Example Mini-dungeon Map

February 10, 2015

Following is an example of how I envision doing the “mini-dungeons” in the Metro mega-dungeon.  I’d use the one-page dungeon format for each node in the mega-dungeon, and keep each mini-dungeon to a dozen rooms or less.  That’s about enough territory for one game session, maybe two.


As you can see, each mini-dungeon includes a brief history of the dungeon, a wandering monster table and encounter keys.  There’s enough room leftover to cover any special encounters or rules for the area.

I’ll probably end up tweaking the one-page dungeon format a bit to suit my own purposes, but I’m happy with how the concept turned out.

Btw, incase you’re wondering, I used GridMapper to make the map.  It’s a dead simple little program to use, but that simplicity does have some drawbacks.  The biggest drawback is you can’t key the map; I had to copy the map to Paint to enter the numbered keys.  GridMapper also lacks icons for most dungeon features (such as pit traps), and it cannot draw diagonal lines.

The Black City Mega-dungeon

February 8, 2015

Over at the Dreams in the Lich House blog, there’s a series of posts on another mega-dungeon project that implemented the kind of “nodal” dungeon model that I was talking about in my last post, called the Black City.  The Black City uses the concept on a smaller scale than I’m thinking of, but the theory is the same.  And from the play reports I’ve read, it seems to have worked quite well for their game.

Here’s a look at the map for the first level of the dungeon:

transit schematic

I still fancy the hub-and-spoke layout of the Moscow Metro, so that would most likely serve as my inspiration, though on a significantly reduced scale.  Each ‘node’ on the map would be fairly small, good for 2 to 3 play sessions worth of exploration.

If you like reading play reports, I recommend checking out the Black City.  The reports are well written and interesting (unlike my own), and the setting is just completely kick-ass: Vikings exploring a ruined alien city on a frozen island near the artic circle.  Lots of cool science-fantasy goodness, though not so gonzo like Anomalous Subsurface Environment (not that I have a problem with gonzo, mind you ;) ).


More Thoughts on a Mega-dungeon

February 7, 2015

First off, sorry for the lack of posts lately – real life interferes (not in a bad way, just busy).

I’ve started reading Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky (I’ve also played the video games).  The short version: about 15 years after WW III, survivors live in the increasingly hostile environs of the Moscow Metro.  The stations were once united under a central authority, but are now factionalized and hostile to one another.  They’re slowly loosing their grip on civilization and technology, slipping into barbarism and mysticism, while mutants and other new forms of post-apocalyptic life threaten their very existence.  If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I recommend the book.

So, reading Metro 2033 has got me thinking again on mega-dungeon design.  A few weeks ago I thought about basing such a dungeon on the vast subterranean mega-cities built by the Soviets, designed to withstand direct nuclear attack.  However, after giving it more thought, for a number of reasons I think a Metro-like setting would actually make a better mega-dungeon than a post-apocalyptic bunker-city.

A map of the Moscow Metro

A map of the Moscow Metro

In my mind, the best reason to use a Metro-style layout is the flow-chart representation of the stations and subway lines allows one to compartmentalize the design and construction of the mega-dungeon as a whole.  Instead of writing the dungeon one vast level at a time, each station can serve as a mini-dungeon, connected to the greater whole by the rail lines.  I choose a starting area for the party and then design the closest areas first.  The rest can be filled in as needed, or as time permits.

I’ve also been thinking of late of the idea of setting an entire game inside of a dungeon.  There is no ‘outside’ to return to.  The PC’s home town is actually a refuge inside the dungeon itself.  The Metro concept fits this idea perfectly.  It may still be possible to go outside, but the surface environment would be incredibly dangerous and hostile…perhaps a fitting end-game challenge for experienced characters.

I’ve looked at a number of metro maps.  I found the New York City and Tokyo subway maps to be far to cluttered and complicated to use for a campaign map.  On the other end of the spectrum, the BART map (Bay Area Rapid Transit) was far too simple.  Two viable alternatives are the Washington DC metro map, and the London Underground.  Both are large and complex enough to be interesting, and yet remain manageable.

