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4/18/2020 10:07 am  #21


Re: Megadungeons?

Castle Xyntillan is superb!

I have yet to delve deep into Arden Vul - the sheer scope of it is stunning, but despite some good effort at trying to make it easier to pick up, it seems a bit too verbose. Plus, like Bryce said, maybe colour-coded maps (to indicate architectural style, maybe) would have helped. And putting more info on the maps (like, surprise, Castle Xyntillan ).

 

4/18/2020 12:58 pm  #22


Re: Megadungeons?

Yeah, with Arden Vul, the extraneous verbosity more than cancels out the efforts to make it (theoretically) easier to run and tie together.  In fact, there are so many places where the author tries to highlight connections that it simply ends up being information overload and utterly defeats the intended purpose.  I'm also not a huge fan of lots of factions.  A couple are fine, but I've never gamed with a group that really got into that aspect of the game.  Even now it's like "give us a clear mission" or "let's wander around and kill things and take their stuff."  Playing various factions off against one another has never been a huge part of my playing or DM style.


"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 2:49 pm  #23


Re: Megadungeons?

Spider of Leng wrote:

  I'm also not a huge fan of lots of factions.  A couple are fine, but I've never gamed with a group that really got into that aspect of the game.

Agreed, I think Barrowmaze and B4 The Lost City are examples of factions done right. Any more than 3 or 4 clearly defined and distinct factions turns into white noise for my players.  

Concerning Castle Xyntillan, I bought it from Melan's website and paid the $25 shipping because it's been unavailable on Exalted Funeral for months AFAIK. Alternatively the pdf is available on Drive Thru RPG for $20 but be advised you get it for free if you buy the hardcopy.

 

4/18/2020 4:09 pm  #24


Re: Megadungeons?

Brock Savage wrote:

Agreed, I think Barrowmaze and B4 The Lost City are examples of factions done right. Any more than 3 or 4 clearly defined and distinct factions turns into white noise for my players.

Concur: I find Barrowmaze to be at the extreme for what I can manage, but I do and it's fun. Anything beyond the three-body problem? Madness...

On a related note of "megadungeons": I ran the old FASA Classic Traveller "Sky Raiders" trilogy, and one part of it involves rolling randomly for "what's next in the exploration of...?" Was my first experience with something like that, but it really was a "random megadungeon, in Space!".


"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
 

5/04/2020 2:08 am  #25


Re: Megadungeons?

Here is my review of Arden Vul:Review of Arden Vul

Among other things, the OSR movement has witnessed the revival of the megadungeon for fantasy gamers.  Indeed, at this point there are far more OSR megadungeons than were actually published for the 1st edition of the game back in the 1970s-80s.  To their credit various authors have tweaked the classic formula in terms of themes, style, and layout to provide varying experiences for gamers.  And it’s true that many of these things are massive and require months or even years of steady play to finish.  Yet there always seems to be an inclination by some to go bigger.  This is where The Halls of Arden Vul comes in.  In many ways this adventure is the War & Peace, or perhaps more appropriately, The Song of Ice & Fire, of megadungeons.  It is ridiculously massive and complicated, with tons of factions, major characters, minor characters, tons of backstory that you may or may not need or care about, and a hefty amount of self-indulgent over-writing that could use a serious amount of editing. 

As they boast in their description of the product, Arden Vul includes:
2,162 Encounter Descriptions
14 NPC Factions
10 Massive Levels
15 Extensive Sub-levels
7 Dangerous Exterior locations
149 New Monsters
332 New Magic Items
69 New Technological Items
44 New Spells
189 New Books through which PCs can gain a deep understanding of the dungeon

So no matter what you think about the quality or organization, that’s a ton of content.  And, you can definitely see that it was a labor of love for the author that clearly took a long time to create.  And, again much like the aforementioned novels, a significant amount of the content is pretty amazing.  There are interesting villains and NPCs, lots of tricks, traps, and puzzles, and plenty to discover.  But as one might expect, it’s all just a bit too much to take in.  There comes a point where there are just too many new monsters, magic items, spells, cultures, etc., and one starts questioning if the effort needed to actually run the adventure is worth the money and time invested.  To the author’s credit, considerable effort is made to guide the DM by indicating points of connectivity, links to other areas, summaries of each level, extensive random encounter tables, and copious background notes.  But that ends up becoming a lot of noise that again hinders more than it helps.  For example, most megadungeons give you a base town, some wilderness areas to explore and a few NPCs and background material.  That usually takes up 20 pages or so, sometimes considerably less.  This beast takes over 100 pages covering such prefatory material and even after reading that you’ll likely be confused about many of the factions and new species because they’re not all clearly described or explained.  To get that information you need to go to volume IV.  And because there are often sub-species or variants, trust me, you’ll be flipping to volume IV a lot, whether in hard copy or on your pdf.

