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11/08/2019 9:43 am  #1


Megadungeons?

Which ones are you partial to?

I think the layout and organization of Blue Medusa is awe inspiring, but Alice in Wonderland stuff just leaves me cold. Stonehell is evocative and interesting, but I got tired of the one page dungeon format after a while. Dwimmermount was soured by all of the travails getting the thing published. The Castle of the Mad Archmage is huge and evokes the spirit of Greyhawk, but it ended up leaving me cold. 

Barrowmaze remains my favorite. I love having dungeons filled with the undead. I am also partial to the various follow up Megadungeons that Mr. Gillespie has published.

What megadungeons have you all used?


Thanks,
VR/Scott
 

11/08/2019 2:33 pm  #2


Re: Megadungeons?

I generally stick to my own megadungeon, as developing it is great fun for me, and people seem to like playing in it.

I think it would be tough for me to run someone else's megadungeon, as I see them as a manifestation of the DM's take on D&D, and his/her personal sense of style - a very personal thing, and a bit of a unique experience.  I've perused all of those you mentioned, and based on what I just typed, you are probably not surprised that none inspired me to run them. (Matter of fact, I have an outright dislike for a few of them.)

However....

I picked up the PDF of Gunderhofen when Hawk released it.  Dunno if I'd ever run it, but the more I read of it, the more I like it.  It is certainly one I have considered running.

In addition, I will be running Gabor Lux's Castle Xyntillian at Gary Con, but that's only 3 levels, and doesn't fall into the megadungeon category.

 

11/08/2019 7:22 pm  #3


Re: Megadungeons?

I have been tinkering with mine for years, now. It lies within the confines of Mount Vhuurmithadon, which is all points north in Hyperborea. 


Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Fantasy
 

11/09/2019 4:53 am  #4


Re: Megadungeons?

revshafer wrote:

Barrowmaze remains my favorite. I love having dungeons filled with the undead.

It's the only one I own (Barrowmaze Complete), so also my favorite by default.


"Enough of this intolerable inanity! I propose that such loquacity passes beyond the scope of nuisance and over the verge of turpitude."
Jack Vance, Rhialto the Marvellous
 

11/09/2019 4:03 pm  #5


Re: Megadungeons?

I have Stonehell, Barrowmaze, Archaia, HighFell, Rappan Athuk, Anomalous Sub-surface Environment, and the new Tegel Manor.  All are good, but thus far we've only played Barrowmaze.  It was a lot of fun for awhile, but character deaths and repetitiveness took their toll and the group abandoned it after a few months. 

May still go back, but I've also integrated all of them into my home brew setting, wherein Hyperborea is essentially the North Pole region.  So there are campaign arcs and links that can bring people back into them. And while not technically a megadungeon, Matt Finch's Cyclopean Deeps is an amazing take on the Underdark that could easily be inserted into a campaign as Underborea.  In fact, that's one route of travel from our "regular" setting to Hyperborea.  Likewise, you could easily use Operation Unfathomable (which we have played) in conjunction with AS&SH.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

11/10/2019 4:12 pm  #6


Re: Megadungeons?

I've got the 1e and 2e versions of Undermountain, Tegel Manor (1e), Citadel of Fire, Caverns of Thracia, Badabaskar, 2e Ruins of Greyhawk, Stonehell, and at one time or another had Rappan Athuk, Barrowmaze, Dwimmermount, World's Largest Dungeon, and seemingly a zillion others.

If I were to write one, or run one again, I'd simply pull what I like, thematically, along with things I consider to be the best parts, with my own spin of course, and create something out of that. I don't know there's anything that's out there that aligns with everything I'd want to do, that I can just pull out and go with, as written. 
Except for whatever Ghul writes, of course. https://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/smile.png
 

 

11/10/2019 4:14 pm  #7


Re: Megadungeons?

revshafer wrote:

Which ones are you partial to?

I think the layout and organization of Blue Medusa is awe inspiring, but Alice in Wonderland stuff just leaves me cold. Stonehell is evocative and interesting, but I got tired of the one page dungeon format after a while. Dwimmermount was soured by all of the travails getting the thing published. The Castle of the Mad Archmage is huge and evokes the spirit of Greyhawk, but it ended up leaving me cold. 

Barrowmaze remains my favorite. I love having dungeons filled with the undead. I am also partial to the various follow up Megadungeons that Mr. Gillespie has published.

What megadungeons have you all used?

You might want to consider looking at StoneHell. Michael Curtis did a nice job writing it, and there's lots of undead (it's a former prison). 

