5e Mega Dungeon: First session debrief etc

This part 3 or so of my mega dungeon escapades. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is also here. You don’t really need to read them in order, but it might help you know what I am talking about…

So, after I came up with the idea on Saturday, I ran the first session on Tuesday, which is pretty impressive, I think. A lot of that was designing the tables that, while not 100% complete, are 100% reusable. So if I needed to make a new dungeon, I could. But, ideally, “Megadungeon means never having to say ‘Let’s start from Square 1’

Item the First: The players

We had 3 players with us for the first delve. A dwarf Rogue, A Half-elf Druid, and a Gnome wizard. Under the new lighting rules, only the druid should have needed torches, but he had the Darkvision spell, so I didn’t get to see how the light mechanics were working. Sad.

Inventory management worked okay. I think I need to change the vocab just a bit, from the word “Encumbered” to “Lightly Encumbered” so players aren’t as scared of it. It’s just 10ft of movement, nothing big. But my players were a bit afraid of it, when I don’t think they should have been.

Also regarding inventory, I think it is going to make for some interesting decisions in the future. First off, in character creation, I have seen so many rogues who use Str as their dump. That won’t be a thing anymore. Those inventory slots MATTER, especially when thieves tools take a slot, and you have a bow and armor and a rapier. Adds up fast.

And the idea of “Do I want to pack an extra rope or my longbow?” is an interesting one to me.

Of the 3 races, Rock gnome has been the most useful, as the tinker expertise ability whatever was able to unstick a door that would have otherwise been permanently sealed. (Of course, it opened into a hobgoblin ambush, but that’s not the gnome’s fault!)

Of the 3 classes, it’s hard to tell who was… Okay, no, the MVP was the druid. The Darkvision spell, and some serious combat ability was crazy powerful. Wildshape, in addition to making it so you are a literal beast in combat,  all of your inventory gets schlorped into what the animorphs called “Z-space”. As a murdersaurus, you are also no longer encumbered. Have fun.

The other 2 classes held their own, but seriously: Druids, plz nerf.

Backgrounds didn’t really come into play. I just had a brilliant idea with them though, in that they give you a free slot for a specific item. The soldier background, for example, decreases your armour’s slot by 1. Yeah, this is solid. I will have that list ready before the next game. I have most of it scribbled out, but I want to stew over it a bit before I post something. But that will be a change that will help characters immensely.

I can tell that it is going to take a bit of practice before we’re delving dungeons in a careful manner. Not to give the game away, but no one listened at a door to try an gauge what was behind it. Sure, of the 4 doors they opened only one would have a sound, but they could have learned a lot about that room.

Item the Second: The Mechanics

First off, I have to admit, I had one job to do and I botched it. About an hour in, I double checked my notes and realized I had been doing things wrong on my side. There should have been a lot more encounter threat. It was a simple error on my side. The website I used for bits and pieces of my procedure had a paragraph with 2 different styles of hazard and I kind of combined them together in an inefficient mess. So its easy to fix and the next session will be a bit more exciting.

I do wish we had messed around with lighting some more, but whatev. I’ll figure it out eventually.

I figured out what I want to do with Rations at the end of the session and when I post the new rules, it will be in there. Basically, at times, you’ll be required to have a bit of a breather break. Not a Short Rest, but a minor rest required by the dungeon. On those rests, you roll 1d6. If it is a 1, you consume your rations. Simple. And the best part is, if your rations are consumed, you can share with the other party members, but each person snacking will also roll. Sounds odd here, but yeah, that is a system that will be much better in the future as well. (Learning a lot here!)

I need to figure out doors. There is this mechanic that I kinda sorta agree with, but also kinda sorta don’t understand, that if a door is stuck and you fail to force it, it becomes presently stuck. I like that you can’t just keep trying until you succeed, but I’m not sure if players are supposed to know this or not.

