So, with all of the hullabaloo going on about mega-dungeons, megadungeoneering, the death of megadungeons and the colossal failures of Dwimmermount both in terms of finance, delivery and fun, I got to thinking about my first experience with a ‘mega-dungeon’ (I use the term loosely here to define a dungeon that is really really big.)
For me, that dungeon was Kellar’s Keep, the first expansion created for Hero Quest, a really cool game set nebulously in the Warhammer universe (just try figuring out where in the borderlands this is supposed to take place, I dare you). Kellar’s keep features a fairly simple plot line: Immediately following the heroes’ massive screw-up of unleashing a powerful lich king upon the land, Morcar/Zargon has used the opportunity to throw everything he has at “the Empire” (I’m guessing as in Nuln & such), and the Emperor’s army got trapped in a citadel called Kellar’s Keep. Fortunately for the emperor, Kellar’s Keep is supposedly connected to the Dwarven Fortress, Karak Varn, by a series of now abandoned tunnels. If the heroes can find their way from Karak Varn to Kellar’s Keep, they can secure the Emperor’s army’s retreat path and escape the besieging forces (aparently escape, at this point, is preferable to actually breaking the siege).
The campaign is made of a series of 10 ‘quests’, which are really just large segments of the tunnel between Karak Varn and Kellar’s Keep sandwiched onto the Hero Quest board. There’s an in door and an out door. Get to the last out door, you’ve established an escape route for the Imperial guard. While the tunnels are cram packed with various greenskins and a handful of undead, what was a decent bit of work for the 4 Heroes is probably nothing for the full Imperial guard, so the quest is about ‘finding the way’ rather than getting everyone out afterward; that part is a given.
For the benefit of those who’ve never played Kellar’s keep or seen it or don’t believe me when I say it’s a megadungeon, I’ve put together a map (doors and secret doors only, it’s not keyed yet) that represents the 10 ‘quests’ as if they were strung together as a single dungeon. I’ve taken a few liberties with the layout, since oftentimes you’ll have an exit door on the north end of one map with the entrance door on the east end of another. Since you can buy things in between ‘quests’, one can assume that there are areas in between each ‘region’ that a)have shops or places to trade, b) connect back with a populated portion of Karak Varn, c) wandering adventurers might be willing to trade, d)it’s an ancient hasbro game, stop overthinking it.
In mapping, I’ve attempted to place the layout in a fashion that connects each quest hub in a sensible location in relationship to the preceeding and proceeding areas. As such, a few things are apparent: The abandoned tunnels are something of a spiral with two obvious tiers (level 4 is directly below level 3) and Kellar’s Keep is almost directly below Karak Varn (the final area and exit are more or less directly beneath the first tunnels; i couldn’t really represent this on a single image graph map) unless we handwave some distances between the hubs.