|Two level megadungeon.|
Got a couple months to spare?
There's been a lot of chatter in recent days about the decline of the megadungeon (history repeating itself). If it were the decline of the mega-church, I don't think I'd be writing a post. But it's megadungeon and so here we are.
Perhaps many OSR gamers have their own definitions of what a megadungeon is. Besides being a huge (mega) underworld complex (dungeon) I've recently defined what it is to me:
Megadungeon: A funhouse. A nightmare. A dreamscape. An ever changing endless twisting of tunnels, chambers, caverns and worlds within worlds ruled by all manner of creatures, denizens, cults, sorcerers, races, demons leading deeper beneath the surface or out into cosmic realms or into the depths of a soul or just out into a back alley. In other words anything can happen and real world rules don't apply. When you walk in be prepared for anything. ANYTHING!!
That there pretty much sums up a great campaign - open-ended, anything can happen, constantly changing based on PC interaction. In fact, the campaign itself, with all it's dungeons, forests, cities and towns is a megadungeon.
In recent years there have been a number of 'products' produced, and taken out of mothballs, by many of those faithful OSR enthusiasts that have taken the megadungeon concept to it's full potential; Stonehell, Dwimmermount, Castle of the Mad Archmage, Xlarthen's Tower (direct to pdf), Mines of Kuhnmar(somewhere around there), the Darkness Beneath and others.
We're not schoolkids anymore with hours to kill and days to play. With adult life, most of us are lucky to get a session in once a month. Our group gets a generous two per month and even then it's rare when every player shows up.
So with that in mind, does exploring the same underground complex session after session make for a good campaign?
Since I feel a Megadungeon campaign is interchangable with a general campaign (various dungeons and wilderness settings) yes, it does.
That said, a megadungeon is a lot to explore. If you figure a level is mapped out on a standard piece of graph paper, you've got a ton of square footage of dungeon to explore. With sporadic play that can take months or more just to get through a single level. Even the OSR's one page dungeon format (30 X 30 squares) can and has taken three or more sessions to get through. At our play rate that can be two months or more.
Does that really matter in the scope of a campaign?
No, I don't think so. After all, I run a sandbox and let the players decide where they want to go and what they want to do. If they want to hang out and explore one dungeon until they are satisfied (or killed) so be it. Who am I to say no you can't do that. If they're bored, they'll move on and I'll let them. In fact, Our campaign started around Holmes' sample dungeon which I extended into a megadungeon. I've tried to get the players 'out of town' and explore other areas, which they have, but they've always ended up back where it all started. Zenopus' Tower.
So whether a megadungeon is a multi-level funhouse of doom beneath the surface or the campaign world itself, it's all the same to me. And in that sense, Megadungeons will always be an eternal part of this game.