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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    It's fun wandering around a complex of tunnels, filled with monsters and treasure. But here is a question I would like answered: Why is there such a place?


    Below are my thoughts on the problems that get in the way of having mega dungeons. I have some ideas for how to settle these, but I'd like to hear your explanations and theories.

    Place
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    Natural tunnels. Natural tunnels have little in the way of life or predators, especially lower down. Natural tunnels also occur in places without valuable minerals to make for a source of treasure. They also tend to be really dangerous not form monsters, but from falls, drowning, spikes, and getting lost--spelunkers have a tough time.

    Man made tunnels. They are fairly direct in their construction, without a lot of diverging paths. Underground fortifications also tend to be very narrow and short-ceilinged.


    Mines will branch out somewhat as they follow the minerals--maybe if you had mineral deposits which were in a complex pattern, necessitating the miners to make a really weird mine?

    Underground cities are a possibility. Many rooms and pathways to explore with multiple levels. Need to get the monsters and treasure (and a reason why it isn't populated, or why the treasure isn't taken).


    Monsters
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    The types of monsters associated with dungeons are:

    Intelligent. Goblins, dwarves, orcs, kobolds, bandits, etc.. Sentient groups who take up residence in the dungeon. They need a reason for staying there, and not somewhere else. You don't want them too organized if you're going to fight them.

    They could be outlaws hiding out (bandits, terrorists, rebels, cultists, etc.). They might just be living underground (goblins, dwarves, people who just find it convenient).


    Beasts. Slimes, giant worms, whatever. Underground predators.

    Many predators will make their home in dens, but these aren't far underground. They're always close to the surface, so they have some light, and so that it isn't awkward to go out to the surface to hunt. They need a reason to live and hunt underground, like a subterranean ecosystem.

    They also need to be able to survive in their underground habitat (natural caves are treacherous, and would kill many predators), and be suited for it in such a way that they aren't better off going up to the surface.


    Restless dead. Tombs are underground. This makes the bodies of the dead a prime candidate for underground creatures, if you can justify a suitable number of bodies and means of providing undeath. The undead don't need to eat (usually), can wait in place for ages, and are resilient to the perrils of a natural cave (supposedly).

    The undead are also dumb (usually), so you don't need to worry about them being too organized for dungeon tactics to work.


    Demons and abominations. If Diablo is being resurrected on the bottom floor, you're likely to see some evils from another world turning up. They'd got the advantages of the undead (usually), except for being smart (usually). This requires reasons for them to not make an organized resistance--usually it's that they have too little cohesion to organize themselves.



    Treasure
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    Pillaged loot. If there are bandits in the dungeon who are raiding places then bringing the loot back to their dungeon lair, you get some treasure.

    Like predators, raiders don't live deep underground. If they are raiding dwarf settlements, then they would have a reason to live deeper.


    Mining. If people are mining minerals, that's a source of loot. Mining is hard work, so you can't really expect to just take up a pickaxe and snatch the loot yourself (unless it is an extremely rich vein). So you'd be taking the processes minerals.

    Minerals don't really occur near natural caves. And an abandoned/unoccupied mine indicates that it has run dry.


    Bounty. You can get treasure in the form of bounties on creatures, persons, or things. This could be that a rare monster's hair is useful for something so you take back its pelt, or it could be that the town is paying for bandit scalps because they're sick of bandits.

    It requires there to be a reason for the bounty, and a nearby economy willing to pay you for the job. The economy has to not be willing/able to sort out the dungeon themselves by sending in an army. It has to be solving its problem for whatever reason with crazy mercs like yourself.
    Last edited by Mr. Mask; 2014-02-26 at 08:20 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Sith_Happens's Avatar

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    In the case of Undermountain at least, the answer to "Why is it there?" is "Because Halaster was off his rocker."
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Dreams in the Lich House has three awesome megadungeon projects going on: Skull Mountain is a megadungeon built by Hades, who lures heroes to their deaths with the promise of gold because he likes drinking from the skulls of dead heroes; Vaults of Xibalba is basically an underworld filled with gold; Harrow Home Manor is an ancient manorhouse in England, under which sorcerers and cultists have delved and created vaults and tunnels, possibly in the search of... something.

    Fun fact: Harrow Home Manor is basically a Ravenloft megadungeon, which is probably the one setting you'd think wouldn't work for megadungeons - but it does!

