Saturday, January 14, 2017

Greyhawk Megadungeon Placement

Back in December I was musing over a poll I ran about favorite megadungeons. The results were skewed I believe, but in the end I surmised a new megadungeon was long overdue for Greyhawk. Then, two things happened in that time period that made this topic very timely, one Wizards announced Tales from the Yawning Portal. Second, Greyhawk Grognard ran a more in depth poll about what we as fans want out of the future of Greyhawk.

When asked what type of products and adventures people wanted, dungeoncrawls or a combination thereof polled near, or at the highest. Face it, that is what Greyhawk is best known for, so why not build on that rather rehash the same 4-5 loved, but tired old ruins? My initial gut reaction for the placement of a new megadungeon was in a forest. However, after doing a quick study of dungeons and ruins in publication, I found that all the major geographic areas were fairly represented after all. For example, the Temple of Elemental Evil could be considered in the forest.

Okay, the second consideration was where on the continent? If we go by Greyhawk Grognard's poll, most people like the Central Flanaess yet as we all know the top three megadungeons are already there (Greyhawk Ruins, Maure Castle, ToEE). Top four if you include White Plume Mountain. That's not to say the other areas of the Flanaess don't have dungeons, but not true megadungeons. The next three highest areas in terms of fan popularity are all "light" on major dungeons merely due to their high populations in my opinion. These are areas with more political and military milieus, but nonetheless cover expansive areas that could host a megadungeon.

The areas that lagged in popularity are more remote areas of the Flanaess, yet they do already have a vast number of large dungeons or ruins, either in publication (such as Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth) or not. This all of course ignores the unknowable abundance of regional Living Greyhawk dungeons that were probably produced for several years; plus the greater weight of Greyhawk history and how to tie a new megadungeon into it. So where to place a new megadungeon, that fans would actually consider using it?

The answer perhaps lies in another section of the GG poll asking what 'other' areas fans would be interested in? The Sea of Dust blows all other Oerth places out of the water. While that makes a ton of sense from a historical standpoint (The Rain of Colorless Fire did indeed create hundreds of ancient buried ruins), what it lacks is a staple of megadungeon and that's the staging area. Once you go to the Sea of Dust that's it, there is no turning back, you're on your own. This is why most of our beloved dungeons are in the central lands. So with that in mind I propose the next best thing, and that is to back it up a bit and place a megadungeon in the Dry Steppes along the mountains. This area is a highly undeveloped yet hospitable region, which is historically ancient like the Sea of Dust, plus it has a suitable staging area for a megadungeon campaign, Ull. Bet you didn't see that coming!

More on this next time.


grodog said...

I've always liked the various "Ruins" locations in the Sea of Dust on the Darlene maps, and assumed that they were merely the ones that were known to date, given their proximity to the edges of the desert and/or their visibility from the mountains.

A mega-dungeon in the Sea of Dust sounds quite intriguing---can't wait to hear more! :D


Mike Bridges said...

Yeah Grodog I was thinking those same ruins, but I actually went with the Dry Steppes cause of there being no local base of civilization to support megadungeon exploration.

enabity said...

All of the Living Greyhawk stuff is designed for 4 hour sessions and game balance to the point of no fun whatsoever. It is also a story on rails, so it is in every way the exact opposite of what classical Greyhawk is.

This post on this blog is the direction the conversation about Greyhawk needs to go in. If work gets done on a megadungeon, my suggestion is that the base version be set in the classical 570-582 era. Then, it might be interesting if it gets some of the later era re-treatment that the official sites have received.

enabity said...


The Sea of Dust is completely doable, but merely requires reliable transport to civilization. There could be a teleportation circle that is uncovered in a distant ruin that leads to the ruin buried in the Sea of Dust. Maybe that more accessible ruin is in Ull, and the teleportation network was part of an ancient trade network.

Mike Bridges said...

Teleportation network is a clever work around! Historically it might not seem proper that the Baklunish and Suloise, who were at war, had a magical means of travel or trade between them. Then again, their civilizations were high-magic enough that I think it does fit nicely.

Michael R said...

Slow steady growth into the Sea of Dust would make or an excellent campaign basis for a group. Building routes through the sea, ways to sustain themselves, and as the party levels so too does their ability to progress.

tom said...

so this is entirely off-topic, but do you know what happened to the archive?

it is missing and it breaks a lot of links on your blog.

enabity said...

I'll admit that adding Ull in there was a shameless attempt at winning approval for the idea. I did not consider that Ull most likely would have been in the Baklunish Empire. There would have to be more story to get around that, which could make it a better story if done right. The most important question might be how much has Ull ever been integrated into Bakluni culture? Maybe it was part of a spy system or part of a plan to invade? One problem would be how powerful the institutional wizards were. They might have noticed such a device being within their domain and being actively used. Maybe it was underground, hidden in a well or crypt?

Mike Bridges said...

tom: Melkot had informed me that my ancient out of date html pages were riddled with malicious code so we shut the comics down. Yeah I don't have time to replace the links/content on Greyhawkery right now, but I'll try to restore the artwork somehow someday.

enabity: I've done extensive work on Ull so I chose it for my own gratification. Now, Ull in ancient times in my opinion is where Oerids and/or humanoids were forced to collect that is before their migrations ahead of the Twin Cats.
Modern Ull is Baklunish culture only bc certain roving horselords drove out and enslaved what Oerids remained. It's presence of those occupied settlements (Kester specifically) which makes Ull the ideal place to undertake any foray into the Dry Steppes or Sea of Dust from that direction. In my mind the megadungeon is in short travel distance from the Kester Escarpment, so yes in ancient Baklun empire territory, perhaps at the edge effect of the legendary Invoked Devastation. More on this in blog!

Michael Gross said...

Heh. Still backreading and I see, "My initial gut reaction for the placement of a new megadungeon was in a forest."

Gotta find my Celadon Forest notes...

Mike Bridges said...

Celadon is actually a good locale. Central yet vast and undeveloped history. Elven or Flan though if I had to guess.

Vernon Vincent said...

While the LG material might be awkward if you attempted a direct conversion, it should be more than doable to take the concepts behind many of the adventure arc, refine them, and repackage them into something usable for a home campaign. You could certainly rip out APL tiers (average party level) that were outside the bell curve of a given character level range.

The LG material is more ripe, in my opinion, for exploit as source material - much like Marklands, Iuz the Evil, and the unreleased Great Kingdom sourcebook. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, would be the fact that each LG region operated independently of each other. So you couldn't really get those great cross-regional arcs (involving, for example, Veluna, Furyondy, and Verbobonc against Iuz) that would have really created some nice synergy. The other drawback, and I say this as someone who authored some LG mods as well as edited them, is the inconsistent quality. Some were based on really good ideas and masterfully executed. Some were based on really good ideas and horribly executed. Some were bad ideas and done badly.

That said - I have idly considered putting together a sourcebook for Verbobonc (the region I administered for about 4 years) that would contain all of our plot arcs, the 'current' state of the land (as of the end of the LG campaign), and the plot hooks that were left or could be developed. It's a crapload of work, however. And life has a way of interfering.

Vernon L. Vincent
Verbobonc Triad (retired, 2004-2008)

NaRong said...

Perhaps next year. Seems I may just get my Disability. ;-0

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