 

11/11/2019 1:41 pm  #8


Re: Megadungeons?

I placed Barrowmaze deep in my campaign's Lug Wasteland. I use Operation Unfathomable to represent Underborea around Yithorium. Rappan Athuk is somewhere around that orc city (I forget the name). B4 The Lost City is reskinned as The Lost City of Xuthas in the Diamond Desert. I use other published dungeons of course but those are the big ones I can recall. 

My own megadungeon exists beneath Khromarium, a legacy of the Elder Things who built the city millions of years, influenced by the snake-men, vhuurmi, and Hyperboreans who came later.

Ghul wrote:

I have been tinkering with mine for years, now. It lies within the confines of Mount Vhuurmithadon, which is all points north in Hyperborea. 

I hope that it could be published some day. It doesn't have to be the whole thing (although that would be awesome); I'd be happy with a few levels, ideas for more levels, and some evocative dungeon generator tables so DMs can make it their own.

Last edited by Brock Savage (11/11/2019 1:48 pm)

 

11/13/2019 1:38 am  #9


Re: Megadungeons?

I've run Barrowmaze, Rappan Athuk, and Dwimmermount. Each has their strengths and weaknesses (Barrowmaze has the slickest room descriptions at the cost of sameness; Rappan Athuk is the most wild, but the text is meandering and the editing is bad; Dwimmermount has the most internal consistency, but there's a lot of info that needs to be internalised to make use of that). I've written about my experience about them here: https://ynasmidgard.blogspot.com/2018/06/lessons-learnt-running-megadungeons.html

Based on reading alone, I find Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Castle Xyntillan the most fun (the latter also showcases a great style of presentation). The Darkness Beneath (the serialised megadungeon of Fight On!) is also a pretty good read, but also naturally varying in quality. The upcoming Arden Vul might be the best published megadungeon ever based on the preview material (periodically posted on MeWe) - but the proof of the pudding and all that.

 

11/13/2019 8:10 am  #10


Re: Megadungeons?

Barrowmaze is definitely #1 for me.  Gillespie's next two offerings were sadly just rushed money-grabs, trying to capitalize on the popularity of Barrowmaze.  Stay away.  I also really like The Lost City of Barakus, but not sure if it qualifies based on size as a megadungeon.  ASE 1 is great, ASE 2-3 not-so-much.  Caverns of Thracia and Dark Tower probably also fall into the not-quite-megadungeon status but are also great.  Cyclopean Deeps Vol II is fantastic, but Vol 1 is a bit weaker (both are not really "dungeonesque" either, they're more like D1-3).  The Black Monastery is along the lines of Tegal Manor except less whimsical and attempts to inject a little more horror ambiance (I like it much better, although I haven't seen the new release of Tegal Manor).  I've also never fully understood why The Temple of Elemental Evil doesn't seem to get some consideration as a megadungeon.  It was awe-inspiring when it first released.     

I'll definitely have to check out Castle Xyntillan and look forward to seeing more of Arden Vul as well.  The rest that have been mentioned that I didn't I personally found to be meh. 

Last edited by Derek_the_Hunter (11/13/2019 8:59 am)

 

11/13/2019 9:21 am  #11


Re: Megadungeons?

At the risk of spoiling it, the new Tegel Manor has a whole dungeon complex devoted to a cult of Tsathoggua that is worth buying it alone and is perfect for Hyperborea.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

12/01/2019 4:36 pm  #12


Re: Megadungeons?

revshafer wrote:

Which ones are you partial to?
[snip]
What megadungeons have you all used?

There was some good discussion about the best published mega-dungeons over at TheRPGSite @ https://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?37803-Best-published-megadungeon and this is what I wrote there, with some slight modifications:

grodog wrote:

S'mon wrote:

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?

I think that for me it really varies, based on who I've been playing (or sometimes, working) with.  I've really enjoyed nearly all of the mega-dungeons that I've played in or run*, but I've also generally had the wonderful pleasure of excellent DMs and players, which makes all the difference in the world in terms of the game experience at the table.