    I personally love the Underworld approach. I've got a few ideas I've been working on:
    - An Ancient Mesopotamian setting, where the megadungeon is the Underworld of Irkalla, entered through the holy Apsu Waters in E-en-gur-a, the House of Subterranean Waters, a temple in the city of Eridu.
    - The vaults and dungeons beneath a cathedral that turn into the upper reaches of an infernal Underworld as you go deep enough.
    - Under-Tyr, the tunnels and buried city streets of thousands of years of urban development, all built over the sleeping machinery of the Ancients; connected to the great Ziggurat of Kalak, filled with magic, treasures, traps, and monsters.
    - The Undermountain, delved from ancient Dwarven halls by Halaster the Mad Mage over centuries; the upper reaches used as a dumping-ground for undesirables by the rulers of the city, but also used as a gathering-ground by cultists and thieves who know its secrets. (I'm using the original published boxed set as a base for a re-imagining.)

    I think megadungeons belong just about everywhere in D&D. Even Dragonlance has Thorbardin and buried cities like Xak Tsaroth and Pax Tharkas. Planescape and Spelljammer megadungeons would take a bit more creativity, but I can immediately think of one idea for each: a planar dungeon version of Sigil (the Dungeon of Doors?) and "that's no moon - that's a dungeon!"

    I haven't come up with a megadungeon for my 1001 Nights setting concept yet; obviously, it would have to be djinn-built... probably some kind of awesome palace. Maybe an ancient ruined city from an ancient civilization (Mesopotamian-style, with a ziggurat), concealing deep and dark secrets. Sword & Sorcery's excellent Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia presents the Ziggurat of the Ghoul Queen, which could easily be converted or adapted... and it's got absolutely wonderful Lovecraftian flavor.

    Speaking of Lovecraftian, the cyclopean ruins of ancient inhuman creatures make great megadungeons in general: R'lyeh, Irem, Pnakotus... Call of Cthulhu books present complex underworlds that could make for great Journey to the Center of the Earth... With Cthulhu! -type campaign backdrops. Not coincidentally, Dreams in the Lich House has a "Black City" campaign, in which vikings have established a town on an arctic island to explore a buried black city built by inhuman creatures in ancient times, very much similar to the Antarctic city of At the Mountains of Madness.

    Such Lovecraftian megadungeons also fit perfectly into the Hyborian Age of Conan, and similar but more traditionally fantastic cities would work great in Stormbringer/Elric!.

    Edit:

    Also, Middle-earth Megadungeons! Moria is obvious, but the "roots of the mountains" where nameless things gnaw (canon from LotR by way of Gandalf!) are an inspiring idea, and then there's the real megadungeon: the ruins of Utumno and Angband in the far north, ruined by the Host of the Valar, collapsed on themselves (under the ruin of Ancalagon the Black)... but no doubt many deep vaults and tunnels still survive, and connect into the deep tunnels of the earth that run even under the Misty Mountains.

    Still inhabited by orcs, trolls, and far worse things, these dungeons are where the Balrog, Durin's Doom, lurked and hid for thousands of years before the dwarves of Moria broke into the tunnels of the deep earth.

    The dungeons are filled with gold and treasures collected by Morgoth in his might, because Morgoth was inclined to place his power in objects and creations; and in gold the taint of Morgoth, mordo, was strongest; for Morgoth's "ring" was the entirety of Middle-earth. This taint is why the greed for gold leads to corruption and ruin.
    Last edited by Rhynn; 2014-02-26 at 09:01 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Undead are an option. Underground cities is a very good option. Take a place like Ubar for example. The entire city was swallowed by a sinkhole. Most people most likely died instantly. Mix in some magic and superstition and you have some very good reasons for a gigantic underground dungeon filled with undead and restless spirits. And the treasure still being there? Well the place was only recently rediscovered of course, or people have known about it for a while, just no one who's tried to explore it has come back.

    Also don't forget about lower ranked predators. You know the ones who prey on others, but are also preyed upon by bigger, nastier things. They'd have plenty of reasons to retreat deeper into caverns and tunnels if it means they're less likely to be killed by whatever preys on them.

    But overall I do agree, they're hard to justify, at least the underground type. Now massive, long lost ruins of ancient civilizations? Those are slightly more believable, but overall I've honestly not ran into that many massive dungeons in the years I've played.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Read up on Castle of the Mad Archmage and Stonehell. Both are fantastic megadungeons and have great reasons for being.

