Monday, March 9, 2009

The Megadungeon Takes Shape

Things are moving swiftly on my still-nameless megadungeon project. I've been deluged with offers of assistance from many people -- and I apologize to those of you to whom I have yet to respond; I'm really behind on my correspondence this weekend -- and I'm quite grateful for it. I may yet be proven to have bitten off more than I can chew, but, if so, it won't be for lack of help from many quarters. In addition to the offers of assistance, I've received many private messages of encouragement, some from rather unexpected sources, and I can't say how much that cheers me. I'm starting to think I actually can orchestrate this project to good effect and I'll be talking more specifically about my plans shortly.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a preliminary map of the surface ruins of the megadungeon. This gorgeous map was drawn for me by Fr Dave of the fascinating Blood of Prokopius blog. I'm very impressed by it, because it really captures exactly what I wanted for this first "level" of the dungeon, not to mention blowing away my own pathetic cartographic efforts in the original "Ruined Monastery" adventure from Fight On! issue #1. Aside from its attractiveness, the map is superb because it provides lots of possible means to enter the megadungeon complex.

I say "complex," because I envision this place as being a collection of levels, sub-levels, alternate levels, and related underworld environments. Lateral movement and choice of how to approach the megadungeon are important parts of the old school approach to dungeon delving. Castle Greyhawk, for example, had many different ways to enter it; choosing which entrance one used to do so was every bit as important as what one did once inside. It's all part of the strategic element of D&D -- itself a holdover from its wargaming roots -- that I absolutely adore and that makes the megadungeon concept so much fun. This is the kind of thing I intend to talk about as the megadungeon is built piece by piece. I hope that my readers will find it useful to understand the logic behind the decisions I make.

Once again, thanks to Fr Dave for a job extraordinarily well done. This map alone has already kick-started this project in an amazing way.


  1. That is indeed an incredibly gorgeous map. I am extremely impressed! It feels like has exactly the right combination of details and strategic/tactical areas to maintain interest for quite some time.

  2. This is a map both useful and visually appealing. It looks interesting to explore as a player and intriguing to design as a DM :)

  3. Nice map, and a really smart sense of architecture and archaeology: urban fabric falls away, but the thick walls of the temple remain.
    ...even if the church in the monastery is a little too literal/Greek for my tastes, I love the sense of a real place, of compromises made between fortification and habitation. I'm even wondering if it is a real place, lightly modified for the purpose?

  4. Great looking map! I take it the dotted lines represent collapsed walls?
    One of the ideas that appeals to me is the 'mega-dungeon' with a multitude of entrances/exits... are there connections between the hermit caves and the different levels? Tunnels between the catacombs and cellars of the monastery? Etc.
    I also like the concept of the adventure site with several enterances, some of which lead to 'more challenging' locations right off the bat... thus, you can have your 'starter' entrances (leading to the kobold warrens and whatnot) or the 'superdeadly entrance that starts off with a dozen beholders. Just make sure there is a rumor source in town to tell players who are willing to clean the wax out of their ears which entrance they should start with!

  5. Thanks for the kind words. Being a history buff, I always like to give a tip of the hat to real places and history when I design stuff. I tend to collect interesting maps and use bits and pieces of them as inspiration, as I did with this. For those interested, I used Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos as a jumping off point.

  6. Again, tip-top kudos to you, FrDave. I can't think of a better "surface ruin" start to a dungeon that I've ever seen.

  7. I have a suggestion regarding the maps. If they are provided in a vector format (vector pdf is probably the best bet) than they will view, scale and print cleanly regardless of the user's hardware. Creating beautiful bitmap-based maps (like the Dundjinni stuff) is very nice, and they're pretty to look at, but for the GM's purposes most of that decoration is pretty pointless, and they can be a real pain to print if you don't have access to facilities for re-sizing bitmap images.
    Another big advantage of using pdf is that layered maps can be created, and if the map is being used on-screen those layers can be turned on or off to hide or reveal the juicy bits, as required.

  8. I am extremely impressed! It feels like has exactly the right combination of details and strategic/tactical areas to maintain interest for quite some time.

    That's precisely what I love about it.

  9. I've spent a couple of hours this morning translating Fr David's excellent map into a vector-based pdf -- it comes out at all of 31KB and can be printed clean as a whistle at all sizes. I'd have mailed it to you direct, but I couldn't find any contact details. So, here it is; I've stored it on my website at

    It really is a great map; I agree whole-heartedly with you on that.

  10. Peter,

    I've already got a PDF map, which I'll post to the megadungeon website once it gets up and running. Thank you, though, for offering yours. I'm quite gratified by how many people have decided to pitch in on this project.