Megadungeon as Campaign World

necromundapic

For the uninitiated, Necromunda is a hive world in the Warhammer 40K universe.  The planet is an industrial wasteland, covered in massive orbit-scraping hive spires.  Beneath these spires is the underhive, vast subterranean complexes, one layer built upon another across 10 millennia, creating what is, for all intents, a mega-dungeon.  Perhaps the most mega of all mega-dungeons.

Apocrypha Necromundus

But it’s more than just a mega-dungeon.  There are entire communities, cities even, within the underhive.  And the populace of the underhive rarely, if ever, has an opportunity to travel above to the upper spire levels.  In other words, it’s a mega-dungeon that people live in, full time.

For some time I’ve been mulling the idea of a mega-dungeon campaign where the mega-dungeon is the entire world.  The PCs never leave the dungeon, though there are sanctuaries, “towns” if you will, within the dungeon where the PCs can find respite, replenish supplies and sell loot.

Necromunda isn’t my only inspiration for this idea.  Originally I had the idea after reading the Metro series by Dmitry Glukhovsky, where the survivors of WWIII live in the metro stations beneath a nuke-blasted Moscow.  The network of stations and subterranean levels below Moscow are themselves a type of mega-dungeon.

1000px-Moscow_metro_ring_railway_map_en_sb_future.svg

I’m thinking such a dungeon would have to be mapped at two scales.  The “big picture” map would be nodal, with points representing various adventure areas with lines, representing tunnels, connecting them (like the metro map above).  Some nodes would be towns, other long-abandoned areas, and others still monster infested.  Each node, or at least the important ones, would then be mapped at traditional 10’/square scale, though they could be limited to a single sheet of graph paper each (or I could use an online dungeon map generator to save time).

So, why does this vast complex exist?  My immediate thought is that it’s essentially a gigantic “vault” designed to preserve tens of thousands of people from some calamity on the surface of the planet.  People have been living below so long that history has morphed into myth and legend.  Conditions have deteriorated, and the population has declined over time, leaving vast empty sections (inhabited by monsters now, of course).  Some sections may have been sealed off for some reason (perhaps to contain a zombie plague outbreak), just waiting for the PCs to rediscover them.  Perhaps entire levels have been forgotten.

The PCs start in one of these sanctuaries, which has probably been their home for their entire lives.  They have a limited knowledge of the surrounding tunnels and nodes, so part of the campaign would involve mapping the dungeon’s nodal network, figuring out where different sanctuaries are, which factions control which areas, where special resources are located, and so on.  And another part of the campaign would be filling in the back story of what happened to the sanctuary, how things deteriorated so badly and, perhaps most importantly, how to leave (or, if it’s even safe to leave yet – “What happened to the all clear signal?”).

Cheers.

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One Response to “Megadungeon as Campaign World”

  1. Randy Andrews Says:

    I’m sensing a bit of Metamorphosis Alpha and MCC inspiration here as well. But I dig it. I’d play in this campaign.

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