Building a Mega-Dungeon Using Adventure Kits
A mega-dungeon is a dungeon that is so vast and complex that you can play entire campaigns delving into their depths. They’re an inspirational concept ripe with potential adventure, but as a Game Master (GM) running a mega-dungeon can be a daunting task. Most published modules featuring mega-dungeons require the GM to study countless levels and read many pages of material just to begin prepping.
But what if you could run a mega-dungeon without all of the heavy lifting? In this article, we’re going to show you how you can use Absolute Tabletop’s modular adventure-building toolkits— Adventure Kits — to easily build a never-ending mega-dungeon the likes of which your players have never seen.
Prep will be fun and easy, and if the players want to explore an area that you haven’t prepared, the Adventure Kits have all the tools you need to keep the adventure moving on the fly.
As of the writing of this article, our latest book, Adventure Kit: The Battle for Arctor’s Vault is currently funding on Kickstarter here. We have two other published Adventure Kits that are available as Kickstarter Add-Ons or in our store. Additionally, as soon as the Kickstarter ends, we’ll be sharing completed sections of Arctor’s Vault in what we’re calling a Prequel Edition: The Calm Before the Storm.
Using all of those pieces–– the published kits, prequel editions, and eventually the book we’re Kickstarting now–- you’re going to craft an incredible mega-dungeon.
Join us as we embark on the Battle for the Eldritch Queen’s Tomb.
Make the Generator, Not the Dungeon
Rather than set out to generate a mega-dungeon for you, this article intends to give you the tools you need to generate a mega-dungeon of your very own. You can generate it as you go, or prepare the entire thing beforehand, adding and tweaking based on the player’s actions.
Using the following tenets and advice, you’ll be equipped to create a dark and dangerous place unlike anything your players have experienced. Remember, these are only guidelines–– customize and create the mega-dungeon that’s living in your mind.
Everything is Reskinned
Reskinning is the act of taking existing mechanics and concepts and reinventing them using new lore and aesthetics. Even though the mechanics and finer details will be familiar to you, applying new story elements and theme will make them feel entirely new to the players.
For this mega-dungeon, no Adventure Kit will remain untouched. We’re reskinning them all to fit our central theme of delving into the Eldritch Queen’s tomb. By changing everything to fit a central theme, it will feel like all of these pieces mesh together nicely to create something interesting and cohesive. With that said, I’d like to welcome you to Whispering Mountain
Welcome to The Whispering Mountain
This mega-dungeon begins at the top of Whispering Mountain, and as the story progresses, the party will delve deeper and deeper into the mountain’s heart. If they survive the punishing layers of danger and despair, the players will descend into the crypt of the Eldritch Queen herself.
Each of the different Adventure Kits will act as a unique physical level of the mega-dungeon, and as they progressively traverse deeper into the mountain, the danger will increase and the environment will change.
Level 1 – Adrienne Peak
Use: Prequel Edition: The Calm Before the Storm
Reskinned as: This prequel edition is set in the Amelian Orchards of Adrienne Pass. But instead, we’re making this the Amelian Cliffs of Adrienne Peaks. This is a remote location that is often wary of outsiders, but they will let the party take refuge if they assist in researching the strange goings-on. Alchemist Charon is investigating a strange shift in the subterranean colony of Stonechapel below. The people who were once amiable neighbors have become more xenophobic and are acting strangely.
Level 2 – Colony of Stonechapel
Use: Adventure Kit: Shadows Over Driftchapel
Reskinned as: The seaside town of Driftchapel is now the subterranean colony of Stonechapel. The people here have lived happily inside the mountain for some time, but are now under the thrall of a dark power. Consider reskinning the ‘Streets of Driftchapel’ location to be the ‘Tunnels of Stonechapel’, generating caverns and passageways.
Note that to build tension, we’re taking the main enemy of this Adventure Kit, Qatu, and saving it for later in the mega-dungeon. Rather than run the Climax encounter, the players must instead find the idol to progress deeper into the dungeon without going mad.
Note: Also check out our supplement Stone Rift for more inspiration for mountainous and subterranean adventures as the players explore Stonechapel.
