Perhaps few people play megadungeons, but my look at the era when megadungeons ruled Dungeons & Dragons and why few people play them anymore revealed great interest in vast underworlds. So in this post, I present the megadungeons in print or on the web.
To qualify for my mega-list, a dungeon must meet three qualifications. It must be…
- in print or on the web in a form close to playable.
- suitable for the focus of an entire campaign from low to high level.
- too big to clear of traps and monsters, even as the focus of a campaign.
Most of these products attempt to recapture or update the play style of the original campaigns that launched D&D, so many use rules that emulate either original D&D or AD&D. If you prefer advantage, concentration, and armor classes that go up, you can play these dungeons with fifth edition. Just use the monster stats in your new manual and make up any difficulty classes as you go.
|System: Labyrinth Lord and original D&D|
|Tagline: Barrowmaze is a classic, old-school megadungeon.|
|Typical reviews: “This is a multi-year campaign in a book. It is an obvious labor of love. If this product doesn’t deserve five stars—easily deserve it—then no product deserves it.” – Greg W.
“Barrowmaze is nearly a textbook example of how to make a compelling, well-presented dungeon module. – Grognardia
|Rational: Underground tombs infested by chaotic cult|
|Snap reaction: With an emphasis on undead and dungeon factions, will Barrowmaze prove too much of a good thing?|
|Castle of the Mad Archmage||product page|
|System: Adventures Dark and Deep, other games with the same initials, or Pathfinder|
|Tagline: Constructed to match reminiscences of Castle Greyhawk.|
|Typical reviews: “Castle of the Mad Archmage is a lot of fun…The problem is that so much of feels either random, unexplainable, or silly.” – Dungeon Fantastic
“Serious old-school aficionados should put the Castle at the top of their shopping lists – Roles and Rules
|Rational: The Mad Archmage, an insane demigod, wants it so.|
|Snap reaction: A tribute to Gary’s game that is best enjoyed through heavy nostalgia.|
||product now unavailable|
|Tagline: Created by Monte Cook (co-designer of 3rd-Edition D&D) and written by Super Genius Games for dungeonaday.com|
|Typical reviews: “Dragon’s Delve hits most of the right old school notes. There is in fact a great deal to like about it and I’m not ashamed to admit I may even steal an idea or three from it.” – Grognardia|
|Rational: Ambient magic? Insane wizards? The mysteries of Dragon’s Delve remain locked from my gaze.|
|Snap reaction: A mountain of interesting content locked behind the dungeonaday paywall. Update: The only trace of dungeonaday now on the web is an adventure drawn from its content, The Tomb-World of Alak-Ammur.|
|System: First edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons|
|Tagline: Come and get a free dungeon room every day.|
|Typical reviews: None. You could be the first to review this product.|
|Rational: A feuding family who practiced abominable sorceries.|
|Snap reaction: A labor of love offered for free.|
|Tagline: The greatest dungeon story ever told.|
|Typical reviews: “Castle Whiterock is an epic endeavor that is the best adventuring product released by any company this year.” – Nathan C.
“The adventure features great encounters, adventure to be had, wonderful villains, great twists in the tale, and many hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered. On the down side, there are some tedious bits.” – Peter I.
|Rational: Traps, magic, and monsters accumulated over the castle’s 1200-year history.|
|Snap reaction: No mere list of rooms, this product builds a campaign with numerous quests around a megadungeon.|
|System: Original D&D and similar rules|
|Tagline: A multi-author megadungeon released in installments in Fight On! magazine.|
|Typical reviews: “The community megadungeon ‘The Darkness Beneath’ has turned out some very good levels, with a single exception.” – Ten Foot Pole|
|Snap reaction: A strong but uneven anthology that ranges from inspired to silly, just like the old-school dungeons it emulates. The cutaway map calls me to adventure.|
|System: Labyrinth Lord, original D&D, or Pathfinder|
|Tagline: With Dwimmermount, the Golden Age has returned.|
|Typical reviews: “The very size of Dwimmermount may also be its enemy, a few forays into the place won’t discover much, and the levels get consistently weirder, but start very classically D&D.” – Dungeon of Signs
“Pages upon pages of minutiae.” – Binkystick
|Rational: A dungeon set atop a node of primal chaos|
|Snap reaction: An attempt to recreate a golden-age play style that resists capture in print.|
|The Emerald Spire
|Tagline: An all-star superdungeon.|
|Typical reviews: “The superdungeon might feel like a long series of Pathfinder Society dungeons.” – 5-Minute Workday
“Two levels of the Spire really stand out for me and made me want to slice them out of the megadungeon and run them back to back as a one-shot or mini-campaign.” – Tor.com
|Rational: An insane creature of immense power living at the bottom level.|
|Snap reaction: This collection of levels created by all-star contributors probably plays better if you divide the levels into separate dungeons.|
|Eyes of the Stone Thief
|System: 13th Age|
|Tagline: The Stone Thief rises. Enter it, find its secrets and defeat it–or die trying.|
|Typical reviews: “A very, very clever idea executed very well.” – The Other Steve
“The book as a whole also gives you the tools and tips to customize [the campaign] for your players.” – Addison Recorder
|Rational: The dungeon is alive.|
|Snap reaction: A promising example of the living-dungeon concept, backed with advice on running and customizing parts or as a campaign.|
|Grande Temple of Jing
|Tagline: The dungeoncrawl that rules them all!|
|Typical reviews: None. This product hasn’t been released yet.|
|Rational: A temple to a trickster god|
|Snap reaction: With a catch-all concept and many contributors, expect a trap- and puzzle-filled dungeon loaded with ideas.|
|System: Second edition AD&D|
|Tagline: Enter the infamous ruins of Castle Greyhawk, the most formidable and expansive dungeon on Oerth.|
|Typical reviews: “Greyhawk Ruins may not be a particularly inspired example of a megadungeon, but it is a megadungeon and I give it points for that alone.” – Grognardia
“A classic, illogical ‘gilded hole’ dungeon.” – Lawrence Schick, Heroic Worlds
|Rational: The wizard Zagag’s mad experiments|
|Snap reaction: The product every player dreamed of in the 70s, released in 1990 when our expectations had changed.|
|System: Swords & Wizardry, original D&D, or Pathfinder|
|Tagline: Nothing more and nothing less than a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl.|
|Typical reviews: “A TON of interesting encounters and levels. It’s also maddeningly confusing in places” – Ten Foot Pole
“I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by a couple of levels, but at the same time, I’ve really, really liked several ideas herein.” – Thilo G.