    Really, to have a sensible type of megadungeon, you just have to have the seed of an idea of why something would be there, and then just grow it. Perhaps it used to be a huge military complex that housed thousands of soldiers and research mages manufacturing potions and magic weapons for use in fighting a war against evil outsiders invading the prime material world. A bastion of civilization and life against the outer darkness.
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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    What you really just need is a form of energy (light/heat/negative energy) and low-tier things that feed on that (algae, plants, moss), this will support any foodchain (and therefore dungeon) you want (up to underground nations)!

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Depending on the mine, "branching out a little" is a vast understantement.

    Here in Sweden we have the biggest underground mine in the world, which total length of all it's meandering tunnels and shafts are bigger than the total length of all streets on Manhattan.

    That said I once saw a drawing of a concept dungeon that worked just like a standard D&D dungeon, except with the maintenance tunnels on either side of the main tunnels were drawn in. You know the ones where the monsters actually live, use to change torches, reset traps and actually eat and sleep.

    Anyway, underground eco systems are not weirder than "overground" or underwater ones. It's just a matter of matter. I think it's more a matter of asking "what has moved in here, and does the tunnels end or open up to say an underground river or something?"
    To me, whatever it has been before, should end up as one of three arcetypical dungeons to work:

    Tomb. Probably was a tomb to begin with as well. Main monsters are rats, bats and undead. Traps are likely to protect the funeral sites.

    Goblin (or any other similar) home. A tunnel system has been taken over (mine, natural cave, whathaveyou) by intelligent beings making a home there.
    Monsters would be the residents, their pets, spells. Not much traps at all.

    BBE home. AKa Dragon's Lair. Instead of goblins moving in, a Dragon or similar creature has made the tunnel it's home. Monsters would include anything that can live on the leftovers from meals or of the droppings of the monster, offspring and maybe something else. Traps unlikely unless leftover from before reuse by the monster.
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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Brother Oni's Avatar

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Taking a page out of Earthdawn, they expected a magical apocalypse to occur, thus they built kaers, or underground cities, to hide and shelter the population.

    Over the long years of the Scourge, some kaers' defences failed, either due to flaws in construction (e.g. insufficient resources to sustain the population) or to external interference (e.g. mind influencing effects from the monsters scratching at the walls trying to get in) and the inhabitants all died.

    After the Scourge ended, the populations of surviving kaers came out and started to rebuild, stumbling across these abandoned kaers which could be uninhabited, re-inhabited by mutated creatures, or still occupied by their undead former inhabitants.

    The failed kaers could have been expanded by their undead populations at the whim of their Horror masters, for much the same reasons as Halaster's Undermountain - because the critter with the alien psyche wanted to.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Well, there's no reasons for the existence of a megadungeon, just rationalizations. The *reason* to have a megadungeon is "it's fun".

    I think the two best rationalizations for its existence are "a wizard did it" and the "underworld", especially if you're truly going for a *mega*dungeon.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Don't forget the idea of a city silted over or sunk into the ground due to some natural calamity or another. As time moves on people will tunnel down into the area looking for treasure, animals will begin to lair there, more animals will come to hunt the ones living there. Areas would be taken over by either humans or some monstrous race. Think of the salt mines near Wieliczka, Krakow that are over eight hundred years old and places people have not visited in hundreds of years. Or the big cavern system near Porta Rosa in Slovenia. Then add in the fact D&D has all of the underground races which natively are already living far under the ground. Take a page from Florida and have a few houses fall into a sinkhole created by Derro years ago....

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawgmoah View Post
    Don't forget the idea of a city silted over or sunk into the ground due to some natural calamity or another.
    Welcome to Old New York.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    I assume that there is a vast underground network of inhabited caverns. The most powerful entities have kicked the others out to the extremes, and the midrange ones have kicked the lesser ones out even further, and so on. But the extremes includes going up.

    If miners go far enough down, then they will break into the kobold regions, right above the goblins, who are near the hobgoblins ...

    But there's also a vast area over there held by a necromancer and his undead, and another cave complex filled with dragons, and ...

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    How big does a dungeon need to be mega?

    'Cause based on wandering in Helsinki underground, the reason for some pretty impressive man-made caverns is simply "we needed a place to park all those cars in" followed by "and then we needed the air-conditiniong, plumbing, heating and lighting for those places."

    I could imagine plenty of mega-dungeons simply being the remnants of maintenance infratstructure for cities that had their above-ground portions razed to the ground.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    How big does a dungeon need to be mega?

