Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Into the Megadungeon Episod 05, "Lessons Learned"

 In this episode, I interview Nick L.S. Whelan about two megadungeon campaigns, "Dungeon Moon" and "Five Years Left". We talk about why GMing is so hard and what lessons we can learn from our failures. We talk about why some kinds of prep increase rather than decrease your anxiety at the table, how the GM's experience can be dissatisfying even when the players are having a good time, and how play is subtly shaped by what we take seriously at the table and what we're happy to let slide. Without further ado, here is Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on your platforms of choice:

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Spotify here.

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Apple Podcasts here.

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Pocket Casts here.

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Podcast Addict here.

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Overcast here.

Listen to Episode 5 “Lessons Learned” on Google Podcasts here

Reader’s Notes

You can find Nick's long running and once prolific blog, Papers & Pencils ⁠here⁠. You can find more about Dungeon Moon ⁠here⁠, and you can read extensive play reports for Five Years Left ⁠here⁠. (I always think looking at these campaign materials is useful for GMs who actually want to organize and run megadungeon campaigns of their very own.)

You can learn about the latest iteration of Nick’s fascinating concept of Flux space ⁠here⁠, and Nick's fantastic posts about structuring encounter tables ⁠here⁠. Both of these reference older posts where Nick floated the original ideas. All are highly worth a read.

You can follow Nick's next dungeon adventure project, Sanctimonious Slime vs. Expired Epicures, about looting a Medusa’s house inhabited by monster factions with opposing philosophies on Kickstarter ⁠here⁠.

Nick is now generally designing for the Errant rpg under the publishing outfit Kill Jester. You can learn more about Errant and sign up for Kill Jester’s newsletter here.

Spine Chilling October!

Stay tuned to Into the Megadungeon for a spine chilling October! In this Halloween month, Into the Megadungeon explores horror themed megadungeons with two blood curdling interviews.

First, on October 17, I interview Luke Gearing about his current megadungeon campaign. But we also spend considerable time talk about his groundbreaking and award winning sci-fi horror megadungeon Gradient Descent. We discuss what is involved in designing and running a horror megadungeon, and how the mythic undeworld can be embodied to chilling effect.

On October 31st, a Halloween episode of Into the Megadungeon airs titled, “Literally from Hell”. In this episode, I interview Miranda Elkins about her incredibly long-running horror megadungeon, Nightwick Abbey. It’s probably my favorite interview yet, chock full of insights arising from experience running actual megadungeon campaigns for more than a decade, coupled with advice about how to bring horror to your game table. 


  1. This was probably my favorite episode of the podcast so far. Nick's perspective is great and he touches on a lot of things I've been chewing on recently myself.

    Although I will admit, as someone who's longest campaign to date has been 14 sessions I do feel a bit called out about his comment on finding anything with less than a 100 sessions as a failure.

    1. I think different folks are into different kind of gaming. So not everyone wants these extremely long running campaigns. But even for those who do, it can be very hard to pull off because there are so many possible sources of entropy. So I hear you.

    2. I couldn't agree more! My group and I are about to hit our 375th session of our OD&D Campaign. It has been an extremely rewarding challenge to keep everyone engaged, while coming up with new ideas that keep the gang coming back to the table week after week. Having the players take part in a lot of the world building and lore creation has really helped as well as splitting the campaign up into what I call Mini-Arks. Every 20 sessions I have them roll up new PC's and I run 5-10 sessions in a new area of the campaign world as of yet unexplored. The results of these mini-arks has been fantastic. It has allowed my players to continue to make an impact on the campaign world that has had really interesting repercussions for the main campaign. For example they were Thieves guild members for 8 sessions hunting an Aghori Blood God that had been stripped of his power and trapped in mortal flesh. They ended up consuming it's heart and became major villains in our main campaign. Anyway we the campaign world still has as of yet 2 unexplored Megadungeons that are ripe for plunder. Loving the podcast, and the guests, and cant wait for more! Cudos to you for undertaking this. Cheers!

    3. Woah that's quite a premise. I can see you could really explore a whole world that way.

    4. The problem is, I AM in fact one of those people who wants to have a long campaign like that. But that is easier said than done. I am hopeful that campaign I am planning for next year will be the one that I can push to at least 50 (if not 100) sessions, but of course that is also ultimately not entirely up to me.

      I do like the approach DM Crimson offers above, though! That is a good way to keep things fresh and interesting.

    5. I love crimsons approach. In fact I totally started using that and the groups has been loving the approach. Spiced our game up.

  2. Absolutely awesome! These have inspired me to run more sessions of my Coot -Pathos Megadungeon which serves as an Egg Of Coot, Blackmoor origins campaign. A biomechanical megadungeon which is itself a junction between the astral and nirvanic planes. Tons of mechanical elves and enlightened transcendant beings from Mechanus. Thanks for putting this together! Major inspirado!!