|Rational: A complex created by refugee priests of Orcus|
|Snap reaction: Suited to old-school DMs who somehow recruit the rare players who enjoy dungeon-only campaigns, high body counts, and unwinnable final encounters.|
|The Ruins of Undermountain
|System: Second edition AD&D|
|Tagline: The deepest dungeon of them all.|
|Typical reviews: “The dungeon itself is barely detailed, with only the major level features written up.” – Dungeon Fantastic|
|Rational: Another insane wizard|
|Snap reaction: An outline for a DM determined to create a megadungeon in the Forgotten Realms and willing to dream up the details.|
|System: Labyrinth Lord and original D&D|
|Tagline: Enough monsters, traps, weirdness, and treasure to keep you gaming for a long, long time.|
|“Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls is probably the best megadungeon published to date in any form” – Grognardia
“Stonehell takes a curious middle ground between detailed set pieces, and leaving some room descriptions sparse to allow for DM improvisation.” – Dreams in the Lich House
“This is certainly one of the best works to come out of the OSR. It’s a megadungeon and it’s close to perfect.” – Ten Foot Pole
|Rational: A prison where the pain and suffering attracted a powerful, chaotic entity.|
|Snap reaction: Highly touted by old-school fans. Adopts a concise presentation inspired by 1-page dungeon design.|
|World’s Largest Dungeon
|Tagline: Over 16,000 Encounters – A mammoth dungeon unlike any other! Every monster in the SRD – And a few you’ve never seen before!|
|Typical reviews: “Nothing remarkable or all that memorable about it” – Jeremy Reaban
“They don’t expect you to actually run the World’s Largest Dungeon as one big dungeon. Considering that’s the only reason that anyone would actually buy the product, I find that pretty stupid.” – oriongates
|Rational: A giant prison for evil.|
|Snap reaction: Not so much an adventure as a publishing stunt.|
The recent Castle Gargantua is missing. I haven’t read it yet, but I believe is some kind of “make your own megadungeon”
Thanks for suggestion Castle Gargantua. With a combination of random areas and mapped sections, Castle Gargantua looks like a unique product.
That’s how the Grande Temple of Jing works. You’re not meant to go through the book front to back. You’re meant, as a DM, to pick and choose what you want your party to die on. I mean experience… Did I say die? Oh man… Not that death needs be permanent when you’re dungeoncrawling through the home plane of a god, especially one that likes derring-do and grand adventures….. and gold. lots and lots of gold.
You got some good ones there – but I really think Anomalous Subsurface Environment (ASE) deserves a mention (and a look if you’re unfamiliar).
I’ve heard good things about Anomalous Subsurface Environment. I didn’t know it was big enough to qualify for my list. Thanks for the tip!
I guess the line is blurred for what makes a mega dungeon, is it levels, is it total keyed encounters?
– I’d say that Blackmoor qualifies (but its not very good)
– Also Slumbering Tsar probably can be considered a mega dungeon, or at least contains a mega dungeon as its 3rd act. The 2nd act is a fully keyed city that functions very much like a open air mega dungeon, and the 1st act is an overland area that contains the city. Oh and it is amazingly good.
– You also have smaller dungeons that people still consider mega dungeons, such as Tomb of Abysthor, Maure Dungeon and the Caverns of Thracia.
Thanks for suggesting some other dungeons for consideration.
I do think that the original Temple of Elemental Evil qualifies, particularly counting the Elemental Nodes. We are playing it as a casual game with rotating players (for more, see my blog: https://mindlands.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/temple-of-elemental-evil-is-moving-forward/), and I actually think we might get some sort of conclusion.
It is not the size of Undermountain, but clearing it completely, with new monsters wandering in, and with the different factions reacting to the characters, seems unrealistic.
Undermountain was never meant to be cleared. It was meant as a basis for a dungeon campaign with many forays into the dungeon. That’s the main reason most of the rooms were never filled in. It gives the DM a clean slate, so to speak.
Fantastic. Gaming such as this inspired The Iron Realm Podcast. I would very much like to get my hands on The World’s Largest Dungeon. Greyhawk Ruins intrigues me as well. Thanks, Dave, for the comprehensive list. Please do add to this if other products come to your attention – or perhaps create a Part II.
Looks like Dungeon a Day has been taken over by someone pushing steroids.
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Barrowmaze is available for DND 5e now.
And I suggest adding the Jade Colossus for Numenera to the mix
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