As indicated above, there are a total of 25 levels and sub-levels, and some of these are truly massive, encompassing nearly 200 separate encounter areas.  This does allow for a fair degree of variation in both inhabitants, the physical environment and style of play.  So one could encounter your standard humanoids or undead, or a variety of extra-terrestrial races, some of which possess powerful technology, constructs, fishmen, lizardmen, demons and their cultists, or human cults, among others.  There are lots of opportunities for role-playing and interaction because of the sheer number of factions and sub-factions.  So some players & DM’s may love this aspect.  But again, it’s just a bit too much for my taste.  I’ve never played with a group that was very interested in factional politics in their games and I generally find that having more than 3 factions or so just becomes too much.  Here the factional aspect is “turned up to 11” to paraphrase Spinal Tap.  And you’ll have to keep track of a dizzying array of new cultures and names, with particular architectural styles, etc.  I’ll admit that this gets a bit easier as you read more and more of the adventure, but I could see it being rather difficult to convey all this to the players and get them onboard, unless they have a particular affinity for that style of play.  Moreover, because the various factions and sections of the dungeon are so intertwined, it seems much harder to pull out sections for individual use or shorter campaigns.  It can be done with a bit of work, but this dungeon seems much more tied to this setting than, say Barrowmaze, Stonehell or Rappan Athuk.

And the factions vary widely in how interesting or novel they are.  I particularly liked the demon-worshiping heqeti, which are a type of amphibious humanoid, but really didn’t care for the varumani, for example, which are a sort of alien-derived troll/ogre mix with several sub-species.  In general I'm not big on alien races or extensive Sci-fi elements; just a bit is fine.  Obviously, individuals will vary on new species and monsters in terms of how they might want to use them.  I also found the new demon species quite interesting, though in general many of the new monsters have lots of special abilities, which makes them a bit of a chore to run, since you’ll have to keep looking up what they can do.  Frankly, sometimes less is more.

The biggest challenge is usability.  It’s obviously huge and the simple fact that it stretches over five volumes makes it cumbersome to run.  The maps are gathered in the last volume and volume IV contains all the new monsters, spells, descriptions of books, and world information.  That makes sense, but what this all means is that you’ll generally need at least three of the volumes or pdfs to play since you’ll have the section of the dungeon you’re in (volumes I-III), plus the maps, and the monsters.  As for some of the other issues, as noted above, a major challenge is that the encounter descriptions and background information tends to be way too long, and often repetitive.  Many room descriptions run upwards of 3 whole pages.  And this isn’t just for boss encounters.  Sometimes much of it is simply fluff with a discussion of the previous 3000 year history of a site or individual.  That could have just been in a separate supplement.  And the super long lists of all the spells in every spellbook found in the dungeon take up tons of space for rather minimal gain, since each spellcaster has their memorized spells listed in the lengthy write-ups provided for virtually every NPC, but I suppose players might be plundering these.

The maps, at least in the printed version, are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a published product.  It’s not that they are poorly drawn, but rather not properly cut and formatted.  So rooms get cut off in the middle or bottom of pages, letters identifying sites are cut in half, and there are maps that barely take up half a page yet aren’t even centered. So I’d strongly recommend just going with the pdf maps if you can, because they are easier to read and use.   By comparison, Rappan Athuk is a model of elegant simplicity.  As for the images, they are okay, but not as evocative as say, the images in the various Greg Gillespie megadungeons.  And there aren’t really enough of them.  In many cases there will be several consecutive pages of nothing but text, perhaps broken up by a long table spread out over several pages.  Then you might get a picture of something like a crocodile, or giant crayfish which seems rather pointless since one assumes the typical gamer can easily visualize a crocodile or a crayfish.  There are some pictures of more interesting things, but if you’re going to be fairly limited in your images, the ones you include should be really memorable.  Another minor, but still annoying, problem is that the author does not calculate the experience point values for monsters in the text, despite including the fairly lengthy stat blocks.  It’s not like they were worried about space.  Why not include that?  Certainly it would be more useful than putting (see new monsters) or (see new magic items) after nearly every entry.  Those could have been indicated with an asterisk or something.  So this is one more thing you’ll need to do if you’re running this adventure.

