Saturday, October 23, 2010

High Level Adventures

As seems often to be the case these days (and for very good reasons) Grognardia posted a question about the existence of high level modules (within a review of a low-level module) which led to posts and discussions all over this corner of the blogosphere.

Two posts which really interested me came from The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms.  The first is his brief reply to the Grognardia post.  The second, which is more interesting to me, discusses the idea of creating "modular modules for deeper level dungeons"--basically a dungeon level or sublevel that you could stick in your own dungeon.  I only saw this post thing morning, but it struck me because that very idea occupied my final gaming thoughts of last evening.

I really think that there is a lot of merit to this idea, especially for people who play in megadungeons.  If it truly is a megadungeon, then it stands to reason that there are areas that only get stumbed across recently--even if the players have traversed a certain area many times before.

I see a lot of advantages to this for the high level module designer:

1. There needn't be a plot hook of any kind other than, "And at the end of the passageway, you see a low archway surrounding by glowing runes in the ancient Glybdenarion script."  Or something like that...

2. If that is too simplistic, there could be a plot hook that draws characters into a region of the dungeon where they have not ventured before or a region that they thought had already been cleared of "interesting" things.  (In my personal opinion, a well-run megadungeon would never get cleared, as new monsters would move in to replace those vanquished, but it does make sense to me that the characters might believe that the 'cool stuff' had all been looted.)

3. Such a high level adventure benefits from all of the widely-acknowledged design benefits of dungeons--they limit choice (to some extent) and provide a self-contained playing environment where (most) of the variables can easily be controlled.

I think that this third advantage is the idea's biggest.  As has been commented about many times, high level adventures are difficult to do well, because many campaigns reach a point where politics play a role or events leading to a possible 'endgame' are occuring.  Inserting a random quest into a smoothly running plot can be jarring or perhaps just not interesting to the characters or the DM.  But inserting a dungeon level into a dungeon that is actively being explored is seamless.

Last night, I found myself thinking about dungeon levels that would be unique or interesting to high level characters that could easily be inserted into an existing dungeon.  Lots of ideas...  Now if I could just carve out some time and write one or two of them.

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