    'Cause based on wandering in Helsinki underground, the reason for some pretty impressive man-made caverns is simply "we needed a place to park all those cars in" followed by "and then we needed the air-conditiniong, plumbing, heating and lighting for those places."

    I could imagine plenty of mega-dungeons simply being the remnants of maintenance infratstructure for cities that had their above-ground portions razed to the ground.
    Ruby Falls Cavern, in Tennessee, is part of a series of caves and caverns that are estimated to stretch over a 120 kilometers along the mountain chain. The State of Tennessee has over 8,000 known caves and several of the largest caverns known in North America (though the new find down in Mexico is rather staggering in its scope.) This is the sort of system I imagine goblins, trolls, duergar, etc, inhabiting. Perhaps Kish in Iran would be a good model for a dwarven or human city built underground.

    And as pointed out, the manmade subterranean complexes found under a modern city are good examples of mega dungeons; if just for D20 Modern.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    There's another one that we're forgetting, Sewers, for example in Paris there are sewer systems so large that they might qualify as a dungeon in their own right, if there were living things down there.

    Abandoned transportation systems, such as are present in Moscow and other cities in Russia might qualify as well.

    Necropolises could also exist on that scale, Egypt had many (though they were primarily above ground), but a race that venerated earth or stone (such as Dwarves), might be inclined to view those things in a different light, and that could be their monuments.
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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    I could imagine plenty of mega-dungeons simply being the remnants of maintenance infratstructure for cities that had their above-ground portions razed to the ground.
    That's basically my Under-Tyr. One of the main features is an enormous moisture-trapping and water-collection system that spans miles around the city and still feeds some wells in the city itself.

    No parking lots, though...

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    How big does a dungeon need to be mega?
    One million dungeons. Or one thousand kilodungeons, or one trillion microdungeons, or one-thousandth of a gigadungeon.

    EDIT: Unless we're doing it like data sizes, then a megadungeon is 1,048,576 dungeons. More if there's parity dungeons.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 2014-02-27 at 09:04 AM.
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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    How big does a dungeon need to be mega?
    There's three good "definitions" I've read:

    1. A dungeon so big, one party will never explore all of it.
    This is a dungeon of finite size, but so big that they're never going to explore every part of every level and go "okay, we're done." These are publishable.

    2. A dungeon so big, the GM will never finish it.
    This is a dungeon of theoretically infinite or finite size, but in either way so big that the GM will never finish it; either because he never needs to, or because it's so expandable he can keep adding new levels and sub-levels to it. These are not publishable.

    3. A dungeon so big, it can serve as the setting (or centerpiece) for campaigns.
    This sort of subsumes the two above - but they're not mutually exclusive definitions, anyway. Basically, if the dungeon is so large that you can run entire campaigns of indefinite length that revolve around it (where the PCs return there time after time, even if they do other stuff in between, adventuring elsewhere, in other dungeons, etc.), it's a megadungeon.

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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Here is one:

    You have a bunch of golems or some similar mindless construct.
    You order them to start building a dungeon for some purpose or another.
    You die and people forget to (or how to) stop them.
    Thousands of years later they are still at it; digging the largest dungeon in all of creations.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Blightedmarsh View Post
    Here is one:

    You have a bunch of golems or some similar mindless construct.
    You order them to start building a dungeon for some purpose or another.
    You die and people forget to (or how to) stop them.
    Thousands of years later they are still at it; digging the largest dungeon in all of creations.
    One day, they dig too deep, releasing an horrible plague upon mankind.

    A great horde of Justin Beiber fans erupts from the dungeon, laying waste to the countryside. The PC's must enter the dungeon at the risk of their own lives and sanity and plug the hole into that terrible hell from whence these monsters have sprung.
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Im currently running a campaing set in a mega-dungeon - a giant, jungle filled crater concealing ruins, monsters, natural features and other dangers.

    Its got the feel of one giant area, with a handful of tiny towns on the periphery. I think it qualifies as a mega-dungeon - it is isolated, risky to get about in, and only a few entrance/exits. There are a few plot threads running through it, but essentially its a giant sandbox of features with some radndom encoutner tables.

    The crater was once a mountain with a giant wizards tower in the centre. But during a magical war, an apocalypse-scale spell hit the tower and BOOM. Giant crater.
    Over the millenia the jungle has reclaimed it, but theres enough malicious magic lingering to create plenty of hazards beyond the natural ones.

