I've also been reading up about improving my DM skills, because I always feel like I'm a little short of what I'm aiming for. I read a lot of Old School Renaissance blogs because they appeal to me more than modern D&D blogs. I think its because they're trying to do fresh things with an old framework. A lot of modern D&D talk seems to be excited about redoing old things in a slightly new framework, but that's a different rant.
So I come across a bunch of older posts about DCC and original D&D on the Swords of Minaria blog, and this post catches my eye: http://swordsofminaria.blogspot.com/2010/04/micro-megadungeons.html
The idea of powering through a bunch of low level play to give players a sense of how play changes after leveling up a few times really appeals to me. Also, I've never done a proper mega-dungeon. I'm going to try DCC instead of OD&D because I still think its so cool, but I will have to make some changes. I'm going to award XP half for overcoming monsters and challenges, and half for treasure. I'm thinking of limiting the spell list so wizards won't be slowed down too much by looking up charts.
A few specific house rules: Shields Shall be Splintered! , a player may sacrifice a shield to avoid damage from one physical attack. An unarmored PC can add their Reflex bonus to their AC. AC will be a roll against passive attack bonus, not 10+.
I'm going to come up with lots of customized magic items, and I'm going heavily video-game influenced. I want the game to have some of the feel of a Zelda or Metroid game where you explore different themed areas. Some examples:
- Leaf Shield: Razor-sharp leaves grow from the rim of this heavy oak shield, moving to protect you and lash out at your allies. When you roll an Armor Class roll against an adjacent creature's attack, on a natural odd roll you take 1 less damage, and on a natural even the attacker takes 1 damage.
- Freeze Glove: any weapon you wield is imbued with chilling ice. Making an attack with this ability targets Reflex instead of AC, and the creature is frozen solid instead of damaged, even if in mid-air. They can attempt to break free every round. If attacked they take only half damage and they break free.
Another thing I'm borrowing from Golden Axe: I want mounts. Cool fantasy mounts you ride into dungeon battles, like drakes and carrion crawlers. Still working on rules ideas for that.
One key to a small megadungeon is having a small area to worry about. I'm using Christopher West's the Forsaken Rift, a map he did for the Maps of Mystery series in Dungeon magazine. I used this map for my first 4E campaign and it worked really well as a mini-sandbox. This time the main action will be in Dragonspire mountain, with only a few encounter locations scattered around. I wanted to give each city a unique thing, like you can get mounts from Wyvernwatch and better armor from Kharadad, but since I'm not going to focus on in-town stuff that much I don't know if it will even matter. We'll see. Maybe I could do a different carousing table for each place of interest so PCs could spend money for a chance at XP and loot.
Here's my campaign pitch:
The heat of Dragonspire holds the glacial ice at bay for a hidden valley. The only way out is the Dark Road, key to its gate is lost. The dungeons of Dragonspire contain the dragon Wartooth and his lizardfolk acolytes, and the unending orcs of the Blood Cauldron tribe. The dragon Corpsegrinder prowls the lands raising the half-eaten dead. Also you can ride drakes and carrion crawlers.