Making sense of the MegaDungeon chaos

This is sort of a “Part Two” of my new attempt to write up encounters for the Dungeon Under the Mountain, Level One by 0one Games.  Let’s assume that, for a minute, my estimations are correct.  I don’t know how many encounters there really are; as I said last time, I’m guessing 240.  I didn’t just pick that number out of a hat–there are eight pages for the map, and that would mean roughly 30 rooms per page (I’ve counted a few pages and this seems about right). 

Now at first I thought about trying to figure out how the rooms are all laid out and grouped together and shooting for balance in each “bloc” of rooms.  This would be prevent having too many high-level encounters too close together as the PC’s would encounter them.  But then I thought, why am I going to such effort?  This map is totally random, and I’m trying to do this as quickly and easily as possible.  Besides, there’s such thing as too much game balance, in my mind.

So, I’m dividing up the ~240 encounters by page, meaning ~30 per page (see, I told you I had a reason for picking that number!)  For identification purposes, I’m designating the former 5 categories as A (scratches), B, C, D, and E (TPK), and empty being X.   So, on each page I should put the following:

  • 5 empty rooms (X)
  • 15 type A encounters
  • 7 or 8 type B encounters
  • 2 or 3 type C encounters
  • 1 type D encounter
  • and 1 type E encounter on the entire dungeon level

Now I can take each page and designate one room as the “D” room, pick two or three “C” rooms, etc.  

So, for the single “E” room I’m going to pick the large round room on page 2.  It’s one of the biggest rooms in the dungeon and the dias just screams “put something humongous on me!”

The “D” rooms will be as follows:

  • Page 1 (page 5 on the pdf): “Room 31” on the map (the square one with the hemispherical dias)
  • Page 2: “Room 2” with the four pillars
  • Page 3: “Room 5” with the pentagram (naturally)
  • Page 4: “Room 9” again with the pentagram
  • Page 5: The odd-shaped room next to Room 40, with the large pentagram and pillars (I’m sensing a trend here)
  • Page 6: The room next to Room 23, again with pentagram and pillars
  • Page 7: “Room 19” with its 30 pillars!  Although Room 17 looks good too…
  • Page 8: “Room 16” with its six alcoves and statues (I’m already thinking some sort of moving statue monster)

Then, I just pick two or three other likely places for the C encounters and so on.  I go from “most difficult” to “least difficult” because honestly I don’t care how many empty rooms I end up with if it is five or six or seven or two.  I want to make sure I get the challenging encounters in place.

Now the observant amongst you may have noticed that I have yet to talk about a specific game system, or for that matter which edition of D&D or its many OGL-spawned clones I might us to actually get to real numbers.  There’s a reason for this.

In terms of ranging encounters in this fashion, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition should be the obvious and most accessible option given its “Encounter Levels” and its XP-budget style mechanic.  For a party of, say, 2nd level PC’s: A would be EL1; B=EL2; C=EL 3 or 4; D=5 or 6; and E=6+.  Third Edition has a similar mechanism with its own “Encounter Levels” which are more guidelines than the hard-and-fast detail rules of 4th.

And I’m not knocking the mechanism, I think it is boxing clever and is a huge help for DM’s trying to figure out what is an appropriate encounter.  There’s just one problem: I’m creating roughly 200 encounters in this dungeon.  In 4th Edition rules 10 encounters should result in one level increase.  That would mean that, if the PC’s should try to clean out the entire level that they would be level 20 when they were done.  As a side note, if my gaming group played for four hours once a week (ha!), it would take 50 weeks, almost an entire year, for the group to finish the level, assuming the one encounter=one hour of gameplay that the rules suggest.  Of course, by the time they are level ten the A-range encounters would be woefully easy, and the “E” encounters barely a challenge.

Now I’m not saying that I’m going to stat out all eight levels of DUtM, but if I did, I need a system that goes a bit slower when it comes to PC levels, but a bit faster in gameplay.  3rd Edition is right out for me–the crunch level just seems to be a bit overwhelming.  So the top RPG’s to use for this dungeon are Castles & Crusades (i.e. D&D 2nd Ed) or Basic Fantasy RPG (i.e. D&D Basic Ed).  I know there is OSRIC and L&L and those other “retro” D&D clones, but honestly I can’t see the point of getting nostalgic about Armor Classes going down when they get better.

One comment

  1. One common thread amongst the feedback from other forums is that my number of empty rooms is too low. Rather than 1/6th, it should be closer to 1/3, which is fine with me (less work). With the new math, that means that out of 240 rooms there are:
    80 X
    96 A
    40 B
    24 C
    7 D
    1 E

    Or by page:
    10 X
    12 A
    5 B
    1 D or E

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