The Megadungeon Purity Test

November 15, 2018
The question “What is a megadungeon?” was asked in Episode 1, and I shared some features that I think are indicative of the classic megadungeon. But even with that definition in hand, some of you might be wondering how does one megadungeon compare to another? Where do we draw the line? As a fun experiment, I propose the Megadungeon Purity Test. In future episodes I will take an in-depth look at published megadungeons, and with this tool I will attempt to rank them. There are 8 categories and each aligns with a feature discussed in Episode 1. A megadungeon in question can earn from 0 to 5 points per category.
  1. How big is it? – The most often discussed feature of a megadungeon is it’s shear size. I will consider page count, numbered encounters, dungeon levels, and how much experience the dungeon can provide when awarding points in this category.
  2. Is it a confined space? – It’s called a dungeon for a reason. This is not a campaign setting or a wilderness hexcrawl.
  3. Is it a Mythic Underworld? – Does the dungeon adhere to the Mythic Underworld concept? Are characters leaving the natural world and traveling into the supernatural? Are the rules of the dungeon different from those in the natural world?
  4. Does it get more dangerous the further down you explore? – Whether a vertical or horizontal dungeon, the further from the entrance(s) you go, the greater the challenges and risks.
  5. Are there multiple avenues for exploration? – Does this dungeon offer freedom to move from level to level and explore as desired rather than follow a set path? How numerous and varied are the connections between levels?
  6. Is the danger omnipresent? – How pervasive is the danger? Are the characters forced to trek back through the dungeon to resupply and rest?
  7. Is this dungeon the focus of a campaign? – Can this dungeon be the focus of an entire campaign? How much experience can be gained through exploration?
  8. Is the dungeon active or static? – Do traps reset, will monsters repopulate cleared areas, or can the dungeon change physically over time? Will  factions fight the characters and each other, gaining and losing territory?
For example, in Episode 1, I mentioned that The Maze of the Blue Medusa was less concerned with increasing difficulty as you descend, whereas Rappan Athuk is designed with that in mind. Perhaps MotBM would get 1 point for that category, and RA would get 5. The original Caverns of Thracia would score fewer points in the size category than Castle Whiterock. I think we’ll find that there is no perfect megadungeon, and some will pull more points than others in different categories. Let me know what you think, and I’ll put this intro practice in the future episodes. -Carl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 comments on “The Megadungeon Purity Test

  1. Barrowmaze

  2. Pete Fenner Dec 12, 2018

    U may be best situated having categories listed alphabetically then scoring each individually rather than presenting an overall total, as you’ve admitted, there are different styles and a particular combination doesn’t necessarily make a better mega dungeon, rather a set of traits that a player/DM might choose to play over another.
    Eg. A-1, B-5, C-4 …….H-3
    This may also reveal any redundancies of perception, or trends where certain traits tend to correlate proportionately or disproportionately.
    I hope that makes sense….?

The Megadungeon © 2018