More like World’s Most Pretentious Dungeon

I’m confused.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about this “World’s Largest Dungeon” as it’s actually titled on the cover.

But here I find a map online (archived) and it actually seems rather small.

I count something close to 164 x 164 squares per map segment if you don’t count the connecting corridors. The map is 3 x 4 segments (minus one almost empty one), which gives you 26,896 squares each, for a total of 295,856. Actually, this map doesn’t contain other segments I’ve found on that site, which bring the total to 16 maps (430,336 squares). But one of those 16 is a lava field area which is mostly boring open space, so consider that to be a number with an uptight little asterisk next to it.

Does anyone know if that’s the whole thing? There aren’t additional supplemental materials, extra levels, etc?

Because the first Undermountain boxed set was about 160 x 240 per map, 38,400 squares.

If you can read that, the Dungeon Level, Storeroom Level, and Sargoth Level were present in the original boxed set. The latter two each had two maps, while the first dungeon level was just one map. So the boxed set mapped out 192,000 squares. Obviously WLD beats the boxed set out on that number.

But Undermountain contains another 5 levels, and 15 sublevels. I don’t have those products and can’t find maps for them. But at a minimum each of the 5 other main levels would be a single Undermountain map, and the sublevels would probably be a minimum of a sheet of 4/inch graph paper (32 squares x 44 squares, 1408 squares per page). So we’re looking at 405,120 squares for Undermountain.

Here’s the problem I see. WLD came at the issue trying to be large. It had to outdo everything else. They probably set a goal based on surface area, variety of monsters used (I’ve heard they cram at least one of every monster from the 3E SRD somewhere in the dungeon). I question the use of space in both. But WLD just seems like a more severe violation because it has something to gain by padding out the dungeon with 20′ thick walls, huge blocks of solid rock, and huge swaths of empty space.

It’s possible that later Undermountain products came out and invalidated their claim, and supplemental maps were published for WLD. It feels like the posturing among architects trying to see who has the tallest building. Secretly adding a spire to yours at the last minute to screw with some architect in France. Of course they could add sublevels or map segments or whatever to continue the race.

Then again, let’s take Temple of Elemental Evil. Note very large if you count up the maps. Certainly nowhere near 400,000 squares. But in the latter parts of the dungeon there are “elemental pocket dimensions” accessible via the dungeon. They are mapped interior areas with monsters, keyed encounters, and no civilization. They are dungeon areas as much as any part of WLD. There are four of them and they are each at least a mile across. That’s 278,784 squares per square mile of pocket, four pockets, which brings us to 1,115,136 squares (plus whatever is in the Temple itself). Of course they may be more than a mile, exactly, but it’s been a while since I ran the module.

I’m interested in seeing the WLD developers put out new material until they hit 42 map segments (26 more to go). Or at least put out one segment with a scale of one square = 50 feet. Until then perhaps they should ship the module with a piece of masking tape over the part on the cover where it says “Largest”.

I wouldn’t otherwise be so snarky about this, but when you claim a superlative title you invite appraisal. And WLD doesn’t stand up to its claim. Nor is it very good quality, according to every single independent review I’ve read.

Side note: all of these products use 10′ squares. So I’m not comparing apples to sheep here!

What I’m interested in when it comes to dungeons is quality. Very large is nice, but if it’s garbage then I’d rather just use something else. I need intricate, interesting, something fresh and unique. I don’t want something that looks like it was put together using a simple random map generator.

Now a complex map generator, good enough to fool you into thinking the map was made by hand, could really get things going. Which makes me wonder why there isn’t an auto-generator for some multiplayer FPS game. Like how Spelunky does things.

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One Response to “More like World’s Most Pretentious Dungeon”

  1. redgravewriter Says:

    I recently came across a few officially published over at rpgnow.com. Might bring the total up.

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