Still, the Moscow Metro map calls out to me.  Perhaps I’m biased from the book and games, but to me that map seems to have a perfect symmetry, for a mega-dungeon at least.  I can easily imagine each branch line controlled by a different faction: mad scientists on one line, robots on another, morlocks down there, mutant revolutionaries over here, human supremacists against them all.  And lets not forget the Mindflayers…gotta have Mindflayers.  And in the center, something approaching “civilization.”  Again, I’m probably biased by the book, as factionalism in the story is organized along the subway lines as well.

Lest you think this makes for a lot of “railroading” (pun partially intended), the blank spaces between lines are filled with all manner of maintenance tunnels, sewer connections, utility rooms and the endless infrastructure of the under-city.  None of this is shown on public maps, therefore it comprises a vast terra-incognito, home to the encroaching darkness.  And by braving these hazardous nether regions (or risking a trip on the surface), it may be possible to bypass the heavy security at the start of a faction’s line, to hit them in the rear where they may be more vulnerable.  Plus, who knows what unclaimed salvage may exist in the bowels of the metro, where few dare to tread?

A final note on the idea: Metro 2033 is a grim and gritty setting, probably not suitable for a long term campaign.  I’d want to gonzo-up the dungeon a bit, mixing a bit of rayguns and robots in with my swords and sorcery.  So it’d probably be a science-fantasy setting, rather than a straight up post-apocalypse setting.  I’m thinking of using something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Swords and Wizardry, so the game would still be identifiable as D&D (ish).  What’s more, it wouldn’t even have to be an actual metro; it could be anything, any type of ancient, vast subterranean vault constructed to shelter survivors against some long forgotten cataclysm on the surface (instead of nuclear apocalypse, maybe it was the Cthulu-pocalypse?).  In fact, the dots on the map don’t have to be stations; they too can be anything: underground fortresses, temples, battlegrounds, hideouts, slaver bases, mining pits, catacombs and settlements.


PFBB Skald

January 26, 2015

Skald - HakonHere’s the Skald hybrid class conversion for Pathfinder Beginner Box.

Please let me know if you notice any errors or have any questions.  Cheers!

The Montporte Mega-Dungeon

January 22, 2015

I’ve been reading the session reports for Ken “Rusty” H’s Montporte mega-dungeon with interest of late.  Though I’m a fan of ‘old school’ gaming, I’ve never been a huge fan of old school mega-dungeons.  I’ve always imagined them to be rather monotonous slogs through bland dungeon environments, running into random assortments of monsters with little rhyme or reason.  The Montporte dungeon has disabused me of this notion.

This is level 1 after session 5.  C's and D's represent unexplored corridors and doors.

This is level 1 after session 5. C’s and D’s represent unexplored corridors and doors.

I recommend reading the session reports in order, for it will allow you to discover and explore the dungeon through the player’s eyes.  And this, in turn, gives a GM good insight into how you should actually go about designing a mega-dungeon.  I’ve found reading the Monteporte session reports to be a more useful guide on mega-dungeon design than reading a dozen or more ‘how-to’ articles on the subject.  It’s one thing to say your mega-dungeon should have a history, but quite another to see that history unfold as the players discover it.  Likewise with dungeon factions, as the party gradually discovers and interacts with the dungeon’s various factions.

This is level 1 after session 10.  It keeps going!  Btw, each square equals 5 feet.

This is level 1 after session 10. It keeps going! Btw, each square equals 5 feet.

One thing in particular I’ve noticed, is that the Monteporte dungeon doesn’t have all that many small rooms.  Rather than a mind-numbing warren of interconnected 10×10 rooms, we get vast, industrial-sized chambers.  Which perhaps is appropriate considering Monteporte’s staggering scale…it may be more accurate to call it a giga-dungeon.

