Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Megadungeons: Customizing Stonehell

There is a reason that I cannot start on the Castle Whale right now, I already have a megadungeon project I am working on, my ongoing Stonehell game. I have been running Stonehell for various groups since early 2010, and I have kept a persistent dungeon through every session. That means that there have been a lot of changes to my version over many sessions, especially in the first two levels. While the physical layout is mostly the same, most of the original room descriptions have changed as a result of player actions. Recently I have started changing the dungeon further by adding my own sub-levels. These sub-levels have introduces an interesting wrinkle to my dungeon, history.

My current campaign world does not have much history. It is a mixture of parts of my old campaigns and commercial products. The "civilized" continent has only its major port city, The City State of the Invincible Overlord, detailed. I brought Judges Guild's classic city over from a Castles & Crusades campaign I set there in 2011. I kept all of the continuity from that campaign as history in this version, but no Stonehell character has ever visited it. I know almost nothing else about that continent.

There is a large island city between the two continents called Dar Janix. It is the home to the exiled Knights Templar of the Circle of Dar Janix, a group I have used in my games since 1995. There is a lot of history built up around this group, their city, and the dungeon under it, but Stonehell characters rarely come here. Several of the knights were featured heavily in my first Stonehell campaign, but they have not been heard from since.

The "wild continent" has only Stonehell and a few miles of wilderness around it detailed. The wilderness is ripped from one of Rob Conley's excellent Points of Light books, but has only served as the setting for a murder mystery session. Until recently, I knew little of the history of this place either. I wound up creating a history of this continent and its interactions with the other continent while making my sub-level, "The Conquistador's Tomb". While I am happy with what I came up with, it causes a problem for this lazy GM, it doesn't fit with Stonehell's history. I am going to have to do work.

I also need to makes some changes from a game play perspective. Stonehell is great, but it is huge. I have found Level 1 and Level 2 to be the right size, but starting on Level 3 the place is a bit too big for me. I need a lot of XP available in the first two levels because of character deaths. I also prefer to have more consolidated XP awards attached to higher risk start around character level 4 as well.

Luckily, Stonehell was designed with GM hacking in mind and is easy to take apart and use in pieces. Still, this is going to be a lot of work. There are some areas that I will keep as written, others that will stay but be drastically changed, and others that will be eliminated entirely. My initial survey leads me to believe I will have to create some areas other than sub-levels myself.

This will be transparent to my players. For all the sessions I have run in this dungeon, there are whole sections that no character has ever set foot in, especially below Level 2. I will not be making any changes, beyond those that I normally make, to explored areas. This is going to be a big project, luckily I do not have to do it all at once.