The MegaDungeon to Be Named Later

Welcome to the MegaDungeon design series.  We’re going to walk through the design and stocking of a 10+ level dungeon.  We started with Dyson’s wonderful map (left), and carved out ten levels.  There are a few secret sublevels in there, along with a handful of blank nooks and crannies.

This series isn’t expressly written for beginner DMs.  Most of the basic work of dungeon design and stocking are done without comment.  The tedious brute force dungeon stocking won’t be discussed in a ‘how to’ manner.  Instead, you’ll see the ‘why did’ and ‘so that’, with a sprinkling of game theory and design theory.  At best, you can expect a few nuggets of basic reminders, the sort of thing that ‘everybody knows’, but does so often it gets pushed to the background and not mentioned until it is overlooked – those will be here as a verbal nudge.

In the end, this will be a reasonably fleshed out dungeon, but one that needs a good, experienced DM to really breath some life into it.  It will have full monster rosters and stats, and detailed trap plans and hoards ready for a good plundering. But this dungeon won’t shine unless it is a living, breathing, entity, and no amount of writing can plan for every eventuality.

And that’s the upshot to this series.  As a sketched out big damn dungeon, you’ll have the heavy lifting done for you.  You’ll know that the answer to this riddle is guarded by that monster.  You’ll already know that the characters can’t get through that door without the key hidden in that secret room.  That gives you a lot more time to think about how the bugbears on level 3 will react to the power vacuum created by the players wiping out the cult on level 2.

The figure shown here is a general overview of how each piece of the dungeon fits together.  It also shows where the water and the deep water can be found.  The red circles are the five pools of doom – each one represents a source for the monsters found here in the dungeon.  These can play a key goal in the dungeon – destroy each one to stop the flood of monsters into the surface kingdom – or just as a unifying element of design.  That’s up to you – as it should be.

In future installments, each Level will be presented in blog post as a .pdf document.  The posts themselves will contain design notes, relationships between that level and neighboring levels, and whatever else doesn’t fit onto a one  page document.  The one page is all you need; the blog posts should help, but aren’t necessary when you sit down at the table.