And level 1 after session 15.  There are at least three more levels.  Montporte dungeon is huge!

And level 1 after session 15. There are at least three more levels. Montporte dungeon is huge!

Needless to say, I’m now excited about running a mega-dungeon campaign of my own.  Though I’m thinking something post-apocalyptic rather than fantasy.  Supposedly the Soviets built a number of self-contained, underground cities in the event of WW3, capable of housing tens of thousands of people.  Sounds like an interesting setting for a post-apoc mega-dungeon.  Guess I’ll just add it to the list of all the other types of games I’d like to run someday. :)


PFBB Shaman

January 12, 2015

Shaman - ShardraHere’s the Shaman class conversion for Pathfinder Beginner Box.  Let me know if you have any questions or notice any errors.  Cheers!

FTL: Faster Than Light

January 8, 2015

ftlgameJust a quick post to highlight a game I recently discovered: FTL.  FTL is a rogue-like game of space exploration.  You start with a basic ship and a small crew, and you’re trying to carry vital information to the Federation fleet, staying one step ahead of the rebel fleet.  As you explore the randomly generated galaxy, you encounter other ships to fight, space spiders, asteroid fields, pirates, rebels, ships in distress, solar flares, plasma storms, nebulas and more.  You’ll acquire resources which you can use to upgrade your ship, hire new crewmembers and install new weapons and ship systems.

In battles you manage power systems, assign crew members to various stations, fight off boarders (or launch boarding actions of your own), repair damage, put out fires, target specific enemy systems and play with fun toys like mind control, teleporters, drones and the like.

For a fairly simple game, you have a lot of options.  If your ship catches fire, you can send crew members to put the fire out, or open the ships doors to vent the oxygen to space.  For that matter, you can suffocate enemy boarders, too.  Want to minimize damage to your ship?  Try targeting enemy weapon controls first.  Does the enemy have a lot of shields?  Try targeting your missiles at their shield control (missiles bypass shields).  Running short of missiles?  Just divert power from your launchers and finish off the enemy with lasers.  It sounds like a complicated game, but the controls are actually fairly intuitive.  You can also pause the action and any time to consider your options and plan accordingly.

As a rogue-like game, there is a high degree of randomness to it, which contributes to the game’s difficulty.  In fact, sometimes it can just seem downright unfair.  And it is a very difficult game, even on easy mode.  I’ve only finished FTL once, on easy; when I tried “normal” difficulty, the game was downright murderous.  So, if you’re not a fan of rogue-like games, FTL probably isn’t for you.

If you’re interested the game is available on Steam (there’s also an Ipad version).  If you’re patient, it frequently goes on sale on Steam (up to 80% off sometimes) so keep your eyes peeled.

PFBB Investigator

December 27, 2014

Investigator - QuinnI hope all of you had a merry Christmas this year.

Here’s the next PF Beginner Box conversion: the Investigator.  Note that the Investigator uses Alchemist formulae, so technically an Alchemist can also use the new formulae presented in the Investigator’s spell list.

In the course of working on the hybrid class conversions, I’ve had occasion to review some of the previous conversions.  I’ve noticed a number of typos, errors and inconsistencies in that document.  So, once I’ve finished with the hybrid conversions, I intend to give the Consolidated Conversion document a second pass to correct those issues.

Happy New Years to you all.  Cheers.

Searchers of the Unknown Library

December 23, 2014

If you’re interested in ultra-minimalist RPGs, you may want to check out the Searchers of the Unknown Library blog.  Nicolas Dessaux wrote the original Searchers of the Unknown, and I think he’s the author of the blog as well.  It features various iterations and expansions for SotU (including a few I’ve written).

So, if you’re looking for a super easy one page RPG to run, you should check it out.   Cheers.

PFBB Hunter

December 18, 2014

Hunter - AdowynAttached is the ACG Hunter class conversion for Pathfinder’s Beginner Box:

PFBB Hunter

As usual, let me know if you have any questions/concerns/suggestions or notice any errors.



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