Tuesday, July 4, 2023

What Is With Me and Megadungeons?

I have mentioned at least twenty times how I want to build a megadungeon for my game world. In reading about published megadungeons, I often find similar problems. They are either repetitive and boring (how many bugbears are we going to kill here?) or they are discordant (oh look, a cool magical trap that has no reason to be here, but at least it's interesting). The real megadungeons of suburban myth are largely that: the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk were never a fully-realized set of detailed maps: they were notebooks of random scrawlings and poorly-conceived maps that were held together with duct tape and chicken wire. I read a little bit about Undermountain, and found analyses that others had done showing how the maps Ed Greenwood originally crafted were almost unusable by others, and how the maps that were released were actually cut and pasted from other maps in other TSR products.

The reviews I've read of some of the most iconic current megadungeons point out how these tend to be large maps with lots of similar, redundant encounters. Open door, kill monsters, repeat. 

I keep coming back to some text I wrote a while back but never did anything with. This is my hook for the megadungeon project 7.324 (or whatever):


“Moridis? Oh yes, dear. She’s an ancient evil. Quite terrible. More tea?” Mrs. Kunnelbreck didn’t wait for an answer, pouring boiling water into your cup for the third time.

Mr. Landiford wasn’t much different, “You might need this.” He offered forth a 10’ pole, “for trap findin’. I hear tell Moridis loves trappin’ all y’all.”

“Moridis is a spider, and her labyrinth is the web,” warned the Lady Eldritch. That wasn’t her real name. Rumor was that she was a Huffenfeffer, but they had disowned her and seemed quite relieved that she had taken on a stage name. 

For his part, Yrzek the High Priest stared into the decanter, “Ah. Moridis is pleased. She awaits your visitation.”


Moridis is an ancient evil of the first world. She was consigned to the depths, trapped and hedged in. She has become one with the stone itself, creating a vast labyrinth that she has filled with treasures and torments beyond measure. Her form is a mortal woman, a dragon, or a voice in shadows. She can be defeated, but will re-emerge within 1d12 days, assuming physical form again. The village ‘worships’ her, offering regular sacrifice. It submits an animal sacrifice once a week (typically a cow) but a human sacrifice once a year (it’s usually some bandit they catch). Other than the occasional human sacrifice and worship of a foul entity of shadow, they are a decent enough folk.


The locals refer to Daggerford as quaint.

Objectively, it is a village that is almost a small town that squats where the midlands break up at the base of the Palisades. Here, the potatoes grow large, the corn grows tall, and people know never to look East. 


The far borders of their village touch the edge of her lands. They have a symbiotic relationship; the town folk get along quite well, and Moridis generally lets them be. Since the primary entrance to her halls is 8 leagues north of the Dwarven fortress of Stonehold, the dwarves have been known to send raiding parties to keep her at bay and recover what wealth they can.   

And, when a new, fresh-faced group of adventurers sets out from the Blind Basilisk along the eastern road, townsfolk meet and cheer, and often exchange bets, as these fools attempt to delve the lair of the mighty Moridis.

Most are never seen again.


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