So is it worth buying?  That will depend largely upon your GM style and the predilections of your players.  It is definitely very expensive.  But, if you really want to make this the center of your campaign, even if you played on a weekly basis, this would probably take years to get through.  So if that sounds like what you want, then the price point isn’t quite as crazy.  And that may be the best approach, because it would give the players the best chance for immersing themselves in this world.  While it does get to be overkill, there are elements of Egyptian, Roman, and Byzantine culture in here, as well as science fiction & weird fantasy.  So a lot of itches can be scratched.  A clever DM may find ways to integrate it into their own campaigns.  I’m going to drop it into a fairly open area in my campaign world that was the location of an ancient civilization based on Egyptian & Middle Eastern cultures with a focused mission tied to a broader campaign.   It’s written for OSRIC, so it’s compatible with all the major retroclones as well as 1e and 2e D&D.  So you can certainly plunder it for monsters and magic items as well.In the final assessment, there is lots to like here and the vision of the author is impressive.  But it also feels so personal and tied to the campaign from whence it came, that it becomes a bit of a barrier to play and get invested in.  So I’d personally rate it a step below the other megadungeons I’ve referenced in here in part because I think they’re easier to run and more portable, if that makes any sense in the context of megadungeons.  So consider it recommended with a degree of caution. 

Last edited by Spider of Leng (5/04/2020 2:12 am)


"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
 

5/04/2020 5:45 am  #26


Re: Megadungeons?

Thanks for the extensive review, and since I have run Barrowmaze Complete (I'd say my group are ~1/10th done with it, and enjoying it) the comparison between Arden Vul and BC is useful (for both buyers and creators).


"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
 

5/04/2020 7:52 am  #27


Re: Megadungeons?

Agreed! Thanks man.


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

5/04/2020 8:48 am  #28


Re: Megadungeons?

rhialto wrote:

Thanks for the extensive review, and since I have run Barrowmaze Complete (I'd say my group are ~1/10th done with it, and enjoying it) the comparison between Arden Vul and BC is useful (for both buyers and creators).

So far we've done a lot of Barrowmaze (but they pulled out after losing nearly half the party over 8 sessions or so), and a bit of Gillespie's HighFell megadungeon, where they only lost a henchman, and picked up another to replace him.  So Forbidden Caverns of Archaia is next for that group whenever or however we get to play next.  They like a few sessions but then want to try something else and we don't play that much so actually "completing" one of these is a tough challenge. 

I will probably try and run them through the S&W Tegel Manor reboot, which is pretty big, but not quite at the level of these others.  And I have links to all the major megadungeons in my own campaign arc, but that's for really high levels so none of the parties are quite there yet.


"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
 

5/11/2020 10:24 am  #29


Re: Megadungeons?

Been playing Stonehell on Roll20, Having never played it or read it before, we are having an awesome time.


-- 
BlackKnight, AKA Sausage
Been playing Role-Playing Games for 45 years.
 

5/11/2020 11:36 am  #30


Re: Megadungeons?

Spider of Leng wrote:

So far we've done a lot of Barrowmaze (but they pulled out after losing nearly half the party over 8 sessions or so), .

Heh I kicked off my current campaign with Barrowmaze a couple years ago. After 2 sessions, a death, and not much treasure they were like "f*** this" and returned to Khromarium to help some dude with a serious rat problem. 
 

 

5/11/2020 12:46 pm  #31


Re: Megadungeons?

I would very humbly submit that my Crystal Point island in The Lost Treasure of Atlantis can be viewed as megadungeon-esque (mini-mega?), as I incorporated many megadungeon design features in it. The room count's too low to be a true megadungeon of course, but if someone's looking for that feel without the commitment, maybe worth checking out (at mid-levels).


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

5/11/2020 1:22 pm  #32


Re: Megadungeons?

We've had 4 sessions now in StoneHell and havn't gotten to the box canyon yet. Killed a bunch of Orc that were harassing travelers on the trail to the Canyon. Tracked them back to thier home, wiped them out, and took over their cave complex as our headquarters. It's ~3 miles away from the Canyon opening so much nicer trip to get back to support. We "hired" a bunch of NPCs (actually backup characters) that will gain a partial share of any discoveries, and provide support/security and play "next man up" in case of Deaths and training/research time off for the main characters. (all players have 2 characters, main and Secondary).


-- 
BlackKnight, AKA Sausage
Been playing Role-Playing Games for 45 years.
 

5/11/2020 2:37 pm  #33


Re: Megadungeons?

Our group (or at least some of them playing all the PCs) is currently going through Archaia.  They are maybe a bit too powerful for much of it, though the biggest challenges are still coming up.  Once they leave that behind they'll have experienced parts of all three the Gillespie megadungeons.  I'm thinking the Tegel Manor reboot could be next, before they tackle my high level home written campaign finale.


