The two hot topics this month are Megadungeons and War (this week’s Blog Carnival courtesy of the good Reverend). So why not combine the two and set a war inside a Megadungeon?!
Dungeons are by definition limited in size, and that’s true whether they have 5 rooms or 50,000. It’s difficult to expand your living space if you’re underground unless you’re a race with a natural talent for mining through tonnes of rock. The main way for a race to expand their territory is going to be by using the tried and trusted method of taking it from others. Add into the mixture a realm where there’s limited resources and your average megadungeon is going to be a hotbed for warfare.
Perhaps the Southside Kobolds are battling against the Easthold Goblins across a battle-line that’s just three rooms deep, or the Mind Flayers are waging a silent psionic war against the Aboleths a few levels down. This is something that the World’s Largest Dungeon tackles admirably with rivalry between the races a core motivator on all levels. Add the players into the mix as spies, allies, enemies (or food!) and you’ve got the potential for explosive action all the way.
Megadungeons are, in many ways, self-contained ecologies. They might have different languages (Undercommon), foods, religions and cultures to those of the Overland Races and any one of those could be the catalyst which starts a full blown conflict. It could be something as “trivial” as a difference in pronunciation of the word “gugh”, or as complex as who has picking rights on the first Fungus Harvest. As often as not though, as with any other war, these arguments mask the real reasons for rising tensions. Perhaps a new leader needs to show his prowess, or the tribe needs more room to expand – or move away from more powerful foes. Remember that Dungeons (even Mega ones) are three-dimensional, and a power-play several levels down could have repercussions upwards through many levels. If the Drow of level 8 are hunting for slaves in level 6, that might cause a migration upwards which results in the Gnolls of level 2 spilling up to battle the Orcs – all without knowing the original reason for the conflict.
One way to represent a war raging across a Megadungeon is to print out a map of the level and use push-pins to show the different factions – black for Drow, white for Undead, green for Orcs, etc – and move them as the tides of war ebb and flow. For example if the players head up a strike team with the First Dwarven Commandos and manage to clear out and hold Room 157, replace the push-pin with Dwarven Brown; the battle-line has been redrawn, at least for a while. Leave no-man’s land blank, and give the players tactical access to as much of the map at their intelligence efforts allow.
Megadungeons! What are they good for? Absolutely everything!