Level 3 – Crypt of the Eldritch Queen
Use: Adventure Kit: Oath of the Frozen King
Reskinned as: The castle and dungeon featured in this kit is instead going to be an ancient, strange structure that was built long before the people of the mountain came to settle. Instead of using literal ice, we’re going to reskin everything to be a mixture of strange ancient stone, and eldritch organic matter. Anywhere that there is ice, it is instead a strange black ichor, known as gloam (or the residue of it).
As the party traverses the crypt of the Eldritch Queen they will learn that there are strange creatures that lurk within its halls. Use a mixture of undead (with an eldritch twist of being covered in the inky gloam) from Oath, and the eldritch creatures from Driftchapel.
The climax encounter will see you facing off with the Lightless King, who is using an ancient runeblade to awaken the goddess known as Qatu that he might serve her as his Eldritch Queen. To be united with her, the Lightless King must find and open the ancient Vault of Arc’Tor, which is said to hold secrets and riches untold–– but also acts as a prison for the abominable Qatu.
Campaign Climax – The Battle for the Eldritch Queen’s Tomb
Use: Adventure Kit: the Battle for Arctor’s Vault (Live on Kickstarter)
Reskinned as: A massive battle to stop the Eldritch Queen from escaping her prison. Things are set in motion that cannot be undone–– even in death (or whatever else happened) the Lightless King has successfully found the vault of Arc’Tor, and the ritual has begun to pry it open.
A powerful cultist (the main villain from Adventure Kit: The Battle for Arctor’s Vault) fills the power vacuum left by the death of the Lightless King, rallying all those who worship Qaut under one banner. Countless cultists, undead, and eldritch abominations gather en masse forming an army devoted to the mighty and horrible Qatu, led by this man known as the Du Ra Kis (or “chosen”) of Qatu.
The players don’t stand a chance.
That is, until, Alchemist Charon arrives with reinforcements from above! The only other city near the Whispering Mountain–– the home of the faction known as the Crossley League–– has answered Charon’s cry for aid. Having hastily dug up dug up ancestral graves to arm themselves quickly, the Crossley are a formidable ally indeed.
Can the players and their allies stop the twisted armies of the Eldritch Queen? Or will the vault of Arc’Tor be opened, releasing Qatu and all that is inside?
That depends on the cunning, bravery, and action of your players–– but you can use the cinematic mass combat tools, and 5e compatible mass combat tables to find out.
Using the Toolbox to Create Sublevels
Each Adventure Kit has a toolbox that is loaded with generators of all kinds. Consider using these generators to create “sublevels”, or mini connecting pieces that exist, breaking up the main levels into small pieces.
For example, instead of placing all of the Primary Locations from an Adventure Kit on one, single level of our mega-dungeon, consider placing 2-3 of them, with a descending pathway that leads farther into the mountain. When the players travel down this descending pathway, they experience the content you’ve generated using the toolbox. By having the players continue to traverse deeper into the heart of the mountain with these sublevels, it will feel more organic, and like they’re constantly descending.
Here’s an example using some Major and Minor Locations from Adventure Kit: Shadows Over Driftchapel.
Level 2 – Colony of Stonechapel
- The Taxidermy Shop + The Inn
- Sublevel: Ransacked Storehouse + Dawnhammer Memorial
- Ordist’s Lab + Taxidermy Shop
- Sublevel: Ancient Lichyard + Blaugas Storehouse
- Profane Chapel
- Dripping Caves
By adding some minor locations between the mega-dungeon will feel more massive and labyrinthine than if you use more cut-and-dry “levels” for each Adventure Kit.
Your Mega-Dungeon Awaits
We’re excited to see the mega-dungeon that you build using our Adventure Kits. Remember, this is only one example of how these kits can be combined, and you can reskin the encounters, monsters, locations, and everything else to be whatever your campaign needs.
To get your Prequel Edition: Calm Before the Storm when the campaign ends, be sure to back Adventure Kit: The Battle for Arctor’s Vault today… your mega-dungeon awaits.