I mean, the rogue attempted to force the door with the weakest Str in the party, so it makes sense that he didn’t make it. Having the Str based characters forcing doors does make sense. I don’t know. I think failing to open a door has consequences, what with the clock ticking, as well as the sound aspect, so I don’t know if the door being basically a wall makes sense. (Maybe if a check to force a door is failed, I roll on a table…? that sounds believable for this type of dungeon…)

We had a long debate on what we wanted to use for XP, 3 pillar or standard. We ended up going with 3 pillar, although I may have to tweak it a little bit (as well as write it up in such a way so it is easier for me to count at the end of the night.) A fellow DM I know added a 4th pillar of “Personal goals” which is kind of cool. I need to read more megadungeon play and see if there are more pillars that I can make.

Item the Third: The Dungeon

Boy I learned a lot. First, I learned that trying to search for “Random dungeon” brings up a lot of video game discussion, but very little D&D discussion. (I intend to make a few key-word laden posts once I have my system down, just in case other people are in a similar boat.

Next, I need to spend some time consolidating the tables I was using into a simple document. I spent more time then I should have at the table when I suddenly needed to generate a room I was not expecting the party to get to. All told, I think I had 4 books open on my desk, all open to different pages, one with a few bookmarks. Way too much to reference, so I need to simplify that and make it a lot easier to use on the fly. I should also condense my monster manual to things that will show up, so that will be faster (and not deal more damage to my slowly unbinding book. Lousy 1st printing of 5e!)

In addition to consolidating my tables, I need to make a few more. I need to have something that gives my doors more character than just “Yup. its another wooden door.” things like details on the door, how the door opens, if it creaks, what type of lock, details like that. My rooms need more details too. And while I’ve been pretty sure what my monsters have been doing each encounter, I could use a motivation table added to  my repertoire. I think a few of these tables may be in the books I have, just not in my notes.

Also: my rooms have been pretty empty, in addition to being sparsely details. I think there needs to be more random junk. I should definitely get some graphiti going on. I should make a table for random languages while I’m at it,  (as well as throw words to restrict people from being able to speak rare languages at this level. Find out how that is supposed to work, at least.)

I also need to come up with future puzzles, things the party can’t possibly solve now, but maybe, 5 or six levels from now, or when they have found a clue 2 floors deeper or something, they can go back and find this other thing. Adds to the continuing nature of the megadungeon.

On a more practical side of things, I need to enrich my token library. My “no door” token needs replaced, I should probably see about double doors and I should probably see about making tokens for any of my possible monsters that I don’t have a good one already in R20. various room décor, etc as well.

My process for building the dungeon is almost where I want it. I should have marked what things were unfinished rooms, so that’ll be a small tweak. I think if I build it in roll20 instead of doing it on paper first, it will be not necessarily faster, but less work.

I did end up drawing up a whole floor of this dungeon, but I only stocked one or two iterations out (Yes! I knew I could find the word!) That ended up working mostly well, as I still had some flexibility, but making the actual structure of the dungeon takes a bit of time and thought, so having to go in and out of that as we delved would be a lot of cognitive load. Better to do a decent chunk outside of the game, so players don’t have to see the seams.

Item the Fourth: The Future

So, what do we have in store for our megadungeon? First, I need to poll my players. I’ve decided that when a player successfully returns from the dungeon for the first time, or when they level up upon returning from the dungeon,  they get to effect the town on top. Thorrip or something. I don’t recall now. But at the moment, it is just an inn. Soon, who knows what kind of shops are available to fill up inventory slots. Muhahahah! (PS. The shops may also contain quests.)

I also need to work on some dungeon factions. Hobgoblins showed up, so I think I need to make goblinoids more prevalent. Which may mean I need to rework my encounter tables. Bleh.

The real question is if I want to reroll the encounters , rooms, tec that haven’t been seen yet. Behind the very first door of the dungeon, I figured out an encounter. Should that remain as I have it written? or do I reset my slate and draw again? I’m not sure. I think I only have the one encounter rolled up, so I’ll take a look later.

I’ve set myself a chunk of behind the scenes work, but AFAIK, we’ll be able to have another, even smoother game next week. Thanks for reading.


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