Thinking through the mega-dungeons I'm familiar with, some stand outs that still stick with me are:
- best mapping environment to explore:  Castle El Raja Key, Maure Castle, Caverns of Thracia, Foolsgrave
- most-fun encounters:  Castle Greyhawk, Foolsgrave,
- most-fun enigmas/centerpieces:  Castle Greyhawk, Maure Castle, WG5, ASE1/2-3, Undermountain, Rich Frank's mega-dungeon
- coolest and biggest maps:  Castle of the Mad Archmage, The Quilt Map, Undermountain, Vladikavkaz, Arden Vul, Foolsgrave
- pulls it all together fabulously:  Caverns of Thracia, Maure Castle, Tomb of Abysthor, Foolsgrave

In terms of best-published format/presentation for a mega-dungeon, I don't think that we've seen that yet.  Necromancer Games build out a good standard template for dungeon levels between Rappan Athuk and Tomb of Abysthor, and The Grand Temple of Jing attempted to design a new layout format for the mega-dungeon (similar to what Ptolus successfully achieved for the city sourcebook), but neither product quite achieved their overall goal on those fronts, due to other, over-shadowing issues with the products (horrible maps in RA the first go-round, while the KS version of GToJ didn't really pursue the usability goals of the first version of the dungeon).  A well-built layout focused on at-the-table usability, married to a brilliant  book design could really distinguish a future mega-dungeon product, and potentially allow it to leapfrog into the top of the list....

Allan.

* Mega-dungeons I've played in:
- Castle El Raja Key - written and DM'd by Rob Kuntz (pre-published version)
- Caverns of Thracia - written by Jennell Jaquays, DM'd by Jon Hershberger
- Dark Tower - written by Jennell Jaquays, DM'd by Jon Hershberger
- Foolsgrave - written and DM'd by Chainsaw (pre-published version)
- Jakallan Underworld - written by Phil Barker, DM'd by Victor Raymond (pre-published version)
- Thieves Fortress Badabaskor - written by Bob Bledsaw & Mark Summerlott, DM'd by Jon Hershberger

Mega-dungeons I've run:
- Castle Greyhawk/The Lair of Thelmon Onvalth - my own version of Castle Greyhawk (pre-published version)
- Castle Greyhawk - EGG and RJK - Bottle City, EX1-2, WG6, etc., etc.
- Castle El Raja Key/Maure Castle - RJK - WG5, The Statuary, Chambers of Antiquities, Warlock's Walk (co-DM'd with Rob Kuntz at GenCon 2007)
- Mythrus Tower - Matt Finch
- Tomb of Abysthor - Clark Peterson and Bill Webb  
- Undermountain - Ed Greenwood - Box set 1, Dragon articles

Mega-dungeons I've designed, developed, edited, and/or published:
- Castle Greyhawk/The Lair of Thelmon Onvalth - my version of Castle Greyhawk, including my version of The Black Reservoir (based on EGG story vs. RJK level) and The Quilt Map (based on Tony Rosten's map)
- Castle Greyhawk - RJK - Bottle City
- Castle of the Mad Archmage - Joe Bloch
- Maure Castle - RJK - Warlock's Walk
- The Twisting Stair centerfold mega-dungeon - Tony Rosten and Allan Grohe

Mega-dungeons I've read but neither run nor played in:
- Anomalous Subsurface Environment - Patrick Wetmore - Levels 1 and 2-3
- Arden Vul - Rick Barton (pre-published version)
- Barrowmaze - Greg Gillespie (first versions, pre-expansion via Barrowmaze Complete)
- Castle Blackmoor - First Fantasy Campaign and the 3.x version
- Castle Greyhawk - Castle Zagyg, WG7, WGR1, Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, etc., etc.
- Castle Xyntillian - Gabor "Melan" Lux
- The Darkness Beneath - a few levels in Fight On!
- Dwimmermount - James Malizewski
- The Grande Temple of Jing - Danny O'Neill & Diverse Hands
- Mines of Khumar - Stefan Poag
- Palace of the Vampire Queen - Pete & Judy Kerestan
- Rappan Athuk - Clark Peterson & Bill Webb - R1-3, Rappan Athuk boxed set (original)
- Ruins of Kwalishar - Tim Kask (pre-published version)
- Stonehell - Michael Curtis - Vol 1: Down Night-Haunted Halls
- Undermountain - Ed Greenwood & Diverse Hands - Box set 2, the Fireplace level (Dungeon Magazine), a smattering of modules too
- Vladikavkaz - Keith Sloan (pre-published version)

I'm still really looking forward to the final published forms of Arden Vul and Castle Xyntillian, in particular!

Allan.

 

12/02/2019 4:02 pm  #13


Re: Megadungeons?

Spider of Leng wrote:

At the risk of spoiling it, the new Tegel Manor has a whole dungeon complex devoted to a cult of Tsathoggua that is worth buying it alone and is perfect for Hyperborea.

