I've been crunched for time lately, with a journal paper just submitted, a conference presentation to prepare, student homework to grade, and midterms coming up soon. Oh, and then there's being a husband/father! But somehow, I manged to sneak in some time to consider how I'd design a Castlevania style megadungeon while watching the boys play on the playground over the weekend. And it's taken me until Wednesday night to finally blog about it!
Here's what I came up with:
The castle itself will have 12 zones, ranging from around level 3 to level 8 or so. I figure, why bother starting at 1st level for something like this? Get right to the good stuff. But also level 10+ characters really don't have to worry too much about vampires, right? Double energy drain sucks, but with turn undead, fifth level spells, magic items, and lots of hit points, high level characters can manage Dracula easily. So keep it in the sweet spot. Still plenty of room for character progression.
Each zone will of course have a theme. The Great Halls. The Dungeon. The Clock Tower. The Armory. The Long Library. The Catacombs. The Chapel of Lost Souls. All stolen from Castlevania, of course! And each will be around 15 to 20 encounter areas. As mentioned previously, there will be easy access to every zone (relatively so anyway) to be more of a megadungeon and less of a side-scrolling railroad.
Around the castle will be five towns and five small dungeons. I'm still debating whether to use names from Castlevania 2 for the towns (Jova, Aljiba, etc.) or actual Transylvanian town names (Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara, etc.). Whichever way I go, each town will have certain goods and services available, including a small cast of potential hirelings. Each town will also have a random events table to roll on each time the PCs visit (maybe not the "home town" since they will likely go there all the time).
The five small dungeons (or dangerous wilderness areas) will be around 10 encounter areas each, and probably have magical treasures that will be nice to have (but not necessary) in the castle. This will provide possible diversions if the players are getting bored by the castle, but also help get the treasure (XP) needed to level up, since the castle itself will probably not give enough XP for the higher levels, especially if there are a big group of players like my games tend to attract these days.
Additionally, it would be easy to add more small dungeons around the castle if necessary to help boost the PCs up a level if they need it. Or maybe I'll periodically restock lower levels. That's what happens in Castlevania games anyway. Then I won't need to add more maps and keys, just re-key areas that were cleared.