Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Megadungeons In Four Dimensions


"Dwarves may opt only for the fighting class, and they may never progress beyond 6th level (Myrmidon). Their advantages are: 1) they have a high level of magic resistance, and they thus add four levels when rolling saving throws (a 6th level dwarf equals a 10th level human); 2) they are the only characters able to fully employ the +3 Magic War Hammer (explained in Volume II); 3) they note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls AND NEW CONSTRUCTION (emphasis mine) in underground settings ..."

- 1974 Dungeons & Dragons, Volume I, Men & Magic, page 7

I've been giving a great deal of thought, lately, to the design of a megadungeon. One of the purported features of a megadungeon is that it is a "living" dungeon: it is constantly changing, both in its inhabitants and construction. Adventurers come and go, and as they do, killed monsters are replaced by new ones, and conflict between the denizens continues. In addition, new areas are opened up, either through new construction, magic, or perhaps primal forces at work, warping the environment.


In OD&D, Dwarves have a unique and powerful ability: to detect new construction in underground settings. How far -- through time; the fourth dimension -- does that ability extend? Can dwarves estimate the relative age of the dungeon construction, and techniques employed? One of the beauties of unanswered questions like this, is that most of us felt free to come up with our own answers (god forbid we send that question to Sage Advice).



My interest in the Dwarvish ability to detect new construction is related to my megadungeon musing, since my dungeon design assumes a multi-staired and passaged nexus point, from which the dungeon flows in many different directions. One of the possible clues to the connections between areas is similarities in construction, which should help the players guess who the original designers were, and for what were those areas used. The related difficulty of using this feature, in my megadungeon, is in making it meaningful, recording it in some way on my own map, and providing related visual or descriptive clues to the players.


I have not yet arrived at a satisfactory solution to my mapping problem. Perhaps different wall colors on my map, or modifying the fill behind the walls to signify different construction? However, I am leaning towards using different Hirst Arts floor and wall tiles to signify different construction areas to the players.

5 comments:

Al said...

"New Construction" - Much to ponder here, thanks!

Dyson Logos said...

One of the many things I love about Tony Dowler's solo game "How To Host A Dungeon" is how it does the fourth dimension of dungeon construction for megadungeons in particular.

Sean Robson said...

Which begs the question: will certain areas of the dungeon be barricaded with signs reading "Closed for construction." ;)

And will dwarfs be able to sense construction ahead and so be able to detour and avoid lengthy delays? That's an ability I wish I possessed.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Sean Robson said...
Which begs the question: will certain areas of the dungeon be barricaded with signs reading "Closed for construction." ;)

And will dwarfs be able to sense construction ahead and so be able to detour and avoid lengthy delays? That's an ability I wish I possessed.


LOL! Me too!

Wickedmurph said...

That skill would be notably useful in driving around Calgary. But it might overwhelm the mind of the poor dwarf.