Monte Cook, one of the primary designers behind D&D 3e, co-designer of Call of Cthulhu d20, designer of Arcana Unearthed/Evolved, Ptolus, Return to Temple of Elemental Evil, and many other great roleplaying products too numerous to list here, just announced his ambitious new project: Dungeonaday.com. From the press release:
Dungeonaday.com, Monte’s new subscription-based adventure site, goes live today, offering game material and DMing advice to its members. Dungeonaday.com, in fact, builds an entire ongoing campaign with a new material updated every weekday.
Dungeonaday.com will be updated every weekday with a major encounter, plus frequent blog and podcast updates, monthly bonus encounters, and more. Members will find an active forum where they can ask questions, give feedback to Monte, exchange tips and ideas with each other, and help build Dungeonaday.com into a community of dungeon (and dragon) enthusiasts. The site features cartography from award-winning artist Ed Bourelle. It utilizes the Open Gaming License and its 3rd-edition compatible rules, but is easily used with other editions as well. Memberships are available on an annual, quarterly, or monthly basis, but those starting a year’s subscription in March will become charter members at a special discount rate of $84 per year. The material presented on the site is suitable for characters of all levels and any fantasy campaign.
Of course, as primarily a 4e DM and player, my first question was “would I be able to use it in my campaign?” So I went to the source, and asked Mr. Cook himself that very question, along with a few others.
Critical Hits: To start with the big question, why should 4e players subscribe to Dungeon A Day? Will there be a lot of conversion work required from OGL, or will most of the information fall on the descriptive/rules-less side of things?
Monte Cook: When I was putting the site together, I was scanning over some of the first few encounters and was kind of surprised by how little rules material there was compared to the descriptions, the layout, the background, the tactics, the development, and so on. I don’t provide stat blocks for standard monsters, for example, just a link to the Hypertext SRD, a very cool website. So that means if you’re reading you just see that there’s six goblins in a room (or whatever). If your edition has stats for goblins, you’re likely good to go. (The first six rooms are free and available to everyone, by the way).
CH: From what you know of 4e and its design tenants, do you see there being any conflicts between Dungeon A Day and how 4e operates?
MC: First off, I’m nobody’s expert on 4e. From what I see, however, 4e focuses on bigger combats (more foes, bigger rooms). That’s about the only consideration I’d see. Adding in a few more foes seems pretty easy. And there are plenty of big, set-piece rooms for fun and interesting encounters. (I’ve long been an advocate of interesting environments to stage combats in, so my design ideals probably fit 4e in that way nicely.) Ultimately, though, Dungeonaday.com is a big dungeon at it’s heart, so any edition of D&D ought to be able to handle it.
CH: Are you attempting to go head to head with D&D Insider (especially Dungeon magazine) or do you view them as possibly complimentary?
MC: Honestly, I hadn’t given them any thought. I certainly can’t compete with something as large as Hasbro and would never try. I think Dungeon’s approach is pretty different, however, and my site and DDI likely serve very different needs.
CH: How much of it will be grounded in a setting that goes outside the dungeon- i.e. is the world outside the dungeon also going to be an important part of the story?
MC: Dungeonaday.com is more location based than story based. There are lots of stories to be set within the confines of the dungeon, Dragon’s Delve, and the surrounding area, the Fallen Duchy. But yes, as we go along, I’ll be detailing the nearby town, the surrounding area, and–perhaps more interesting–cool environments that you can travel to FROM the dungeon via gates or other magic. In just the first year or so I want to include a mystical island unreachable from anywhere but Dragon’s Delve, a tesseract prison, and a foray into another plane.
CH: What makes Dragon’s Delve unique, especially compared to some of the older classic megadungeons (like Temple of Elemental Evil, one you’re quite familiar with)?
MC: Dragon’s Delve is more like dungeons even older than ToEE. ToEE had sort of an orcharching theme and a goal. Dragon’s Delve has many themes and hundreds of possible goals/stories/adventures. Since it’s meant to possibly be a whole campaign, I didn’t want to set it up so you’re always fighting the same foes and struggling toward the same end goal. So in the way of truly old school dungeons, each level is kind of like what we’d call a story arc today (that’s not a perfect comparison, but I’ll go with it). So Level 2 might be inhabited by creatures mind-controlled by magical water that alters their dreams, but Level 5 might have been taken over by the followers of a demon lord. These two places don’t have anything to do with each other beyond promity in the same way that you might set a haunted castle next a mile or two away from an unrelated orc camp in a non-dungeon campaign.
That said, I think you want some flavor here, and Dragon’s Delve has that aplenty. Deep within the deepest reaches of Dragon’s Delve lies the body of a dead god, fallen in battle from before the time when humans were even in the world. That god’s power has, over the years, drawn all kinds of interesting things to the area, all wanting to tap into it. But most have found that that kind of power can’t be controlled, which has led to the creation of all kinds of “interesting” areas in the dungeon that should provide really unique and fun adventures.
CH: If a DM is not planning on running the megadungeon as the campaign, will there still be plenty to pilfer for ideas?
MC: Yes. In fact, early on I thought about making it just an idea/encounter site, with only the barest bones there to actually connect them all. I decided it was more fun to have more organization, but the opportunity is still there.
I’m a champion pilferer when it comes to my home campaigns, and I’m very aware that many–if not most–DMs do the same thing. You’ll find something yoinkable every weekday, I hope.
CH: Would you have any advice for anyone who wants to make their own megadungeon for their campaign?
MC: Don’t worry about creating the whole thing at once. If your players are just starting Level 1, you don’t need to have all the rooms on Level 3 finished. In fact, your dungeon will be better if you don’t get so far ahead so you can be reactive to your group.
CH: Finally, do you have an awesome room/area that you’ve designed that jumps out to you as really unique?
MC: Well, to be honest, I hope that every single one offers something special. You don’t need me or Dungeonaday.com to give you three orcs in a room guarding a chest. That said, I have sketched out some ideas for an entire sublevel of the dungeon inhabited by some unique medusas where the entire place is made of petrified victims offered up to honor their goddess. I’m also pretty excited to present that tesseract I mentioned earlier (I’ve wanted to include a tesseract in a published adventure since I started as a game designer.) But even in Level 1, I just posted an encounter that involves the PCs trying to use a malfunctioning magical flying disk that will be pretty entertaining for DMs to run.