Saturday, May 28, 2011

Megadungeon Monotony

What are we going to do tonight, Brain?
The same thing we do every night, Pinky...

The same thing we do every night...
I've run a couple of megadungeon campaigns and a few sandboxes.  One thing I've noticed with a pure player-driven exploration game, is that it can become repetitive if you're not careful.  Making clever themes and stories for the levels and sub-levels in the megadungeon only takes you so far; there are more elements to the campaign than exploration and it can require some special effort by the DM when running a megadungeon.

Show of hands, how many folks have run a 6-month megadungeon (or longer) - and how did *you* keep it fresh and interesting?

Here are some of my techniques, would love to hear other observations, so see you in the comments.

Vary up the exploration by providing goals within the megadungeon.  Examples could include seeking a set piece location the group has heard about through rumors (like finding the famous fountain of snakes), or it could be a quest from a patron - the princess was captured by bandits and carried off to level 3, find her for a reward.

NPC Rivals
I like having multiple NPC groups involved and returning to the same town as the PC's.  It creates situations with bragging rights, spying, trying to steal each other's maps, and possibly a team-up.

Campaign Events
Just because the game is focused on a single (extensive) location, there are still things going on in the rest of the world that could draw attention, or give the players a reason to leave and come back.  (I've been putting together a list of campaign events for the Black City that will go up some time soon).

Active Resistance & Restocking
As the group clears areas, make the survivors change their tactics and get ready for fresh incursions.  New traps are set, areas are fortified or vacated, other monsters might start hearing about the PC's and know them by reputation.

Conversely, there should be a good campaign reason why the place is full of monsters in the first place.  Because of that, more should be arriving all the time, and cleared areas will get new inhabitants.