Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What about the end game?

I was doing a Google search for some online information about cool tricks, traps, and special encounters for my megadungeon. Yeah, I can think up a lot myself, but with the scale of the place, I'm gonna need help if I ever want to get it up and running. And the sites I was looking at yesterday really helped me not only with the ideas presented, but getting me thinking of ways to change or modify what was there.

And while I didn't find what I was looking for, I did find this interesting blog post from about a year and a half ago, about a group's experiences using 3.5 D&D for a campaign centered around several large dungeon complexes.

I'm personally not planning to let my megadungeon get deeper than maybe 10 levels. Because I'm a big fan of the Classic D&D endgame. When you get up to Name Level, it's time to switch gears. Build your castle, manage your domain, and when you do adventure, it's time for the epic world-spanning, world-saving quests, and small, focused dungeons that are meant to be raided and forgotten.

In the blog post I linked to, they seemed to only consider the problems with 3.5, especially with regard to high level play (there are a lot, IME), and with using a megadungeon without fully utilizing rumors and hints about what's in it and why anyone should be exploring it.

Well, rumors I'll save for another day. Actually, I'm pretty sure I blogged about my rumor system back when I first started this blog up, but if so, I may return to that topic soon, as it's been on my mind.

What I really took away from that blog, however, was that they shouldn't have tried to keep up with the dungeon exploration at the stage when they were trying Maure Castle/3E Ravenloft, and instead should have switched to more of a 'game of thrones' type game.


  1. Re: Endgame--

    I always saw that as when the players began to explore the Planes and perhaps, ultimately, even kill a demon lord or a god. Perhaps even become divine beings themselves. Just sitting around carving out a kingdom is cool... but when you can crush an entire army of fiends and change the course of a war in the Lower Planes, that's awesome.

    It also depends on where you consider endgame to begin. Tenth level? Okay. You got time to carve out a kingdom, gain more XP. The wizard can amass a library, become sagely, build amazing works of magic, and open portals to distant dimensions. That's why I loved Planescape. No matter what setting my games started in, they almost always ended up in Planescape if we passed 15th level.

    As for the megadungeon issues with 3rd and 3.5, I think the issues are patently obvious. In 3.0/.5, character creation is very involved and lengthy. You have to have a concept ahead of time. You must consider carefully what feats and skills in which you want to invest. In the end, you've put a lot of creative and imaginative effort--which translates into emotional attachment--into your character.

    Not so with OD&D. You roll up a character and off you go. As you've said to me in conversation, the personality and concept evolves as he/she survives to higher levels. It's not a priori so much as ad hoc character development.

    Hence, it doesn't hurt so much if he/she dies in a stupid silly pit trap right inside the entrance to the Accursed, Tainted Synagogue of Incremental Weevils. Indeed, it turns into a story more like, "Remember when Burdo the Barbarian fell into the pit trap less than TEN SECONDS into the dungeon! That was hilarious!" and less "Dude, remember Mike's game where Stephan the Bladesinger of Hlondeth, with a 20-page backstory and a 5-page character sheet, suddenly fell to his death not five minutes in because of a stupid trap? That sucked."

  2. I don't understand why people think of 9th level as "endgame" when you could go to 14th (and later, 36th) level (and still later, to immortality.) It's definitely a shifting of gears, but I never really thought of it as "the end."

  3. A veteran group of devious players with high-level characters makes the dungeon experience far different than it is for low- to mid-level parties. They have access to divinations, summonings, movement and bypass spells, scrolls, and so many other options that completely change the game. It's not impossible to keep them challenged with dungeons, obviously, but it gets exhausting past a certain point.

  4. @Ryan: I always thought of 9th level as "endgame" since it marks the time in the game where the focus truly shifts from yourself to the world outside of yourself. You don't have three hirelings and a tavern as a base of operations, you have a manor house or castle, 300 peasants, a town guard of 30 people, trade difficulties with the Baron of Karamalos, and an important meeting with the envoy from Gargoria about the price of iron for your knights. Sure, you can become immortal and travel the planes, but it's harder to just up and leave when you're tied down to the world.

  5. Similar to N. Wright, I feel that Name Level shifts things toward the more complicated (no, it doesn't have to, but it should, IMO).

    Whether you dive right into building a dominion, or just decide to put up a little border fort with a few guards, and spend most of your time still adventuring, the game isn't the same.

    Like Scott said, dungeon crawls get a lot easier, or a lot cheesier. Either the party can pretty much go where they want, avoid anything they wish to avoid, and get the gold, or else the whole place turns into an anti-magic deathtrap similar to Tomb of Horrors just to keep the players challenged.

    I prefer high level play to be, as I said, those world spanning quests, or plane hopping like Dave mentioned, or the dedicated kingdom building (or a mix of all three). Sure, there are occasional dungeon adventures to root out some evil force or just to collect some more coin to pay all those hirelings and castle staff, but they aren't the main focus of the game anymore.