Monday, July 28, 2014

Megadungeon Idea - Scripted Changes

This idea is in its infancy.  I haven't playtested it at all.  Hell, I'm just making up the example now.  I had this thought last week on vacation (sitting by the pool has its perks...) but I'm just getting around to writing it up.

The idea is based on the premise that megadungeons should change over time.  The players enter a room, maybe they kill a monster there, take its stuff, etc.  Something should be different the next time.

Coming up with those "differents" is sometimes very hard.  The idea that I had was a kind of flow chart or checklist that DMs could use as the room evolves through the exploration of the megadungeon.  When a "state" is used, you check it off  (maybe date it) and move to the next state next time.

Here's an example (very crude)

[ ] Room has 2 orcs (AC 6, HD 1, HPs 5,4, AT: 1 club, 1d6)  The orcs have 21 sp between them.  There is a crude table, two piles of straw for beds, 2 dirty blankets.
[ ] The room is strangely empty and very, very clean.  Not even any dust.  No furniture.  Nothing.
[ ] A pentagram has been scribed on the floor in pink chalk.  Stubs of red and black candles remain at each point.
[ ] There is a bloody pentagram on the floor of the room.  Deep gouges have been made in the stone.  A single elvish shoe (dainty and expensive) badly torn and bloody lies on the floor.
[ ]...

So, the GM immediately has a narrative in the room.  Things can change.  Of course, not every room would have a "timeline" or narrative.  Just enough to keep the megadungeon "alive" in the minds of the players.

Additionally, if the players impact the development of the events, the DM will need to improvise.  In the example above, perhaps the PCs damage the pentagram deliberately during their 3rd visit to the room.  If so, then the 4th visit makes total sense.  If they completely obliterate the pentagram, maybe the wizard does a poor job re-doing it.  If they just scratch a line, well that makes sense too.

Anyway, I can see myself writing up some "narratives" for certain rooms if I ever get around to making my megadungeon.

What do you think?


Jerry said...

I’m inclined to think it’d be better to have more general guidelines, so that it can change in response to the player characters. That is, if they wipe out Faction A, then Faction B starts spreading; if they take the magic idol of Difra, then the cult of Difra disperses in hopes of finding it; if they open the long-closed door to the underground, then the Chagmat start pushing the goblins out into the open and they start raiding the nearby villages.

Jon Bupp said...

Love it.

Anonymous said...

I like it. In the campaign I ran a few years ago, I always _meant_ to have the dungeon change/restock in response to the PCs but never found the time to go back to the old rooms because I was always trying to get the next level or two and various side-treks ready. Having just few high-traffic rooms & hallways with evolving keys like that would have been a quick way to accomplish it. Yeah, I'll probably try this.

Tom Hudson said...

My first thought was "YAGNI", but Mike Monaco's "high-traffic" is the key to undoing that. Or I'd consider writing up a set of these evolutions not tied to specific rooms: pre-gen restocking situations.

If you have it in one room, and the players never kill the orcs, your work never gets used. But you can deploy it wherever appropriate if you have

Restocking table:
14. The dainty female elven summoner Xantippe [stats] moves into 2-3 adjacent empty rooms. [dressing, treasure] Within a week she's completed physical preparations for a summoning and leaves to retrieve components; the pentagram and candles are ominous enough that they aren't likely to be disturbed by intelligent denizens. Within three weeks she's returned but the summoning goes awry; her silk left shoe remains, as does the daemon [stats].

Jim said...

I like the idea of a general restocking table even better. A related idea I had was having printable stickers (you know, the Avery kind) that you could apply to cleared areas of the dungeon between sessions. That way your key would actually change before you need it. @Tom Hudson - your description is fantastic and would probably fit on a sticker of reasonable size.

JDJarvis said...

Scripted changes work well as a way to have location driven plot emerge in response to player actions.

Some scripted changes should likely cause other locations to be different.
Kill the Humjums in room 212 and instead of bumping into the Acid Demon in room 218 you bump into him in room 215 looking for the missing Humjums.