, or even clear a level, just sounds fascinating to me. Having to make some strategic choices as you enter the dungeon so that you always have a retreat path could be really cool. For various reasons, I don't know if that would work with my current tabletop group, but it could be really neat for the right group.
I'm currently running Savage Tides for my group, nominally in between running things we actually care about. I'm probably going to wrap it up later this year when they complete the Tides of Dread adventure, because after that the adventure rapidly goes to places that I'm pretty sure aren't going to work for my group (ie, literally to Hell, where Sister Joan's intolerance of other religions is not going to play well with the adventure's requirements that you cut deals with demons and devils). So what to run next?
One option would be to heavily adapt the later adventures in Savage Tide so they're workable with the group. I've also been inspired by Peter's reviews of Dragonlance, and it looks like it might be fun to ditch the stupid storyline and convert the early modules into delving sites for a bunch of murder-hobos. Or I could create a mega-dungeon of my own.
The Sinking RuinsOne thing I know I don't like about mega-dungeons is I often have a hard time believing that anyone would build the silly things in the first place. I know there are a few historical examples in history, but they're rare. And since mining is hard, real life examples don't have miles of extraneous corridors and widely spread out rooms, which serve important purposes in a mega-dungeon of making it plausible that the delvers don't fight the entire orc tribe at one time.
So my first problem with creating a megadungeon is coming up with a reason that I can accept for it to exist. And then I remembered that Chicago has been sinking almost since it was founded: the early settlers would periodically reraise the roads and build steps down to their buildings, and then eventually add new levels to the buildings to put them above the roads. There's a similar line about Discworld's Ankh-Morpork, "a fellow with a pick-axe and a good sense of direction could travel anywhere beneath the city by knocking down a few walls." If the mega-dungeon is the ruins of an ancient town that has been sinking into the ground forever, with multiple layers of buildings and roads built up around it, then that's very interesting and plausible for me.
So now I want to flesh out this concept, provide a few more details. Starting at the very bottom, there are some natural caves (I can totally accept natural caves in a mega-dungeon). Maybe a lot of natural caves, or some semi-unnatural caves that people only find by "digging too deep." In order to dig too deep, you've got to dig, so some layers of mines and/or sewers above that; maybe some of the sewers are played out mines. Above that, the original roads and buildings of the city, now buried and having become sub-cellars of the next few rebuildings of the city. I might add a nearby volcano or some other equivalent natural disaster producer, so that the city can have been knocked down or buried a couple of times and rebuilt, radically changing the layout and road plan.
I don't know if I'm going to go any farther in actually fleshing this out. Right now, it's an idea I don't have a huge amount of use for. But it's definitely something to reflect on, should I ever be in a position where I need a mega-dungeon.
Blogger's NoteI posted twice today, so if you're following a direct link from someone's blog-roll, consider reading Daily Posting, Double Posting.
Also, I've expanded on this article with more detail.