Friday, 23 August 2013

Emotional Investment in Megadungeon Exploration

On a post somewhere on G+ Jez Gordon asked:
What motivations are there for megadungeoning that matter to the PCs? Is gold, glory, and exploring the unknown enough, or does it need to be something personal?
The answer, of course, is that it doesn't need to be something personal. Actually, the explanation/motivation really ought to be, at the most basic level, "You're playing a game, the DM has gone to the trouble of creating a cool megadungeon, so go and explore it, for goodness' sake."

That said, I'm enough of a 1990s gamer to think that having pseudo-emotional connections amongst PCs, and between PCs and NPCs, lends weight to what is going on at the table. So why does it always have to be gold, glory and explore the unknown? Why can't there be a bigger reason than that?

Reasons For Entering the Dungeon, Part 3

1. To rescue a missing son, daughter, wife, husband, cousin, niece or nephew kidnapped by slavers or worse
2. To recover the remains of a slain friend so he can receive a proper burial
3. To find a family heirloom which your adventuring father lost as a young man while fleeing the terrors within
4. To impress a potential bride or groom
5. To gather enough treasure to pay off crippling debts
6. To conquer inveterate cowardice
7. To find a cure for a sickness affecting a beloved family member
8. To find a cure for a sickness affecting yourself
9. To wreak terrible revenge on a hated foe who has hidden in the dungeon's depths
10. To search for the rumoured El Dorado-style utopia which lies in the roots of the world


  1. man I'm getting quoted everywhere this week. to be clear it was me misunderstanding a point made by Scrap Princess in another conversation, which she cleared up with this awesome (and clarifying) answer:

    "You misunderstand me, I don't mean what is the point of the megadungeon, I mean what is the point of busting your ass making a particular unique megadungeon if the uniqueness comes to down to a paragraph of text that the players skim over before playing.

    "Like say you are making a giant meat dungeon in the body of titanic semi dead creature and you make all these maps and work out which parts of it are still alive and which are dead and what is eating what.

    "This might all just wind up being exactly the same as an old ruined temple or cave complex, expect you go "oh the door is an anus not a door" every time the players say "I open the door" , but they still keep saying "I open the door" because its pretty much a fucking door.

    "But if half defeated monsters run away and start eating the walls to heal themselves and that opens up new areas or giant maggots clear out areas of poisonous rotten flesh, or severing a capillary in one area leads to another areas hazard being deactivated, then it seems far less likely that anyone will forget that they are in a meat dungeon."

    1. I saw that, but to me the original question is more interesting. If my players just skim over the fact that the dungeon is made out of the body of a titanic semi-dead creature....then Christ help me I need some different players!

    2. I like to think of megadungeons as some of the worst places on earth, and then work out why anyone would realistically go there. Like why on earth would anyone go to Mogadishu, or (quick look at most dangerous cities in the world)... or San Pedro Sula in Honduras? There's easier, safer ways to make money, more charitable ways to gain glory, and plenty of other corners of the world (real and unreal) worth exploring. If your campaign is nothing but the megadungeon, there's got to be the promise of sweet sweet reward. A preferably unique ones as well.

      Also, Save vs Jaded.

    3. Sometimes people just want excitement in their lives. Whenever I find myself wondering about questions like that I think of this guy:

  2. Pseudo-emotional is fine, but what is best is when you can get an actual emotional response. Personally, I like having monsters or people come to the PC's house, break shit, steal stuff, and then run off laughing for once. See how they like it when the shoe is on the other foot. Give them a nice new toy that isn't conveniently portable, then have some bully break it.

  3. Besides treasure and experience, my motivation as a player for going to the (mega)dungeon is just to explore it, to see the coolest parts.

    Sometimes I also get invested in killing bosses, mostly when they've frustrated our efforts, killed a party member, etc. Then it becomes personal.

    On Jez's point about the flavor of megadungeons, there's something to that. However, as a player I do get into the particular flavor of dungeon I'm exploring, even if I know at the end of the day it's all just lines on paper. And monsters are just stats.

  4. What about spiritual? Some folk-tales position humans as originally coming out of the Earth to the surface. I can see that being a great motivation for exploring a megadungeon. I think most humans would be down to explore their origins, purpose of being, and other related questions.

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