Campaign Prep: Mega vs. Episode

My new Alien Menace campaign is rather specifically designed to be episodic in nature. Each session is supposed to be a differet mission, to keep things lively.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s Felltower campaign is a megadungeon. He’s got a huge swath of area prepared, some stocked, some not, and the players explore this ground at their own pace.

My last session was really supposed to be done in one game, but that was naive for a few reasons. Firstly, I rescaled the cave to be much, much larger. Mostly because my initial playtest fight between the Cyberdisc an the party took place in a highly confined environment (before rescaling) and that led to a lot of un-aimed shots and a lot of Dodge by the Cyberdisc . . . and a lot of dead PCs. At least how I tested it.

Anyway, I spent a lot of time working up this episode, and we’re not done. Which is fine with me, since it gives me the opportunity to say “what happens next in this area/mission” rather than “what entirely new and different thing must I come up with next?”

I will probably need to decide: do I want each session to be of fairly limited scope, with occasional two- or three-part episodes, or should I simply slap down each scenario, and each one takes as long as it takes (but likely only 2-4 sessions, since one mission every two months of play just seems . . . mean).

Peter’s megadungeon is utterly inappropriate for Alien Menace’s premise. But he’s got some real Win going on. He can use more or less the same map(s). He is intimately familiar with the terrain to and from his Home Base. And the players can enter each session with a sense of familiarity – they cover well-tread ground for a bit, then decide whether to venture into the truly unknown, or gently explore only slightly off their formerly-beaten path.

I see the appeal of that. Being able to know more or less what’s happening next session of Alien Menace is comforting. I can project scenarios, come up with what any remaining bad guys are doing, but not have to recreate local geography.

So maybe that’s the answer. I should plan each mission to take two sessions, and see where that takes me. Still, the thought of some sort of “build it once, explore it over months” is pretty darn appealing. It reeks of staying power, and the ability to not have life totally derail adventure planning!

4 thoughts on “Campaign Prep: Mega vs. Episode

    1. I don't disagree with this in theory, but this is in no small part a series of tactical exercises. The geography, which provides cover, fields of fire, and the opportunity to ambush or be ambushed, can be a big part of the story!

  1. The main problem with a megadungeon style – an area you return to – is that any location valuable enough for us to return to will be reinforced heavily by the aliens, making it dangerous to go there with a small team. Any place not valuable enough to reinforce is one we don't need to go back to, either. So I think just by the nature of the game, you'd have to go with episodic missions handed down from above. None of us players will object – it's reasonable and our PCs signed up for that specifically.

  2. Yeah, I agree with Peter. Episodic makes sense. It's the premise of the game and everyone signed on. Little more work than being to build on the same sprawling location over time, but it's what makes sense for the style of game.

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