Anyways on to the megadungeon…
Challenges on the Game Front
For nearly a year I’ve been running a Hubris game for my RL group here in Rochester, NY and Barbarians of the Ruined Earth for my online group (many of them I’ve been playing with for about 15 years).
However, challenges are coming up that are causing me to reevaluate the current campaigns and how I run the sessions. My players in both groups, and myself, have busy lives. Jobs, drinking, school, drinking, hiking, drinking, significant others that aren’t gamers, drinking, concerts, and drinking are all reasons that make it a challenge for us to get together.
So needless-to-say that people making the sessions is a challenge. While I don’t hold anyone at fault for not being able to attend, having too few players can be problematic, making fights super hard, etc. but by and large not TOO HORRIBLE.
The issue that I’ve been noticing the most (in both games) with the attendance piece is in the sandbox-style play I’ve been running is the constant hand-waiving away the people who can’t make it, or when they are following a chosen plot hook (i.e., let’s rescue the winged-monkey people of the Shattered Sun from Megarobotron 3000) only to have one (or all) of the original people who decided for that mission to not be present.
I then have to explain the WHOLE plot over again to the new people so there is some understanding as to what is going on… While it’s good to refresh even the regular players, this takes time away from the game.
The constant bouncing of players makes story lines, major plot hooks, etc. extremely difficult to keep consistent or to have any emotional depth.
The other challenge is time; my Rochester group meets once a month. We are supposed to start at 6, but usually don’t start until 6:30pm (and if peeps are really late, 7ish). We finish around 8 to 9 (maybe 9:30), depending on people’s schedules. My online group meets (hopefully) every two weeks and starts at 4 (but we usually don’t get going until 5) and we play until between 8 to 9ish.
So time is really short on both games (again- problems of busy life styles). This makes it difficult for a languid session or two- things need to happen as to maximize our time together.
I’ve noticed that with the length of time between sessions and the roaming rotation of players, it’s hard for them to remember the various NPCs, actions taken in previous sessions, etc. and where to move forward… Then with floundering in trying to figure it out, mixed with short time to play, can equal feeling like not much gets done during a session, etc.
Anyways- this got me thinking about how to handle this for both groups and what can be done… And it hit me… especially since Jeff Rients is running an awesome dungeon dive!
The megadungeon would be an ideal style of play for both my groups. The goals are clear cut, player driven, and easily identifiable. There is still exploration and player agency, and the rotating cast of characters is more easily mitigated in a dungeon with hirelings and etc. Recapping is easier, “You’re still in a dungeon. You remember that torch boy we hired last session…? Yeah he done got eaten… Now we’ve hired two more!” Move on!
The other benefit is I could run Flailsnail games in it as well!
I’ve never run a megadungeon (so I’m excited to learn how to run one and try it out). Barrowmaze comes highly recommended, so I bought it to give it a read through and see what it’s about. As I’ve gotten older my desire to run gonzo/weird fantasy style shit is ever present (hence Hubris, Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, and Death is the New Pink), so I also nabbed Anomalous Subsurface Environment (my copy should arrive in the mail today- very excited to read this one) to draw inspiration from.
I’ve also been scoping the Rusty Battle Axe’s posts (and helpful collection of links) about megadungeons- part 1 here and part 2 here. One post I liked in particular was about building the dungeon as needed. With my busy schedule and constant writing, etc. for DIY RPG Production and RL stuff, this greatly appeals to me.
The Premise and System
My idea is that the dungeon is a living creature (inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy and David Lewis Johnson’s Gathox Vertical Slum). It stretches across multiverses, snatching creatures, people, objects, etc. that come across its every wiggling tendrils. In the center of the maze is a huge city, akin to Vornheim, Gathox, or Sigil. It will be a weird, eccentric place that I can put whatever the hell I want in there (including Dubstep Wizards). Another boon of having a big city is that I can do an urban crawl if the players want a break from the dungeon- so the ability is there.
I plan to kick off the campaign in a similar vein as the Dungeons and Dragons Animated Series with the players taking on four level 0 humans from Earth that are transported to the dungeon. I created a occupation list for it.
Each session will be a romp through the dungeon with roughly a week or so taking place since the last one. All characters will be at full health and ready to go. When we reach the end of our time together we end with the group “just getting back to the city with no trouble.” They’ll get XP, level up if need be, divide treasure, carouse if they so desire, and wrap up. This makes sessions manageable and avoid the aforementioned problems I listed above.
System-wise I’m thinking of mixing a blend of Death is the New Pink/Into the Odd with The Black Hack so that it’s rules-light, quick to roll up a character (oh there will be lots of death) and will allow me to easily roll some flailsnails games.
I’ll post more as I develop everything.