I kinda want to put my thoughts regarding this in a perspective of P&P as well. Mega dungeons tend to have a cult reputation there. For example Rapan Athuk has 56 layers and is a bout of about 500 pages. Needless to say, that if one starts this it will probably be a lifetime of sessions.
But when I build dungeons for my players, I prefer to keep them short and filled with interesting stuff. Most of the mega dungeons I’ve seen often have rooms which offer nothing. “Some ruined shelves indicate this was a library at some point. Nothing of interest here though”. Like… why is this room there?
So my dungeons, I prefer them at about 5 - 10 rooms, and not more than 2 layers. In these rooms I like to offer some traps, puzzles, fights and a main area where the boss will be. These are doable in one session (sometimes two) and keep the players occupied with all 3 aspects of the game. Exploration, Battle and Roleplaying.
Again, these are my thoughts when it comes to P&P.
Yes, I tried writing up an enormous PnP dungeon a long time ago, but it’s a real challenge to make every room interesting. In the end it was much smaller than I’d planned, but more satisfying.
Perhaps an alternative might be a world map approach? You could present a huge dungeon map, but just provide icons for the main areas of interest for a party of that level? The party could find maps and hints pointing to the other locations. You could always just keep adding more locales later.
Yes, I appreciate that PnP differs in this aspect to NWN. I also actually wondered if such a “dungeon” of “mega” size should actually be easier to pull off with NWN as opposed to PnP. I mean in NWN does an “empty” room matter as much as a PnP one?
In PnP that sort if thing does appear more “pointless”, but in NWN, does passing through such a room have the same detrimental effect? Would it be “noticed” in the same way? I am thinking of games like “Bioshock” etal, which are comparable to large “dungeons”. One does not notice “emptiness” when exploring such.
I think for PnP that is probably about right. (With maybe a couple more levels if I can give good reasons.) The difference with PnP compared to CRPG, however, is that a few rooms can normally be cleared in a few minutes compared to hours. Therefore, I think there can be an argument for increasing the size of a dungeon in NWN simply to make it feel more like a proper dungeon crawl.
The big problem is, however, how to keep the feeling of big (also taking time) and keep it interesting at the same time. That is what I am working on now.
I think in PnP it would be far more difficult than we may potentially have in in NWN for the reasons I give above. i.e. Easier to “ignore” in NWN compared to PnP.
I think this could be a good working aid for such. My main problem at the moment is, as you first pointed out, how to create a feeling of “big” (as in taking time as much as actual size) without it feeling boring. My guide for such is games like Bioshock and its predecessors System Shock 2, which I believe capture dungeon crawl feeling in a CRPG. And if you have ever played Ultima Underworld, that also captured the feel for me … an excellent game at the time … I will look that up again.
EDIT: Found Ultima Underworld level 1 map (of about 7). I recall this being an excellent dungeon crawl. I would like to be able to recreate the kind of feeling I had playing this game!
Are these links “illegal” then? I will play it safe and remove the links then.
I already have all these games, so I simply used the links to save me having to dig out the old boxes with the disks, but I would prefer to remove them if I am encouraging any illegal activity. The site looked legit to me.
EDIT: I have had the new System Shock wishlisted in Steam for some time now.
I have commented on that thread as you know … however, I never found any of these games (that I mention here) as a problem that met the “peeves” mentioned. (Apart from difficult controls, that’s the worst thing, but actual gaming is good fun on these old games, if I recall it correctly. It’s been a long time now!)
“Emptiness” like everything else, needs to match up with the story you are trying to convey to the players.
A ruined surface town abandoned centuries ago should be largely looted and devoid of much besides wildlife.
A ruined crypt that no one has entered in a thousand years might have a lot of interesting content.
Empty might also mean no treasure/combat/xp but can still be used to add detail and atmosphere. I’ve seen some good use of sfx and vfx to convey a sense of desolation or sadness in an otherwise ‘empty’ space.
As to Lance’s point about PnP vs CRPG, the game engine can handle far more dice rolls per room than a human gaming group. Searching an empty room just goes faster in NWN so you can slap down a few more tiles of ‘rooms’ without boring the players.
Yes, that was what I thought as well. The NWN game engine and general pace of the game almost demands more rooms to give a feeling of dungeon crawling. However, I am trying very hard to pull that off without feeling like a tedious walk through tunnels.
As I said, I have already started my design, and am reasonably happy with the look of it so far … My main hope is to include some new aspects to the specific areas to give them a fresh appeal too … For example, if you played my Ancient Crypt in The Scroll (which is quite a large dungeon), that also included a whole new concept to do with “runes”. My approach to this “mega-dungeon” is to deliver a similar type of new angle that may encourage the player to investigate without feeling “bored”. i.e There will be more to learn and play within the larger environment as well as larger exploration. E.g. Swimming skill may be possible to learn while here to help navigate some subterranean channels.
Here is the kind of “difference” I am trying to incorporate … the dungeon break into the natural caverns in which it is built, leading to other areas that can be traversed via “swimming” … or now I am considering the “walk over water” idea … as a new ability just for this mega-dungeon! Either way, it will just allow an instant move to the next nearest dry section.
i.e. Player will be able to “learn” swimming to be able to cross areas like this where the bridge is broken across the water. Longer swimming periods will be possible with better swimming … adds a whole new dimension to dungeon navigation!
NB: No lighting or sounds or any real finishing touches … just the raw idea for starters …
At the moment, I am ensuring the dungeon at least looks exciting to explore from its pure looks and possible paths. I am quite excited about the look and feel so far … but I acknowledge that I need to do a good job on filling these spaces with interesting stuff … new skills and abilities are part of the mix to help overcome this mega-dungeon.
I recommend doing a search for Grimtooth’s Traps series by Flying Buffalo as an entertaining reference when building the dungeon. You may or may not use anything from it but it might inspire and it will amuse.
Ha! I know I am being so generous. However, I can say that even with these lights the PCs may still need torches, lanterns, darkvision activated or the light spell … especially in some places. I forgot to add that these are the “optional” ones … torches on walls that the players can activate.
I don’t think I have more than two in any one tile at the moment … but thanks for the reminder. I knew there was a limit, but could not remember the criteria.
Very ambitious plan indeed. What makes me wonder, however, is the question, wheather all of this will bake properly. Though, baking interiors is not even half as hard, as baking exteriors… though if Thou plan to use pseudo-interiors for caves, it might still become a challenge.