What is a Mega-dungeon and how is it different than the campaigns I’m used to?

A Mega-dungeon campaign revolves around expeditions into a well-known but very large dungeon complex. Certain elements of play become especially important in this type of game:

  • Adherence to Rules-as-Written (or agreed upon): There is no plot to serve, so the only story is truly what happens to the characters. The dice will fall where they will and arbitrary death will occasionally occur.
  • Attention to Logistics: Equipment, wealth, supplies, time, and position are very important. A successful expedition requires players to make their decisions based on an analysis of these factors.
  • Static Difficulty: The hazards of the dungeon exist independently of the player characters. There is no scaling difficulty. The depth of the dungeon is your only guide to the relative threat you may face.
  • Treasure as Goal: All characters shall be motivated in some degree by the recovery of treasure from the dungeon. Treasure is the currency of the campaign – it allows you to advance in experience, subsist between sessions, develop a retinue, pursue research, and most importantly, mount further expeditions.
  • Dungeon as Mythic Underworld: A Mega-dungeon is a special type of adventure setting. As the central feature of the campaign, the Mega-dungeon is the primary obstacle and antagonist, bent on the destruction of would be explorers. Do not expect a Mega-dungeon to abide by the rules of normal realty!

This style of play might be summarized thus: "an emergent narrative of an adventuring party collectively becoming more powerful and successful over time, losing individual characters but building a group identity and engaging in a cooperative game of world-building and exploration with the DM.”


CotMA: Castle of the Mad Archmage gorzhak