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I've been having gaming/camping weekends with some friends and we've only played Call of Cthulhu so far, using modules. This time I plan on running an OSRIC/1e game, and would like to run the megadungeon I'm working on, but am wondering if it might be better to use some modules, just for the sake of being able to "complete" something.

Has anyone run megadungeon adventures in this kind of setting, or maybe at a convention? How did it go?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

I've run a megadungeon for one-off sessions. Obviously making a megadungeon for just one session like that is a bit of a waste of time, but it can work really well if the players know that you've used or are planning to use the dungeon for other groups. I've had players get really into changing things and leaving little messages for other groups, once they realized that at least some of their changes would "stick."

You do want to create a sense of "completion" to the session, but it's not necessary for the players to be able to explore the entire thing in order to get that sense. I've found that, depending on the players, one-offs in particular work really well if most or all of the party dies at the end, which creates closure pretty neatly. Otherwise, you'll probably want to run it at least as long as it takes for them to decide they've got enough treasure or taken enough damage for one expedition, and return to the surface.

It also helps in a short game if you can give them a bit of a sense of having solved a small mystery about the place. "Figuring the place out" is at the core of a good megadungeon game. In a longer-running campaign it's enough to hint at a mystery that then gets solved several sessions later, but if that group if players isn't likely to return to it again then you don't get much benefit out of handing them a mystery that's completely unsolvable before the end of the session. On the other hand, if you're trying to talk them, or some of them, into returning for a longer campaign, a bit of mystery might be just the thing to convince them.

I also played in a session like the one you're describing at GenCon. (In Castle of the Mad Archcmage, in fact.) The DM wrote a recap of the session up on his blog, which you might find interesting and/or useful.

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If I were going to run a megadungeon at a convention, I would do it over a series of games where there were different opportunities for different parties - similar to the "delves" described by Alex. You might also consider allowing the players to "modify" the megadungeon so that subsequent visits were affected by previous adventures.

Also, you might want to redefine "complete" - make short term goals - "survive 8 hours (real time", "get to 3rd level", etc.

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I think the key to running a megadungeon is to structure it as a series of delves, each one a complete experience. That means you need to provide enough rumors and hints for players to pick something as their goal for the day. If you don't, they will just go and explore, which may not be interesting enough in the long run. Find the chalice of X in the chapel of Y. Rescue person X held captive by the evil dudes on level Y. That kind of thing.

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Ruins of Ramat makes for a nice four hour game. I ran it at two conventions. For a true megadungeon try Stonehell or the Castle of a Mad Archmage by Greyhawk Grognard.

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Hadn't heard of Ruins of Ramat before, I'll check it out. As for the Megadungeon, I have the beginnings of a homebrew one (enough for a weekend, I think), but my concern is more about whether Megadungeons are best left to campaign play, or if they are still enjoyable for a one-shot. – Numenetics Aug 20 '10 at 4:44
we're playing CotMA and it rocks. Especially if an elven or dwarven thief is in the party ;) It's also really hard for non-careful players. But great fun. – Tsojcanth Aug 25 '10 at 17:37

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