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io9 Looks at the Megadungeon

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Temple of Elemental EvilOver at io9, Ed Grabianowski has posted a thoughtful survey of that underappreciated RPG stable, the megadungeon.

He covers many of the essentials — including The Temple of Elemental Evil, Undermountain, and Castle Greyhawk — and throws in a few clever suggestions I hadn’t thought of (such as the Death Star and Minecraft.) He here is on the modern classic Blackreach:

Blackreach is a signature location in Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s semi-abandoned underground city filled with eerily beautiful glowing mushrooms, strange ruins, rare plants and other oddities. The first time you delve into Blackreach, you can’t help but be a bit awestruck. The silence down there is intense, creating a tension and wonder I’ve rarely experienced in video games. Blackreach itself is massive, but to get to it you actually have to work your way down through another dungeon, a Dwemer ruin. And Blackreach is actually connected to three of these dungeons, so there’s no doubt it’s worthy of the “mega” appellation.

As thorough as he is, there’s plenty left over for folks in the comments section to add, including the epic Rappan Athuk, Dragon Mountain, Judges Guild’s early classic Tegel Manor, Arduin Dungeon, Ultima Underworld, and many others.

I’m disappointed that so far no one has mentioned a few of my favorites, including Monte Cook’s massive (and now extremely hard to find) Ptolus, Gygax’s Castle Zagyg modules, AEG’s ridiculously oversized World’s Largest Dungeon, and Goodman Games’ massive Castle Whiterock. Ah well. Who would have thought the market would be crowded with megadungeons?

You can read Ed’s complete io9 article here.


  1. They probably couldn’t find any copies of Castle Zagyg…

    No Rappan Athuk…how???

    Comment by Bob Byrne - April 30, 2014 3:30 pm

  2. Would the Underdark count? Or is that a different kind of beast entirely?

    Comment by Joe H. - April 30, 2014 9:09 pm

  3. > They probably couldn’t find any copies of Castle Zagyg…


    An excellent point!

    > No Rappan Athuk…how???

    I’m less surprised than you… Ed seems to have focused on megadungeons from only the biggest publishers. Rappan Athuk was originally released in a very limited printing through Necromancer Games, and only later collected into a megadungeon.

    Virtually all of the dungeons I mentioned came from independent presses, like Goodman Games or AEG, in fact, and aren’t likely to be known by more casual gamers.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 30, 2014 11:49 pm

  4. > Would the Underdark count? Or is that a different kind of beast entirely?


    Underdark is more of a setting, like the Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance, rather than a dungeon. Yes, there are dungeons SET in Underdark, but there was never a massive dungeon release for Underdark the way there was for Dragon Mountain, say.

    NIGHT BELOW from TSR was the other megadungeon setting I was trying to remember as I was hurriedly typing this entry. Another one of my early favorites. Came in an attractive boxed set in the late 80s.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 30, 2014 11:52 pm

  5. Yep, Night Below was kind of a miniaturized Underdark divorced from any particular surface-world campaign setting.

    I also liked the version they had at the end of the original 1E Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 1, 2014 12:10 am

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