Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Megadungeon: Dwimmermount

As I worked on the bits and pieces of my pulp fantasy campaign setting, I realized that I needed a megadungeon of my own. I used to be somewhat contemptuous of the notion that old school fantasy gaming required such a thing, but I've slowly come round to the belief that I was wrong to be so dismissive. I still believe that a campaign that revolves entirely around a single megadungeon is probably going to be too narrowly focused for my idiosyncratic tastes. Yet, I also believe that a megadungeon is an important component in establishing the proper vibe of old school play. Neither Greyhawk nor Blackmoor was solely about delving into the dungeons beneath their eponymous castles, but it's hard to imagine either campaign without the megadungeons from which they derived.

Thus was born Dwimmermount. Once I accepted that I needed a megadungeon, I knew I needed a proper megadungeon, which is to say, one that was a suitable potpourri of danger, discovery, and whimsy. To achieve the right mix, I came up with the idea of a mountain that set atop a node of primal Chaos. When the Eld invaded, the mountain called to them and they responded by establishing a fortress there to plumb the mountain's depths and harness the raw Chaos that seemed to roil up from beneath its roots. Over the centuries they occupied it, the Eld mined deep into the mountain -- and beneath it -- in the process creating many chambers and expanding the natural cave systems of the place.

Later, after the Thulians overthrew the Red Elves, they occupied the fortress, dubbing it Dwimmermount, a pidgin word incorporating the Eldritch word "dwimmer," meaning both "magic" and "chaos." The Thulians continued the work of the Eld, adding to the vast complex within and beneath the mountain, gaining deep insights into the workings of magic -- and being slowly driven mad by the raw Chaos that permeated the place. Some of the Thulians and the servants, like the Eld before them, were forever changed by spending so much time in Dwimmermount, leading them to delve into things that only accelerated these changes, to the detriment of all.

Like the Eld before them, the Thulians fell to their own hubris and Dwimmermount was shunned by most civilized men, who rightly saw it as a lair of madness and corruption. Yet, there are some who brave its dangers nonetheless, seeking out the magic of the Eld and Thulians alike, as well as the treasures they dredged up from the depths. Few who do so who return and fewer still return with their minds and bodies intact.

That's the rough sketch of the thing. The idea is that Dwimmermount isn't an entirely natural place, so I have an excuse for lots of weirdness when I need it. Likewise, it's not completely artificial either. One of the problems I always had with many old school megadungeons is that they're supposed to have been built by some mad wizard or other, but they always came across as simply too loony even for that explanation to work. And because there were (at least) two different groups, with slightly different agendas, who occupied Dwimmermount over the centuries, I have some leeway in varying the look, feel, and contents of the levels and chambers. In short, Dwimmermount is meant to give the illusion of naturalism to what will be a semi-funhouse dungeon (but only semi; I have my limits).

More on this as it gets developed.


  1. Very, very cool. I love the dungeon and I'm a huge fan of the Eld. Awesome work all around. :)

  2. When do I get to plunder this?

  3. When do I get to plunder this?

    Soon, I hope. I need to finish the map and then we need to get together.

  4. I think I've come around to the same conclusion about running a home brew old school sandbox campaign. It really needs a "megadungeon" as a focus.

  5. It's like building a mall without an anchor store.

    It doesn't have to be Macy's, but you need something.

    Love the description. Sounds appropriate for such a thing. I'm shamelessly taking notes for my own eventual megadungeon...

  6. Awesome, can't wait to read more! I think we share a lot of the same campaign sensibilities, and I must say after loosening my grip on the creative process (read: being more willing to dispense with realism), I find it simply more 'fun' to design dungeons.


  7. This is an excellent concept for a megadungeon - infused with chaos roiling up from the depths. Very nice!

  8. Sounds good James, do keep us posted as development proceeds, and play commences!


  9. Sounds post more!

  10. Dwimmermount. Dwimmer...mount?

    "The word is half Greek^H^H^H^H^H German and half Latin. No good will come of it." - with apologies to C.P.Scott

    In all seriousness though, I like the layered background. Looking forward to hearing more.

  11. A suggestion/request; everyone knows dungeons get nastier as you go down, and chaos "bubbles up" - how about mixing this up a bit? The beauty of having an ascent rather than a descent is you can always fall backwards (snakes and ladders style) and there's the possibility of a leap off the top into the sky, rather than a long trudge back up the endless stairway with a groaning sack of red gold. Alternatively there might be a 'heart of chaos,' like the bit of grit at the centre of the pearl.

    Space elves drawn to the mountain is deliciously Migo-esque, though. Bravo.

  12. This is just such an excellent idea. I'll be watching closely to see how it progresses.

  13. I like the advantage of having two fairly different groups having occupied the dungeon for long periods of time, followed by a famous location for a long while. This allows not only for Eld and Thulian influence, but natural caves, raw chaos influence, orcs and goblins, and any number of other creatures and minds could have worked through the dungeons in the meantime. It gives a valid reason for the megadungeon's requisite size.

    Sounds fun. Plus the chaos magic lets the place shift about, I suppose, so that the party can't always return to the same place the same way.

  14. "Dwimmer" is, of course, Old English, but I laughed anyway. :)

  15. so that the party can't always return to the same place the same way.

    Correct. One of the keys to the megadungeon concept is that it's a "living" environment that changes when the PCs aren't there looting it.

  16. the party can't always return to the same place the same way

    dwimmer switch?

    sorry [shields head].


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