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    BlueWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    I think Dwarf Fortress succession games give one good reason: A long series of egotistical autocrats, each desiring to leave a mark on their city through megaprodjects, but whose rules are too short to complete them for any number of reasons. Of course, somewhere down the line, someone forgets what X was originally for, and they incorporate it into their pet project...

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Speaking of dungeons being used as a campaign setting, there's a number of anime and JRPGs that use a massive tower as a dungeon substitute.

    The Tower of Druaga has a town that's built up around the base of this massive dungeon like tower and the economy is mostly based off the loot that adventurers bring out of the tower. There's also a military outpost with an attached settlement halfway up the tower as a safe refuge for tower climbers.

    Azure Dreams is an old PS1 game with a similar setup, except that the adventurers capture and train monsters from the tower ala Pokemon.
    The rest of the game is essentially a roguelike with dating sim and town improvement elements (it is a Japanese game with all the oddity that involves ).

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Old sewers ARE large. Both Paris and London has sewers of the kind TVtropes mocks, the tunnels are big enough to walk in.

    Paris ALSO have catacombs and other tunnels and they are all linked together.
    Seriously Paris IS a mega-dungeons already. There are people disappearing in those right now, as we speak, and they are not fully mapped out even by the city.
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Feddlefew View Post
    I think Dwarf Fortress succession games give one good reason: A long series of egotistical autocrats, each desiring to leave a mark on their city through megaprodjects, but whose rules are too short to complete them for any number of reasons. Of course, somewhere down the line, someone forgets what X was originally for, and they incorporate it into their pet project...
    Pretty much. You could easily take any 1 dwarf fortress succession game and make it a mega-dungeon.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    2. A dungeon so big, the GM will never finish it.
    This is a dungeon of theoretically infinite or finite size, but in either way so big that the GM will never finish it; either because he never needs to, or because it's so expandable he can keep adding new levels and sub-levels to it. These are not publishable.
    I disagree on the "not publishable" part. A good set of random generation charts should allow for a virtually infinite play. Granted, it's much more laborous on paper than on computer, but it's possible. (As far as computer games go, many roguelikes, notably Moria and Angband do this. Each level is randomly generated or regenerated upon visit, so for all practical purposes the dungeons are limitless and perpetually unfinished.)
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    I disagree on the "not publishable" part. A good set of random generation charts should allow for a virtually infinite play. Granted, it's much more laborous on paper than on computer, but it's possible. (As far as computer games go, many roguelikes, notably Moria and Angband do this. Each level is randomly generated or regenerated upon visit, so for all practical purposes the dungeons are limitless and perpetually unfinished.)
    Agreed with you sir..


  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Mar 2013

    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Sewers is a good point. They don't tend to be extremely deep, but no one said dungeons had to be deep. Lack of depth also makes it suitable for predators, raiders and the like.

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    SiuiS's Avatar

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    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    The Megadungeon, a true dungeon, is a manifestation of the Underworld. In places where chaos and entropy pool, the world skins breach, and the physical reality warps. Labyrinthine tunnels of indeterminant age coil about rooms of treasures stolen by shadows and horaded by darkness. Underworld things begin to claw their way through the tattered skein into the Real, at the upper levels; trolls, aberrations and even fiends finding metaphysical breaches big enough.

    That's not to say that's the only threat. This low level evilness actually spawns kobolds, turning normal rock face into porous sacks like the back of a Surinam toad, spewing the doggish things into the world to act as janitors, maggots of the twisting ways. Normally innocuous and pervasive fairy life grows mean, bitter and large, becoming gnashed tooth goblins. Hatred and seething anger boils in jungle basins, and collects from precipitation on mountain peaks, forming the orcish hordes. And they all seek to spread their entropy to the world.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Nov 2012

    Default Re: Reasons for the Existence of a Mega Dungeon

    Quote Originally Posted by AMFV View Post
    There's another one that we're forgetting, Sewers, for example in Paris there are sewer systems so large that they might qualify as a dungeon in their own right, if there were living things down there.
    Part 5, Jean Valjean; Book II, The Intestine of the Leviathan, ch.1, The Land Impoverished by the Sea.

    You know something is massive when an entire chapter of one of the great literary works, published in 1862, is entirely dedicated to describing it.
    Quote Originally Posted by JusticeZero View Post
    i'm not going to act like a complete idiot and cripple myself, either, just so that YOU can feel like you are awesomely powerful playing your crossbow barbarian or whatever.

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