"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
 

5/11/2020 5:08 pm  #34


Re: Megadungeons?

Chainsaw wrote:

I would very humbly submit that my Crystal Point island in The Lost Treasure of Atlantis can be viewed as megadungeon-esque (mini-mega?), as I incorporated many megadungeon design features in it. The room count's too low to be a true megadungeon of course, but if someone's looking for that feel without the commitment, maybe worth checking out (at mid-levels).

Mini-mega? Smells like jumbo shrimp, speaking of crustaceans...


 


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

5/11/2020 5:46 pm  #35


Re: Megadungeons?

Ghul wrote:

Chainsaw wrote:

I would very humbly submit that my Crystal Point island in The Lost Treasure of Atlantis can be viewed as megadungeon-esque (mini-mega?), as I incorporated many megadungeon design features in it. The room count's too low to be a true megadungeon of course, but if someone's looking for that feel without the commitment, maybe worth checking out (at mid-levels).

Mini-mega? Smells like jumbo shrimp, speaking of crustaceans...

If the shells fits...


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

5/11/2020 9:41 pm  #36


Re: Megadungeons?

Foolsgrave or bust!


 
 

5/12/2020 12:44 am  #37


Re: Megadungeons?

Since we're on the megadungeon topic, our Labyrinth Lord party finished their exploration of the Forbidden Caves of Archaia tonight in rather aborted fashion.  After handily wiping out a Neanderthal tribe they were struck by a rockslide and meteor shower in rapid succession.  This killed the party's cleric (who could raise dead) and severely injured several others.  They pushed on anyhow and managed to rescue a dwarf fighter/cleric in the very lair they were exploring.  I had totally forgotten he was in there.  So he joined them.  They staggered back to their base and decided to move on to something else. 

Interestingly (and perhaps annoyingly to the human-centric folks here), their party now has just one human member as they consist of:
Kyung-ri, Half-elf Samurai and party leader
Huang Long, Human Monk of Golden Cloud Temple
Thorkrinn Firebeard, Dwarf Fighter/Thief
Ser 1025, Clockwork Paladin [Joined in HighFell]
Aengus Cloverfield, Gnome Illusionist
Durag Mountainhome, Dwarf Fighter/Cleric [Joined in Archaia]

All told, they lost 3 party members in Barrowmaze, 1 in HighFell, and 1 in Archaia

For what it's worth the AS&SH party was unscathed until losing two members in Beneath the Comet.  Haven't decided which AS&SH module from the new ones they'll try next or if they'll look for help as they now have no healing PC and only one spellcaster, a pyromancer.


"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
 

5/12/2020 10:02 am  #38


Re: Megadungeons?

Spider of Leng wrote:

For what it's worth the AS&SH party was unscathed until losing two members in Beneath the Comet.  Haven't decided which AS&SH module from the new ones they'll try next or if they'll look for help as they now have no healing PC and only one spellcaster, a pyromancer.

The way I look at it, they're not trying to form a super hero team like The Avengers, selecting members based on their abilities and proclivities; rather, they are more like wandering mercenary adventurers, joining up with others of similar bent for adventure, glory, derring-do, and the acquisition of gold and treasure. No one is turning away Corc, the Keltic barbarian, just because there are three warriors already in the group. Let the cards fall as they will, and just roll with it, is my opinion.  
 


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

5/12/2020 11:05 am  #39


Re: Megadungeons?

Party composition is the first tactical choice, and one whose import shouldn't be underestimated

(Of course, there's nothing wrong with everyone just rolling up random characters or everyone playing the class they prefer, but the game certainly rewards certain compositions through increased survival rate.)

 

5/12/2020 11:46 am  #40


Re: Megadungeons?

The way I look at it, they're not trying to form a super hero team like The Avengers, selecting members based on their abilities and proclivities; rather, they are more like wandering mercenary adventurers, joining up with others of similar bent for adventure, glory, derring-do, and the acquisition of gold and treasure. No one is turning away Corc, the Keltic barbarian, just because there are three warriors already in the group. Let the cards fall as they will, and just roll with it, is my opinion.  --Ghul's quote


That's kind of how both groups have been doing it, especially in the Labyrinth Lord game.  They've lost members, picked up members and henchmen, lost henchmen to death or retirement, etc.  But it's been very organic.  And there's something fun about playing without the standard balanced party.  Not having an offensive-oriented mage or healing machine changes the dynamic quite a bit as players must get more creative.  The one group has had particular fun with the gnome illusionist's wand of wonder.  Do you get the fireball or stream of butterflies?  Roll and see, baby....
 


"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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