Monday, April 25, 2011

U: Undermountain and megadungeons

Some years back I owned the Undermountain boxed set (as well as the second boxed set, but that one sucked so we won't speak of it). It wound up getting sold in a certain situation we shall not talk about and I have a line on acquiring a replacement copy. The thing is, I mostly want it for the reading and the occasional odd inspiration borrowed from a room description, or maybe to crib a cluster of rooms from a section of map to spin my own dungeon from.

I never could -- and still can't -- fathom actually running Undermountain as-is. This has nothing to do with the basic Realmsian nature of the beast (when I had the set I wasn't even touching FR materials in the main; if Undermountain was going anywhere it was, somehow someway, going beneath Sigil), but with the basic nature of the thing.

It's a megadungeon, and I don't do megadungeons.

Not that I have anything against the basic concept, mind you -- sometimes I wonder if I'd had more time as a player and less as the DM, I'd find them more appealing -- but I just don't get megadungeons. They feel like a combination of repetition and randomness that just doesn't appeal to me; I like my killing-and-looting spots to be compact and self-contained, and I don't go for the "bigger is better" route even when I'm not writing microdungeons alllll~ the way at the other end of the scale. Neither does the "mythic underworld"/strange dark limbo-esque concept of a megadungeon fly for me, because I don't fancy the dungeon-as-mythic-underworld trope either.

(why yes, I think those two things likely march hand in glove.)

So when that unspoken time of the weeding of game material hit, Undermountain was on the chopping block. I do miss it, though, because I used to read the big book fairly frequently as game materials go, and if I can replace it I will. Because if there's one thing that it -- and megadungeons in general -- do pull off for me, it's inspiration.


Pontifex said...

I have the old 2nd edition boxed set for Undermountain. It was my first box set ever, so it has a special value to me.

I haven't run it in over a decade though.

Rob of the North said...

Everyone's mileage may vary, but Megadungeons work for me because I find D&D is a game about players making choices. The megadungeon gives them a place they can return to many times and use prior experience to make good decisions. This is why I like urban adventures as well; the persistence of the location allows play to improve over time.

To contrast, I hate smaller dungeons as I feel I'm going in blind to what is a dangerous situation.

Aaron E. Steele said...

It may be the examples of megadungeons that most people are familiar with that are off-putting.

I think you can combine expansiveness with micro-locations into a successful megadungeon.

jkovesi said...

I don't like megadungeons, it is boring. If I were a megadungeonmaker I would design a micro society in underworld instead of random labirynth.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Personally, I think that my style of megadungeon would only work with the right players. I generally run them as A, an inhabited area, controlled by the builders, B, an area taken over by others, not always normally considered "civilized", but probably are, or C, currently ruined, but with a history. More like what you'd use?

taichara said...


Not so much. Both B and C, and to an extent A, can be used to describe Undermountain after all. I don't use megadungeons period.