Running a Megadungeon

So, I was inspired about talk of the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons where you have one dungeon that is at least 6 floors, and thought Torchbearer would be a “fun” system to try and do it in.

Skimming through the rules, it seems the game is more geared towards doing multiple smaller dungeons rather than one big dungeon. Seeing as I’m new, I don’t want to hack the game too much, or really at all. Would it be possible to run a megadungeon without too much hacking?

I’m by no means an expert on this, but I would think your main issue would be with the Grind and conditions. Torchbearer forces an attention to food rations and water consumption that I’ve never really paid that much attention to running dungeons in other systems. So I would think the main thing would be either upping the resources that the players encounter during their exploration to replenish their supplies as they go, and/or possibly upping the number of turns for conditions to try and stretch what they have out a little longer.

I’ve been thinking about something similar – and my solution is to basically put a town inside the mega dungeon complex.

Alternate features – a spring with magic condition-clearing water, a mystical tree whose glowing fruit clears exhaustion, etc – might serve a similar purpose, but will probably have unforeseen side effects.


I think it’s possible but you do have to be aware that it’s challenge mode and probably not suited to new players. They’ll be under a lot more pressure to be on top of logistical things like camping frequently, finding and securing a water source, and keeping a map updated so they can get in and out more easily.

I ran a 5 level dungeon with ~ 4, 6, 4, 3, and 1 rooms apiece. It took many sessions, IIRC 8 to complete, and felt 50-100% longer than I wanted. Try running a small dungeon first, then maybe a medium one, just so you have an idea for how much time your players will be spending per significant room and per insignificant room, before constructing a megadungeon.

They were very good about camping after 3 turns whenever possible, had 3 logistics instincts (cook, map, improve campsite), had Magician light, and had hunting grounds outside. So logistics was not an overwhelming problem.

Call me crazy, but megadungeons may only exist to solve a problem TB doesn’t have.

Is that problem “the knowledge that a designed megadungeon exists is hella cool for both GMs and players but usually no designed megadungeon exists”? :smiley: 'cause TB has that problem.

I think with Torchbearer a medium sized dungeon in d&d would actually be a very grindy dungeon in TB so yeah I think TB is designed for smaller dungeons really unfortunately. I think if you wanted to do a big dungeon you would have to lesson the grind a bit, maybe 8 turns instead of 4. But then you would be hacking the camp phase as well(does it completely reset or just half reset?)

The spirit of the megadungeon is easy to obtain in Torchbearer. In fact, it makes small dungeons feel “mega”, as the constant twists and logistical obstacles breathe life into the place.

However, for these same reasons, the scale of a traditional megadungeon is not easily managed in Torchbearer. A medium-sized D&D dungeon can be the basis for an entire campaign in this game. Therefore, a massive D&D dungeon could be the basis for… a lifetime?

There are a lot of misconceptions in the general commmunity of rpgers about how long old school expeditions lasted. Even reading section of the 2e DMG by cook, it is clearly assumed that low level forays into dungeons lasted, in game, often only a handful of turns before the characters high tailed it out. This is explicitly mentioned for low level characters (which TB characters are emulating).

The idea that players characters “lived” in the megadungeon aka “camped in the dungeon” is no where supported in old school play. You do a few rooms and then leave to an outdoor camp or go to town, use your map to pick up where you left off and do a few more rooms. That is until high levels where spells by wizards and clerics allowed for long journeys by creating extra dimensional rest areas or conjuring food and permanent light sources.

Thirdly, the really important thing to account for is that the goal is not gold (as it is in D&D), it is beliefs and that meaningless occurrences are not rolled for. This means that an empty room with 3 copper pieces in it is explained in the narrative but doesn’t need to accounted for with turn tracking and whatnot and that a pile of gold pieces isn’t what the players are seeking, it is a metaphorical pile of gold in the form of an achieved belief.

The greatest threat in a megadungeon was getting lost. It was not noticing a sloping passage taking you from level 1 a room full of balrogs on level 8. It was stepping into a teleporter that moved you to a random (and unmapped!) section. These can be emulated with twists I think. A twist in a megadungeon isn’t always a broken strap or a lost candle, it’s ending up somewhere you can’t find the exit from. It’s starting house of three squires on level one and ending up in the dread crypts of Skogengy in level 3 then trying to find your way back to the exit.

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Actually, it’s gold. Says it on the back of the book.