Melan once worked on a revised edition of Tegel Manor that was never published (although parts of the rewrites were repurposed for Castle Xyntillan), and parts of it - specifically the Cloister of the Frog-God - have made it into Rappan Athuk (as level 0B).

 

12/02/2019 9:22 pm  #14


Re: Megadungeons?

Ynas Midgard wrote:

Spider of Leng wrote:

At the risk of spoiling it, the new Tegel Manor has a whole dungeon complex devoted to a cult of Tsathoggua that is worth buying it alone and is perfect for Hyperborea.

Melan once worked on a revised edition of Tegel Manor that was never published (although parts of the rewrites were repurposed for Castle Xyntillan), and parts of it - specifically the Cloister of the Frog-God - have made it into Rappan Athuk (as level 0B).

Turns out it's now for sale. 

http://beyondfomalhaut.blogspot.com/

https://emdt.bigcartel.com/product/castle-xyntillan

 


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

12/04/2019 1:23 am  #15


Re: Megadungeons?

 

4/17/2020 1:27 am  #16


Re: Megadungeons?

Well, I just got my hard copies of Arden Vul a couple days ago.  And mega does not fully encompass it.  5 volumes (including an entire book of maps), over 1000 room descriptions and a whopping $275 for the hardcovers or $109 for the pdf.  Is it worth it?  In my opinion, not so much.

On the positive side, there's a serious weird fiction meets sci-fi vibe, so one could reasonably port it into Hyperborea.  On the negative side, however, is that it is really unwieldy, often awkwardly written, and rather tied to its setting, for which WAY TOO MUCH background is provided.  Where Barrowmaze does all that setting and background in a few pages, as do Gillespie's other dungeons, this beast uses over 100 pages with background material.  Sure there are tables highlighting the (too many) factions and explaining their relationships, but it just gets to be too much.  And there are too many references to the backstory throughout the text.  So then you may need to refer to another book or scroll through multiple pdfs (there's 1 for each volume) to figure out what XX architecture is or whatever.  All the reference stuff is in one volume, which makes some sense but it also means you'll need two or maybe three (maps) volumes at hand every time you play.  Or have all those pdfs opened.  By comparison, Rappan Athuk is a model of elegant simplicity.

And as Bryce Lynch notes in his review, room descriptions are often really long, a half page or more, and filled with extraneous info.  Yet monster stat blocks are terse (no xp values, etc) and new monsters and magic items, of which there are hundreds, are only described in volume 4.  As for the maps, the hard copy maps are among the worst I've ever seen in a published rpg.  They are often cut off in the middle of rooms or levels, with wording similarly broken between pages.  And many don't even fill a page.  It's like they didn't want to format them at all.  So if you do get this, just stick with the free pdf maps, even though those are problematic too.  Some of the levels have over 100 rooms.

It's not all bad.  There are some cool concepts, encounter areas and NPCs.  If you like Egyptian themes and space influences this will likely be of interest.  But in my opinion this is a fair step below the famous OSR megadungeons referenced above, especially in terms of formatting and ease of running at the table.  Hard to imagine running it as written and it's so tied to the overarching setting and themes, it may be a chore to customize or even pull stuff out, unlike, say, anything written by Greg Gillespie.   I will do a full review on DriveThru once I've read it all. 


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

4/17/2020 7:52 am  #17


Re: Megadungeons?

Thanks for sharing, Spider. :-)


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/17/2020 4:52 pm  #18


Re: Megadungeons?

I am happy with my copy of Castle Xyntillan. I rarely purchase print media nowadays but made an exception here. This could easily be reskinned into the last bastion of a fallen Hyperborean family, weakened and not counted among the Great Sixteen.

Thanks for sharing about Adren Vul, Spyder.I was curious as well. 

 

 

4/18/2020 9:13 am  #19


Re: Megadungeons?

As I keep reading Arden Vul I am finding some interesting things and I've already come up with a cool hook for linking it into my next campaign arc, but it is definitely not very user-friendly.  So how much are you willing to spend for content that will require a fair degree of effort to use?  That is the question.

I haven't yet seen Castle Xyntillan, but I've already got so many megadungeons it's hard to justify purchasing yet another.  Maybe after I read Arden Vul...


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

4/18/2020 9:19 am  #20


Re: Megadungeons?

After following Brock's link I discovered that hard copies of Castle Xyntillan are already sold out on the Exalted Funeral website.  At least that has temporarily saved me from another impulse purchase....


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

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